Situations change yearly for NFL players. After the season, we see trades, free agent acquisitions and losses, and the draft all playing a role in change. These changes put players in positions to breakout and to fail.
If identified correctly, these breakout candidates can help you win your draft, turning a late round draft pick into a cornerstone on your roster.
In 2016 we saw players such as Jay Ajayi, DeMarco Murray, and Terrelle Pryor picked at the tail end of drafts. These players then went on to have fantastic seasons as late round draft picks who won their owner’s games.
The breakout candidates listed below have had either a change in scheme or coach, joined a different team, risen on the depth chart, or other changes that help make them potential breakout stars for the 2017 season.
I know we are six months early, but here are some 2017 Fantasy Football breakout candidates.
Fantasy Football Breakout Candidates
Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles
Carson Wentz had a good start to the 2016 NFL season, but his production tailed off in the second half of the season. This is due to a lack of a running game, and no quality receivers. That isn’t the case anymore.
The Eagles have added Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith who add size and speed to the receiver corps in Philly. Barring any suspension, Lane Johnson should be available for the entire season which helps an offensive line that added Chance Warmack this offseason.
I didn’t even mention Zach Ertz who has gained the trust of Wentz and should be a big part of the offense.
The offense in Philadelphia should be very much improved, and Wentz will be leading the way in a breakout season for the Eagles.
Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans
Marcus Mariota has been just okay thus far in his NFL career. He started playing exceptionally well in the latter half of last season but then ran into a few tough matchups and then broke his right fibula in Week 16.
The Titans still have an exceptional offensive line, and DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry are returning which is a very good thing for this offense. The only trouble this offense may have is receiver depth where the best option in Rishard Matthews.
What gives me optimism for Mariota is the 2017 NFL draft. In which the Titans have picks 5 and 18 which should give them an opportunity to select one or more of the top wide receivers in this draft whether it be Corey Davis, Mike Williams, or John Ross.
Mariota will pick up where he left off in 2016 and continue his ascent into the upper echelon of NFL quarterbacks, making him a breakout candidate for the 2017 NFL season.
Jordan Howard, Chicago Bears
Jordan Howard was second in the NFL with 1,313 rushing yards. Second in the NFL!! This is a guy who started the season as a backup to Jeremy Langford, and got the starting job in Week 3. It seems like he broke out last season, but this year he will be the unquestioned starter and I think he can do more with a full workload and 16 games.
I’m very fond of Howard for the 2017 season, and the offense should be productive after adding Mike Glennon. The Bears also have a pretty good defense already, which should keep the Bears in games, giving Howard more carries and more opportunities.
Look for Howard to build on his rookie campaign and breakout in his second NFL season.
Ty Montgomery, Green Bay Packers
As of right now, he’s at the top of the running back depth chart in Green Bay. I believe the Packers will bring in a running back in the draft, but Montgomery is already on the roster which should give him the inside track to the starting job.
The Packers already throw the ball a ton, and Montgomery being a former Wide Receiver means he runs effective routes, while also being able to carry the ball inside and run between the tackles.
Montgomery should catch a lot of passes in Green Bay this season, giving him tremendous PPR value. Montgomery will excel as the lead back in Green Bay, making him a breakout candidate for 2017.
Kenneth Dixon, Baltimore Ravens
Kenneth Dixon is suspended for the first four games of the 2017 season which helps his case a bit. He’s going to go late in drafts which can mean you’re getting a steal.
Dixon started coming on toward the end of last season after battling injuries. He’s a hard runner and he has tremendous catching ability out of the backfield. Baltimore doesn’t have many options in the passing game which will leave Joe Flacco to dump the ball off to Dixon out of the backfield.
After Dixon serves his suspension, I expect him to take the lead role in Baltimore making him a breakout candidate for 2017.
Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints
Michael Thomas burst onto the scene as a rookie for the Saints, so it might be odd to see him on this list but I think even better things are coming for Thomas in 2017.
Brandin Cooks is gone which gives Thomas the stranglehold on the No. 1 receiver spot in a very productive offense. Drew Brees is still playing at a high level and Thomas will be his No. 1 target. That means a high target share for Thomas and an opportunity to put up very good numbers in 2017.
I expect Thomas to exceed his 2016 total of 1,137 receiving yards and nine touchdowns as his role in the offense expands and he assumes his role as Drew Brees’ favorite target.
Josh Doctson, Washington Redskins
A first round pick out of TCU, Josh Doctson saw his rookie season limited to just two games in which he had two catches for 66 yards. Disappointing!
The Redskins lost DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon this offseason and brought in only Terrelle Pryor. The number two slot on the depth chart is there for the taking, and that’s where Doctson comes in. His talent isn’t being questioned as he is a former first-round pick, but he needs to remain healthy.
Kirk Cousins is still the quarterback and this offense has the propensity to be very potent in 2017 with a good offensive line, and a Top 3 tight end in Jordan Reed.
I expect Doctson to follow up on a disappointing rookie season with an excellent 2017 season.
Corey Coleman, Cleveland Browns
Another first-round wide receiver who disappointed in 2016 makes the breakout list for 2017. Just like Doctson, you can’t deny his talent as he put up excellent numbers at Baylor and showed flashes in Cleveland.
What gives me optimism in 2017 is that Coleman is at the top of the depth chart. We saw Terrelle Pryor, a lifetime quarterback who just switched to receiver, be successful as the No. 1 receiver. Now it is his turn as the No. 1 to prove himself and breakout as a No. 1 receiver.
The quarterback position scares me a bit as Cleveland doesn’t have a bona fide option at the position, but we saw Pryor be successful with the likes of Josh McCown, Cody Kessler and Robert Griffin III.
Taking the No. 1 receiver role can only mean good things for Coleman, and I expect him to breakout in 2017.
Hunter Henry, Los Angeles Chargers
Antonio Gates will be 37 by the time the 2017 NFL season starts. In comes Hunter Henry who emerged last year as a legitimate option for Philip Rivers in 2016. Henry should take most of the catches and receiving yards away from Gates which gives him tremendous upside.
The Chargers are blessed with having two very good tight ends. Gates should still figure in prominently in the red zone, but I expect Henry to handle the work getting to the 20-yard line.
Rivers loves throwing to his tight end, and Henry should see a lot of targets and he will have an opportunity to be productive in this offense.
With a larger share in the offense, look for Henry to become a prominent Fantasy tight end and breakout in 2017.
Dwayne Allen, New England Patriots
Stop me if you’ve heard this before: the No. 2 tight end in the New England Patriots offense becomes a legitimate Fantasy option.
That’s Dwayne Allen now. After years of underwhelming in Indianapolis, he’s now a Patriot. Rob Gronkowski has injury concerns and the fact that the Patriots run a ton of two tight end sets, the door is open for Allen to become a legitimate Fantasy tight end in 2017.
Winning the draft often means winning your league. That’s just the truth of Fantasy Football, and every year late-round players that aren’t expected to do much become huge stars for Fantasy teams. The changes that surround the players listed above has led to a potential for success in one way or another. Finding these breakout stars in your draft can only lead to good things for the 2017 NFL season.