With redraft season barreling down on us, the TFA staff is getting together to give you the content you’re craving. In our first staff article, we’re going to talk about our favorite 2020 fantasy football breakouts. Each writer has given their breakout candidate along with their current average draft position and quick-hit analysis. The ADP listed below is from 4for4’s recently updated data unless otherwise noted. Be sure to drop a comment or reach out to us across social media to let us know who you agree or disagree with, and who you believe has fantasy football breakout potential!
Cody (@CKutzerFF) – Cam Akers – RB29/6.10
I know what you’re thinking: “McVay said he wants a committee!”. If McVay TRULY believed Darrell Henderson, Malcolm Brown, and John Kelly could form an effective committee, would he spend second-round capital on Akers? With the holes in their roster? Especially the year after trading up for Henderson? In 2019, after hearing about Todd Gurley’s workload being limited over and over again, Henderson, Brown, and Kelly COMBINED for just 31% of the total running back opportunities. Akers is easily the most talented running back of the group and I foresee him sliding into the Gurley role (which produced an RB1 season) sooner rather than later in 2020. Even if he doesn’t provide you with an RB1 season in 2020, a high-end RB2 is well within his range of outcomes.
Kevin (@FantasyWrath13) – Gardner Minshew – QB26/14.10
Minshew’s 2019 season was impressive, especially considering he was a 6th round pick out of Washington State. His 65.8 completion percentage ranked third since 2016 among rookie QBs. It wasn’t just his accuracy that was impressive, he also ranked sixth in passing yards per game, fifth in passing touchdowns, and tied for the fourth-highest adjusted yards per pass attempt over that same span among rookie QBs. Minshew also finished fifth in deep ball completion percentage and sixth in play action completion percentage among all QBs in 2019. While those numbers are impressive, what really should make fantasy gamers go from six-to-midnight is what he did with his legs. He finished fifth in carries per game (4.8), 11th in red zone carries, fifth in rush yards (344), and fifth in rush yards per game. We are always looking for the Konami code QBs late in drafts, and while Minshew may not be an athletic specimen like Lamar Jackson or even Josh Allen, he proved he has the intangibles to be more than competent as a running QB which will raise his weekly floor.
The Jags may not have elite weapons, but DJ Chark, DeDe Westbrook, Keelan Cole, Josh Oliver, Leonard Fournette, and newly drafted Laviska Shenault should be enough for Minshew to take another step forward in 2020. Factor in their horrible defense and Minshew has all of the makings to be a late-round QB that can finish as a QB1 and be one of the top 2020 fantasy football breakouts.
Steven Sims’ name doesn’t carry much weight right now, but trust, in 2020, his name will mean something throughout your fantasy leagues. Everyone is talking about Terry “F1” McLaurin and how he has the potential to be a top-12 WR in fantasy. I’m not sure if that will happen, but I will bank on Sims outperforming his current ADP that doesn’t even exist because this guy is FREE. He’ll most likely keep flying under the radar without any preseason games.
Pro Football Focus had Sims targeted on 25 percent of his routes last year and he only really saw meaningful playing time starting week 13. Even though he finished with a stat line of a mere 34-310-4, he did that over a 4-game span which led him to be the WR15 in PPR formats from weeks 13-17. McLaurin was the WR30. Nearly half of his yards (165) came from the slot position, so Sims is going to see the field more often than not. Imagine what he’s going to do for a full season with new offensive coordinator Scott Turner who was in Carolina with McCaffrey, Moore, and Samuel. *Insert wide eye emoji*
CJ (@Clubber_Lang83) – James Washington – WR76/21.05
The Steelers’ depth chart consists of JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, rookie Chase Claypool, and free agent TE Eric Ebron. Somehow, no one thinks Washington can be a solid fantasy option on this team. Let me remind you that in 2017, he was in the top two in every wide receiver category in the Big 12, including leading the conference in receiving yards. Last season, the second-year player had 44 catches for 735 receiving yards and was 10th best in the NFL with a 16.7 yards per catch average. This was all with Mason Rudolph and Duck Hodges as his quarterbacks. Re-insert potential 5,000-yard passer Ben Roethlisberger and the fact that the Steelers have the NFL’s 2nd easiest strength of schedule in 2020. Washington had a tough rookie year and last season he suffered from bad quarterback play, but the sky could be the limit for Washington this season as he sets up as one of the top 2020 fantasy football breakouts.
Nate (@NateHenryFF) – Daniel Jones – QB16/11.08
Daniel Jones quietly had a strong rookie season in 2019. The reason this wasn’t more publicized is because Jones, like most every rookie, struggled with turnovers, particularly fumbles (11 fumbles lost on 18 fumbles, by far the most in both categories despite starting only 12 games). However, I am not going to let ball security issues scare me away from a QB with a ton of potential. On the plus side, in games played with Saquon Barkley last year, Daniel Jones was on pace to throw 38 TDs. Even ignoring the dreaded “pace” fallacy, Daniel Jones still had the 10th best fantasy season for a rookie QB ever; and that’s without a healthy Saquon for 3 games, without a healthy Sterling Shepard, and without a healthy Evan Engram. So, he showed promise as a passer, his weapons are all (currently) healthy, and he’s working on ball security issues. Oh, did I forget to mention that he can score you points on the ground, too? Jones had 279 yards rushing and 2 touchdowns in 12.5 games. Currently, with an ADP of QB16, I think Daniel Jones is poised to breakout and finish inside the top 8.
Robby (@NFLRobby) – Matt Breida – RB43/10.02
Miami threw to their RBs 120 times in 2019, which was 19.5% of the overall target share. Even after regressing Miami’s total attempts due to their improved defense and potential of a rookie QB for half the season, there are still roughly 105 projected RB targets for Dolphins RBs in 2020. *Matt Breida has entered the chat*. Knowing Jordan Howard’s struggles in the passing game (overblown but there is some truth to the matter), Matt Breida will likely see the lion share of the RB targets. If he gets 60% of 105 at his 75% career catch rate, he will end up around 47 receptions. Adding his 8.5 yards per reception, he will finish around 400 yards receiving. Breida is currently going in redraft as RB42 and has the receiving work in a split backfield. Expect a breakout as he has been left for dead by the fantasy community.
Tom (@DynastyInfidel) – Mike Gesicki – TE14/10.11
Very quietly, Gesicki was the TE11 last year, in spite of only playing 65% of the snaps. Going into year 3, Gesicki is in line for a big increase in workload and should be utilized much more as a split end than he was last year after the addition of Adam Shaheen (he’s a blocking tight end, people). Gesicki lined up tight on 446 snaps last year as opposed to only 232 as a split end and 20 snaps out wide. That number should hopefully flip being Gesicki’s best trait is his athleticism. Splitting him out will help him get free releases and the ability to get open much more quickly. The first two years of Gesicki’s career were essentially spent teaching him how to be a complete tight end. He can block now (which he was horrendous at coming out of college) which will keep him on the field more often. Now is the time to unleash Gesicki. Ten touchdowns aren’t outlandish for him and I fully expect Gesicki to be a top 6 tight end this season. Buy him while you still can, because you’re going to see a Mark Andrews type leap this season.
Brian (@werpsu26) –Tua Tagovailoa – QB27/15.03
Rookies, especially rookie receivers, are a tough sell as a breakout candidate because you can’t be sure what you’re getting before we see them in NFL action, but some positions are a little more reliable than others. Enter Tua Tagovailoa. The rookie signal-caller is ready to skyrocket, not just the rookie rankings but the overall QB rankings as well. We have already placed two Miami weapons on this very list (Brieda and Gesicki) who stand to gain with Tua at the helm. Additionally, Miami boasts some solid returning production in the often-overlooked DeVante Parker and last year’s breakout Preston Williams. We add these weapons to Tua’s natural ability as a playmaker, and the only thing standing in his way of a breakout season is getting the starting job. Not having a preseason could stall that necessity slightly, but with Miami’s pedestrian QB play last year, I am going to assume he takes the starting spot by week 5 giving him the opportunity to breakout in the second half of the season, assuming we have one.
Justin (@Jman_FF) – CeeDee Lamb – WR40/10.05
At pick 17 of the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft, the world pinned the Cowboys to take a defensive player. But with the Texas-based Sooner sitting there, Jerry and Co. had to jump. Lamb averaged 3.42 yards per route run, gained 9.2 yards after the catch, and forced 38 missed tackles over the last two years. The Cowboys lost Randall Cobb and Jason Witten leaving more than 160 targets available. With Mike McCarthy taking over the offensive reins in Dallas, the Cowboys will be entering an offense that called 3, 4, or 5 WR sets 76% of the time from the beginning of 2016 to week 13 of 2018 (when McCarthy was fired in Green Bay). Lamb will likely play from the slot to start which will give him a ton of mismatches versus safeties, nickel corners, and linebackers, making him one of the most intriguing rookie receivers in 2020.
Jeff (@JeffDonovan_FF) – Damien Harris – RB61/18.11
The 2019 third-round pick (87th overall) enters his second season with questionable competition for early down work. Personnel hasn’t changed at the RB position, but circumstances have. Sony Michel has dealt with knee issues dating back to high school and is currently recovering from a May foot surgery. Michel’s status is uncertain for practice and beyond. This opens the door for some serious early-down work if Sony Michel has a problem getting ready for the season. James White will continue to function as the team’s primary RB on passing downs and Rex Burkead has carry totals over the past three years of 64, 57, and 65. Assuming there aren’t major philosophical changes, this backfield has proven to have plenty of opportunity for fantasy points. Seen here:
While some of the others on our list of breakout players are highly touted and have shown bursts of production, Harris offers late-round appeal in drafts as a flier. Considering 2020 is the year of the COVID, with an ADP of RB61 there are very few other running backs that could slide into a 15-plus carry role that deep in drafts.
Jeremiah (@JeremiahStewar3) – Justin Jefferson – WR51/12.10
Stefon Diggs averaged 121.5 Targets, 82.5 Rec, 1075.5 Yds, and 7.5 TD’s in 2 seasons with Kirk Cousins. Diggs is gone and the Vikings used the 1st round pick they got for him to draft Jefferson, a 6’1”, 202-pound receiver with great hands and plus ability to run after the catch. With 18 TD’s and 14 yards per catch in 2019, Jefferson showed his big-play ability at LSU and will likely have a hybrid role that is part slot and part outside receiver in the Vikings offense. This will give him a chance to hone his skill and transcend his game on the outside and get mismatches when lined up in his wheelhouse, the slot. I’m predicting 95 targets, 61 receptions, 793 yards, and 6 touchdowns with the upside and opportunity to exceed all categories for Jefferson in 2020. With the Vikings defense looking weaker than previous years, Jefferson is one of my favorite 2020 fantasy football breakout candidates.
Thank you for reading our first staff article of the 2020 fantasy football season! Be sure to be on the lookout for more redraft and dynasty content and don’t forget about our YouTube channel! We’ll be posting exclusive content there, like our player profile and fantasy outlook videos.