There is a fine line between a “sleeper” and “breakout” in Fantasy Football. Before I get to my wide receiver breakouts for 2017, I want to clarify my own logic between the two terms.
As our senior writing staff was recently discussing, it is quite hard to really nail down a concrete meaning and stipulation for either term. A sleeper running back and sleeper quarterback can have such different Average Draft Positions (ADP) that it is difficult to qualify an over-arching guideline.
So that is the first factor: each position has a different definition. With only one quarterback and tight end starting in most leagues, a “sleeper” is tougher to identify. We pretty much know all about every one of the starters, so the term is definitely closer to “under-valued” than it would be “unknown.”
With running backs and receivers, there are just so many more possibilities that there are definitely “unknown” as well as “under-valued” sleepers. When it comes to breakout players, it is mostly the same.
Breakout quarterbacks and tight ends will be the guys just on the verge of being drafted as starters. Running back and wide receiver breakouts tend to populate a larger area since so many more players get drafted from those positions.
How to Identify Wide Receiver Breakouts
Basically, I consider wide receiver breakouts to be players that are being drafted as back-end starters, or front-line bench players that will take the step up a tier or two. These guys will be drafted in every league and any average Fantasy Owner will know their name, but next season they will be more at the forefront of people’s minds and rankings.
One good example of this is Mike Evans. Evans was seen as a fringe WR1 going into last season, then he broke out and is now considered one of the uber-elite players overall. He is going in Round One is almost every draft. Evans is a “career progression” type of breakout as he entered his third season in the league.
Another type of the wide receiver breakouts is T.Y. Hilton. He had never finished in the Top 10 in PPR scoring among receivers going into last year. He was always seen as a solid WR2, maybe fringe WR1. Then he ended up fifth in scoring at the position. Hilton is the type of breakout that is just increased workload. He had a career high in targets by almost 12%.
The last type of the wide receiver breakouts is Michael Crabtree. I would say Crabtree is like a “comeback-breakout.” After his initial breakout in 2012, he did not really sniff WR1 status. Now that Derek Carr has emerged as a quality quarterback, Crabtree has taken advantage and finished with the 12th most points at the position last season.
So when we are looking for our wide receiver breakouts, we want to find guys that fit these type of molds. I am using just players that are currently being drafted between 13th and 40th at the position. All of the ADP data is from Fantasy Pros and is up to date as of July 28th. Like I said, I see these guys moving up a tier or two from where you can draft them.
2017 Wide Receiver Breakouts
Terrelle Pryor, Washington Redskins (Position ADP: 18; Overall ADP: 39)
In just his second full season at the position (and first with playing time), Pryor already had a level of breakout. He finished 20th in scoring at the position with over 1,000 yards and five total touchdowns. What makes it even more impressive is the level of quarterback play in Cleveland was somewhere between atrocious and despicable.
— Mitch B. (@MitchBrownTV3) July 27, 2017
Now I know his advanced stats were not great. He only caught 77 passes of the 144 targets he received. He is still a generally raw route runner and his 13.1 yards per catch (48th in the league) leaves something to be desired. But as I said with Josh Doctson in my wide receiver sleepers, there are literally hundreds of targets/catches and thousands of yards up for grabs in Washington with the exits of DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon. He also is such a phenomenal overall athlete that he has the ability needed to become an elite target.
Couple this new opportunity with a massive upgrade in offense and quarterback play, and we have the epitome of a breakout candidate. He fits both the career progression and increased workload as I’m sure he will see more than the paltry four targets inside the 10-yard line.
Willie Snead, New Orleans Saints (Position ADP: 35; Overall ADP: 87)
The Saints no longer have Brandin Cooks on their roster, who managed 162 receptions for 2,311 yards and 17 TDs on 246 targets over the last two years. Enter Willie Snead into Fantasy stardom.
Snead had almost the same exact amount of PPR points in his second season as he did his first. He basically is what he is: a solid, quick-hitting, possession receiver. What is the best thing for a player like this? More opportunities!
Now don’t go getting all Ted Ginn on me. Drew Brees will stop looking his way so often after the first few drops. Snead has a chance to greatly increase his workload in the most productive passing offense in NFL history. I think he is a lock for WR2 status in 12-team leagues, and if everything goes right, he could knock on the door of WR1-status. Yet, you can get him in Round 8. Make it happen.
Pierre Garcon, San Francisco 49ers (Position ADP: 37; Overall ADP: 92)
Pierre Garcon has been reunited with Kyle Shanahan. Here are some notable “X” receivers n Shanahan’s offense: pic.twitter.com/lUgDpbgifM
— RotoCurve (@RotoCurve) July 12, 2017
Both of the first two wide receiver breakouts fit both the “career progression” and “increased workload” paradigms. Pierre Garcon is a leading candidate for the “comeback-breakout” season with a touch of “increased workload” added in.
Garcon is basically the anti-Terrelle Pryor: he goes from Kirk Cousins and the Redskins to a bad team/quarterback situation. There is one huge difference and that is the lack of anything resembling an average NFL receiver on the 49ers’ roster besides Garcon. Seriously, the next two receivers on their depth charter are Bruce Ellington and Marquise Goodwin.
At the bare minimum, there will be 3,000 yards and 300 completions up for grabs, even if they are the worst passing offense in the league again. If he stays healthy, there is no way Garcon does not get 33% of those numbers. That would lead to a 100-catch, 1,000-yard season, which with a couple of touchdowns that are sure to come, and you have a mid-level WR2.
If Kyle Shanahan can do for Brian Hoyer what he did for Matt Ryan and Kirk Cousins, those numbers could bump him into WR1 territory. Lest we forget, the last time that Garcon and Shanahan were hooked up, Garcon put up a 113-1,346-5 career year. Yet, you can get him for the price of a WR4 in Round 8.
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