We asked seven fantasy football analysts to reveal a breakout wide receiver candidate to help you have an idea of players ready to exceed expectations this season, five of which are heading into their second seasons.
Both Ohio State products Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave broke onto the scene immediately in Year 1 in the NFL. Their fellow rookie, Drake London, was quietly right on their level last year. London is a hulking X-receiver who can win in tight coverage downfield but is a smooth separator in the short and intermediate game. He has all the makings of a No. 1 wideout.
Some will be concerned about the passing volume in Atlanta but London’s 0.29 targets per route run ranked fourth among all pass-catchers last year. The Falcons are a lock to throw more this year with Desmond Ridder replacing the scrambling, sack-prone Marcus Mariota so London still projects for 120-plus targets. He’s a proactive draft target and clear breakout candidate. — Matt Harmon
Terry McLaurin has been a Yahoo favorite since he joined the NFL four years ago; Ohio State wideouts for the win. But maybe Jahan Dotson is just as good. Over the final five games last year, they posted almost identical production: McLaurin racked up 22-351-3 on 34 targets, while Dotson recorded 21-344-3 on 35 targets. That made them the WR10 and WR11 for that period, respectively. And while McLaurin’s one bugaboo in the pros has been a lack of touchdowns, perhaps Dotson’s skill and route profile could make him Washington’s most consistent scorer by air. I don’t see much difference between these players, but Dotson is about 45 picks cheaper in Yahoo ADP. And based on the fast finish, a second-year breakout looks plausible.
Sam Howell can’t be much worse than last year’s DC quarterbacks, and what if he’s a step forward? It’s go time, Dotson peeps. — Scott Pianowski
It may feel early, but Pickens will break out in Year 2. He had a productive rookie season, eclipsing 800 receiving yards with four TDs and finishing third in average depth of target (aDOT) and seventh in deep targets in the NFL. He’s caught some heat for his lack of separation and basic route tree, but who cares when Pickens can do things like this on the reg. Highlight reels aside, word on the street is that he’s expanding his game to include hitting the short and intermediate routes, which should lead to an increased target share and production. Add that to the fact that he’s built such a strong rapport with QB Kenny Pickett only reinforces my conviction. Pickens is the prototypical X receiver, and the fantasy community is about to find out why. — Dan Titus
[2023 Fantasy Football Breakout Candidates: QBs | RBs | WRs | TEs]
Davis is about to become the poster child for a post-hype sleeper. The downfield threat roared into the 2022 fantasy draft season on the heels of a 4-TD playoff game that sent breakout expectations through the roof. And although Davis wasn’t awful last year, his managers were expecting better than 48 catches and 836 yards. Still just 24 years old, Davis will take his game to another level by scooping up some of the 65 targets that were vacated by the departure of Isaiah McKenzie, which will propel him to his first 1,000-yard season and make him a coveted NFL free agent next offseason. — Fred Zinkie
Watson has his detractors, but I love his role on this Packers offense and how he was used down the stretch. He battled injuries last season along with the trust of his veteran quarterback, but from Week 10 on, Watson showed the profile of a true WR1 in fantasy, posting 17.2 fantasy points per game with a 27% target share. The 41% air yards share over that stretch helped him flash the big-play ability I think we’ll see more of in Year Two.
Watson will likely show some touchdown regression in his sophomore season, but I’m buying any player who can earn targets at a 27% clip as a rookie while also showcasing a 2.48 yards-per-route-run (YPRR) along the way. Green Bay’s entire pass-catching corps is made up of first- and second-year players, so Watson will get every opportunity to be Jordan Love’s primary weapon. Even in what projects to be a run-first offense, Watson’s stranglehold on a massive target share appears to be repeatable. — 4for4’s Ryan Noonan, who has more breakout WR candidates.
When Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce talked up then-rookie wide receiver Skyy Moore’s excellent work ethic on the “New Heights” podcast last December, I took notice. Having spent enough time around pro athletes, when a star player publicly acknowledges a teammate’s work habits, that is no smoke screen. Mahomes did it again after offseason workouts. I like to bet on players who are workers.
Moore has the Juju Smith-Schuster slot role waiting for him. Last year Smith-Schuster caught 78 of 101 targets for 933 yards. Moore also saw his usage increase during his rookie season to the point he caught a touchdown in the Super Bowl. Receivers do significantly better in their sophomore years in the Andy Reid offense. To take a shot at the potential No. 2 target in the high-octane Chiefs offense with the WR44 ranking and the ADP of 126.3, sign me up. — Jorge Martin
Elijah Moore has been a training camp hero and he was featured out of the backfield early in the preseason, which was certainly fun. Head coach Kevin Stefanski later dropped a Percy Harvin comp on the 23-year-old. Assuming good health for Moore — he returned to practice from a rib injury on Sunday — he’s gonna prove to be a filthy steal at his modest ADP of 120.2. As a chess piece in a passing offense that already featured Amari Cooper and David Njoku, Moore could be almost unfair. — Andy Behrens