In fantasy football, we just can’t help looking for this year’s versions of last year’s breakout players. It’s especially so when highly productive players appear largely out of nowhere. In 2021, one of the biggest surprises of the season was Hunter Renfrow. There will likely be someone who breaks out in a similar fashion this year. Let’s examine whether that player could be New York Jets wide receiver Braxton Berrios.
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Is Braxton Berrios this year’s Hunter Renfrow?
The parallels between Renfrow and Berrios are undeniable. And before you say it, because I know you’re thinking it — it’s more than just that they’re both slot receivers.
Braxton Berrios and Hunter Renfrow are strikingly similar physically and in play style — it’s genuinely shocking how similar these two players are. Berrios and Renfrow are both 26 years old, born less than three months apart. Renfrow is 5’10”, 184 lbs. Berrios is 5’9″, 184 lbs. Athletically, neither is particularly fast. They both have low percentile burst with upper percentile agility.
When you watch Berrios and Renfrow play, it makes sense given their physical similarities. They both excel at getting open laterally with extremely low aDOTs (6.6 for Renfrow last year; 4.6 for Berrios).
Comparing Braxton Berrios in 2021 with Hunter Renfrow in 2020
If Berrios is going to be this year’s Renfrow, then there should be some similarities between Renfrow’s 2020 and Berrios’ 2021.
Hunter Renfrow’s 2020
- 15.2% target share
- 56 catches for 656 yards and two touchdowns
- 65% slot rate
- 8.2 PPR fantasy points per game
Braxton Berrios’ 2021
- 11.6% target share
- 46 catches for 431 yards and two touchdowns
- 61% slot rate
- 7.6 PPR fantasy points per game
Renfrow and Berrios are very similar players with similar production profiles. I have no doubt that if Renfrow and Berrios switched places before the 2021 season, Berrios would have been capable of having the season Renfrow had.
How did Hunter Renfrow break out in 2021?
To figure out if Berrios can be this year’s Renfrow, we need to examine how Renfrow was able to emerge into a weekly fantasy force that averaged 15.2 ppg.
Renfrow’s target share increased to 21.7%. Although he was not a starter in two-receiver sets, running a route on just 80% of his team’s pass plays, he saw a target on 25.7% of his routes run. He also benefited from extremely accurate targets on his routes from Derek Carr.
Additionally, Renfrow’s target competition was lacking. Twitter darling Bryan Edwards once again failed to fire. Henry Ruggs was always an overrated player, and then his horrific off-the-field incident ended his NFL career.
Renfrow’s only real target competition was Darren Waller, who operates in a completely different area of the field. Waller also missed six games. In those six games, Renfrow averaged 16.5 ppg compared to a still excellent 15 ppg with Waller active.
How does this compare to Braxton Berrios’ 2022 situation?
There are signs in Berrios’ usage that suggest a breakout is possible. While Berrios only ran a route on 41% of the Jets’ pass plays, he was targeted on 27% of his routes run, which was in the top 20 in the NFL.
Berrios, by all accounts, is an excellent route runner, especially against man coverage. The man gets open, which is exactly what makes Renfrow successful. The underlying peripherals suggest Berrios’ 2022 profile might make him this year’s Renfrow.
Unfortunately, when we look at his situation, this is where things start to diverge. Renfrow benefited from quality precision passing by his quarterback and limited target competition.
Although the Jets certainly showcased their confidence in Berrios by bringing him back on a two-year, $12 million contract, his path to increased playing time is completely blocked at the moment.
Corey Davis is back for another year. Elijah Moore established himself as the team’s WR1 last season. And they drafted Garrett Wilson in the first round of this year’s NFL draft.
Furthermore, there’s a massive gap in quarterback play between Carr and Zach Wilson. The Jets’ sophomore signal caller will need to take a big step forward to be able to support two fantasy-relevant wide receivers. No matter how good he is, he’s not supporting four.
What’s the verdict?
There is a path to Berrios becoming this year’s Renfrow. Davis battled injury last year, playing in just nine games. If he gets hurt again, that elevates Berrios at least into the WR3 role.
However, for Berrios to emerge, he would need to be the Jets WR2. Although Garrett Wilson is a rookie, I can’t fathom a world where he doesn’t start in three-receiver sets over the former sixth-rounder Berrios.
For Berrios to become this year’s Renfrow, he would need improved play from Zach Wilson and two injuries in front of him. He’s not going to get there as Renfrow did with Edwards and Ruggs simply not being good enough. Moore, Wilson, and Davis are all far more talented than either Raider.
If Berrios finds himself with a starting role, he could be this year’s Renfrow. Unfortunately, too many things have to break right for that to happen. Berrios will likely have a moment or two during the season where he flashes. But ultimately, fantasy football managers should not bank on Berrios becoming this year’s Renfrow.