Every year we see it. A wide receiver that did relatively little the year before, comes out of nowhere to blow up the scene! Nobody drafts him, because he wasn't on anybody's radar due to his poor performance the year prior, and it ends up being a free agency or waiver wire battle just to nab him. Wouldn't it be nice to take this guy with one of your final draft picks?
In 2009, he was Sidney Rice with the Vikings (he went from 141 yards in 2008, to 1,312 yards in 2009).
In 2010, he was Brandon Lloyd with the Broncos (he went from 117 yards in 2009, to 1,448 yards in 2010).
In 2011, he was Victor Cruz with the Giants (he went from 0 yards in 2010, to 1,536 yards in 2011).
In 2012, it wasn't quite the splash we'd seen in previous years. The Jaguars' Cecil Shorts III was the guy that made a good enough of a splash to be our Breakout from 2012. Fantasy 'ballers drafted Justin Blackmon and Laurent Robinson, and yet Shorts was the one that topped the Jags WR's list with 55 receptions, 979 yards, and 7 TD's. In 2011, he was a non-factor, with only 2 receptions for 30 yards. Most people had never heard of Cecil Shorts prior to his 2012 week 1 game against the Vikings, when he officially popped onto our collective radars.
A close 2nd place goes to T.Y. Hilton. Normally I don't include rookies in this column, but in this case, he wasn't a high draft pick, so he did in fact "come out of nowhere"! Dude posted 7 TD's and 861 yards, and not a single fantasy football guru saw it coming.
An "Honorable Mention" for 2012 would be another rookie in Josh Gordon, who again wasn't on our radars, and he definitely got picked up in most leagues. But finishing with 805 yards and only 5 TD's wasn't quite as sexy as we'd like to see in our "superstar-in-the-making" Breakout WR (like we saw with a Victor Cruz in 2011)!
So again, year in and year out, there's a Wide Receiver that comes out of nowhere, and nobody seems to see them coming. You are not even tempted to draft this guy, because if they're on your draft list, they're so far down the list that you don't even consider drafting them. This WR is simply incognito, and you have to find a way to figure out who he is!!! Of course, this is a very difficult thing for any of us to figure out. But that certainly won't stop me from trying! People will continue to play the lottery by the millions, even though 99.9999% of them will never win. And so here I go again, trying to do the impossible, as I attempt to identify the breakout wide receiver of 2013!
Let me start by reviewing my success (or lack thereof) in my 2012 Breakout WR column! NO, I didn't identify Cecil Shorts III. But what I did know, thankfully, was that we weren't going to have a Breakout guy like we had in 2011 with Victor Cruz. I thought we'd end up with more of a 2011 Laurent Robinson, when he exploded for 11 TD's, but he only splish-splashed in the receptions and yardage categories. And that's what we saw with Shorts, decent TD total, but not very stud-like in receptions and yardage.
Fast forward to 2013, and I think we bounce back to the 2009-2011 Rice/Lloyd/Cruz territory! I honestly think we'll get a guy that had a dismall or non-existent 2012, who crushes the scene with a huge 2013! And I also think we get another Shorts on top of that, ie, a guy who produces enough to be worthy of the WR4 or WR5 spot on your fantasy squad. So let's see if we can find these guys... we'll look at each NFL squad, in alphabetical order (by city).
Arizona Cardinals - you now have Carson Palmer, so Fitzy will be back on folks' radars, but he's no "breakout" candidate since he's already high on our radars. Michael Floyd, he managed 500+ yards and he's the #2 WR on the team, so he's going to get drafted, he's not our candidate. I don't see our guy here in Arizona.
Atlanta Falcons - you already have Roddy White, Julio Jones, Tony Gonzalez to feed, our "breakout" candidate simply isn't a Falcon, it's not possible unless White or Jones suffers a season ending injury, and we can't forecast something like that.
Baltimore Ravens - Boldin has left the building. Torrey Smith is getting drafted pretty high. Jacoby Jones is penciled in as the #2, and he had 406 yards and only 1 TD in the regular season, so he's border-line for "Breakout" consideration. If he was further down on the depth chart, I'd be tempted to say he's a guy to consider here. Now, there's a chance that the Ravens may bring in a veteran WR (like a Nate Washington type) to be the #2 guy, and bump Jones down to #3, and then I'd like him even more. If they do NOT bring in a veteran, then keep an eye on Tandon Doss. He barely played in his 2nd NFL season in 2012, so it's the magical 3rd year for him. At this point we just want to see how the situation plays out in Baltimore.
Buffalo Bills - Is it Kolb or the rookie Manuel at QB, we don't know yet. Will a Robert Woods or T.J. Graham do well opposite Stevie Johnson? Maybe. But Woods is a rookie, and we don't consider rookies in this column. Woods should be the Z receiver, while a host of others may end up sharing time at the X position while Stevie hits up the slot. With the QB situation muddy, and with the lack of viable options at the WR position, I'm not feeling the Bills.
Carolina Panthers - Some of us fell for the Brandon LaFell "3rd year WR" hype in 2012, it didn't pan out. He just didn't have enough yardage or TD's to be a bye week fill-in. Domenik Hixon is expected to win the WR3 job in Carolina, but if you remember him from his days with the Giants, I just can't see him being the "breakout" WR for 2013. I'm not liking my options here in Carolina.
Chicago Bears - I anticipate Brandon Marshall and Martellus Bennett to the lead the receiving corps, but Alshon Jeffery could be a guy to watch as he comes off a 367 yards and 3 TD effort in 2012. He didn't get much done in 2012 because of a fractured hand and a knee scope, so the paltry stats could keep him off our draft radars. But then again, being the WR2 on the Bears, he likely will be on our radars. So based on the fact that he did have some production in 2012 AND he's on our radars, he doesn't really qualify for this discussion. Earl Bennett, on the other hand, could very well be the guy, but he's already had 2 concussions since December. He's slated to be the WR3 for the Bears, and he only had 2TD's and 375 yards in 2012. Nobody will be tempted to draft Mr. Bennett. And neither will I, he's not our guy.
Cincinatti Bengals - So, we have a decent QB in Dalton, and we have super-stud A.J. Green as the go-to pass catcher. TE's Gresham and the rookie Tyler Eifert are going to get targets. The way I see it, there's room for 1 WR to potentially sneak in and get a lot of targets. The problem here is that there are 2 good WR options outside of Green, and if both of these options share this pool of targets, EACH OF THEM will end up with around 500-600 yards and maybe 4 TD's. Now, if only one of them can steal most of the targets, then we may have something here! Option 1 is Andrew Hawkins, he got some waiver-wire love in 2012 after starting hot in weeks 1-3, but after that he really fizzled. He's on people's radars because of that, but at this point since he's listed as the WR3, he probably won't get drafted. He could be our guy. The other guy to consider is Mohammed Sanu, because he's listed currently as the WR2, he may get drafted. And if fantasy draft guru's start hyping him as a potential breakout, his draft stock will rise and people will grab him earlier than we hoped. He got 4 TD's in 2012 but only 154 yards, so if he blows up in 2013, he'd be our Breakout guy. But tright now, I'm not drafting either of these guys, I don't think their worthy of a late-round flier.
Cleveland Browns - Well we all know about Josh Gordan now, thanks to the 805 yards and 5 TD's in 2012. Because of Gordon's success, and because he claimed the #1 WR spot in Cleveland, my eyes turn to Greg Little. People who drafted him last year, they were let down. Now, since he had 647 receptions and 4 TD's, he's still on radars, and he'll still probably get drafted. Because of that, he can't be our "Breakout" candidate, but he's still a worthy flier pick if he's available in the final round of drafts. Because he's on radars, and because I don't like any other Browns being picked in fantasy drafts, our guy isn't here and I'm moving on...
Dallas Cowboys - Everybody is in love with Dez Bryant, and people will still draft Miles Austin (even though he hasn't cracked 1000 yards since 2010, although he came fairly close in 2012 with 943 yards). And don't forget, Witten sure isn't slowing down, so he'll still be a major factor in the pass game. But with Austin struggling to stay healthy the last few years, I think there's a real opportunity for Dwayne Harris to have a "breakout" campaign. He only had 222 yards and 1 TD in 2012. He's 3rd on the depth chart behind Dez and Miles, so he's somewhat hidden. Unless he receives some major buzz between now and fantasy drafts, I don't see him getting drafted in many leagues. I'll be honest, right now I am really leaning towards Harris as a top late-round flier option.
Denver Broncos - OK. Well, there's Demaryius Thomas. There's Eric Decker. There's Wes Welker. Move on to the next team, "out of nowhere" breakout's just aren't possible here in Denver!
Detroit Lions - So what we know is that Stafford has a big arm, and that Calvin Johnson will continue to be the primary beneficiary of that arm. Now, it's interesting because Reggie Bush enters the picture, and he will add a new dimension to the Lions' offense. This could open an opportunity for the Lions' WR2. Currently it's Ryan Broyles. If you recall, he popped onto fantasy radars in 2012 during weeks 7-12, and then vanished into thin air the moment that he tore his ACL. So coming off an ACL tear, there's a good chance that many fantasy owners will be skeptical of drafting a guy who's coming off ACL surgery. If that's the case, he's certainly worthy of a late-round flier, because of the fact that he showed so much promise in 2012, and because there's an opportunity to receive single coverage while Calvin is doubled up on the other side. Broyles is already penciled in as the #2 WR in Detroit, and he's ranked in the 50's of WR's, so right now you can get him as a WR5, and I like him very much as a WR5, take a chance on Broyles!
Green Bay Packers - Well, let's face it. Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson, and James Jones all get drafted, and none of them will go in the later rounds, all early to mid rounders. There's simply no room for a breakout WR on the Packers.
Houston Texans - This is a team that never seems to have a good WR option outside of Andre Johnson. Could 2013 be the year where 2 Houston WR's go for over 1000 yards!? Maybe. Now, they drafted DeAndre Hopkins in the 1st round, so he's on radars. He's running with the first-team in OTA's, so it's looking like he'll get the #2 job, and with that, I'm guessing that people will draft him in later rounds. Because of this, he can't be our guy, but maybe another Texan can be. Keshawn Martin and Lestar Jean have a chance to breakout. As a slot guy, Keshawn is probably not going to reach gaudy number in 2013. I don't have the faith in Jean as of right now, I honestly don't see it happening here in Houston, I think Houston remains a running team, with Johnson leading the WR's, and Hopkins coming in 2nd by pulling in 40-50 catches for around 500 yards and maybe 3 or 4 TD's.
Indianapolis Colts - So Reggie Wayne is still the top option in Indy. T.Y. Hilton is the new darling that we'll all draft after Reggie is off the board. Heyward-Bey is likely the #3 WR, but after getting 606 yards and 5 TD's in 2012, he's on a ton of radars. So that leaves LaVon Brazill. Didn't do much in 2012, which was his rookie season. It might take an injury for him to breakout in 2013, so for that reason, I can't really put much faith in his breakout stock.
Jacksonville Jaguars - As long as Blaine Gabbert is the QB, I'm not a fan of Jaguar WR's in general. Cecil Shorts is #1, and Blackmon would've been #2, but he opens the season missing the first 4 games due to suspension. Enter Jordan Shipley. Ship works out of the slot, so he won't be the one filling in for Blackmon (that will likely be Massaquoi). But honestly, are you really wasting a flier on Jordan Shipley, a guy who catches passes from Blaine Gabbert? No, you're not.
Kansas City Chiefs - Well everybody knows Dwayne Bowe, and we also know Jon Baldwin, who's currently #2 on the WR depth chart. But will people be jumping on the Baldwin Bandwagon (if one exists)? People took fliers on him in 2012 drafts, but he didn't do much, only 325 yards and 1 TD. So at this point, he's kinda-sorta on the radar, so he's a borderline candidate for "breakout" because I'm looking for somebody that is not on a single radar. By all means, he's a fine late-round flier, but he doesn't fit this specific mold that the column is concentrating on. But guess who's hidden away on this roster? Donnie Avery. He currently has a high-ankle sprain, which is why Baldwin is listed as the #2. If Avery gets healthy and steals the #2 job, then Baldwin drops off the radar a bit, and can be considered. But with Alex Smith at the helm, do you really think Baldwin is going to get 1000 yards receiving? Doubtful.
Miami Dolphins - So you now have Mike Wallace, he's gonna get drafted high. People aren't going to sleep on Hartline, he'll get drafted in most leagues as well. We don't know if the #3 guy in Miami will be Brandon Gibson or somebody else. That "somebody else" might be 2nd year guy Rishard Matthews. I'd keep an eye on this kid, he fits our mold as a WR that nobody is thinking about, and a guy who barely made a sound in 2012. If he somehow sneaks into the regular WR rotation, he might make a splash. Keep an eye on him during the pre-season.
Minnesota Vikings - Greg Jennings had a brutal 2012, BUT he didn't fall off the radar, people will still bite on Jennings in the mid rounds as a WR3. Patterson is a rookie so we can't include him in the discussion. I took a flier on Jerome Simpson in 2012 but that guy certainly didn't pan out like I hoped. Looking back, that makes a lot of sense, right? I mean, the Vikings' QB is Christian Ponder. So I don't like our options in Minnesota, and the only Vikings I want on my fantasy team is Adrian Peterson and/or Blair Walsh.
New England Patriots - So Welker is out and Amendola is in. Amendola is a guy who missed 20 games over the last 2 seasons due to injury. We don't know if Gronk can stay healthy, and Hernandez is now heading to prison. Dobson is a highly touted rookie, so he isn't in consideration for our "Breakout" WR. Keep an eye on rookie Kenbrell Thompkins, I like spending a late-round flier on him. And keep your eyes on Julian Edelman. He's kind of like an Amendola kind of a guy, not sure how much action he'll get unless Amendola gets hurt, so that's why I am leaning towards taking a flier on Thompkins right now.
New Orleans Saints - Marques Colston and Jimmy Graham will be the go-to pass catchers. Lance Moore comes in 3rd, especially considering that he finally went over 1000 yards in 2012. So with everybody targeting these guys, will anybody go after Joe Morgan? Not any more, he's done for the year! Now who is their deep threat? Because the guy throwing the ball (Drew Brees) can throw a mean deep ball. His name is Kenny Stills, he's a rookie taken in the 5th round in this years NFL draft. If this guy can hold onto the #3 job going into the regular season, I suspect that he's a pretty good guy to consider for a late-round flier! Don't you agree? Imagine if he gets even 30 receptions in that "Deep threat" role, it would be 1137 yards and 9 TD's! Keep your eye on this dude. Remember the name, Kenny Stills.
New York Giants - Well the Giants have an interesting situation, as they still haven't made a deal with Victor Cruz. Nicks will likely have a big 2013 since he's gunning for a new contract. But with the departure of Martellus Bennett, there's certainly an opportunity for a 3rd receiving target to step in and produce. Enter Rueben Randle. He only had 298 yards and 3 TD's in 2012 so he's not necessarily a hot WR target in fantasy land. Assuming the deal with Cruz goes through and he's happy, who is going to draft the WR3 for the Giants? I mean, it's one thing to draft the WR3 for the Packers or the Broncos, because in those cases, all 3 WR's on each team are household names. But Randle is still not quite on our radars, or better yet, he's on the radars but we've got a lot of other WR's in front of him. I think Randle has to be seriously considered for the breakout candidate role in 2013, he definitely has a high-reward potential as a late-round flier.
New York Jets - Like in Bills-land, you have 2 QB's that could start in Sanchez or the rookie Geno Smith. Neither of them makes me giddy. Santonio Holmes and Stephen Hill will be on radars, and will likely be drafted in later rounds, even though Holmes is no lock to play this year due to injury. I actually think that Jeremy Kerley could end up leading the Jets at the WR position, but will that even be 1000 yards and at least 8 TD's? With those 2 QB's, it's hard to say "Yes". And the problem is, Kerley had 827 yards last year so he's not technically "coming out of nowhere" to be a Breakout guy. I don't want to own any Jets WR's on my fantasy teams, so I pass on the Jets here.
Oakland Raiders - Matt Flynn as the QB, and Denarius Moore as the clear #1 WR. Rod Streater is the #2, and with 584 yards in 2012, he's on radars, and so he doesn't count. Keep an eye on Jacoby Ford, and half an eye on Juron Criner. Ford didn't make much noise in 2010 or 2011, and he missed all of 2012. Ford is officially not on radars, he is a fine option for our "breakout" candidate IF he can manage to be 100% healthy, and IF he can stay that way all season.
Philadelphia Eagles - people will draft DeSean Jackson, now that Maclin is on IR. Avant is currently the WR3 on their depth chart, but he can't be considered a breakout, bc he had 53 catches and 648 yards in 2012. Arrelious Benn had some intrigue since he was a once-highly-touted WR, but now he's also done for the year. Riley Cooper is now the #2 guy, and he may be worthy of a late-round flier, I'm just not willing to go there right now. Buried on the depth chart is a guy named Demaris Johnson. He's a small guy, he's fast, and he only had 256 yards and no TD's in 2012, so he's not touching anybody's radar. Right now, there's no indication that he's in line for many reps in Chip Kelly's offense, but who knows? Seriously, who knows right now, because what Chip Kelly will or will not do with the Eagles' offense is very much an unknown currently. So at this point, all I can really say is to watch the Eagles closely this year. But again, right now I'm not seeing anybody that I like as a breakout candidate.
Pittsburgh Steelers - With Mike Wallace now in Miami, Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders become the #1 and #2 options respectively. Neither is a "Breakout" candidate because they are on our radars, and they both had decent 2012's. Cotchery is currently listed as the #3, but for all we know he could be released at some point before the season. Markus Wheaton is a rookie (3rd round pick) who will make a push at the #3 job, it depends on what happens in camp and in the preseason. At his point I'm not seeing a "Breakout" option in Pittsburgh.
San Diego Chargers - well we were all on the Danario Alexander bandwagon, thand now he's done for the year. Malcom Floyd falls into the #1 role as a result, but he just hurt his knee in the preseason, so he's no lock to stay healthy this year. Vincent Brown was a tempting guy for 2012 until he broke his ankle in a preseason game. Even after missing all of 2012, it's not enough to keep him off of our radars. He's slated as the #2, so for that fact alone, he will get some looks in fantasy drafts. And if he's still around, I'd take a flier on him, but he's not really coming out of nowhere. So he's worth a look, but not a true "hidden gem" candidate. Eddie Royal is slightly interesting, as the #3 guy. But rookie Keenan Allen may very well beat out Royal. Who knows. But right now, Brown is the only Charger I'm willing to draft.
San Francisco 49ers - wow, so how big of a deal is the loss of Michael Crabtree!? REALLY BIG! Boldin is now the clear #1. Kyle Williams is supposed to be the #2, but he's coming off a torn ACL. If he is the #2, people may just draft him in later rounds because of the fact that he's a WR2 on a good team. Then there's AJ Jenkins, a 2012 first round selection. A total non-factor in his rookie season, absolutely forgotten at this point. So if this guy can battle his way into a starting job, without much hype and fanfare, then he could be the breakout guy. But so far, it looks like he's still a bust. I am not liking any 49ers WR's outside of Boldin right now.
Seattle Seahawks - So Percy Harvin is injured, and some people may go after Sidney Rice at some point in the draft. Golden Tate is the new #1, but he had enough production in 2012 that he can't be considered a breakout option. Color me not so enthusiastic about finding our guy in Seattle.
St. Louis Rams - I am intrigued by the Rams and their WR situation. You've got a QB who will likely need to lean on the passing game, now that Steven Jackson is gone. Tavon Austin, the highly touted rookie and household name, will get drafted in the middle rounds of your draft. On the other hand, Austin Pettis is not a household name. Yes he had 4 TD's in 2012, but only 261 yards. But Pettis is more of a possession guy, so can he really hit that 1000 yard mark? You also have to consider Chris Givens, who did fairly well with almost 700 receiving yards in 2012. But he's on the radar because of that. Who isn't on the radar? Brian Quick. I like Quick, he has some upside potential as a red zone threat, but I'm not rolling the dice on him. Givens, if he's around in later rounds, he may not be a true "breakout" because of his 2012 production, but I'd love to spend a late round pick on this guy!
Tampa Bay Buccaneers - I don't know that you can really go after a Buc WR outside of Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams. Not enough fire power in Josh Freeman's arm to feed another WR.
Tennessee Titans - Kenny Britt and Kendall Wright will both get drafted for WR3/WR4 duties on fantasy squads. Nate Washington will likely also get taken. So, you're hard-pressed to be THAT guy that actually takes the #4 WR on the Titans. It's really hard to be that guy. And, on top of that, if Justin Hunter is the #4, he's a rookie 2nd round pick, so technically he's on radars as a high draft pick. No breakout sleepers here in Titansville.
Washington Redskins - Well, let's see here, Garcon would've been a beast if he would've been 100% healthy all year. If he can stay healthy in 2013, he'll certainly lead the Skins in receptions. Hankerson had a lot of "breakout" buzz in 2012 drafts, but he really only had a few games where you could've used him in your fantasy lineup. At this point, they have Josh Morgan listed ahead of Hankerson, and he had enough production in 2012 that if he blew up this year, it wouldn't be an "out of nowhere" kind of deal. And then you still have Santana Moss in the mix. I just don't see anybody on this team that fits the mold that we're looking for in a Breakout WR.
If YOU have any "Breakout" candidates for us, leave them in the comment section!
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