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3 Wide Receiver Breakouts Poised for Big Seasons

Wide Receiver Breakouts
Chris Hogan Photo Credit: Eltiempo10

Coming up with wide receiver breakouts is a tricky task and you have to walk a fine line with it. Everyone has different meanings, interpretations and guidelines for what constitutes a sleeper, bust or breakout.

Personally, a “sleeper” is someone that is under-valued and being drafted as a non-starter, with an Average Draft Position (ADP) in the 100’s. A “bust” is someone being drafted as a starter in almost every league that I think will disappoint.

To me, a “breakout” is someone who is going to be drafted in almost every league. They are not seen as an elite player at the position, but they will solidify themselves as a must-start by the end of the year. With that said, I will be finding my wide receiver breakouts from the WR25-40 range by their current ADP.

How to Find Wide Receiver Breakouts

As I have stated previously, the best way to find wide receiver breakouts is finding an upward, continuous trend in production over the first couple years of a player’s career. Receivers take some time to mature their route running and breakaway moves, so this is a common theme.

Another way to find wide receiver breakouts is seeing a solid player that is suddenly thrust into a larger role with an increase in targets. Whether it’s by joining a different team or different players/coaches around them, a new environment and offensive script can help determine wide receiver breakouts.

Last year, I was lulled in by a couple of players that I thought were poised to be wide receiver breakouts. Damn you Terrelle Pryor. Side note: I am not saying a word about him nor drafting him at all this year, so I would guess he will now have the breakout year he was assumed to have had last season.

2018 Wide Receiver Breakouts

All of the ADP date is from as of 7/26/18.
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Chris Hogan, New England Patriots (ADP: WR30, OVR73)

Hogan has definitely had his moments of stardom. Hogan’s 5-catch, 129-yard and a touchdown effort on Monday Night Football against Baltimore a couple of years ago is one that comes to mind. It seemed like he might be ready to break out last season.

Hogan’s got on a roll last year, scoring 5 touchdowns in 4 weeks. Unfortunately, he was injured in Week 8. The Patriots averaged 4.5 catches, over 61 yards and almost a touchdown a game from Weeks 2-8 last year (and that includes his 1-catch, 19-yard outing against the Jets).

If you extrapolate his first eight games (and mind you those include two absolute duds) over the whole season, he would have had 66 catches for 876 yards and 10 touchdowns. That total would have been WR16 last season.

That alone shows some of Hogan’s potential. Then you have to factor in the changes in the Patriots’ receiving corps. Brandin Cooks and his 114 targets, 65 receptions, 1,082 yards and 7 touchdowns are gone to Los Angeles. Danny Amendola and his 86 targets, 61 catches, 659 yards and 2 touchdowns went to the other coast to South Beach. The only additions that New England made were Jordan Matthews and Cordarrelle Patterson. Two guys who can’t stay on the field and are not exactly known for their work ethic.

[Editor’s Note: Tomlin submitted this piece before the Decker Signing]

The cherry on top of Hogan’s breakout case is the Julian Edelman suspension. Edelman will miss the first four games of the season. In some leagues, that is nearly an entire third of the Fantasy regular season. So with Hogan, you are getting the #1 receiver (for a third of the season, then the secondary receiver, maybe still the top option) on the number one offense in the league in Round 7. Lastly, do you really think Rob Gronkowski has 14 or more games in him again? Hogan will finish the year as a Top-15 receiver.
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Devin Funchess, Carolina Panthers (ADP: WR32, OVR76)

Devin Funchess is the prototypical breakout candidate at wide receiver. He checks all of the boxes for what you are looking for in a guy ready to explode.

First off, he has a solid, upward career trajectory. His first two years are a little uneven. A lot of that has to do with being thrust into the #1-receiver role as a rookie when Kelvin Benjamin went down in the preseason. Last season, Funchess had career highs in targets, receptions, yards, and touchdowns, doubling his previous season in every category. He caught 56.8% of his targets. That may not sound great, but only 12 other receivers had at least 110 targets and caught a higher percentage.

Next, the Panthers’ offense gives Funchess a wealth of opportunity. While Christian McCaffrey will soak up the short passing game like a Bounty Quicker Picker Upper, that’s not really Funchess’ forte anyway. The only other outside threat on the roster is Torrey Smith. Fun fact: Torrey Smith has just a single 1,000-yard season. In fact, he only has one season with even 856 yards and that was his only year with more than 50 catches. He has always been seen as a deep threat, but the fact of the matter is his last three seasons have been mediocre at best. Smith has averaged just 2 catches for 30 yards per game over the past three years with just 9 total touchdowns. He will not be a threat.

Carolina did draft D.J. Moore, but he is definitely a work in progress. Greg Olsen is all of a sudden a bit on the older side (33 years old) and missed his first extensive amount of time due to injury in his career.

So what you have with Devin Funchess is a young player (24 years old) with a positive career trajectory of production. He does not have much competition for targets, and his competition is on the older side. He is on a good team with a high-scoring offense and elite quarterback. Give me some Funchess.
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Robert Woods, Los Angeles Rams (ADP: WR33, OVR81)

Woods was on his way to a breakout season last year before injuries derailed him and he missed four games. If you do take his numbers from the 12 games and multiply them into a full 16-game season and he would have scored 219 PPR points. I know, it’s impossible to know if he would have kept those averages up. It’s the only way to really see past injuries and evaluate players though. None of us can predict injuries. So I like to see a player for what he can do when fully healthy.

So back to Woods, who seems like he has been around forever, but is just now entering his Age-26 season. In his first season with the Rams last year, Woods did post career highs across the board. He had the highest yards and receptions per game of his career as well as a solid 65.9% catch rate.

The offense as a whole did get better adding Brandin Cooks. Tavon Austin and Sammy Watkins are both elsewhere and their nearly 100 targets are up for grabs. I think that the Rams will have to throw more in general this season. I mean Jared Goff only threw the ball 477 times last season. Teams are going to focus on Todd Gurley more this year. The Rams in general have changed their mindset too. They are not looking to just break onto the scene. They are one of if not the biggest favorite to win the Super Bowl this year. Keeping Gurley’s touch total down and him healthy is paramount to their success.

Lastly, everything out of the Rams’ camp is that they see Woods as a true #1 receiving option. While Cooks may have gotten paid, Woods is the go-to guy for them in the passing game. So give me the guy who had at least three catches in each of his last 8 games, as the top receiving option on one of the most explosive and high-scoring offense in the league.

That’s it for the wide receiver breakouts! Check out our sleepers and busts along with our staff rankings!

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