Last year I had targeted a few guys that I thought had major breakout potential. I drafted Josh Gordon and Justin Blackmon in every league I could get them in because I saw the potential upside to be WR2 caliber guys while paying a WR4/5 price. Gordon obviously panned out beautifully and Blackmon worked for a few weeks before being suspended indefinitely. I was also able to trade Blackmon in one of my leagues along with Eddie Lacy to get Matt Forte in return. What made this trade work was that I had also grabbed Josh Gordon and DeSean Jackson in the same league which Blackmon expendable (you can add Alshon Jeffery and Keenan Allen to the mix of other breakouts)… and that was after drafting Calvin Johnson and Dez Bryant with my first 2 picks. Last year you would have thought it was crazy to go WR WR in the first 2 rounds, but now all the other experts are talking about it as a viable option. I had an embarrassment of riches at wide receiver in that league and was able to work trades to bolster my slight weakness at running back. I ended up putting up over 400 points more than the second highest scoring team and unfortunately had Calvin Johnson and Reggie Bush lay down for me in the finals with injuries and fumbleitis. Now with all that being said, the point I’m trying to make is that I think wide receiver is a position where you can really strengthen your team and then fill in some holes at your lower end RB position with trades or waiver wire moves; as long as you have 1 good RB you can make it work and the best way to do this is to target some specific receivers that you see as breakout candidates that could leave you loaded at that position. It’s much harder to do this at the running back position because of all the committees and injuries that I advise working this strategy at the wide receiver position.
Now to the players, there’s no specific order here, I’m just trying to give you all a list of names to keep in mind…
Cordarrelle Patterson – You can see simply by how high I have him ranked that I think he’s a breakout waiting to happen. The quarterback situation is iffy, but so was Josh Gordon’s last year. I don’t think Greg Jennings has all that much left in the tank and Patterson is an explosive playmaker.
DeAndre Hopkins – Who knows what will happen with Andre Johnson, but there’s a chance Hopkins becomes the teams #1 option. Andre Johnson remaining in Houston could cap Hopkins’ ceiling though, but Brandon Marshall’s presence didn’t seem to affect Alshon Jeffery.
Terrance Williams – The #2 option in Dallas should see more targets this year. I’m not sure if there are enough targets to go around to make him an elite breakout option because Witten and Murray will get their grabs.
Tavon Austin – Austin was a major disappointment last year, as most rookie receivers are. If the team utilizes him properly, he could be that Percy Harvin clone we were hoping for.
Robert Woods – Another second year receiver… do you see the trend? Woods was about what I expected him to be last year, and while the Bills drafted Sammy Watkins to be the #1 receiver of the future, Woods has a chance to prove he should be their #1 because it’s likely Watkins will take a year to fully develop.
Sammy Watkins – Wait, didn’t you just say Watkins will likely take a year to develop? Yes I did, but that doesn’t mean he definitely will. A.J. Green and Keenan Allen busted out in their rookie years and with the target volume Watkins will likely command, he has a chance to break out as well. The only issue with Watkins is that everyone else in your league will have a keen eye on the rookie meaning you’ll likely have to overpay.
Kenny Stills – The big play threat in New Orleans is poised to have a big year. I already ran the numbers in my 2014 Top 80 WR Rankings post about what would happen if Stills received just 50% more targets this year and, considering how infrequently he was targeted last year, such an increase is possible.
Roddy White – Wait a minute… this guy’s not young, what’s he doing in this list? Well, Roddy as so bad last year that there will probably be plenty of fantasy owners who will write him off. Let’s not forget that he was hampered all year by injuries until late in the year when he started crushing it again. Let’s not forget, this guy is 1 year removed from a 92-1351-7 season.
Aaron Dobson – Tom Brady’s throwing him the ball, so he certainly could be a breakout candidate on that fact alone. We saw what Julian Edelman did last year as a result of Gronkowski and Amendola’s injuries. Dobson is another second year receiver who might be an injury away from stardom.
Markus Wheaton – Wheaton didn’t do much of anything last year, but coming into his second season the Steelers will be relying pretty heavily on him. Last year they lost Mike Wallace to Miami and this year they lost Emmanuel Sanders to Denver and Jerricho Cotchery to Carolina, so it’s Wheaton’s turn to step up. Sanders and Cotchery combined for 113-1342-16 so there are a boatload of points to go around here. The question is, how much of a factor will Lance Moore be.
Kelvin Benjamin – I don’t expect Benjamin to haul in enough passes or rack up enough yards to be a breakout in PPR leagues, but in standard leagues he has the ability and size to haul in quite a few touchdowns to make him a force.
Justin Hunter – Hunter shows brief stints of brilliance followed by long stints of invisibility. He has the skills to do what DeSean Jackson did last year, but does he have the focus and drive to take it to the next level? He’s another second year guy, so there’s a chance he gets it this year.