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24 Breakout Candidates to Draft (2023 Fantasy Football)

24 Breakout Candidates to Draft (2023 Fantasy Football)

Welcome to another installment of our Featured Pros series here on FantasyPros.com. This time, we’re zeroing in on a group of gridiron warriors who may not have made many headlines yet, but we believe they’re on the cusp of stardom. Get ready to ride the wave of potential with our carefully handpicked 24 Breakout Candidates.

Our collection of fantasy experts is here to give you an edge in your fantasy football league by identifying the hidden gems and rising stars before anyone else. We’re talking about players who could very well be the unsung heroes of your team this year, the ones who might transform from a last-minute draft pick into your top point scorer.

They’ve combed through stats, analyzed performance trends, and predicted potential opportunities for these promising players. From high-risk, high-reward gambles to those poised for steady growth, these 24 candidates have the potential to make a substantial splash in the 2023 season.

Featured Pros: Breakout Candidates

What RB has the best shot of having a breakout year in 2023, and why?

Cam Akers (RB – LAR)

“It’s been a rocky start to Cam Akers’ NFL career, underscored by his 2021 torn Achilles. But he closed last season with a bang, scoring as a top-4 fantasy RB over the final six games. The 2020 second-round pick is still just 24 and appears poised to play a voluminous role in a Rams offense that should bounce back with healthy seasons from QB Matt Stafford and WR Cooper Kupp.”- Jared Smola (Draft Sharks)

“Cam Akers has a great chance to finally make good on the hype he came into the league with. After a contentious start to 2022, from week 13 on, Akers averaged 19.3 opportunities, 101.8 total yards, and 1 total touchdown per game for 15.9 Half PPR points per game. This offseason, the Rams have done very little to give Akers any competition for opportunities. With Matthew Stafford back and healthy, this offense can get back on track while featuring Akers on his way to a possible fringe RB1 season.”
Wyatt Bertolone (JWB Fantasy Football)

“The Rams used Cam Akers as a workhorse in the final weeks of the 2022 season, and the role suited him well. Akers led the NFL in rushing over the final six weeks and ranked RB4 in half-point PPR scoring over that stretch. He had more than 100 rushing yards in each of his last three games. Akers doesn’t have a great deal of competition in the Rams’ backfield. Some people think Zach Evans is an existential threat to Akers’ primacy in the Rams’ backfield, but Evans was a late sixth-round pick, and the hit rate for sixth-round running backs isn’t stellar. If Sean McVay gives Akers a big workload, we’ll finally get the breakout we were hoping for last year.”
Pat Fitzmaurice (FantasyPros)

J.K. Dobbins (RB – BAL)

“J.K. Dobbins’ 2022 campaign got off to a sluggish start as he was recovering from major knee surgery and missed the first two weeks of the season. However, when Dobbins finally returned later in the year, he showed why he’s such a highly regarded talent. In his last five games, including the playoffs, he averaged an impressive 6.6 yards per carry, 92 rushing yards, and 14 carries per game. This strong finish is a promising sign for his 2023 prospects in an offense that should light the league ablaze under the QB/OC combination of Lamar Jackson/Todd Monken. And although he continued to split carries with Gus Edwards in 2022, Dobbins’ explosive running style and effectiveness in the Ravens’ offense make him the best fantasy asset. Despite the presence of Edwards and Justice Hill in the backfield, Dobbins is the clear lead back for the Ravens and should be viewed as a top breakout candidate.”
Andrew Erickson (FantasyPros)

Travis Etienne (RB – JAC)

“Travis Etienne was close to breaking out last year, but a lack of touchdowns held him back. He averaged over five yards per carry and over nine yards per reception. This year, the Jaguars’ offense should take a big leap forward in Year 2 with Doug Pederson. Expect Etienne to add to his five touchdowns from 2022 and crack the Top 10 for fantasy running backs in 2023.”
Ryan Weisse (Club Fantasy FFL)

Jahmyr Gibbs (RB – DET)

“Jahmyr Gibbs is going to win fantasy football leagues. His ADP lingers in the 4th-round, which is insane considering he has top-10 overall upside (yes, even as a rookie). Rookie running backs have top 1-10 RB seasons all the time, and the Lions are set to explode in 2023. Anyone that tries to paint pictures about Gibbs using old stories about D’Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams doesn’t know what time it is. Gibbs could have 1,500 total yards, 60+ receptions, and 12+TDs during his rookie campaign. He is a top 10 overall player hiding in the 4th round. Get on board.”
Smitty (TheFantasyFootballShow)

“I looked at every running back drafted in the top 12 in the last decade of NFL drafts. In their rookie season, every one of them finished as a Top 10 running back in fantasy. Bijan Robinson is easy to project for that massive season, but I’m backing Jahmyr Gibbs as a major breakout candidate as well. Teams using high draft capital on a runner are going to use them heavily, and we know from last season that the Lions are very capable of supporting two fantasy-relevant runners. Last season both Jamaal Williams and D’Andre Swift were RB2s on a per-game basis. If Gibbs can stay healthy, he has the talent to go one better and finish as an RB1 in 2023.”
Ben Wasley (The Fantasy First Down)

Alexander Mattison (RB – MIN)

“Alexander Mattison finally gets his shot as the top running back. Mattison is on one of the top offenses in football, is young, and offers a three-down skillset. In the 6 games Cook was out, Mattison averaged 20.5 PPR fantasy points. Mattison averaged 79.5 yards and 36 receiving yards.”
David Heilman (Sports Gambling Podcast Network)

Rachaad White (RB – TB)

“I know, the Tampa offense is a little unappealing. Well, a lot of unappealing, really. Tom Brady is no longer in town, and now we are staring down the possibility of this once-great fantasy powerhouse being run by Kyle Trask or Baker Mayfield. Alas, I am still smitten about White. Leonard Fournette is gone, and the only running back added by the Bucs this offseason was Chase Edmonds. Does anyone think Chase Edmonds will give White problems? I do not. In the Bucs’ fairly conservative offense, White still managed 58 targets in the passing game last year, great for his PPR upside. His critics will point to fairly poor rushing metrics, but the Bucs’ offensive line was banged up a year ago. If White is on the field for at least 70% of the Bucs’ offensive snaps, it is hard to imagine he won’t have a breakout-caliber season despite the shortcomings of his offense. ”
Ed Birdsall (Talking Points Sports)

Miles Sanders (RB – CAR)

“Miles Sanders is ready to break out in Carolina. Sanders will be relied on heavily in the new-look Panthers offense. I expect Frank Reich to lean on him early as rookie quarterback Bryce Young gets used to the pro game. Sanders will finish the season as RB10.”
Justin Fuhr (Pro Football Mania)

What WR has the best shot of having a breakout year in 2023, and why?

Treylon Burks (WR – TEN)

“Treylon Burks dealt with conditioning issues last summer and myriad injuries throughout the fall. He flashed the skill set that made him a Round 1 pick at times, though. And he now has a chance to dominate targets in a Titans WR corps otherwise completely devoid of talent.”
Jared Smola (Draft Sharks)

Elijah Moore (WR – CLE)

“Elijah Moore is in a brand-new situation with the Cleveland Browns and could easily emerge as the No. 2 WR in the offense. Moore was the WR2 overall during his last stretch of six games during his rookie season, despite catching passes from Mike White, Zach Wilson, and Josh Johnson. There’s a path where he is easily second on the team in targets, and I wouldn’t completely rule out him out-targeting Cooper after we saw Cooper and Donovan Peoples-Jones (a free agent at the end of the season) post similar production at times in 2022. He should project as the team’s locked-and-loaded starting slot WR, with rookie third-rounder Cedric Tillman pushing DPJ for snaps on the perimeter. Cooper’s status as a “fake alpha” always seems to improve the efficiency of the No. 2 WRs he plays alongside, which further bolsters the case for Moore to hit value in 2023.”
Andrew Erickson (FantasyPros)

Chris Olave (WR – NO)

“It’s probably too easy to choose Chris Olave, but he is my pick. Last year, he was one of only seven wide receivers to average a 60-percent catch rate and over 14 yards per catch with over 100 targets. He did all of that with mediocre quarterback play. Derek Carr is an upgrade to the Saints’ 2022 quarterbacks and certainly throws a more accurate deep ball. Expect 2023 to be the first of many top-10 fantasy seasons for Olave.”
Ryan Weisse (Club Fantasy FFL)

“Chris Olave topped the 1,000-yard mark as a rookie but scored only four touchdowns and finished WR25 in PPR scoring. There’s a good chance we’ll get a full breakout from Olave in 2023 and a finish in the WR1 range. Olave has blazing speed and is already one of the NFL’s better route runners. He gets a QB upgrade, going from Andy Dalton to Derek Carr, who should be able to leverage Olave’s wheels better. Last season, Carr averaged 9.1 intended air yards per pass attempt last season, according to Pro Football Reference, the fourth-highest in the league. Dalton averaged 7.9 intended air yards per pass attempt last season. Expect Olave to quickly become Carr’s go-to guy and start finding the end zone more often.”
Pat Fitzmaurice (FantasyPros)

Christian Watson (WR – GB)

“This is close between Chris Olave and Christian Watson, but since Olave gets drafted a lot higher on average, let’s roll with Watson here. Watson has the makings of a Deebo Samuel. He’s 6-4, runs a 4.28 forty, runs the football like Deebo, and Aaron Rodgers just fast-tracked Watson last season, essentially making him schooled to the tune of a second or third-year player. I actually really like Jordan Love this year, and I think he and the Packers will turn heads (considering the expectations). Watson could be a 1,300+ receiver with well over 10 total scores in 2023.”
Smitty (TheFantasyFootballShow)

Kadarius Toney (WR – KC)

“After two disappointing, injury-ravaged seasons, it’s time Kadarius Toney finally produced as the first-round talent he was drafted as. The Chiefs have a major lack of receiving weapons, but that didn’t hurt them last year. With JuJu Smith-Schuster out the door, it’s fair to expect Toney can transition into that WR1 role and be central to Patrick Mahomes alongside Travis Kelce. A strong WR2 season is on the cards if the youngster can stay healthy and make the most of his opportunity.”
Ben Wasley (The Fantasy First Down)

Drake London (WR – ATL)

“I’m expecting big things from Drake London in his second year in the league. After posting a target share of 29.4% and coming in at 11th in yards per route run as a rookie, the sky is the limit for London. The one concern for London is the QB play, but the good news is Desmond Ridder had a much better catchable ball rate than Marcus Mariota. Additionally, Atlanta’s pass attempts per game increased while Ridder played, and there’s reason to believe it could increase even more as Ridder enters his second season as well.”
Wyatt Bertolone (JWB Fantasy Football)

Jerry Jeudy (WR – DEN)

“The Jerry Jeudy breakout is finally coming! Sean Payton has had a top-5 offense 10 times, including six No. 1 overall offenses. Payton’s offenses have also had a 1,000-yard WR in 9 out of 16 seasons. Jeudy was already breaking out last year in a terrible situation. He averaged 15.5 PPR fantasy points per game in games he 50% of snaps or more.”
David Heilman (Sports Gambling Podcast Network)

Rashod Bateman (WR – BAL)

“Despite an injury-wrecked second season, Bateman was on pace to finish with over 1,000 yards and eight touchdowns. Entering his third season, this is prime breakout territory for the former Minnesota Golden Gopher. Lamar Jackson has indicated that Bateman is his WR1, with the offense now designed and built for more downfield passing plays. Mark Andrews will still get plenty of love in this offense, but the additions of Odell Beckham Jr. and Zay Flowers will cause defenses to spread coverage all over the field. Bateman should see way more one on ones, giving him a pathway to have a breakout season. ”
Ed Birdsall (Talking Points Sports)

Terry McLaurin (WR – WAS)

“Commanders receiver Terry McLaurin is primed for a big year in Washington. Quarterback Sam Howell has the arm to stretch the ball down the field, and McLaurin will benefit. McLaurin has had to deal with quarterback musical chairs while in Washington until now. I expect Howell to play the full season and McLaurin to get double-digit touchdowns in 2023.”
Justin Fuhr (Pro Football Mania)

2023 Fantasy Football Best Ball Draft Advice

What QB or TE has the best shot of having a breakout year in 2023, and why?

Greg Dulcich (TE – DEN)

“Injuries curtailed his production, but Greg Dulcich had a super encouraging rookie season. He tallied a 33-411-2 line across 10 games, ranking 10th among TEs in PPR points over that stretch. HC Sean Payton should be a huge upgrade over last year’s Nathaniel Hackett debacle. If QB Russell Wilson bounces back, Dulcich has top-10 fantasy upside.”
Jared Smola (Draft Sharks)

Anthony Richardson (QB – IND)

“Anthony Richardson is my best bet to win Offensive Rookie of the Year and to break out in Year 1. The former Gator brings an exceptional level of athleticism to the table, and with the right coaching staff, his sky-high potential can be fully realized. In fact, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him secure the Day 1 starting position, especially with Gardner Minshew as his only competition. Even if the Colts don’t have a strong real-life record, Richardson’s rushing production and off-script playmaking will put him over the top. At Florida, Richardson averaged 60 rushing yards per game. Also, Richardson’s extremely low pressure to sack rate (sub-10%, first in the 2023 QB Class) further highlights his off-script playmaking.”
Andrew Erickson (FantasyPros)

“Anthony Richardson landed in the best possible landing spot and is expected to play early. The cast around him, with Jonathan Taylor, Michael Pittman, and Head Coach Shane Steichen, is ideal. Richardson’s rushing offers both a safe floor and a massive ceiling as he develops as a passer. Richardson could be a top 15 fantasy QB in year 1!”
David Heilman (Sports Gambling Podcast Network)

Tua Tagovailoa (QB – MIA)

“It has been a tumultuous career for Tua Tagovailoa already, but things are starting to look up. While he played in 13 games last year, he left two of those early. When you look at the 11 games he started and finished, he was putting up top-5 fantasy numbers and threw multiple touchdowns in six of those games. Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle might be the best wide receiver duo in the league, and they will help Tagovailoa finish in the Top 5 as long as he stays on the field.”
Ryan Weisse (Club Fantasy FFL)

Dalton Kincaid (TE – BUF)

“Dalton Kincaid is an ELITE tight end prospect, and he also landed on a roster that has a top 1-5 gunslinger. That is ultra rare to have both ELITE talent and situation mix so perfectly (Kelce is the standard). On top of that, there is a chance he becomes the No. 2 overall wide receiver on the Bills’ roster in 2023 (as a rookie), as he will play the slot while Dawson Knox blocks. Don’t look at Knox as a hurdle… they are in entirely different roles, and Kincaid could very well be the next ELITE tight end that leads all tight ends in the coming years. If there is a “next Kelce” lingering somewhere in the NFL, Kincaid is him.”
Smitty (TheFantasyFootballShow)

Sam Howell (QB – WAS)

“I’m not sure any quarterbacks or tight ends have a great shot at a breakout in 2023, but one guy I’d like to highlight is Sam Howell. The Commanders passer has some excellent weapons to work with and also gets the important addition of Eric Bieniemy running the offense; we know what he did with Patrick Mahomes. While there is always plenty of risk with a Day 3 draft pick, and the role is not definitely Howell’s, if everything comes together, I believe the second-year man has QB1 upside.”
Ben Wasley (The Fantasy First Down)

Chigoziem Okonkwo (TE – TEN)

“I’m all aboard the Chigoziem Okonkwo train for 2023. Okonkwo impressed in 2022, leading all rookie TEs in receiving yards, and was the TE8 over the last six games of the season. Now going into his second year, with the Titans’ lack of wide receivers, Okonkwo is set to be the second receiving option on the team. With his explosive ability, evidenced by his 14.1 yards per reception as a rookie, Okonkwo could be in for a big year.”
Wyatt Bertolone (JWB Fantasy Football)

“After getting a partial breakout from 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 takeoff.”
Pat Fitzmaurice (FantasyPros)

Kenny Pickett (QB – PIT)

“Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh Steelers — 2nd season breakouts for quarterbacks happen more times than not. Recent examples include Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, and Josh Allen. The Steelers kept things pretty conservative with Pickett in his rookie season, yet that should all change in 2023. Look for the Steelers to call more deep shots for Pickett in his second season, and with the likes of George Pickens, Diontae Johnson, Pat Freiermuth, and the newly acquired Allen Robinson, the Steelers’ sophomore signal caller should show significant growth. Oh, and don’t play down his abilities as a rusher either, as Pickett ran the ball 55 times for 237 yards and three touchdowns. We should see more growth in that area of his game as well. ”
Ed Birdsall (Talking Points Sports)

Jared Goff (QB – DET)

“Jared Goff will come close to a top 5 finish in 2023. Goff had an exceptional 2022 campaign and gets his OC Ben Johnson back. Expect more of the same from Goff next year, including 30+ touchdowns. At his current ADP, Goff will end up being a steal.”
Justin Fuhr (Pro Football Mania)

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