As part of our new Fan Fuel Fantasy Show series, we will release an accompanying article to support each episode. In this first edition, the At The Minute Podcast hosts expand on 10 fantasy breakout candidates for the 2020 season. Don’t fret about rookie omissions. An extensive piece on them will drop later this summer. Odd numbers are Jackson’s picks and even numbers are Peter’s.
Note: All references to rankings and scoring are PPR.
1. Le’Veon Bell, RB – New York Jets
First of all, Le’Veon Bell cannot “break out” because anyone who has ever played fantasy football before 2018 knows exactly how good he is. I am predicting Bell to break back into the top 10 and have a monster season.
Last year was abysmal for the Jets offensively after Sam Darnold went out with mononucleosis. Le’Veon was the only threat on that offense, and with how pitiful the team around him was, defenses easily stacked the box and limited his rushing abilities. With Darnold back at full strength, the line beefed up, and some additional weapons for defenses to worry about, this season will be a much different story. A lot of pundits like Matthew Berry are down on Bell, ranking him as a third or fourth rounder, but that is simply too low. Bell is only 28 and has less carries on his body than you might think. Also, the Jets owe him a ton of money, so even if guys like Frank Gore or rookie La’Mical Perine get snaps, Le’Veon should still have over 20 touches a game.
2. Miles Sanders, RB – Philadelphia Eagles
In his rookie season, Sanders averaged 19 points in his final six games and finished as the RB15. On top of an impressive 4.6 yards per carry, the 2016 top-ranked high school running back showed pass-catching prowess as well, posting 50 catches for 509 yards and three touchdowns. With Jordan Howard’s departure to Miami, the only real backfield competition for Sanders is Boston Scott. Consider Sanders an RB2 with elite RB1 upside.
3. Derrius Guice, RB – Washington Redskins
After missing all of 2018 to an ACL injury, there was a lot of hype around Guice last year. Unfortunately, injuries plagued his campaign, preventing him from reaching real fantasy relevance. However, in the few games Guice was healthy enough to play, he averaged 5.8 yards per carry on 42 attempts while his pass-catching ability proved he can play all three downs. Chris Thompson is no longer in town, leaving veteran Adrian Peterson as the only competition for carries. If it turns out to be a time share between Guice and Peterson, Guice should be the third down back and catch a few passes per game. If Guice can stay healthy, he has the ability to put up Dalvin Cook-like numbers this season.
4. Terry McLaurin, WR – Washington Redskins
2019 third-round pick Terry McLaurin exploded into our lives as a rookie, averaging 18.8 points per game in his first five starts. He finished WR28 in part to his 10 end-zone targets (11th most) and 10 yards per target (ninth best). Second-year QB Dwayne Haskins and Terry McLaurin combined for 20 yards per catch at Ohio State and carried that strong rapport (McLaurin averaged 13.9 points with Haskins if you throw out a fluke Week 12) into their rookie seasons. McLaurin is a fringe WR2 with potential to have a Tyler Lockett-esque breakout season.
5. Anthony Miller, WR – Chicago Bears
If the NFL had a Most Improved Player award, Anthony Miller would be my preseason pick. Miller’s year-to-year improvement has led to an increase in playing time as well. After minimal usage his rookie year, Miller was on the field for the majority of snaps in 2019. He is strictly a slot guy and is likely to be the number two receiver on the roster behind Allen Robinson. The Bears went out and traded for Nick Foles, lost Trey Burton and Taylor Gabriel, and signed Jimmy Graham in free agency. Needless to say, the Bears’ new-look offense should be to Miller’s benefit. He had four games in a row late last season with 11+ fantasy points and will have at least twice as many next season. Miller will absolutely thrive in the slot should Nick Foles take over that offense.
6. Daniel Jones, QB – New York Giants
When you extrapolate Jones’s 17.98 point average across a 16 game season, he would have finished QB7 — ahead of Patrick Mahomes. When Daniel Jones is on, he’s on, and if he can continue to post 28+ point fantasy outings — which he did in a third of his starts — he’s going to be a top 10 fantasy quarterback. There’s room for improvement in the turnover department (12 picks and 11 fumbles), and Jason Garrett is now his offensive coordinator. But I’m buying some late-round shares in Daniel Jones.
7. Mike Gesicki, TE – Miami Dolphins
Mike Gesicki is a guy who will probably go undrafted in most leagues but finish as a top eight tight end. He hasn’t missed a game in two seasons, and his snaps and targets have significantly increased each year. He started seven games last season and split time with Durham Smythe, but Gesicki is a pass-catcher, while Smythe is strictly a run-blocker. Gesicki’s targets increased from 32 his rookie year to a whopping 89 last season. Regardless of who the Dolphins’ QB is this year, Gesicki is getting 100 targets, making him worth a roster spot at the very least.
8. Darius Slayton, WR – New York Giants
Darius Slayton can be the player we’ve expected Sterling Shepard to be the last few seasons. His eight touchdown catches, 15.4 yards per reception, and 12.1 point weekly average in 14 games supplanted him as WR37 — impressive stuff from the former fifth-rounder. Between Shepard and a declining Golden Tate, Slayton will be the primary vertical target for Daniel Jones. At minimum, Slayton is a steady flex with WR2 upside.
9. Breshad Perriman, WR – New York Jets
Perriman is leaving Tompa Bay and heading to New York — a team in need of a big play WR after losing Robby Anderson to the Carolina Panthers. Perriman is only 26 and had Mike Evans and Chris Godwin ahead of him on the depth chart, preventing him from getting the snaps needed to breakout in Tampa. At the end of last season when Evans and Godwin were banged up, Perriman finally got his chance and made the most of it, averaging 101 yards and a touchdown over the final five games of the season. I expect him to do the same with the Jets and think he could be league winner. Yes I said it, a LEAGUE WINNER. Take a flyer on him in your draft. You will thank me later.
10. Tyler Higbee, TE – Los Angeles Rams
Higbee finished 2019 as TE8, averaging over 21 points per game in the last five games of the year. A key reason to why Higbee became a household name in fantasy circles is due to Sean McVay’s more frequent utilization of 12 personnel — one running back, two receivers, and two tight ends — down the stretch of last season. In 2018, McVay used 11 personnel, consisting of three wide receivers, one running back, and one tight end, on a ridiculous 89 percent of plays. As defenses adjusted to the Rams offense and the Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods, Brandin Cooks trio wore down over the past two seasons, McVay had no choice but to mix up the looks of his offense. An eight percent usage rate of 12 personnel in 2018 jumped to 21 percent in 2019, and with Brandin Cooks being traded to Houston, I expect the trend that aided Higbee last year to continue into 2020. For those of you who like to wait on drafting a tight end, Higbee could be one of the sneakiest picks in your draft.