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11 Breakout Candidates (2022 Fantasy Football)

Jul 6, 2022
Fantasy Football Breakout Candidates Trevor Lawrence

Breakouts. Correctly predicting and projecting them before the start of the season can be the difference between winning your fantasy football league and getting a tattoo for coming in last place. They come in different shapes and sizes every year, but there are often signs that they’re coming. Sometimes it’s a rookie in a good landing spot. Other times it’s a veteran who has the potential to see a larger role or is one injury away from becoming a high-volume starter.

Jalen Hurts, Deebo Samuel and Cordarrelle Patterson were just a few players who broke out in a big way for fantasy managers last year. Many did foresee Hurts’ (who finished sixth in fantasy points per game among QBs) solid season because of what he can do on the ground. However, most didn’t think Samuel was going to see as much volume as he got, especially when it came to San Francisco using him as a running back often in the season’s second half.

So, who has the best shot at significantly outperforming their draft cost? Our featured pundits are here to tackle that very question!

1. Which RB has the best shot of having a breakout year in 2022 and why?

Cam Akers (RB – LAR)
“There’s simply too much emphasis placed on Cam Akers‘ poor production at the tail end of 2021 (2.4 YPC) amid a juggernaut of a tough run defenses that no Rams RB could run efficiently against. In 2021, 95% of his rushing yards came after contact — the highest mark in the NFL. I expect the now 100% healthy Akers to be dialed in as the top RB in Sean McVay’s consistent 1-RB offense, where the team’s lead back averages 20-plus touches per game. He’s got an easy path to double-digit touchdowns after Henderson and Sony Michel combined for the second-most red zone touches among RBs last season, accompanied by the lowest rushing TD rate of any team. They ranked top-8 in that category the three seasons prior. Positive rushing TD regression is coming for Akers. ”
Andrew Erickson (FantasyPros)

Cam Akers wasn’t particularly effective during the Rams’ Super Bowl run last season, but head coach Sean McVay’s willingness to make Akers the lead back so soon after his return from an Achilles tear bodes well for his 2022 usage. Akers has a three-down skill set, and the Rams’ offense has been potent every year since McVay’s arrival, finishing 10th, 2nd, 7th, 11th and 9th in total yardage during McVay’s five-year run. If Akers gets anything close to the sort of workload Todd Gurley that got during McVay’s first two seasons with the Rams, the young running back is going to be a fantasy force.”
Pat Fitzmaurice (FantasyPros)

Miles Sanders (RB – PHI)
Miles Sanders will surprise folks in 2022 during a contract year and break out. Sanders’ YPA has improved each season (5.5 in 2022), and the expectation of touchdown progression is there. Sanders was lead back in the offense, even in a committee when he was on the field. An improved offense should get Sanders more opportunity to produce strong fantasy numbers. ”
Steven Pintado (The Fantasy Coaches)

Saquon Barkley (RB – NYG)
“No other player comes with as much fantasy nerve to draft than Saquon Barkley. He’s the quintessential post-hype choice, but can we still project RB1 upside? If we assume his ACL issues are truly behind him, then that long-awaited true breakout is possible. Barkley is worth a reasonable amount of fantasy stock, but the offense of the Giants remains questionable for consistency coming into the new season. Declaring Barkley as a “best shot breakout” seems to stretch the notion, but the Giants are already fueling new ideas for him in the OTAs.”
Richard Savill (Fantasy Six Pack)

Travis Etienne (RB – JAC)
Travis Etienne has a clear path to be this year’s D’Andre Swift. It’s difficult to project James Robinson to be 100%. Snoop Conner and the remaining vagabonds on the Jaguars’ depth chart aren’t likely candidates to steal money touches or routes from Etienne. In his final two seasons at Clemson, he was a three-down workhorse, ranking first and 20th in yards after contact per attempt and 14th and fourth in yards per route run (minimum 100 rushing attempts, 20 targets per PFF). Despite the nauseating circumstances around him, it’s Etienne’s time to shine. ”
Derek Brown (FantasyPros)

Fantasy Football Redraft Draft Kit

2. Which WR has the best shot of having a breakout year in 2022 and why?

Gabriel Davis (WR – BUF)
“Buy the Gabriel Davis breakout. Even after running 200 fewer routes than Emmanuel Sanders and Cole Beasley, Davis had the second-highest WR3 finish rate on the Bills. Beasley and Sanders also combined for more top-12 finishes than Stefon Diggs last season, which just showcases the weekly fantasy ceiling within reach for Davis. Don’t forget that the Bills wideout averaged 19.8 fantasy PPR points per game in his last six games as a full-time player. And while playing on a limited snap share, Davis ranks top five in the NFL in total end zone targets. A starting role should increase his floor, while his fantasy ceiling remains sky-high in a high-powered offense. ”
Andrew Erickson (FantasyPros)

Gabriel Davis screams breakout season for the 2022 year. The 6-2, 210-pound third-year receiver will now be one of the starters in the Bills’ high passing offense. After almost 200 vacated targets are up with Emmanuel Sanders and Cole Beasley‘s departure, Davis’ 63 targets from last year should be expected to double. Let’s not forget that Davis should expect a heavy dose of red zone looks with his bigger-bodied frame. ”
Steven Pintado (The Fantasy Coaches)

Jerry Jeudy (WR – DEN)
“If there is a player that fits the idea of breakout, you cannot avoid the glaringly obvious choice of Jerry Jeudy of the Broncos. It is true that a table set with fine offensive cutlery has led to fantasy disappointments before, but Russell Wilson has just too much of the ideal pedigree that provides a chemistry to power this offense. Jeudy is one of those wide receivers coming into 2022 worth chancing a reach for. Wilson still has the uncanny ability to extend plays, and Jeudy has the talent to find open space in such situations.”
Richard Savill (Fantasy Six Pack)

Rashod Bateman (WR – BAL)
Rashod Bateman‘s runway is clear, and he’s ready for takeoff. Bateman was slowed by abdominal and core muscle injuries in his first training camp, missed the first five games of 2021 with a groin injury, then played only six full games with starting QB Lamar Jackson, who dealt with injuries of his own. The Ravens traded away Marquise Brown in the offseason, leaving Bateman as their clear No. 1. Bateman had a sterling prospect profile coming out of the University of Minnesota, with an 82nd percentile college dominator rating, a 93rd percentile breakout age and a 98th percentile college target share, per Talent and opportunity are aligned nicely here. Bateman has an excellent chance to finish as a top-20 fantasy receiver and could potentially finish in WR1 range.”
Pat Fitzmaurice (FantasyPros)

Rashod Bateman is ready to step into the full-time X receiver role in the Baltimore offense. He flashed elite potential as a draft prospect, ranking eighth in yards per route run in each of his final two collegiate seasons, per PFF (minimum 50 targets). That translated to the field last season. Per Matt Harmon’s Reception Perception work, Bateman’s success rate was in the 85th percentile against zone coverage and the 81st percentile versus press. A run-first offense for the Ravens won’t stop Bateman from soaring in 2022. ”
Derek Brown (FantasyPros)

Fantasy Football Redraft Draft Kit

3. Which QB or TE has the best shot of having a breakout year in 2022 and why?

Cole Kmet (TE – CHI)
“No tight end should make a bigger leap in 2022 than Cole Kmet, whose upside has been capped by a lack of touchdown equity with veteran Jimmy Graham rearing his ugly head the past few seasons. But Graham is currently a free agent, opening the door for Kmet to smash in 2022. Kmet’s eighth-ranked route participation and seventh-ranked target share (17%) from 2021 hardly align with his fantasy production — no tight end finished with more fantasy points under expectation (-36.6) than the Notre Dame product in 2021. That designation is a sign Kmet is due for a fantasy breakout. It signaled as much for guys like Zach Ertz and Dawson Knox, who scored fewer points than expected in 2020 before contributing in fantasy this past year. Both tight ends finished 2021 as top-10 options at the position in fantasy points per game. ”
Andrew Erickson (FantasyPros)

Cole Kmet will join the second tier of great tight ends in 2022. Kmet had a strange 2021, as he had 93 targets and 19 red zone targets but no touchdowns. Allen Robinson is now gone, so Kmet is likely sliding into that No. 2 target role. I expect a similar target share or more in 2022, with major touchdown progression to show off. ”
Steven Pintado (The Fantasy Coaches)

Mitch Trubisky (QB – PIT)
“I’m going to go with Mitch Trubisky. It sounds odd to expect better things from the former Bear, but if we’re talking about a best shot to break out, you couldn’t ask for a better culture of excellence to surround you than the Pittsburgh Steelers. The team would like nothing more than for Trubisky to succeed and nurture Kenny Pickett along. At times with the Bears, Trubisky showed real grit, and with the style of the Tomlin offense, we could see a ‘that’s more like it’ scenario from the former first-round draft pick.”
Richard Savill (Fantasy Six Pack)

Trevor Lawrence (QB – JAC)
“It’s Trevor Lawrence. I refuse to believe that the guy who tore up college football for three seasons isn’t going to make it in the NFL. Sure, Lawrence had a rough rookie season, but Urban Meyer was running a three-ring circus in Jacksonville last year, so I’m happy to give Lawrence a mulligan. Let’s see how he does under the tutelage of new Jaguars head coach Doug Pederson, who once coaxed an MVP-caliber season out of Carson Wentz and managed to win a Super Bowl in Philadelphia with Nick Foles running his offense. Lawrence has all the tools to be an above-average passer, and he offers rushing upside, too. The Lawrence breakout is coming; it’s just a matter of when.”
Pat Fitzmaurice (FantasyPros)

David Njoku (TE – CLE)
“Yes, the offense could be gross if Jacoby Brissett is the quarterback, but David Njoku can still ascend this season. The Browns have limited proven options behind Amari Cooper, especially ones with Njoku’s rare athletic talent. With his new contract in hand and sterling efficiency numbers last season to foreshadow the liftoff, it’s time for him to ball out. Last year, Njoku was 11th in yards per route run, fifth in yards after the catch per reception and seventh in slot yards per route run (per PFF). ”
Derek Brown (FantasyPros)


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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