Every year when fantasy drafts and auctions roll around, there are players who explode on the scene and become the gold standard the following year. If you can’t carry over players, your move in the middle rounds to get a guy like Patrick Mahomes in 2018 paid off, just like those who jumped before others on Lamar Jackson is taking you to the pay window almost every week.
When looking at the guys who are going to cost you a much bigger investment next year than they did this year, there are several players that those of us at The Huddle had ranked prior to this year’s draft season a lot lower than they will be next year.
These are the fantasy breakout stars of 2019. If you have more than one of them on your roster, you probably are preparing for the fantasy playoffs from a position of strength.
Lamar Jackson (Preseason Huddle Rank: No. 13) – Every year, some player jumps off the page and emerges as a bona fide fantasy star. Last year, it was Patrick Mahomes. This year, it’s Jackson. Through 12 games, he has thrown for 2,532 yards and 25 touchdowns, had five games with three or more passing TDs and, more importantly, has rushed for 977 yards and seven scores. Owners were a little nervous about putting too much stock in him on draft day. They won’t next year.
Josh Allen (Rank: No. 20) – He was my pick to be the No. 1 overall selection in the 2018 draft because, in my view, he had the highest ceiling. That view hasn’t changed. He hasn’t thrown for more than 265 yards in any game, but when you factor in eight rushing touchdowns, he has accounted for two or more TDs in 10 of 12 games this season and his weekly totals are worthy of being a starter.
Kyler Murray (Rank: No. 19) – He hasn’t blown up the league, but has proved the NFL isn’t too big for him. He has six games with two or more TD passes, four 300-yard games and leads the Cardinals in rushing. An offseason to absorb Arizona’s Air Raid Offense could make him the guy to watch next season.
Dalvin Cook (Preseason Huddle Rank: No. 13) – Fantasy owners were willing to step up to a certain extent for a talented player who had missed more games than he had played his first two seasons. This year has been his watershed – healthy and living up to his billing. It only took him 11 games to hit 1,000 yards and double-digit touchdowns with seven games with 97 or more rushing yards. He was ranked in the area of No. 10 in most pre-draft rankings. How close to No. 1 will he be next year? A lot closer…and deservedly so.
Josh Jacobs (Rank: No. 17) – Rookie running backs have been hit and miss the last few years, which may explain why Jacobs was the only running back taken in the first round of this year’s draft. But, Jacobs has proved he can be a workhorse, which is what the Raiders want in their featured back. It only took him 12 games to top 1,000 yards as a rookie and, with nine games with 15 or more carries in that span, he is primed to be a stud for years to come.
Carlos Hyde (Rank: No. 61) – Usually a breakout star isn’t in his sixth season. After four years in San Francisco, he left via free agency and from March 2018 to August 2019 he was with the Browns, Jaguars, Chiefs and Texans. From Arian Foster to Lamar Miller, Houston running backs put up big numbers. He’s going to top 1,000 yards and has averaged almost five yards a carry. With some stability and miles left on the tires, he’s going to jump in the player rankings next year.
Chris Carson (Rank: No. 16) – Anyone who has had a Seahawks running back on their roster knows the Pete Carroll mixes and matches, but, in a six-game span starting in Week 4, Carson ran 20 or more times in six of seven games and has six games with 89 or more rushing yards in that span.
Devin Singletary (Rank: No. 24) – You knew as a rookie, he was going to have to share time on the low side with veteran Frank Gore. But, after coming back from an injury in Week 7, he and Gore have flip-flopped roles. Singletary has led the team in rushing in each of the last five games and we’re witnessing a changing of the guard. With Gore likely headed to retirement after the season, Singletary will vault in 2020 rankings.
Kenny Golladay (Preseason Huddle Rank: No. 17) – Golladay was a known commodity coming off a 1,000-yard season in 2018, but what has changed this season is his big-play ability. Through 12 games, he has caught 47 passes, but is averaging more than 20 yards per reception and has nine touchdowns. He had the weight of being the big receiver to follow Calvin Johnson and he’s living up to it. He will be somebody’s No. 1 receiver next year.
D.J. Moore (Rank: No. 22) – As a rookie, he caught 55 passes for 708 yards and two TDs. He surpassed all of those numbers before Thanksgiving. He still hasn’t become a consistent touchdown scorer – which separates the good from the great fantasy receivers – but can be counted on for six or more catches a game and in four games in November, he caught 30 passes for 454 yards and two TDs. He’s on the brink of stardom and it’s getting noticed.
D.J. Chark (Rank: No. 62) – Considering that Nick Foles went down 10 minutes into his Jags career, there were more than a fair share of doubters about Chark’s prospects. He hasn’t been dominant but is going to end the season with more than 1,000 yards and double-digit touchdowns, which, when everyone looks at year-end stats, is going to push him into WR2 territory.
D.K. Metcalf (Rank: No. 59) – Other receivers have posted bigger numbers, but you see the impressive nature of Metcalf’s game. He’s averaging almost 17 yards per reception and he and Russell Wilson are building a rapport that could make him a breakout star in his second season.
Darren Waller (Preseason Huddle Rank: No. 8) – We were high on him in the preseason and it didn’t take him long to get the attention of fantasy owners this season. He has almost twice as many receptions as any other Raiders receiver and, while the touchdowns haven’t come with great regularity, Jon Gruden is going to find more ways to exploit him with mismatches, especially in the red zone, as he gains more experience on how to shield defenders and use his mammoth size.
Mark Andrews (Rank No. 11) – In a year where tight ends largely haven’t lived up to expectations, Andrews has been consistent, catching 53 passes for almost 700 yards and seven touchdowns through 12 games. As Lamar Jackson morphs into a more complete quarterback, Andrews could end up being the Greg Olsen of the Ravens offense.
Irv Smith Jr. (Rank: No. 44) – Often times to get a measure of a player’s progress, you need to look at his weekly targets and receptions. Smith is far from a polished product and won’t be high on a lot of ranking sheets next year, but he is getting more incorporated into the offense and is ready to step up as a red zone and deep seam option. Mark it down.
Here is the Week 14 Fantasy Market Report:
Calvin Ridley – For much of the season, he has been the clear No. 2 wide receiver option in Atlanta, but, with Julio Jones hurting (again), he has stepped up. In his last three games, Ridley has been targeted 32 times, catching 22 passes for 319 yards and two touchdowns and is emerging as a big-time fantasy threat in his own right.
Mark Andrews – He is far and away the most consistent receiver in the Ravens passing game and, while he hasn’t matched his yardage totals from the first two games (16-230-2), he has four touchdowns in his last four games and has at least one receptions of 20 or more yards in eight of 12 games (and has scored three touchdowns in the four games he hasn’t had a 20+ yard reception).
Deebo Samuel – When you’re looking for a flex player who isn’t a lock to start, you need one of two things – a guy who gets volume or scores touchdown. Over the last four games, in Weeks 10-12, Samuel caught 16 passes for 246 yards. In the last two, he was only targeted six times and caught four passes, but has a touchdown in each. With defenses looking to shut down George Kittle and Emmanuel Sanders, Samuel has emerged as a viable fantasy option.
Leonard Fournette – In PPR leagues, Fournette was viewed as a guy who could run for 100 yards in any game, but not be counted on for critical reception points. That has changed. In his first two seasons (21 games), Fournette never caught more than five passes and had just three games with more than three. This year, he leads the Jags with 65 receptions, including 10 games with four or more and six with six or more. In his last five games, he has caught 37 passes. While they haven’t resulted in touchdowns, they’ve made Fournette a much more valuable player.
DeVante Parker – Over the years, Parker had burned fantasy owners more than rewarding them and many owners won’t put any Dolphins in their lineups. But, Parker has been targeted 10 or more times by Ryan Fitzpatrick in each of the last four games and, over the last three, has 20 receptions for 385 yards and two touchdowns. He’s on pace to finish the season with more than 1,100 yards and eight touchdowns – clearly starting fantasy numbers for a guy who has been a career tease.
Le’Veon Bell – He’s been on this list before earlier in the year, but it bears repeating how dismal he has been and was drafted in most leagues to start every week. He hasn’t had a receiving touchdown since Week 1 and has 35 or fewer receiving yards in eight games. He hasn’t rushed for more than 70 yards in any game, has 50 or less in seven games and has scored just three TDs. If you started Bell consistently and made the playoffs, you did it despite him, not because of him.
Derek Carr – In his first eight games, he had two or more TD passes in five of them and looked to be a serviceable fantasy backup ready to reclaim his career. Yet, he hasn’t thrown for 300 yards in any game this season and, in his last four games, he has less than 225 yards in three of them and just three passing TDs in those four games. He’s not worth a roster spot for a team in the playoffs because better options are available on the waiver wire.
Greg Olsen – Still expected to be a starter in TE-mandatory leagues, Olsen has fallen off the map. He hasn’t scored a touchdown since Week 3 and, in his last nine games, he has been limited to less than 45 yards in six of them. The Panthers pass offense runs through Christian McCaffrey and D.J. Moore these days, no longer Olsen.
Mike Evans – This is another one of those “tough call” scenarios because nobody who has Evans is likely to bench him. But, you have wonder how defenses are taking on Evans. From Weeks 7-10 (a bye week wedged in there), in three games, Evans was targeted a whopping 45 times, catching 32 passes for 474 yards and three touchdowns, carrying fantasy teams on his back. In the last four, however, he has caught just four passes in each game, totaling 254 yards and no touchdowns. As we enter the fantasy playoffs, those numbers have to improve or he could be part of a one-and-done scenario.
Vance McDonald – This one is a little personal. I’ve never bought into the McDonald hype that just about every other fantasy analyst has. In seven seasons, he has never caught more than 50 passes or scored more than four touchdowns, yet his bandwagon keeps taking on passengers. The belief was that, if he could stay healthy, he’d blow up. Well, he’s played 11 games and doesn’t have a single game with more than 40 receiving yards, and, in his last nine games, has one touchdown and three or fewer receptions in eight of those games. Keep putting him in your lineup. You’ve been warned not to for the last time.