Identifying fantasy football breakouts is a much harder task than picking sleepers. Breakout candidates are usually more expensive in terms of draft capital and are already on the radar for most fantasy managers. That being said, breakouts also tend to make more of an impact on fantasy rosters. Here are a few players I think are poised to break out during the 2021 fantasy football season.
AFC Fantasy Football Breakouts
Which players from the AFC are breakout candidates for the 2021 season?
Jerry Jeudy, WR | Denver Broncos
Jerry Jeudy had a rough rookie season, but he’s the first on my list of fantasy football breakouts. Not only did he have a shortened offseason, but he also had to learn the ropes with Broncos QB Drew Lock under center. That’s not exactly ideal.
Teammate Courtland Sutton missed the entire 2020 season with an ACL tear, putting more attention and pressure on the rookie. Moreover, there was a week where the Broncos had to start a wide receiver at quarterback due to an outbreak. Jeudy was behind the eight ball last year and still finished with 157.6 PPR points on 113 targets. Not bad for a rookie, given the circumstances.
Second-year receivers often take a huge leap in their development. They adapt to the schedule and training style and settle into their role on the team.
Jeudy’s underlying skills are amazing, and as long as he can keep up the pace, he should take a huge leap forward in Year 2. Sutton coming back and the QB competition both help his chances as they make the team better as a whole. Jeudy is going in the eighth round of drafts, making him a tremendous value and someone you should target.
Michael Pittman, Jr., WR | Indianapolis Colts
Like Jeudy, Michael Pittman is on my list of fantasy football breakouts largely because he’s a second-year wide receiver. He struggled with injuries last season, missing three games throughout the year. None of his injuries were related to long-term problems, though. So I wouldn’t call him injury-prone just yet. The Colts finished 11-5 and lost in the playoffs, but they parted ways with Philip Rivers and traded for Carson Wentz to replace him.
Wentz has a very positive history with head coach Frank Reich, and all was going well until Wentz suffered a foot injury in training camp. Wentz is now expected to miss some time, paving the way for QB Jacob Eason to get some starts. Pittman trained with Eason back in March, building rapport with the young signal-caller. Now, that rapport might come in handy and help Pittman break out even earlier.
By all reports, Pittman has been a star in training camp thus far. T.Y. Hilton is getting older, and speedy third-year WR Parris Campbell can’t seem to stay on the field. This provides Pittman with a solid path to targets on this offense. With Jonathan Taylor running the ball and Pittman taking that step up at receiver, the Colts could be a force to reckon with for years to come.
NFC Fantasy Football Breakouts
Who are the breakout candidates from the NFC in 2021?
Michael Gallup, WR | Dallas Cowboys
Another receiver makes my list for NFC fantasy football breakouts in Michael Gallup. The Cowboys have wide receivers Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb, but Gallup is the one that I think has the best chance to breakout. Lamb is a stud who could demand double coverage, but Cooper can’t seem to stay healthy. This opens the door for Gallup to step up in his contract year.
With all three WRs playing in all 16 games, Gallup finished 2020 as WR38 with 173.3 PPR points. If Cooper’s camp injury lingers, or he gets hurt early in the season, Gallup could see his opportunity go way up. Furthermore, Gallup could be playing for another team in 2022, making this year his audition. He might feel some urgency to play at the top of his game, making him a perfect addition to your bench in fantasy.
Lastly, QB Dak Prescott is back and likely picking up right where he left off — throwing for over 300 yards per game. Sure, he will target Lamb and Cooper more, but Gallup should see plenty of targets himself. Therefore, Gallup should be able to rack up plenty of yards, and he’s going in the ninth round of drafts. That’s a steal.
Tyler Higbee, TE | Los Angeles Rams
The only tight end on my list of fantasy football breakouts is the Rams’ Tyler Higbee. You’ve probably heard the narrative before that Higbee wasn’t all that great last year. That Higbee was a flash in the pan in 2019, and when given the chance in 2020, he didn’t do much. This is both true and misleading.
Higbee isn’t a stud TE, and I don’t expect him to become one out of nowhere, but where he’s going in drafts, I think he’s a great value. In 2020, Higbee finished as the TE17. His teammate, Gerald Everett, finished as TE24. Higbee played in one less game, had 2 fewer targets, and still scored 30 more points for the season.
The main difference in their stats was Higbee’s 5 touchdowns to Everett’s 1. Now that Everett has left the Rams for the Seahawks, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Higbee get over 100 targets on the year.
New QB Matthew Stafford likes dumping off to the tight end. So now that the job is solely Higbee’s, he’s got nothing stopping him from breaking out this year. The Rams have plenty of other offensive weapons, so it’s not as much of a lock as the others on this list. However, with Higbee going in the 11th round, you’re not risking much to find out.
Rookies who could breakout in 2021
With rookies breaking out more and more, which ones could keep the streak going for fantasy in 2021?
Ja’Marr Chase, WR | Cincinnati Bengals
The best rookie ready to breakout is an obvious choice in Cincinnati Bengals WR Ja’Marr Chase. He was the first skill position player taken in the 2021 NFL Draft, and thus, has more eyes on him to perform immediately.
The team drafted him because of his talent, but his history with QB Joe Burrow didn’t hurt either. Chase could be the next Justin Jefferson, potentially breaking rookie receiving records this year. He’s a clear choice for my list of fantasy football breakouts.
Trey Lance, QB | San Francisco 49ers
The other rookie I like this year is San Francisco QB Trey Lance. At the moment, he’s second on the depth chart behind Jimmy Garoppolo, but that could change in a heartbeat. Garoppolo hasn’t exactly been stellar, and with everything the 49ers spent to acquire him, Lance should start sooner rather than later.
Lance’s running ability makes him a great fantasy option. He should be lighting up scoreboards and fantasy matchups in no time, so be sure to grab him in your drafts and wait for his day to shine.