Second Year Breakout WR Candidates: Who Can Make the Leap? (Fantasy Football)
Few things in life are more certain than death, taxes, and wide receivers breaking out during their second or third season. In every fantasy off-season, there is an abundance of talk around the water cooler about who will be the “player du jour” to make the leap, that pass catcher that you can sneakily draft off the board in the later rounds. Pushing all your chips into the center based on your well-researched belief in a player and reap the high-value spoils at the end of the season. The ultimate draft capital cash in. We live in a fantasy world where we continually chase that Justin Jefferson breakout season output. Last season, one of our fearless leaders, Jason Moore, with the help of our editor Kyle and the Harvard man Matt DiSorbo authored a fantastic article about Breaking Down the Door of ADP and the Sophomore Bump in Fantasy Football. It is an excellent primer article to revisit before looking at the potential breakout WR stars for the 2022 season.
Let’s quickly discuss the parameters here. To keep it simple, I will be using similar ones as Jason used in his article – a WR breakout is someone who moves into the top-24, and it can only happen one time. Once you have broken that threshold, you cannot break out again so Ja’Marr Chase and Jaylen Waddle are out of the discussion for this group. We’ll also move past DeVonta Smith who was solid as a rookie finishing as WR29, close enough to the threshold listed.
Another thing to remember is that part of this is a chicken or egg situation – how much of the improvement is due to experience in the NFL and how much is due to the players simply maturing physically and mentally and getting older – there are many variables to consider. Last season we witnessed the breakout of Pitty City, finishing as WR15, and CeeDee Lamb somewhat breaking out as well, finishing as WR18.
Remember that with most of these prospects, several stars have to align to bump them up into the top-20 WR, and that’s ok. Pass catchers can still break out without being a breakout. So who should we have our eyes on in 2022? Let’s dig in.
If you had asked me before draft day what I thought the possibility was for Rashod Bateman to have a breakout year, it would have been much lower than it is now. In my estimation, once the Ravens traded Marquise Hollywood Brown to the Arizona Cardinals, Bateman’s breakout possibility shot up. This trade opened up the opportunity for Bateman to become the WR1 in Baltimore and at least Lamar Jackson‘s second favorite pass-catcher – I still see you, Mark Andrews. Brown is vacating 146 targets, and all of those cannot go to Andrews. Bateman had 68 targets himself last season, and that was only through twelve games, missing the first five games due to an injury in training camp. He was on a 96-target pace for seventeen games. Not too shabby. The man that finished as WR 73 clearly has Lamar Jackson‘s trust heading into this season, and let’s be honest, besides Bateman and Andrews, we are looking at the Devin Duvernay show and various rookies available to catch passes. This bodes incredibly well for Bateman and his possibility to make that much-touted sophomore leap. I am heavy on the Bateman hype train. Hop aboard it with me, why don’t you?
Highlight: Former #Gophers receiver Rashod Bateman had four receptions in his NFL debut with the Ravens on Sunday. Each went for a first down, including some impressive yards-after-catch here with a stiff arm, spin and cutback to move the chains. pic.twitter.com/ozRPzVMLph
— Andy Greder (@andygreder) October 18, 2021
Your memory of Elijah Moore might be a bit fuzzy, and understandably so. In Week 13, he went down with a quad injury, just two weeks after a stellar performance against the Dolphins, where he went for 141 yards and a TD. Overall, he finished the season with just over 500 yards and five TDs in eleven games. He was on pace for over 800 receiving yards and eight TDs. That would have been a solid rookie season for a Jets receiver. The question mark with Moore is whether you believe in Zach Wilson. Moore seemed to come into his own during the period of week 8 to week 11 last season, which was predominantly Mike White‘s time under center, so will he succeed with Wilson for an entire season? Will Wilson even start the entire season? What is the meaning of life? Questions abound when it comes to the New York Jets. As opposed to the Texans, the Jets loaded up with weapons in the off-season – drafting Garrett Wilson and Breece Hall. Corey Davis is still there, as well as Kyle’s favorite Braxton Berrios. But who will take the lead and be the WR1 on this squad isn’t clear. So why not Moore?
Zach Wilson 🎯 Elijah Moore
The Jets new QB-WR duo will be must-see TV next season 👀
— PFF (@PFF) July 27, 2021
After spending a year working on route running and coverage, as well as learning their playbook and establishing rapport with their QB, any of these guys could have a breakout season. Cannot wait to see who we are talking about at the end of the 2022 season!
Next up is Cardinals WR Rondale Moore. He finished 71st in 2021, fighting for targets with now-departed Christian Kirk, Andy’s champion AJ Green, and Mike’s pinup Zach Ertz. Moore was third among all WRs in yards after the catch per reception (among those with a minimum of 50 targets) with his 64 targets, but the outlook for Moore is muddier than Batemans. Granted, the opening of targets in the offense in Arizona is similar to those in Baltimore, with the Cards losing 103 with the departure of Christian Kirk and 53 from Chase Edmonds. So the targets are there. However, Moore will have to battle for these targets with newly acquired WR Marquise Brown and pass-catching back Darrel Williams, and I believe it will be harder for Moore to get the targets than it will be for Bateman in Baltimore. But, lest we forget, DeAndre Hopkins will be suspended for the first six games of the 2022 season. If Moore can gain Kyler’s trust during the first third of the season, Moore could be a much-favored target even when Hopkins returns and, no doubt, frequently garners double coverage. However, targets are not the only thing that defines a breakout season. Moore can also be employed as an RB; last year, he had eighteen attempts for 76 yards. The main thing he will need to break out truly is TDs – Moore will have to capitalize on his targets and go all Adam Thielen if he wants to break out in 2022.
RONDALE MOORE CATCH OF THE DAY
— PFF (@PFF) October 10, 2021
Very few people are saying the name of our next breakout candidate – Nico Collins. Collins finished as WR87 in 2021 on a rarely talked about Houston Texans team. Collins could prove to be a dark horse in this group of potential breakouts, as he has a lot of things in his favor. First of all, besides drafting John Metchie, the Texans chose not to add anyone else significant to their WR room. Brandin Cooks, who fantasy owners seem to forget about season after season, should be the team’s WR1, but Collins could easily slide right into that WR2 spot. The team has 38 targets vacated from Danny Amendola and 42 from David Johnson. Experience and history with Davis Mills from last season could all come together and translate to a significant sophomore breakout for Collins. When you think offensive powerhouse, you do not think Houston Texans, but that does not mean they cannot support good fantasy options. And look, Collins is someone you could snag with one of the last picks of your draft. Literally for free.
Nico Collins… fantasy sleeper 👀 pic.twitter.com/tFPHHKjsdW
— PFF Fantasy Football (@PFF_Fantasy) August 29, 2021