While the NFL season is a long way away, it’s never too soon to gain an edge over your fantasy football opponents. One of the best ways to get an advantage is to find the most likely breakout players in the league. As we approach the 2020 off-season, there are many young players, like Parris Campbell and Noah Fant, who could become fantastic fantasy steals if given the right quarterback. Speaking of QBs, two sophomore QBs landed on this list. To stay ahead of the competition, and identify the best players to steal in your fantasy draft, read below.
Noah Fant – Denver Broncos
ADP: 87, Auction ($200): $9
Of all the young rookie tight ends, Noah Fant was the best of the bunch. Among his tight end class, Noah Fant had the most receptions, yardage, and fantasy football points. During the 2019 season, Fant was able to put up respectable stats even though his first two QBs, Joe Flacco and Brandon Allen, played poorly during Fant’s first 11 games of the year.
While Fant was far from consistent, he was able to showcase an extremely high ceiling in some of his games. This is promising because it shows that Fant can produce even his quarterback is struggling, and will probably rebound if given a quality QB. If the Broncos hand the starting QB reigns over to Drew Lock, Fant’s fantasy production could skyrocket. When Drew Lock was inserted as the Broncos’ starting QB, Fant was able to produce two of his best games of 2019.
For those who are still skeptical of Fant’s potential next season, it’s important to remember that most rookie tight ends breakout after their rookie seasons. George Kittle, Mark Andrews, and Dallas Goedert are all examples of TEs who made big leaps to the top ten fantasy TE point rankings after their first year. As Lock and Fant develop a stronger rapport in Dever’s offense, Fant’s status will rise to a reliable TE2.
Austin Ekeler – Restricted FA
ADP: 3, Auction Price ($200): $62
Austin Ekeler was the NFL’s most surprising running back this season and shattered every analyst’s expectations. According to Yahoo Sports, Austin Ekeler was only the 34th ranked running back in fantasy football before the season began. Most of the hesitation to draft Ekeler was because he entered the season as Melvin Gordon’s backup. However, he received a bevy of touches after Gordon decided to hold out, and he made the most of his opportunities. The Western Colorado product finished the year with 557 rushing yards, three rushing TDs, 92 catches, 993 receiving yards, and eight receiving TDs.
The good news for Ekeler is that he will most likely return to the Chargers as their lead back. Consequently, he will remain with the same system he enjoyed immense success with last season. However, the biggest issue with Austin Ekeler’s 2020 outlook is that he and Melvin Gordon could possibly split touches again next season. In 2019, Ekeler only received a 56.7% snap share, and a troubling 45.8% opportunity share. If Ekeler somehow continues to split carries with Gordon, it’ll severely limit his ceiling as a RB1.
However, since Melvin Gordon has admitted that he is unsure whether he’ll be a Charger in 2020, Ekeler could definitely be a top-five fantasy option next season. Given that the majority of Ekeler’s production was derived from his skill as a receiving back, he will be extremely coveted in PPR leagues as a RB1, if he is the Chargers’ undisputed lead back.
Kenyan Drake – Unrestricted FA
ADP: 8, Auction Price ($200): $51
To start off the season, Kenyan Drake was stuck on a Miami Dolphins’ roster that refused to utilize him to the best of his abilities. However, once he was traded to the Arizona Cardinals, Drake stole the lead-back role from David Johnson and instantly became a RB2 in fantasy. He averaged nearly 20 fantasy points per game and found the end-zone eight times from weeks nine through seventeen.
Next season, Kenyan Drake will be one of the most underrated running backs in fantasy football. Even though Drake was underutilized in 2019, the advanced stats, DYAR and DVOA show that he has the capability of being a top-five RB. While the Cardinals have been noncommittal toward re-signing Drake, his elusiveness and dynamic ability will make him a productive starter in almost any system. Plus, his combination of receiving and rushing success projects him to be a threat in PPR leagues.
Evan Engram – New York Giants
ADP: 78, Auction Price ($200): $10
In 2019, Evan Engram’s season was cut short due to a nagging MCL injury that placed him on IR for half the season. Before his injury, Engram was able to average the seventh-highest fantasy points per game after he recorded an average of 13.7 points. As a whole, Engram recorded 44 catches for 467 yards, three TDs, and 109.4 fantasy points.
The only two factors that are detrimental to Engram’s fantasy status are his injury history and the abundance of talent on the Giants receiving corps. Despite Engram’s aforementioned injuries, the Giants receiving corps includes players like Saquon Barkley, Darius Slayton, and Golden Tate, who could steal targets from Evan. Although reliable receiver production from Slayton and Tate will open up opportunities for Engram to succeed, especially in the play-action game.
Despite suffering significant injuries in back to back seasons, Evan Engram’s yards per game have increased every year since his rookie year. This is important because it shows that Engram’s efficiency is steadily rising despite his injuries. Therefore, he will be a quality TE1/2 to roster in fantasy football if he can stay healthy.
Mike Gesicki – Miami Dolphins
ADP: 103, Auction Price ($200): $2
In his second full season with the Miami Dolphins, Mike Gesicki was a late fantasy bloomer who witnessed most of his success between Weeks 12 through 17. Between those last six weeks of the season, Gesicki averaged a respectable 13.4 fantasy points per game. One factor that hindered Gesicki’s production was shoddy, inconsistent QB play. With Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh battling for the starting job, it was nearly impossible for Mike to develop a strong rapport with either signal-caller.
Even though Geiscki’s 2019 ceiling was far from outstanding, it’s important to remember that he was playing on one of the least talented teams in the NFL. This was due to the fact that Miami attempted the biggest tank job in NFL history. Therefore, Gesicki’s actual value has been untapped, and he could become a reliable TE2 if given a good quarterback. With the Dolphins projected to select either Justin Herbert or Tua Tagovailoa, Gesicki’s fantasy production will surely increase.
Daniel Jones – New York Giants
ADP: 91, Auction Price ($200): $7
Heading into his rookie season, many analysts were quick to label Daniel Jones as a likely bust. However, Jones was able to silence his haters by throwing for 3,072 yards, 24 TDs, and 12 INTs. Considering that Jones was able to achieve this much success without the help of a surefire no. 1 WR, Jones has a big chance to improve next season. Especially since two of his safety valves, Evan Engram and Saquon Barkley missed significant playing time with injuries, Jones has a good chance of becoming a good fantasy QB.
Obviously, Jones will have a breakout season if Barkley and Engram can stay healthy next season. Yet the fact that he was able to enjoy a strong rapport with Darius Slayton and Golden Tate shows that Jones is capable of maximizing any of his receivers. The biggest issue for Jones to fix will be his fumbling problem. However, after another off-season under his belt, Daniel Jones should be able to improve his pocket presence. If he accomplishes this, he has an excellent opportunity of becoming a QB2.
Kyler Murray – Arizona Cardinals
ADP: 50, Auction Price ($200): $18
Kyler Murray’s place on this list is probably puzzling for many fans since he was the eighth-best fantasy QB in 2019. However, after finishing with just 20 passing TDs, and 12 INTs, it’s clear that Kyler can improve as a passer. It’s important to note that similar to Daniel Jones, Murray’s main problem was that he lacked the presence of a strong no. 1 WR. Even though Murray still had Larry Fitzgerald as his favorite wideout, the Arizona Cardinals should, and probably will, draft another WR to pair with Murray.
If the Cardinals can get another quality receiver like Ceedee Lamb, Murray could be primed for an MVP season like Baltimore Ravens QB, Lamar Jackson, and that’s not an exaggeration. Similar to Jackson, Murray has the explosive rushing ability to generate significant rushing yardage and a plethora of rushing touchdowns. Also, just like Ravens offensive coordinator, Greg Roman, Cardinals head coach, Kliff Kingsberry, is a creative signal-caller who can create a bigger playbook for Murray. Plus, if the Cardinals can retain Kenyan Drake as their starting RB, that will open up the play-action game and generate big-time plays.
Tyler Boyd – Cincinnati Bengals
ADP: 73, Auction Price ($200): $12
One of the worst kept secrets in the NFL is that the Cincinnati Bengals’ desperately want to draft Heisman Trophy winner, Joe Burrow. Barring a sudden, shocking draft trade, Burrow is almost certainly going to land in Cincinnati, and this will benefit the Bengals’ receiving corps, especially Tyler Boyd. Last season, Boyd ranked in the top 10 in the NFL with 148 targets, and this was with Andy Dalton and Ryan Finley as his quarterbacks. Given that Dalton and Finley only combined for the 18th ranked passing attack, it’s a miracle that Boyd was as productive as he was.
If Burrow becomes Boyd’s signal-caller in 2020, Boyd is likely to have career-high numbers across the board. Burrow would give Boyd the best deep passer he’s ever had, which will open him up for an abundance of big-time plays. Plus, Boyd might be able to generate an even higher amount of targets given Joe Burrow’s gunslinger mentality and tight-window accuracy. He isn’t a likely top 5 wideout, but nevertheless, Boyd has a great chance to crack top-ten WR status as a tier-one wide receiver.
Parris Campbell – Indianapolis Colts
ADP: 98, Auction Price ($200): $2
If not for nagging injuries, Parris Campbell could have been one of the Colts’ best receivers. His explosive speed, and impeccable route running are a huge threat for opposing defenses. However, these aforementioned injuries limited Campbell to just three starts in seven games, which disrupted his chemistry with Colts QB, Jacoby Brissett.
Speaking of Brissett, his heavily conservative playing style also limited Campbell’s fantasy production by restricting his big-play capability. Luckily for Campbell, the Colts are considering a change at QB. If they were to move on with a QB like Teddy Bridgewater, Jameis Winston, it literally anyone else, Campbell’s ceiling will surely rise. This would lead to an increase in deep catches and make him one of the best deep threats in the NFL. He won’t become a WR1 overnight, but he could enter borderline WR2 status.
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