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NFL Fantasy: Breakout Candidates

A breakout candidate is best defined as a player that is being considered for a greater increase in fantasy points because of the situation they’re in or the skill they possess. “Breakout” is different from “sleeper” because a sleeper is someone that doesn’t have a whole lot of hype surrounding them. A breakout player is ready to exceed the recent performances he has made in the NFL.


Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Jameis Winston is a huge candidate to be a breakout this season. The Buccaneers brought in Bruce Arians to be their head coach who is said to be an offensive mastermind. Arians has constantly created top fantasy players at every position because his offense is always a top tier offense. Last season, Jameis was actually pretty solid in fantasy, but a little Fitzmagic stopped him from playing all 16 games. With Ryan Fitzpatrick now out of the picture, nobody appears to be able to overthrow Jameis from the starting job.

Jameis has arguably one of the best-receiving cores around him with Mike Evans, and breakout candidates Chris Godwin and O.J. Howard. This offense is going to have the chance to be a top 10 offense, so why wouldn’t you want the quarterback of a top 10 offense?

Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns

Baker Mayfield is the favorite to be a breakout candidate this season and his ranking among experts shows that. His expert consensus ranking (ECR) has him ranked at the sixth-best quarterback in fantasy. Last season, Baker was awesome throwing 27 touchdowns in 14 games. He finished as the 16th best quarterback in fantasy with not a lot of good wide receivers to throw to.

Now, he has Odell Beckham, Jr. to throw to, and Jarvis Landry is back to his normal position in the slot. They added a new offensive coordinator in Todd Monken who loves to throw the ball. Baker could finish as a top-five quarterback if he plays all 16 games.


Kerryon Johnson, Detroit Lions

Kerryon Johnson was very efficient as a running back last season. The problem here was that they preferred LeGarrette Blount for some odd reason over him. Johnson averaged 5.3 yards per carry last season to Blount’s mere 2.7. He was also averaging a lot of touches last season down the stretch before his injury.

Johnson is a very good pass catcher and receiving back Theo Riddick got in the way of that. With the departure of Riddick, Johnson now is the main receiving back. LeGarrette Blount is also being replaced by C.J. Anderson who was very effective near the end of the season and the playoffs for the Los Angeles Rams. C.J. shouldn’t eat too much into Johnson’s workload making Johnson a great breakout candidate.

Marlon Mack, Indianapolis Colts

Last season, Marlon Mack started off injured, but once he came in, he lit it up. Mack was the seventh-best running back in fantasy from week six and on. He wasn’t much of a pass catcher because those duties were handed to Nyheim Hines who is very effective in that role, but Mack still received around 17 carries a game.

The Colt’s offensive line is also getting stronger by the year. Rookie Quenton Nelson and co. were one of the best offensive lines last season. A top tier offensive line, quarterback, and offense all make a great situation for a running back to break out.

Wide Receivers

Chris Godwin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Last season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were an awesome high flying passing offense. They had a deep receiving core with Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, Adam Humphries, and Chris Godwin along with the tight end tandem of O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate. With the departure of Jackson and Humphries, there are now 179 targets vacated from last season.

Chris Godwin last season was spectacular when targetted. He had 842 yards on seven touchdowns. With those guys gone and head coach Bruce Arians coming in, it is almost certain that Godwin takes a lot of those targets and could see an increase to more than 120 targets compared to his 95 from last season.

Mike Williams, Los Angeles Chargers

Nov 19, 2017; Carson, CA, USA; Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Mike Williams (81) on the field during the second quarter against the Buffalo Bills at StubHub Center. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Williams saw a very high touchdown percentage last season which should go down, but he still could breakout. Last season he caught 10 touchdowns on only 43 receptions while playing alongside the 11th best wide receiver in Keenan Allen and Tyrell Williams.

Now, Tyrell Williams is gone vacating about 65 targets. Mike Williams could retain most if not all of these targets while possibly stealing some from Keenan Allen as well. With his high touchdown upside and his increase in targets, he could break out this season.

Tight Ends

O.J. Howard, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Sep 9, 2018; New Orleans, LA, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end O.J. Howard (80) gestures after a catch against the New Orleans Saints in the second quarter at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

The last of the Tampa Bay Buccaneer breakout players, tight end O.J. Howard was a force last year on the field. The freak athlete O.J. Howard only had 34 receptions, but he made the most of those catches turning them into 565 yards and 5 touchdowns. He only played in eight games as well. As I said in the Godwin blurb, there are 179 targets from last season that are now gone.

Now, Jameis Winston is his full-time quarterback, and Winston truly loves throwing to his tight ends. Howard should definitely eat into the 179 targets available from last season. If he plays all 16 games, he has the potential to be a top-three tight end.

Vance McDonald, Pittsburgh Steelers

The Vance Dance is here and is very much alive. With the 200 targets that went to Jesse James and Antonio Brown now gone, who will absorb those targets? The Steelers brought in Donte Moncrief to help with the loss of Antonio Brown and second-year wide receiver James Washington should help, but they won’t take all 200 targets.

Expect Vance McDonald to see an increase of targets. He could be what Heath Miller was to Ben Roethlisberger back in the day and be awesome for him. McDonald had his best season of his career last season, and it could even be better next season.

Be sure to check out the sleeper candidates in my last article.

See more fantasy news and notes by following @FF_JoeH

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