Five 2nd Year WR Breakout Candidates
In 2013, Keenan Allen became only the fifth wideout since 1998 to top 1,000 yards receiving as a rookie. Of that lot — Randy Moss, Anquan Boldin, Marques Colston, Michael Clayton, A.J. Green — only Clayton trailed off into fantasy irrelevance thereafter. So there’s a great chance Allen will only build upon his 71 catch, 1089 total yard, 8 touchdown debut campaign. Especially as the undisputed WR1 for the resurgent Philip Rivers.
So, while Keenan Allen does fall into the 2nd Year WR category, he has already broken out in fantasy terms and will therefore not be lumped in with the players to follow.
Terrance Williams - The rookie from Baylor eased into 2013 with low expectations, then the annual Miles Austin hamstring injury thrust him into a prominent role in Big D. Williams responded with a seven-week stretch of useful bye week fill-in performances and flashed signs of what fantasy owners can expect on a more regular basis in 2014. With Austin now in Cleveland and the potential for QB Tony Romo to threaten 700 pass attempts with Scott Linehan calling the shots, it’s a fairly safe bet that Williams will not only improve on his 44/740/5 stat line from last season, but elevate his numbers to something more like 65/1100/7 this year. As a fantasy WR3, those would be welcome numbers to add in rounds 8-10.
Cordarrelle Patterson - Ever since Patterson finished last year with a five-game flourish of big plays and electricity, he has become a fetish property in fantasy football circles. That frenzy has driven his average draft position up to a seemingly ridiculous 4th round cost. But it’s easy to see why fake footballers are swimming around this raw athlete from the University of Tennessee like sharks smelling blood. He has a size-stats split that puts him in very rare company in the history of the NFL. According to this graphic from my buddies over at RotoViz, Patterson is one of only five players ever to fit this very specific profile:
That is some heady fantasy company, for sure, but I probably will not pay the price to own Patterson in many redraft leagues this season. He essentially has to break out big in order to just justify that runaway freight train ADP. However, I will be doing whatever I can to lock down Patterson in dynasty and keeper leagues, because he has a shot to become a superstar for years to come.
DeAndre Hopkins - As recently as a week ago, things were really looking up for young Nuk. Talk was swirling that Mr. Texan himself, Andre Johnson, was going to be dealt. Alas, the Houston front office swiftly shot down those rumors and the dream of Hopkins becoming the Texans numero uno was put on hold. But it’s only a matter of time. For now, Hopkins is still the heir apparent to AJ and a nice upside third wide receiver play for fantasy owners. He was solid throughout his rookie season, and the result was 55/802/2. Ryan Fitzpatrick is really not as bad you think — Stevie Johnson and Kendall Wright will vouch for him — so 1K is in play with Hopkins. Just make sure to keep the TD expectations low. Arian Foster should still be Houston’s primary weapon in the red zone. Even with the limited touchdown ceiling, Hopkins is a steal as the 46th wideout off the board.
Aaron Dobson - Dobson was expected to contribute much more than he did to the Patriots cause in 2013, but he simply wasn’t ready. Sure, he had the size and speed to make an immediate impact, but he lacked the strength, the hands, the ability to stay healthy and — perhaps most importantly — the mental preparation to be an above average NFL receiver in Year 1. Dobson was active in 12 games, but was only really relied upon in eight of those. He often looked confused when he was able to get onto the field and that disorientation led to those seven drops.
But I’m not here to bury Aaron Dobson, rather to build him up. My expectation — and it is borne out in my WR rankings — is that Dobson will offer the single most value of any 2nd year WR in 2014. The cost — pick 172 in overall ADP — is very negligible for upside this high. Dobson is so undervalued, that targeting him in the next to last round of your drafts will even allow you to reach one round earlier for that D/ST you may covet.
Tavon Austin - I was very torn about which player I would include in this final slot. Strong cases can be made for Justin Hunter, Markus Wheaton, Kenny Stills and even Robert Woods. But Austin just kept circling back around in my brain. The Rams have so much invested in this kid and he never really got the chance to develop with Sam Bradford due to an ACL tear that ended the quarterback’s season in Week 7. Austin had actually come out of the gate looking like the PPR contributor (18/126/2 through three games) many had hoped to see. His production then tailed off, along with his role in the offense, and he was only really heard from again in Weeks 10 & 11 before getting shut down with an ankle injury after Week 13. That injury is of no concern now and Austin will be fine heading into training camp.
But why do I like him here? Because of three hopeful conceits:
1-Austin will become the focus of the St. Louis passing attack in 2014.
2-Bradford cwill continue to demonstrate the advancements in his game he has shown over the previous two seasons.
3-The undersized WR club — Antonio Brown, Wes Welker, Randall Cobb, DeSean Jackson, Kendall Wright, Julian Edelman — still has room for new members.
If you have faith in those things happening, then don’t hesitate to pick up Tavon Austin around pick 130 on Draft Day. If not, sit tight and snag one of the other guys I was considering for this piece a little later.
Make sure to get some skin in this game, though. 2nd Year WRs are the new 3rd Year WRs.