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10 Early Breakout Candidates (2023 Fantasy Football)

10 Early Breakout Candidates (2023 Fantasy Football)

As the sun starts to shine brighter, heralding the arrival of a new NFL season and the NFL Draft, a familiar excitement begins to build within the hearts of fantasy football enthusiasts everywhere. Our team of esteemed fantasy football experts has come together to cast our collective gaze upon the gridiron horizon, searching for those elusive early breakout candidates who could catapult your fantasy team to the top of the leaderboard.

In the ever-changing landscape of fantasy football, identifying potential stars before they rise to prominence is the name of the game. It’s a quest filled with twists and turns, requiring keen insight, a deep understanding of the sport, and just a touch of that so-called “gut feeling.” So, buckle up, start firing up your draft boards and cheat sheets, and dive into the top fantasy football early breakout candidates our featured experts have selected.

Dynasty Rookie Draft Kit

Early Fantasy Football Breakout Candidates

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

Rachaad White (RB – TB)
“From Weeks 10-17, Rachaad White operated as the 1A in the Buccaneers’ backfield, with Leonard Fournette averaging 11 fantasy points per game (RB26). He wasn’t great as a rusher – four yards per carry, 66.4 PFF rushing grade – but no running back was particularly efficient behind Tampa’s patchwork offensive line. The first-year rusher was still better than Fournette on the ground, as the veteran finished third-to-last in rushing EPA (-39.13). And there was no better display of White edging out Fournette on the field than in the first round of the NFL playoffs. White’s superior season and proficiency as a receiver (50 receptions, 11th among all RBs) solidify him as the Buccaneers RB1 moving forward, with cast-off Chase Edmonds currently his only threat for touches. Buy the 3-down all-purpose running back while his price remains discounted on a lackluster Tampa Bay offense.”
Andrew Erickson (FantasyPros)

Cam Akers (RB – LAR)
“I thought we were going to get a Cam Akers breakout in 2022, but maybe that prediction was simply a year too early. Akers was a disappointment for most of last season but had a torrid finish, leading the NFL in rushing over the final six weeks of the regular season and ranking RB4 in half-point PPR scoring over that stretch. He topped 100 rushing yards in each of his last three games. Akers currently has very little competition in the Rams’ backfield, and the team doesn’t have enough early-round draft capital to bring in a high-profile challenger. Rams head coach Sean McVay rode his young running back hard down the stretch last season. Over the Rams’ final six games, Akers had 104 carries. If he gets anything close to the sort of usage that McVay gave Todd Gurley a few years ago, Akers will be a good bet to finish in RB1 range this year.”
Pat Fitzmaurice (FantasyPros)

James Cook (RB – BUF)
“Cook, a 2nd round pick of Buffalo in 2022, may have only finished as RB51 in ppg last year but is primed for a second-year jump. Cook finished with the highest breakaway run rate of any running back while also finishing second in true yards per carry and third in yards per touch. While Buffalo may have signed Damien Harris, Cook finished top-20 among RBs in PFF REC grade and Yards Per Route Run, indicating that Cook can fill a 3rd down role with a pass-catching skill set. Bills GM Brandon Beane said recently, “We’re excited about Cook, and looking forward to what he can do in Year 2, especially with an expanded workload and more touches.” Cook checks boxes for a potential breakout: Good offense, 3-down skill set, efficiency metrics, Day 2 draft capital, and improvement during his rookie year.”
Bradley Stalder (FantasyData)

“The addition of Damien Harris has dimmed James Cook’s star, but his path to breakout town still exists. Entering year two and without Devin Singletary on the roster, it’s not hard to envision Cook’s opportunity share growing from the paltry 31.2% (55th) he saw last year. A moderate volume spike for the hyper-efficient Cook could go a long way in one of the league’s best offenses. Last year Cook was 17th in fantasy points per opportunity, third in yards per touch, and first in breakaway run rate (per Playerprofiler.com). Cook will have to compete with Harris for early down work and red zone opportunities, but he should have all the passing game work to himself. That’s fantastic on a team likely top 10 in neutral passing rate in 2023.”
Derek Brown (FantasyPros)

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

Christian Watson (WR – GB)
“Christian Watson was absolutely dynamite as a rookie. His 26% target rate per route run is nothing but impressive, ranking 17th among all WRs with at least 400 snaps. Watson’s 2.47 yards per route run ranked inside the top 10 and tied with superstar Davante Adams. And in a must-win Week 18 contest vs. the Lions, he was once again the target leader (23% target share), going for 104 receiving yards on a team-high five catches. From Week 10 through Week 18, Watson ranked first in yards per route run (2.78). Over the same span, Watson was the WR9 in both total points and on a per-game basis in PPR. If Watson takes over the downfield and red zone looks that Allen Lazard saw the majority of in 2022, prepare for a massive second-year leap. The WR21 in ADP is the clear alpha in the Packers’ passing game with the current depth chart listed as Watson, Romeo Doubs, Samori Toure, and Josiah Deguara.”
Andrew Erickson (FantasyPros)

Kadarius Toney (WR – KC)
“It’s a slam dunk we’ll get a breakout season from Kadarius Toney if — and yes, this is a Godzilla-sized “if” — he can stay healthy for most of the season. Toney has played 445 regular-season snaps over his two NFL seasons and has drawn 77 targets. He’s been targeted on 17.3% of his regular-season snaps, which speaks volumes about how easily he separates from defenders with his 4.4 speed and freaky change-of-direction skills. George Pickens had a 15.3% target share last year, and a lot of people think he’s a strong breakout candidate. Toney has earned a target on 17.3% of his SNAPS. Yes, Toney has only been in the NFL for a couple of years and his medical history is already the length of a Charles Dickens novel. But if he can stay reasonably healthy and play 15+ games in an offense with Patrick Mahomes at quarterback and Andy Reid designing the plays, we could easily get a 100-catch, 10-TD season out of Toney.”
Pat Fitzmaurice (FantasyPros)

Chris Olave (WR – NO)
“Olave may have finished as the WR25 in ppg, but he’s a ticking time bomb ready to explode for fantasy. Olave finished among the top-12 in air yards, deep targets, yards per team pass attempt, and yards per route run but finished 5th among WRs in unrealized air yards and 100th among WRs in Target Premium. Davante Adams, Derek Carr‘s leading target earner last year, was 23rd among WRs in target premium. Olave, one of the best route runners in the NFL-winning a route at the 12th highest rate-will have Improved targets as an ascending fantasy asset, which is the formula for a breakout year.”
Bradley Stalder (FantasyData)

Isaiah Hodgins (WR – NYG)
“I will venture deep down the rabbit hole with this pick for an underrated receiver in what looks to be an emerging offense in 2023. My guy is Isaiah Hodgins. Last year after securing a weekly full-time role in Weeks 13-18, Hodgins was the WR15 in fantasy points per game. Hodgins also excelled on a per-route basis last season, ranking first in route win rate and first in win rate against man coverage (per Playerprofiler.com). He was also 34th out of 82 qualifying wide receivers in open score per ESPN analytics. A full season of Hodgins with Daniel Jones under center and Brian Daboll at the controls has me tingling with anticipation.”
Derek Brown (FantasyPros)

2023 Fantasy Football Best Ball Draft Advice

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

Chigoziem Okonkwo (TE – TEN)
“Reality is beginning to set in that with both Titans veteran tight ends leaving in free agency, the TE1 job is up for grabs for second-year TE Chigoziem Okonkwo. He started Tennessee’s last two games of the season and flashed uber-efficiency in the receiving game. The rookie’s 26% target rate ranked 2nd among all tight ends with at least 40 targets in 2022. He finished 3rd in PFF receiving grade, first in yards per reception, and first in yards per route run among all tight ends.”
Andrew Erickson (FantasyPros)

“After getting a partial breakout from Titans TE Chig Okonkwo last year, I think we’ll get the full monty in 2023. From Week 9 through the end of the regular season, Okonkwo had 27 catches for 398 yards and two touchdowns. His 2022 efficiency numbers were through the roof — a 69.6% catch rate, 14.1 yards per catch and 9.8 yards per target. Okonkwo has 4.52 speed, and he’s a load to tackle. The Titans don’t have much talent at wide receiver, and there’s little in-house target competition at tight end now that Austin Hooper has left Nashville for Las Vegas. The runway is clear for an Okonkwo liftoff.”
Pat Fitzmaurice (FantasyPros)

Jake Ferguson (TE – DAL)
“Jake Ferguson-TE-Dallas Cowboys. The former 4th-round TE out of Wisconsin shined in a limited role behind Dalton Schultz in 2022. Schultz, also a former 4th-round pick who signed with the Houston Texans this off-season, has a similar athletic profile to Ferguson. It was Ferguson who earned 9 targets during the two games Schultz missed in 2022, and Ferguson has the 6th highest Yards Per Route Run and 11th highest PFF receiving grade among TEs with 20+ targets. Ferguson had a higher pass blocking and run blocking grade than Peyton Hendershot, indicating there is a pathway for Ferguson to stay on the field for every play and down.”
Bradley Stalder (FantasyData)

Jacoby Brissett (QB – WAS)
“Again, we pull out the shovel to venture down the fantasy rabbit hole with Jacoby Brissett as a left-for-dead breakout candidate. Brissett played extremely well last year and could be this year’s Geno Smith. Last season Brissett was 12th in PFF passing grade, 12th in big-time throw rate, and tenth in PFF passing grade from a clean pocket (minimum 150 total dropbacks and 75 pressured dropbacks per PFF). With a solid supporting cast around him with Terry McLaurin, Curtis Samuel, and Jahan Dotson, Brissett is a low-end QB2 that could be primed for a breakout in 2023.”
Derek Brown (FantasyPros)


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