There is reason to believe that second-year breakout sleeper wide receivers are the key to winning fantasy football leagues. They’re cheap and often provide owners with a league winning return on investment.
In 2019, we saw DJ Chark, Michael Gallup, Courtland Sutton, and DJ Moore improve their points per game average by at least 5.3 fantasy points. Christian Kirk and Calvin Ridley also saw an improvement from their rookie season in fantasy points per game.
This year there are a plethora of exciting potential second-year breakout wide receivers who are likely to have a huge impact on fantasy leagues. Potential league-winners like AJ Brown, Terry McLaurin, and DK Metcalf and mid-rounders like Diontae Johnson, Marquise Brown, Darius Slayton, and Mecole Hardman. Even with an injury, Deebo Samuel was so good as a rookie that he deserves to be drafted.
I’ve written about those excellent talents and likely will continue to do so. But this article is about the cheaper potential Year 2 breakout sleeper wide receivers, like DJ Chark last year, who aren’t expected to break out for your fantasy team.
Breakout Candidate: Preston Williams
Despite all of the stars in this class, Preston Williams led all 2019 rookies in targets per game with 7.5. He was also leading the Dolphins in targets prior to his Week 9 injury.
It wasn’t just targets either, Williams averaged more fantasy points per game than Marquise Brown, Diontae Johnson, and Mecole Hardman.
It seems that drafters are concerned with the fact that Williams was undrafted. It’s important to remember that he fell in the draft due to character concerns. “Williams was a five-star prospect coming out of high school in Lovejoy, Georgia, with scholarship offers from just about every major college football program in the country…”
A knee injury prevented Williams from playing much as a freshman. In his first game as a true freshman, Williams caught two touchdowns. A falling out with coaches in Tennessee and legal charges prevented Williams from having an impact during the next two seasons. After transferring to Colorado, Williams recorded a 91st percentile dominator rating and a 95th percentile target share.
While his breakout age could be better, Williams produced when given the opportunity. We’d like his draft pick to be higher, but Williams has already shown that he can hang with the big dogs in the NFL. After a rookie year that makes Williams look ripe for a second-year breakout wide receiver candidate, he’s being selected as just the 57th wide receiver off the board in Apex redraft leagues.
I talk about Preston Williams below, be sure to check out the Apex Fantasy Football Podcast!
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Breakout Candidate: Parris Campbell
Let’s start with the negatives. As a rookie, Parris Campbell sustained four separate injuries (including a season-ending broken foot) that ultimately wrecked his rookie year. If we throw out his rookie season due to injury, what is there to like about Campbell?
At Ohio State University, Campbell was teammates with rookie stud Terry McLaurin. It’s important to note that McLaurin is 1.8 years older than Campbell. In 2020, McLaurin will play his age-25 season, while Campbell will be 23 years old.
Below are how their junior collegiate seasons played out.
While McLaurin scored more touchdowns, Campbell had more targets, receptions, and receiving yards, and was more efficient.
During their final season at Ohio State, here’s how the two receivers produced.
While McLaurin was more efficient as the team’s deep threat, Campbell was targeted 2.5 more times. Campbell was also involved as a rusher. Despite being almost two years younger, Campbell had more usage than the older McLaurin at Ohio State.
If we all agree that McLaurin is this good, are we sure we’re ready to shut the door on Campbell?
As an athlete, Campbell has a 100th percentile 40-yard dash time, weighs 205 lbs., and has a 97th percentile burst score. There’s no doubting his athleticism.
The Colts selected Campbell with the 59th selection, confirming that many in NFL agreed that Campbell was a better player. A round later, McLaurin was selected 76th overall.
I’m not saying that Campbell is a better player – but is it possible that he experienced some bad luck with injuries in just seven games as a rookie? Certainly. Could we see a big turnaround in Year 2 with the Colts adding Philip Rivers at quarterback? Certainly. Am I willing to take the risk with a player who is basically free in fantasy drafts? Certainly.
Breakout Candidate: Hunter Renfrow
I’ll start by saying Hunter Renfrow is not my type of player. He lacks college production, was an old rookie, and a low draft pick. As an athlete, he has tiny hands and leaves a lot to be desired outside of his agility.
Regardless of how good of an athlete he is, Renfrow was excellent as a rookie. He averaged over 8 yards per target and topped 600 receiving yards in just 13 games. That production significantly improves his chances of becoming a quality fantasy receiver.
The RotoViz Screener shares several optimistic players for Renfrow. The list of players is posted below.
Cooper Kupp, Kenny Golladay, and Stefon Diggs highlight Renfrow’s quiet upside. Not bad for a player who is undrafted in many Apex redraft (one-year) leagues. He is a cheap bet if you want to take a stab at one of the second-year breakout sleeper wide receivers.
Breakout Candidate: N’Keal Harry
I’ve written about why you should buy the dip on N’Keal Harry. He’s an outstanding prospect, who dominated at the Arizona State University from a young age. Harry was the first wide receiver drafted in a class that included AJ Brown, DK Metcalf, and Terry McLaurin. Draft position remains the highest correlator with success.
Harry basically only played six games as a rookie and the Patriots rookie wide receivers rarely produce in Year 1. Year 2 breakouts are common, especially for 21-year-old rookies, and there are still many reasons believe Harry is a good player. Find out why we expect him to bounce back.