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11 Breakout Candidates (Fantasy Football)

Jun 10, 2020

Hayden Hurt’s new situation should propel him to a breakout season

Aaron Jones and Cooper Kupp were prime examples of guys who broke out in big ways last season. Kupp could be had at a WR21 price, but finished as the WR4 in fantasy. Jones was being taken as the RB14, but produced well enough to end the year as the RB2. Scheme and roster changes along with overall player development are just a few things that can heavily push production upward. As such, our featured analysts have taken these and other criteria into account in search of this year’s top breakout candidates. Read on to see who each of them thinks has the best chance to explode in 2020.

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Q1. What WR has the best shot of having a breakout year in 2020 and why?

Calvin Ridley (ATL) 
“Prior to getting hurt and having his season cut short, Ridley was on pace for 1,066 yards and eight touchdowns in 2019, which would have had him as the WR14. Now going into his third NFL season, there’s a real chance for a breakout, though Julio Jones isn’t going away any time soon. If you want to know if there’s room for both to be WR1s, look no further than the Bucs last year with Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, even though it’s rare for that to happen. Still, Ridley is an ascending talent and the Falcons didn’t add a receiver of significance to replace Mohamed Sanu. In their four years under Dirk Koetter, they’ve ranked inside the top eight in pass attempts every year.”
– Mike Tagliere (FantasyPros)

Deebo Samuel (SF)
“The obvious candidate is going to be Diontae Johnson, which is why I’m going to name Samuel, who’s currently being drafted as the WR27 in half-PPR leagues. Investing in good offenses will always be a smart idea, especially for a player whose floor is as high as his. He saw an 18% target share in his first year and finished among the top-five wide receivers in yards after the catch (461) and fantasy points per target (2.31). Go get him!”
– Mauricio Gutierrez (Estadio Fantasy)

Diontae Johnson (PIT)
“Johnson was the 41st-ranked wide receiver in half-PPR scoring formats last season, despite having Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges throwing him the ball. Now with Ben Roethlisberger back, the entire Steelers offense (particularly the passing game) should see a boost. Chase Claypool is unlikely to be a major factor in his rookie year and Johnson surpassed James Washington in the Steelers’ pecking order. An elite route-runner, Johnson now has the chance to blossom into an extremely valuable wide receiver.”
– Dan Harris (FantasyPros)

Michael Pittman Jr. (IND)
“Pittman Jr. fell into one of the best situations for a rookie wide receiver. He’s incredibly talented and joins a dynamic offense that should put up points. He’s only going to come off the field when he needs a break and he should become Philip Rivers‘ favorite target immediately. If you’re looking for this year’s Terry McLaurin, Pittman is the obvious answer.”
– Kyle Yates (FantasyPros)

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Q2. What RB has the best shot of having a breakout year in 2020 and why?

Clyde Edwards-Helaire (KC) 
“I had Edwards-Helaire as my top running back in this year’s class due to the way he fits the NFL today. He’s a true three-down back who can catch 80-plus passes out of the backfield while running for 1,000-plus yards. Landing with the Chiefs was a dream scenario, especially in the first round. Over the last seven years, running backs who’ve been drafted in the first round have averaged 280.7 touches in year one. 75 percent of them have finished as an RB2 or better. Don’t think this is Darwin Thompson all over again, as he was a sixth-round pick last year and those average just 29.8 touches in year one. This is Edwards-Helaire’s backfield after Andy Reid said he’s better than Brian Westbrook on film. You don’t take those players off the field very often. He’s worth a second-round pick and would be a steal in the third round.”
– Mike Tagliere (FantasyPros)

David Montgomery (CHI) 
“Montgomery is the easy answer here. While he was still able to put up nearly 900 yards on the ground last season and six touchdowns, he was overhyped last season and failed to live up to expectations. There are very few backs in the NFL who are going to receive the type of workload that Montgomery is going to and this offense will be much improved from last season. He’s a solid candidate to finish as a back-end RB1 in 2020.”
– Kyle Yates (FantasyPros)

Jonathan Taylor (IND) 
“The Colts traded up to get Taylor, which is generally a good sign for a running back’s value in his rookie season. Marlon Mack has been serviceable, but he has dealt with injuries throughout his young career and has done nothing as a receiver. Given Mack’s presence (and Nyheim Hines’s) and the limited offseason programs, it’s unlikely that Taylor will start the year with a clear-cut workload. However, he runs behind one of the best offensive lines in football. Therefore, if Mack gets injured again, or if Taylor proves himself to be a clearly superior runner early, then he could vastly outperform his ADP and have a monster year.”
– Dan Harris (FantasyPros)

Miles Sanders (PHI) 
“How many times have we heard or read that talent plus opportunity translates into fantasy stardom? It’s said so many times because (spoiler alert) it is true! That’s the case with Sanders. The second-year running back has the potential to finish in the top five at his position this year. Greetings to all the “Doug Pederson has never used a workhorse” believers. Sanders was the best rookie rusher last year and now Jordan Howard is gone. I think the Eagles intend to use him as a true workhorse running back behind one of the best offensive lines. Plus, he’s paired with a very good head coach.”
– Mauricio Gutierrez (Estadio Fantasy)

Q3. What TE has the best shot of having a breakout year in 2020 and why?

Hayden Hurst (ATL) 
“Hurst landed in the best possible situation. He is meant to be the replacement for Austin Hooper (97 targets in 2019). Don’t expect Hurst to absorb all those targets, but he is going to have plenty of opportunities because the Falcons use their tight ends frequently and Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley will draw all the attention. Even playing under Mark Andrews’ shadow, Hurst finished last year as a top-eight tight end in yards per target (8.7) and yards per pass route (2.44). He was also a top-15 tight end in yards per reception (11.6) and fantasy points per target (1.02).”
– Mauricio Gutierrez (Estadio Fantasy)

“Opportunity means everything to a tight end and Hayden Hurst is going to walk into plenty of it. The Falcons have used their tight end quite heavily over the last couple years and they didn’t replace Mohamed Sanu. Instead of trying to re-sign Austin Hooper, they decided it’d be better to trade a second-round pick for Hurst, showing just how much they valued him. Don’t think he’s not talented just because he played behind Mark Andrews. He should see 80-plus targets in 2020 en route to a top-12 finish with a chance to finish inside the top six.”
– Mike Tagliere (FantasyPros)

Blake Jarwin (DAL) 
Dak Prescott targeted his two main tight ends (Jarwin and Jason Witten) 124 times last year, with Witten seeing 83 of them. Now with Jarwin assuming the main role and only Dalton Schultz and Blake Bell behind him, he should see the vast majority of Witten’s vacated targets and finish with between 90 and 100 targets easily. CeeDee Lamb’s arrival shouldn’t hurt Jarwin’s outlook either since there were plenty of vacated targets from Randall Cobb. With the chance to be one of the most targeted tight ends in the league on what should be an elite offensive team, Jarwin has an excellent chance to be one of the breakout players — not just tight ends — of the 2020 season.”
– Dan Harris (FantasyPros)

Jonnu Smith (TEN) 
“Smith is going to have an incredible year as long as he’s healthy. Delanie Walker is no longer in town and Smith is going to never come off the field. He’s moved around the formation and is a monster after the catch. We’ve been waiting a while for Smith’s breakout season and it’s finally arrived. I’m not leaving a draft without Smith as my tight end.”
– Kyle Yates (FantasyPros)

Thank you to the experts for giving us their breakout candidates. Be sure to give them a follow on Twitter and subscribe to our podcast below for advice all year round.

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