9 Young Wide Receivers Primed for a Breakout

9 Young Wide Receivers Primed for a Breakout

By John Paulsen (Senior Editor), last update Aug 21, 2017

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John was named the Most Accurate Fantasy Football Expert by FantasyPros for the 2010 and 2014 seasons, finished as runner-up in 2011 and 4th in both 2012 and 2015 for a total of six Top 6 seasons in the last seven years. Cumulatively, John was the most accurate expert from 2010-15 while also winning the 2011 Fantasy Sports Trade Association award for the most accurate draft rankings. 

Follow John Paulsen on Twitter: @4for4_John.

I’ve played fantasy football for over twenty years, and for a long time the expectation was that a young receiver would break out in their third season. These days, many rookies come into the league more prepared to play in pro-style offenses, and oftentimes they’ll break out in their second season (like Brandin Cooks or DeAndre Hopkins) or as rookies (Odell Beckham, Michael Thomas).

So now, every offseason, I’ll look at the group of young receivers who have yet to break out and try to identify a few players who have a chance to emerge as every-week fantasy starters.


More Breakout Candidates: QB | TE | RB (coming soon) 


For the purposes of this article, I’m designating a breakout season as a top 30 finish in PPR formats. This roughly equals 900 yards receiving, or about 200 fantasy points. If a player has already finished in the top 30, I won’t discuss him at length in this space.

I’ll mention Fantasy Points Per Target (FP/T) which is (obviously?) the number of PPR fantasy points scored per target for that receiver. I may also mention adjusted FP/T (aFP/T) which adjusts the player’s per target production by the efficiency or inefficiency of his quarterback. This is especially useful for receivers who will see a change of quarterback in 2017.

Willie Snead, Saints (Age 24, 3rd/4th Year)

Snead entered the league as an undrafted free agent signed by the Browns in 2014. He was cut late in camp, tried out for the Giants and made the Panthers’ practice squad before finally landing on the Saints’ practice squad in December of 2014. The following season, he drew 101 targets, catching 69 passes for 984 yards and three touchdowns. He followed that up with 72-895-4 on 104 targets in 2015, finishing as a low-end WR3 in both seasons while playing 15 games per year. He’s a great route-runner, and should benefit from the departure of Brandin Cooks, who leaves 117 targets unaccounted for. If he sees an additional 20 targets at his career FP/T (1.80), then a top 20 finish is in the cards.

Chances of Breakout: High

Jamison Crowder, Redskins (Age 24, 3rd Year)

Crowder took a step forward in his second season, racking up 67 catches for 847 yards and seven scores after registering 59-604-2 as a rookie. With both Pierre Garcon (114 targets) and DeSean Jackson (100 targets) signing elsewhere, there are a boatload of targets up for grabs in Washington. Newly signed Terrelle Pryor figures to take over the Jackson role, while Josh Doctson is expected to serve as the team’s WR3. That should leave a 10-20% target increase for Crowder, who was recently described as “an excellent, dynamic player” as part of a gushing rant by head coach Jay Gruden.

Chances of Breakout: High

Stefon Diggs, Vikings (Age 23, 3rd Year)

Diggs got off to a blistering start last season, catching 16 passes for 285 yards and a touchdown (on 20 targets) through the first two weeks. Throughout the year, Diggs was on and off the injury report, and there was a stark contrast in his production when he was healthy. In the seven games where he was listed on the injury report at some point during the week, he averaged 4.0 catches for 37 yards and 0.14 TD. In those games, he never cracked the 60-yard mark and found the end zone just once. In the six games where Diggs was not on the injury report, he averaged 9.3 catches for 107 yards and 0.33 TD (on 11.5 T/G). He cracked the 60-yard mark in five of six such games and gained 100-plus yards three times. If he can stay relatively healthy, Diggs has the route-running skills to crack the top 20.

Chances of Breakout: High

Continue reading for six more young wide receivers primed for a breakout...

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2017

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