Every time we go into a draft and figure out draft spot, our minds instantly go to who we think we can select with our first picks. The flashy big names pick that we think will win us a league. Honestly, we aren’t totally wrong. On average, the first four rounds equate to roughly 65% of your weekly fantasy points. You need to nail the cornerstones of your team to be a contender. We aren’t here to be a contender, though. We are here to be a champion, and that means finding the guys who will vastly outperform their cost of ownership and reaping the benefits. There is no better time than now to look into who can end up being some of the best breakout fantasy players for 2020.
Take some of the players from 2019, for example. Owners didn’t win a championship by selecting Lamar Jackson as the first quarterback off the board. Jackson was, in fact, QB13 with an ADP of 110, according to MyFantasyLeague data. Amazingly, Dak Prescott was even lower at QB14 with a 111.54 ADP.
Cooper Kupp, who was being drafted as WR20, finished the year as WR4 even with a disappointing end of the season. Aaron Jones is another name who comes up when looking through this lens. Jones was being drafted at RB15, yet finished as RB2 in 2019.
I am not going to sit here and lie to you that I know who are going to be the guys that will breakout and finish in the top 4 of their positions. As much as I wish I was Biff and had a copy of Grays Sports Almanac, I don’t have that ability. Side note, if someone does have that, please DM me on Twitter (@TommygarrettPFN). I’ll be your best friend.
What I can do is look into the data from 2019 heading into this year and look at changes, trends, and formulate projections to find players who you want to draft that will break out in 2020 and vastly outperform their ADP.
Breakout Fantasy Players for 2020
Kenyan Drake – Currently RB18 & 32.24 ADP
I’ll admit it. It took me a while to buy into the Kenyan Drake hype, but I am fully invested now. Once he arrived in Arizona, Drake was RB4 from that point on. In his last eight games of 2019, Drake scored 14 or more PPR points five times. The Kliff Kingsbury offense appears to lend itself well to producing a fantasy-relevant back. In 2019, the Cardinals had a running back finish in the top 5 in PPR scoring six times. Two of those even came with David Johnson as the feature back.
No one would be surprised if they were close to 68 plays per game in 2020. Kyler Murray is in his second year in the offense, and they added DeAndre Hopkins in the offseason. There are too many weapons on the field at one time for a defense to focus on stopping Drake. If I am on the clock in the mid to late second round and Drake is available, he will be on my team every time. Drake has the upside to breakout and finish as a top-six running back in fantasy this year.
Current 2020 Projection: 229 rushes for 1,053 yards and 8 touchdowns with 54 receptions on 71 targets for 405 yards and 2 touchdowns (RB7 in half PPR scoring)
Calvin Ridley – Currently WR17 & 50.94 ADP
Every year, I have a shortlist of players who I will be sure to reach a round early to ensure I have them on my fantasy roster. Calvin Ridley is a fantasy player I expect to break out in 2020, and I want him on every team. I will say this might be cheating a touch as he is not exactly coming from a questionable season or fantasy obscurity. In fact, Ridley was on pace to be WR14 in 2019, 1,100 yards and 9 touchdowns, if not for a few missed games due to injury. Don’t forget that Matt Ryan missed some time last year as well. The Atlanta Falcons enter 2020 with the most vacated targets in the NFL, which leads to a massive opportunity in a happy pass offense.
TE Austin Hooper is now a Cleveland Brown, and the Falcons decided their wide receiver group was good enough not to address it in the NFL draft after trading Mohamed Sanu during the season. In Ridley’s last six games after Sanu was traded, he averaged 17.1 PPR points per game. Now you are getting the same talented player on the same offense with even less competition for targets. Yes, Julio Jones will be Julio this year, but I see it as a 1A-1B in 2020. Amazingly, you can currently get a player in the back end of the fourth round who has 17 touchdowns in 29 career games.
Current Projection: 78 receptions on 120 targets for 1,028 yards and 8 touchdowns (WR12 in half PPR scoring)
D.K. Metcalf – Currently WR16 & 49.42 ADP
Remember when people were fading D.K. Metcalf because of a drill he ran in his underwear in April rather than focusing on what we saw on his career tape at Ole Miss? Metcalf only went on to have a rookie stat line of 58 catches for 900 yards and 7 touchdowns as the WR32 in 2019. He has the speed, size, and strength to bully any defensive back at the line and then run right past them. Not only that, but he is also tied at the hip to one of the most accurate quarterbacks in the NFL in Russell Wilson.
The Seattle Seahawks are not the same team we saw go to back to back Super Bowl appearances. The Legion of Boom is a figure of the past and won’t be showing up to help in 2020. They are rough on the defensive side of the football, and Jadeveon Clowney is still a free agent. I look for Seattle to be needing to pass more this year, and Metcalf is a lock to see 100 targets. Opportunity is the key to success, and Metcalf will be given every chance to be a breakout fantasy player in 2020 and close to WR1 territory.
Current Projection: 66 catches on 107 targets for 1,008 yards and 7 touchdowns (WR23 in half PPR scoring)
Diontae Johnson – Currently WR41 & 111.45 ADP
Things could not have been worse for the Pittsburgh Steelers passing game in 2019. Ben Roethlisberger gets injured early on, and the team is left with Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges. Not precisely the best-case scenario, if you are an incoming rookie like Diontae Johnson was last year. However, even with the shaky play under center, Johnson was WR41 in half PPR scoring.
In 2018, where Roethlisberger played the whole season, the Steelers threw the ball 675 times compared to the 510 attempts in 2019. I don’t think they will hit the 675 mark in 2020, but will likely shade over the 600 attempt total giving all pass-catchers, especially Johnson, ample opportunity.
I am not concerned about Chase Claypool’s effect on Johnson’s 2020 breakout status. Claypool will battle and likely beat James Washington for the outside role while JuJu Smith-Schuster works the other side, and Johnson locks down the slot role, which is the perfect place for him to work. Players who run the shorter route in a Steelers’ offense have always shined, and Johnson will be no exception. I will be taking Johnson at least a round early to make sure I land him before he breaks out as Johnson has WR2 upside in 2020.
Current Projection: 67 catches on 107 targets for 829 yards and 6 touchdowns (WR35 in half PPR scoring)
Hayden Hurst – Currently TE14 & 118.34 ADP
I can essentially cycle back to earlier in this article and reference the reason that Calvin Ridley will break out and use them here. Hayden Hurst was selected to slide in and fill the crucial tight end role in the Atlanta offense. In 2019, Austin Hooper was the sixth-most targeted tight end (97), all while missing three games due to a sprained MCL.
Hurst, having been buried behind Mark Andrews, raises some questions about his exact skill set. However, I think he is a better athlete than Hooper and 11.9 yards per reception points to that. I feel very safe in projecting to see a minimum of 80 targets in 2020, and that he will finish inside the top-12 of tight ends. If you miss on one of the top three tight ends or choose to wait, Hurst is one of my favorite options to land later on before his potential 2020 fantasy breakout.
Current Projection: 59 catches on 87 targets for 674 yards and 4 touchdowns (TE12 in half PPR scoring)
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Tommy Garrett is a writer for PFN covering Fantasy Football. You can follow him at @TommygarrettPFN on Twitter.