So “primed” may be a bit of a strong word. “Capable of” may have been more accurate but you clicked the link so here we are. Not every player even has a breakout season in their range of outcomes. Players who find success years after entering the league are still talented players. They just didn’t put it all together early in their careers for a variety of reasons. Last year’s biggest late breakouts were DeVante Parker and Darren Waller. Both were athletic specimens with outstanding college production, but numerous setbacks pushed their success years down the road. Here are four players who fit the bill of late-career fantasy football breakouts this year.
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Fantasy Football Breakouts + Undervalued Sleepers for 2020 NFL Drafts
Herndon is the only player with less than three years of NFL experience on this list but his 2019 collapse aged people who drafted him by at least four years, so it counts as a late breakout. The Jets selected Herndon in the fourth round, and it didn’t take long for him to start putting up numbers. He caught 39 passes for 502 yards at the age of 22. He is one of just 14 rookies to ever top 500 yards at that age or younger. Then Herndon lost all but a handful of snaps in his second season due to a suspension and handful of injuries. Herndon is now healthy and turning heads at training camp. Both Sam Darnold and Adam Gase have raved about him, including Gase anointing him the unquestioned starter already. It’s not surprising that Darnold is raving about him either. Herndon has been one of his two most efficient targets since entering the league. Herndon is #4 on my list of undervalued fantasy football breakouts.
Lastly, the Jets need Herndon. Three of their receivers have been sidelined from practice with injuries in the last week: Denzel Mims (hamstring), Breshad Perriman (knee) and Vyncint Smith (core). Smith is unlikely to be ready for Week 1 and Mims’ status is up in the air. The Jets have Le’Veon Bell and Jamison Crowder left besides Herndon. That’s it.
*Update: Keep an eye on Herndon’s injury status – he left the field under his own power, walking off with trainers on September 1st.
It could be argued that McKinnon already broke out two years ago. He snuck into the top-20 running backs (by PPR scoring) on the back of 51 catches for 421 yards. McKinnon was a play maker in space but it’s been two years since McKinnon took the field at all. He suffered a torn ACL after signing with the 49ers and then complications kept him out another season. This might not be a true breakout, but it would be a late-career resurgence of epic proportion.
McKinnon has one major advantage that no other player in the San Francisco backfield has: He’s an ace in the receiving game. He played wideout in high school and caught a handful of balls in college. Then, with the Vikings, he caught 142 passes over four seasons while starting just 14 games. That’s more receptions than Tevin Coleman and Raheem Mostert have in their careers combined.That skill set is going to be more useful now than ever before. San Francisco could be without as many as four receivers in Week 1, forcing them to use multiple running backs or even split McKinnon out wide. He’s already been praised for his route running and hands since returning to 49ers practices. Jerrick McKinnon is #3 on my list of undervalued fantasy football breakouts.
2. Corey Davis
Davis came close to breaking out in 2018 with 946 total yards and four scores. He finished as the WR28 and played all 16 games for the only time in his three-year career. To be a true breakout, we’re looking for at least top-24 numbers. Davis has the chance to finally reach that threshold in 2020.
Davis was an incredible college prospect before flaming out with the Titans. Per PlayerProfiler, his 18.6 breakout and 51.6% College Dominator were both in the 96th-percentile for all college prospects. He posted 4,344 receiving yards and 46 scores over his final three seasons at Western Michigan.
More Fantasy Football Breakouts
He’s no longer the top receiving option in Tennessee anymore, but that might work to his favor. In 2020, defenders gave Davis 7.2 yards of cushion at the line of scrimmage. He also posted a 12.3 average depth of target. Both marks were career highs, as was his 8.7 yards per target. Defenders keying in on A.J. Brown and Derrick Henry plus an upgrade to Ryan Tannehill made Davis the most efficient version of himself we’ve seen. The Titans efficiency running the ball is going to regress and they likely won’t be able to run the ball on 49% of their plays, third most in the league. That should increase their overall passing volume and give Davis a chance at finally breaking out.
Even if Davis doesn’t explode in his fourth NFL season, Awesemo’s projections (which don’t have him breaking out) still have him as a value going outside the top-15 rounds. His fantasy production looks like that of a player going in the 10th round. Corey Davis is #2 on my list of undervalued fantasy football breakouts.
1. John Ross
Like all of the breakouts listed here, John Ross has shown he has the talent to make it in the NFL in spurts. These aren’t just players who made a nice catch in training camp. All of the players on this list have impressive collegiate profiles and just need the right dominoes to fall. Ross is no different.
— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) February 21, 2020
Ross was used extensively as a kick and punt returner early in his college days. He also switched between wide receiver and cornerback in his sophomore season at Washington. An ACL tear cost him his junior season, but Ross exploded as a full-time receiver in his final year of college ball. He posted 1,252 yards and 18 touchdowns in total. Then, at the combine, Ross affirmed his game-breaking speed. He ran a 4.22 40-yard fash at the combine, the fastest time ever recorded. After years of injury and ineffective play, Ross finally looked like he was breaking out at the start of 2019. Ross dropped 270 yards and three scores on 11 catches through two weeks. Then he suffered a shoulder injury that cost him half a season. John Ross is #1 on my list of undervalued fantasy football breakouts.
Now Ross gets the benefit of playing with Joe Burrow as his quarterback. Even in his rookie campaign, Burrow will be better than Andy Dalton ever was.
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