Fantasy football breakouts 2022: Why Michael Thomas and Rhamondre Stevenson can win your league this season

Who are some of the potential fantasy football breakouts for the 2022 NFL season? Could Michael Thomas return to his 2019 form?

As the preseason continues into its final two games, it’s time to focus on your fantasy football draft. After seeing the early preseason results and how new acquisitions are settling in, we have five fantasy football breakouts for you to target throughout this draft season. Some are starters who are being undervalued. Others are young backups on the cusp of breaking through into a bigger role.

Seeing preseason rotations and usage has revealed key developments that will affect your fantasy season. Fantasy managers can rely on our 2022 fantasy PPR rankings to help find the best steals.

Let’s dive into our top five fantasy football breakout candidates who could swing your league this fall.

Michael Thomas, WR, New Orleans Saints

A string of ankle injuries caused one of the best overall playmakers in the NFL to see his career derailed for 18 months. New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas was off to a Hall of Fame pace in his first 70 games. His peak season came in 2019 when he caught 149 passes for 1,725 yards and nine touchdowns, averaging 107.8 yards per game.

We haven’t seen Thomas since his 2020 season ended just seven games in. Since then, Drew Brees retired and Sean Payton resigned. Offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael is still in charge of the offense, and Jameis Winston returns as the quarterback after suffering a torn ACL in Week 8 last year.

Thomas was best-known for dominating on slant routes with Brees as the signal-caller of the unit, but his role will likely change with Winston’s vertical passing prowess. He’s also surrounded by a better group of receivers than what the Saints have had in previous seasons. Rookie Chris Olave and veteran slot specialist Jarvis Landry give the unit a well-rounded corps but not one that is overly demanding of the volume we want Thomas to receive.

At his best, Thomas is a dominating 6’3″, 212-pound presence capable of carrying a unit to elite output. If he’s 100% healthy for 2022, Thomas can regain a form that saw top-seven finishes in four straight years from 2016-2019. He finished No. 1 overall in PPR leagues in 2019.

With a current ADP of WR28 and ranked as WR25 in our own rankings, Thomas is a sleeping giant.

Rhamondre Stevenson, RB, New England Patriots

There was an early swell of excitement for Rhamondre Stevenson right after he was drafted in 2021 by the Patriots. It’s understandable as to why. The Patriots have continued to churn out productive backs, and Stevenson is the latest big-bodied athlete who fills their mold.

His rookie season was solid, but his production came in waves. Of Stevenson’s 606 rushing yards, 69% of it came in five games. Only three of those games featured a touchdown. He was all but unplayable in 10 of his 12 outings since four of his scores came during his best yardage outputs.

Things should get better for Stevenson in 2022. Being drafted as RB35 and 95th overall, he’s being taken as a low-end starter or high-end backup. With the Patriots pivoting to more of a gap scheme that favors Stevenson more than Damien Harris, now is the time to buy.

Our rankings have Stevenson as RB32 and 74th overall. Even as New England transitions to life without Josh McDaniels calling the plays, there will be plenty of opportunities for Stevenson and Harris to carve a role this season. With Harris in a contract year and a scheme change out of his favor, we’re looking to land Stevenson as often as possible in our drafts.

Brian Robinson, RB, Washington Commanders

At first, I didn’t see why the Commanders would invest a third-round pick into Brian Robinson. The big back from Alabama was coming off a solid senior season but lacks the ability to hit big plays and be a high-end starter. While I still have those concerns about his upside, the first preseason game revealed Washington’s desire to get Robinson quite a few touches.

With Antonio Gibson fumbling on his second carry of the game, he was quickly replaced by Robinson for the entire next drive before seeing the field again. Robinson scurried for 26 yards on six carries, showing off decisiveness and strength. It became clear Robinson is viewed as a primary backup already and not fighting with Jaret Patterson for a role.

With this more defined, we need to raise Robinson’s redraft value. Head coach Ron Rivera may pull the plug on Gibson quickly this season after seeing him put the ball on the ground five times in his last 10 games last year. Gibson dropped weight this offseason, but if he’s not hitting big plays or fumbling, Robinson will take more of his touches.

Robinson is going undrafted in most leagues as RB58 and No. 170 overall. He should be considerably higher behind a solid offensive line and playing with Carson Wentz. The Commanders will often run the ball, and Wentz likes to throw to his backs. This could equate to Robinson becoming a legitimate Flex option or top backup by the middle of the season for an incredible value.

Romeo Doubs, WR, Green Bay Packers

No rookie receiver in football has helped his stock more in training camp than Packers fourth-rounder Romeo Doubs. Doubs has routinely earned headlines for his training camp performance and just turned in a solid outing in his first preseason game. He caught three passes for 45 yards, including a 33-yard touchdown on a slot fade.

It shouldn’t be too much of a surprise to see the 6’2″, 204-pounder finding early success. Though he fell on draft day, Doubs was a stellar vertical threat in college. Playing with an excellent deep passer in Carson Strong, Doubs produced 3,322 yards and 26 touchdowns on 225 career receptions.

Expectations were for second-round pick Christian Watson to win a starting job, but he’s dealt with knee issues that have kept him out of practice. Doubs has continued to make the most of his opportunities thanks to his great burst off the line and the ability to get separation on defenders.

Currently being taken at WR64 at 176 overall, Doubs could be a massive value for someone who should be a starting receiver in a vertical for Rodgers. I’m not saying Doubs will rival Davante Adams’ numbers at any point in his career, but he has the opportunity to step in and shine early on.

Albert Okwuegbunam, TE, Denver Broncos

There’s a certain point every year in fantasy where the tight end position takes a huge nosedive. In 2022, there’s a clear drop after Darren Waller (TE5, 47 ADP overall, 52nd in our rankings) and another after T.J. Hockenson (TE7, 66 ADP overall, 83rd in our rankings). While we disagree with the order of how the public is drafting, there’s a huge opportunity for a tight end to emerge as a value.

That player will be Albert Okwuegbunam this season. Now out from Noah Fant’s shadow as a backup and playing with a star quarterback in Russell Wilson, Okwuegbunam is in line for a big season. He’s being taken at TE15, or 140th overall. The door is open for him to be the TE steal of the draft.

The 24-year-old is a perfect seam threat for Wilson, thanks to his 6’5″ stature and surprising speed in the open field. He totaled 330 yards and two scores on 33 catches last year. The last time we saw Wilson with a downfield threat at the position, Jimmy Graham ranked fourth amongst tight ends in his final two years in Seattle.

Imagine getting that type of upside in the 11th round while your peers are forcing higher picks on the position. If you whiff on a top-seven tight end, make Albert O a priority.

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