No other position in fantasy football has as many breakout players
each year as WR—players who were so deep on your cheat sheet
that you had difficulty finding their name during the draft will
routinely catapult themselves to fantasy relevance. Perhaps it’s
the sheer number of players at the position that lends it so favorably
to breakout potential. Whatever the reason, identifying a breakout
candidate at WR, and then using the proper draft spot to nab him,
can help separate you from the uninformed owners in your league.
Here are several breakout candidates that I have identified heading
into the 2013 fantasy season.
Amendola, NE: Danny Amendola’s recent proneness to injury has
been well documented and duly noted. That aside, one must really
take a look at what he’s stepping into with the Patriots. Amendola
is a quick-footed route runner who is adept at running patterns
from the slot (sound familiar, Welker fans?). What gives Amendola
increased value, besides playing with an elite quarterback, is his
ability to play out wide as well. New England’s passing game has
gone through a complete facelift this offseason for a variety of
reasons; that should not, however, be a precursor to gloom and doom.
Brady will see to it that that doesn’t happen. Also, while some
may consider 2012 Amendola’s breakout season (63 catches in 11 games),
his touchdown output left a lot to be desired. His three scores
last year gave him seven total for his four-year career. He may
eclipse that career total by Thanksgiving.
Injury concerns aside, Amendola's move
to New England makes him a prime breakout candidate.
Further, New England’s receiving group is young and mostly inexperienced.
Dobson should see plenty of action, provided he gets a firm
grasp of the offense, but he may not be counted on for much. And
with tight end Rob
Gronkowski battling through a plethora of ailments, Amendola
will seemingly have to carry a heavier load than some may have anticipated.
He at least will be given an opportunity to put up solid numbers,
and in fantasy football, we can’t ask for much more than that. Amendola
should flirt with WR2 territory this year.
Sanders, PIT: Emmanuel Sanders hasn’t had more than five receptions
in a game since week 14 of his rookie season in 2009 and has never
had more than two touchdowns in a season. Those statistical shortfalls
will be a thing of the past after the 2013 season. Sanders will
be plugged into the No. 2 receiver spot for a Pittsburgh passing
offense that has regularly made fantasy-worthy players from that
Keep in mind, too, that the wide receiver position in Pittsburgh
caught 15 of the team’s 27 passing touchdowns in 2012, and
with Mike Wallace now in Miami, production is going to have to come
from somebody other than Antonio Brown. At 5'11" and 185 pounds,
Sanders is not the biggest receiver around, but he’s capable
enough and familiar enough with the Pittsburgh offense to immediately
pay dividends to those fantasy owners savvy enough to see beyond
his pedestrian career numbers up to this point. Look for Sanders
to be a worthy high-end WR3 in fantasy football.
Austin, STL: Whether through the traditional passing game or
on punt returns, the St. Louis Rams will be doing themselves a huge
favor by getting the ball in the hands of this playmaker. Tavon
Austin is a big reason why Geno
Smith was such a highly-regarded pro prospect; Austin routinely
took Smith’s short dump-off passes while at West Virginia last season
and turned them into highlight-reel material. And in spite of his
small stature (5'8", 175 lbs.), Austin also ran for a school record
344 yards against Oklahoma. His 4.3 speed will instantly assist
him in becoming the best weapon Rams quarterback Sam
Bradford has had during his NFL career.
Austin will be utilized all over the football field. Expect offensive
coordinator Brian Shottenheimer to exhaust all the options at his
disposal to take advantage of Austin’s superior athleticism
out wide, in the slot, or out of the backfield. I wouldn’t
anticipate the Rams showing their hand in preseason relative to
how they will use him once September rolls around; nonetheless,
it will be fun to see how his speed and quickness translates to
an NFL field. And if, in fact, the Rams use him on punts, I’d
expect a couple of run backs for touchdowns this season. It’s
those hidden points that will make Austin a steal and a definite
breakout candidate for 2013.
Broyles, DET: Some web sites are predicting that Ryan Broyles
will be placed on the PUP list with a good chance of his missing
the first six games of the season. All I can tell you is that here
in Detroit, there’s none of that talk. From what I can gather, he’s
practicing with the team—albeit not in a full capacity. Suffice
it to say, however, he’s not currently on the PUP list. Broyles
was considered one of the most prolific receivers ever in college
football. His skill set is off the charts, even if his durability
isn’t. Two blown-out knees in successive years should give every
fantasy owner pause, but the fact that he’s back on the practice
field and a big part of a pass-first, pass-often offense should
make those same weary fantasy owners perk up with interest.
I wouldn’t expect the Lions to get close to the record-breaking
number of 727 pass attempts this season, but they will no doubt
rely heavily on the arm of Matthew Stafford. Calvin Johnson will
be the All-Everything player we expect him to be, and Reggie Bush’s
arrival will certainly add an extra dimension to the passing game.
Those facts should affirm Broyles’ candidacy for breaking
out this season. He will see plenty of predictable one-on-one coverage—perhaps
as much as any other player in the league. If he can somehow channel
the play-making ability he exhibited during his Oklahoma Sooner
days—and remain healthy while doing so—Broyles can be
a worthy fantasy option in 2013.
Floyd, ARZ: There were times Andre
Roberts played ahead of Michael Floyd last year. Whether that
was because Floyd struggled some as a rookie or because the quarterback
position in Arizona was a complete disaster (probably a lot of both),
the fact is that Floyd should see an uptick in both his playing
time and production on the field. Quarterback Carson
Palmer adds credibility—and talent—to the position, although
he’s far from the Palmer we adored during his run at fantasy QB
supremacy in the 2005-2007 seasons.
Floyd is a big, physical receiver who should benefit from the attention
given to Larry Fitzgerald. For what it’s worth, Floyd did
finish the season strong in the finale last year—an eight-catch,
166-yard, one-touchdown performance against San Francisco. I’m
not one to tout momentum from one season to the next, but it certainly
points to the ability that Floyd has. Floyd more than likely won’t
make fantasy owners forget about Fitz, but his ability and the upgrade
at quarterback should make him a fantasy receiver that’s capable
of reaching high-end WR3 status.