“Breakout” is a loosely employed term in fantasy that most often applies to players a prognosticator ranks well above the consensus average. In other words, what unheralded rookie or veteran is going to obliterate the widely perceived norm and profit massively for investors? Or, which player who didn’t turn many heads last season is poised to set the world on fire this season? Today’s topic: Wide Receivers and Tight Ends.
Anthony Miller, Chicago Bears
Andy: ANTHONY MILLER played nearly his full rookie season with a brutal recurring shoulder injury that required offseason surgery. As he told reporters this spring, “Chicago hasn’t seen how I can play yet. Every time I tried to stiff-arm, it would come out. ... Really I was playing games with like one arm, making it happen. This year I’ve got two, so watch out.”
Even though he was physically compromised, Miller still managed to play 15 games while catching a team-high seven touchdowns. He was almost unstoppable at the collegiate level, hauling in 90-plus receptions for over 1400 yards in back-to-back seasons at Memphis. If we can assume even modest growth from Mitchell Trubisky in his second year under Matt Nagy, then Miller has a shot at a huge season. You want him.
Christian Kirk, Arizona Cardinals
Brad: Explosive and occasionally useful in his first season, Kirk is about to enter into another dimension. He was harshly limited by Josh Rosen and the offense’s general inadequacies, posting one of the worst catchable target percentages of any eligible wideout in the game (70.6%, WR86). His system familiarity and Kyler Murray’s accurate arm elevate his potential. Assuming his target share swells into the 22-24% range, a 65-950-6 median output is possible. If the Air Raid clicks and Arizona throws it some 60%-plus times, his ceiling is much higher. He’s undoubtedly one of my favorite mid-draft WR3s.
Chris Godwin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Dalton: It certainly could be argued Godwin somewhat broke out last season, but he’s going to take a massive leap in 2019 and remains way too undervalued in fantasy drafts. The Bucs just finished with the fourth-most passing yards in NFL history last year and freed up 180 targets when DeSean Jackson and Adam Humphries departed during the offseason. Godwin ranked 21st in yards per route run out of the slot, and he’s going to be a threat to surpass 100 catches while playing a lot more there in a full-time role in 2019. The 23 year old is a terrific athlete (96th percentile in SPARQ-x) who quietly finished top-20 in Air Yards last season. He’s looking at a big increase in volume in a nearly ideal situation with a Bruce Arians-offense that will concentrate its targets and has no threat at running back. Godwin is primed to bust out this season.
Mark Andrews, Baltimore Ravens
Liz: The MARK ANDREWS hype has been mounting for weeks ... and I’m buying. Baker Mayfield’s favorite target at Oklahoma, Andrews is a former receiver who wins in contested situations and has experience bailing out an emerging QB. Flashing at various points throughout his rookie effort, the Arizona native demonstrated his big-play potential with two grabs over 60 yards last year. In an epically shallow receiving corps, he has the chance to work as one of Lamar Jackson’s primary security blankets and to command a solid target share ... even in a run-focused offense.
Curtis Samuel, Carolina Panthers
Matt: One of the fastest draft risers over the last month, the mainstream has indeed caught on to CURTIS SAMUEL. While training camp clips and being universally doused with MVP honors from all onlookers were the topics of discussion the last couple weeks, it’s important to remember the key reason why we got here. The Panthers have been prepping Samuel to make this leap since late last season. It was clear to see on film why Carolina wanted to promote this player. He was a pristine route-runner last year by scoring a 94th percentile success rate vs. man coverage score in my Reception Perception charting method. Samuel shows the same early career flashes that Stefon Diggs did before he broke out. This is a do-it-all player with star-level separation skills.
Samuel will operate this year with a quarterback entering 2019 fully healthy and on an offense finally stocked with the personnel to achieve new heights. Make no mistake, this is the best offensive personnel ever assembled in the Cam Newton era, and it’s not even close. It’s not a stretch to project 90 targets for Samuel and that will be more than enough to get him and his teammate D.J. Moore into the Top 30 wide receivers.