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11 Early Breakout Candidates (2022 Fantasy Football)


 
The draft is firmly planted in everyone’s minds right now, which means it could be a good time for dynasty leaguers to kick the tires on some potential breakout candidates before the fantasy community at large begins to heavily examine each offense. This could also help early best ball drafters zero in on high-potential targets before their opponents are up to speed. Even if you just play in redraft leagues, there’s no harm in getting in some early research on which players are on the cusp of a magnificent season. No matter what kinds of leagues you play in, our featured experts are here to help you get a leg up on the competition by shining light on the players they believe have the greatest chances of breaking out this year.

Q1. What RB has the best shot of having a breakout year in 2022?

Cam Akers (LAR) 
“The fantasy football community is ready to bury Cam Akers for his postseason performance, but I’m not having it. Akers jumped out of the rehab gym into an immediate workhorse role, and he looked understandably rusty, and the Rams’ offensive line didn’t do him any favors in the playoffs. Considering these circumstances, the bigger takeaway is that Sean McVay trusted him with 53-81% of the snaps, and Akers averaged 19 touches per game. This was with a productive Sony Michel on the roster. Akers wasn’t efficient with the work, finishing with 2.33 yards after contact per attempt (per PFF), which would have ranked 48th out of 50 running backs (minimum 100 carries) during the regular season. With a full offseason to train and get back to 100%, I still have hope Akers can recover enough of the form that led to him finishing with 2.96 yards after contact per attempt (22nd) in 2020 (minimum 100 rushing attempts), immediately behind Alvin Kamara. As the lead runner in one of the league’s best offenses, Akers is primed for a full-season breakout. ”
Derek Brown (FantasyPros)

Michael Carter (NYJ) 
“I’ll be bullish on Michael Carter’s breakout prospects for 2022, assuming the Jets don’t draft either Breece Hall or Kenneth Walker. Carter’s rookie numbers don’t pop because he missed three games and was playing in a limited offense. But Carter flashed wiggle, toughness and exciting pass-catching potential. He averaged 3.37 yards after contact per carry, according to PFF — eighth best among RBs with at least 100 carries — and had a two-game midseason stretch in which he had 17 catches for 162 yards. Carter was good enough to earn a 50/50 workload split with Javonte Williams at the University of North Carolina, and he’s primed to be an impactful fantasy asset in an improved Jets offense in 2022. ”
Pat Fitzmaurice (FantasyPros)

Javonte Williams (DEN) 
“Honestly, the answer is Javonte Williams. However, since I know this is what most will go with, I’ll throw a nod towards Seattle Seahawks RB Rashaad Penny. Of the running backs who saw at least 100 carries last season, no one averaged more yards per carry (6.3) or yards after contact (4.5) than Penny. Over his final five games, Seattle handed the ball to him 92 times, and he posted 130+ yards in four of his final five games. Barring an all-too-familiar injury to Penny, not even a healthy Chris Carson can hold him back from 15+ carries a game.”
Tommy Garrett (Pro Football Network)

Tony Pollard (DAL) 
“Tony Pollard isn’t the likeliest running back to break out in 2022, but he’s probably my favorite non-starting back to roster this year. As a change-of-pace option in 2021, Pollard accumulated 1,056 yards from scrimmage in 15 games, and he can play on all three downs, so he’s likely to have a role in 2022. More importantly, starter Ezekiel Elliott is aging (27 in July) and slowing (career-low marks of 13.9 carries per game and 4.4 yards per target last year). If Elliott suffers an injury or underperforms this season, Pollard could finish as a top-eight back.”
Matthew Freedman (FantasyPros)

Q2. What WR has the best shot of having a breakout year in 2022?

Tim Patrick (DEN) 
“As the forgotten man in Denver, keep a close eye on Tim Patrick once draft day rolls around when looking for a breakout receiver in 2022. Recording a touchdown on every 9.5 receptions, Patrick has 11 scores in two years and back-to-back 700-yard seasons. Accounting for 27% of the targets in 2020, he saw 31% of the looks last season, including 18.1% when Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy were on the field. Throw Russell Wilson into the mix, and the 6-4 Patrick is far too undervalued at his current ERC ranking of WR70.”
Tommy Garrett (Pro Football Network)

Gabriel Davis (BUF) 
“Gabriel Davis seems primed for a breakout this year. Veteran receivers Emmanuel Sanders and Cole Beasley are gone, and although free-agent addition Jamison Crowder is likely to replace Beasley in the slot, a starting spot is still open, and Davis will almost certainly claim it. Just 23 years old and blessed with prototypical size (6-2 and 210 pounds), Davis flashed as the No. 4 receiver with 70-1,148-13 receiving on 125 targets in his first two seasons — and then last year in the playoffs he went off for 10-242-5 on 13 targets. With regular usage and his playmaking ability, Davis could be a 1,000-10 producer in 2022.”
Matthew Freedman (FantasyPros)

Kadarius Toney (NYG) 
“Currently, Kadarius Toney will be contending for targets against Kenny Golladay, Darius Slayton, Ricky Seals-Jones, and Sterling Shepard, who is recovering from a major injury (Achilles rupture). Last year when Toney was on the field, he was immensely productive. Among wideouts with 50 or more targets, he was 11th in yards per route run and eighth in YAC per reception (per PFF). With an offensive system in place in 2022 that will be free of Joe Judge and Jason Garrett’s buffoonery, Toney is set to fly. ”
Derek Brown (FantasyPros)

Elijah Moore (NYJ) 
“Sticking with my Jets motif, let’s go with Elijah Moore. Injuries limited him to 11 games as a rookie, but Moore was the WR2 in half-point PPR scoring from Week 8 to Week 13, racking up 34-459-5 over that six-week stretch. Moore was drawing all kinds of buzz last summer, and he made good on it during one of the few periods when he was healthy last year. He’s an exciting talent who should give us more sustained contributions this fall.”
Pat Fitzmaurice (FantasyPros)

Q3. What QB or TE has the best shot of having a breakout year in 2022?

Trey Lance (QB – SF) 
“Trey Lance is going to run like crazy this year, and I think he’ll be a better passer than a lot of people are expecting. Against Seattle in Week 4 of 2021, Lance came on for the injured Jimmy Garoppolo in the second half and had seven carries for 41 yards, along with two TD passes and a two-point conversion run. The following week, in his only start of the season, Lance ran 16 times for 89 yards against Arizona and threw for 189 yards. Lance is a cheat code who was touted for his football IQ and processing ability coming out of North Dakota State last year. At minimum he’ll be a one-dimensional rushing machine. If Lance can fully leverage the pass-catching talents of Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk and George Kittle, he might finish as a top-five fantasy QB.”
Pat Fitzmaurice (FantasyPros)

Trey Lance is a good candidate to break out in 2022. He is entering his second season and should benefit tremendously from his circumstances: He has a sharp offensive head coach in Kyle Shanahan and four after-the-catch playmakers in wide receivers Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk, tight end George Kittle, and running back Elijah Mitchell. Lance has significant draft capital as last year’s No. 3 pick, and he has a high rushing floor (156-1,159-14 in 16 games as a redshirt freshman, excluding sacks). Even if he underwhelms in reality, he should perform in fantasy.”
Matthew Freedman (FantasyPros)

Cole Kmet (TE – CHI) 
“With only Darnell Mooney set to compete with Cole Kmet for the team lead in targets this year, Kmet’s stock is rising. Last year he finished as the TE21 in fantasy points per game, but not because of a lack of volume. It was an all-time bad variance in touchdowns that was his downfall. He finished the season with zero touchdowns despite ranking 15th in red-zone targets at the position. We know touchdowns aren’t sticky year to year, so I’ll follow the volume. Kmet was eighth in targets last year, 11th in target share, and ninth in air yards among tight ends. If the touchdown pendulum swings in his favor and he continues to evolve his game and earn more targets, the breakout is happening. ”
Derek Brown (FantasyPros)

Dan Arnold (TE – JAC) 
“We saw a slight glimmer of his breakout in 2021, but Dan Arnold will be on my shortlist of breakout targets for 2022. In Weeks 5-11 last year, Arnold was ninth in targets amongst TEs with 38 (17% target share) while playing at least 62% of snaps in every game. Jacksonville was active this offseason acquiring talent, but none of the additions may be as important as head coach Doug Pederson. As a coach, Peterson loves to implement TEs into his game plan through 12-personnel, placing Arnold in a position to thrive.”
Tommy Garrett (Pro Football Network)


Thanks to the experts for sharing their advice! For more of their insight, be sure to follow each pundit on Twitter (click their names above) and visit their respective sites.

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