Several of these players could cross over into the realm of being fantasy football sleepers. For the most part, each name has somewhat established himself as an up-and-coming fantasy football commodity. They’re now on the verge of going big.
The following is listed from least to most likely to break out in 2022.
Note: All ADP figures are courtesy of FantasyFootballCalculator.com and use PPR scoring, unless noted otherwise. ADP variations between sites are wild this time of the year, so expect them to level out over the coming weeks.
2022 fantasy football breakout candidates
D/ST Los Angeles Chargers
With as much defensive talent as the Chargers have accumulated in the past few years, coupled with a defensive-minded head coach, this one feels like a no-brainer. There’s a hint of trepidation, however, as facing high-powered offenses within the division could render this group difficult to play for six contests. Even still, the rest of the schedule is rather tasty. Defenses are largely rotational in most cases, and the Bolts belong atop the short list of the best streaming targets after adding ball hawk JC Jackson at cornerback and pass rusher Khalil Mack this offseason.
WR Rondale Moore, Arizona Cardinals
How much do you trust A.J. Green in his age-34 season? How about Zach Ertz being a possible injury concern at this stage of his career? What can we expect from DeAndre Hopkins upon his return from a six-game suspension? The diminuative Moore comes with some limitations due to physical characteristics, but he can be a quality complementary piece who doesn’t need a ton of volume to generate fantasy-relevant production. His closest competition for touches will be Marquise Brown, so there could be inconsistency due to role overlap, but Moore should crack lineups more often than not.
TE Brevin Jordan, Houston Texans
The Texans’ receiving targets are an intriguing bunch after Brandin Cooks, and most of the upside resides with Jordan busting out as a second-year flex tight end. He’s far closer to a wide receiver than a traditional Y and will be on the move. Houston’s second-year quarterback, Davis Mills, was impressively accurate last season, and it’s no secret inexperienced quarterbacks tend to seek out the tight end position when in trouble. Jordan, though, is about as risky as he is filled with potential, and drafting him in standard-sized leagues may be asking a bit much from him.
RB Rashaad Penny, Seattle Seahawks
Over a span of five games to close out 2021’s regular season, Penny went gangbusters and looked every bit the part of the 2018 first-rounder Seattle used on him. No back registered more PPR points than Penny in that time, and the San Diego State alum’s six scores tied his career total over 27 appearances. Penny will enter training camp as the presumed starter with Chris Carson (neck) facing an uncertain future and rookie Kenneth Walker III having to learn the ropes. That said, Penny is risky as all get-out for his extensive injury background and the presence of Walker. Due to the quarterback situation, the running game as a whole will be relied on, and Penny has RB2 potential.
WR Rashod Bateman, Baltimore Ravens
When Marquise Brown was dealt to Arizona during the draft, Bateman’s fantasy value skyrocketed. The entire system is a low-volume passing offense, so bear that in mind, but Bateman enters the summer as the team’s top wide receiver. Granted, in Baltimore, the distinction makes him a No. 2 target on any given play behind tight end Mark Andrews, but there’s plenty of room to support two viable fantasy assets here. Expect a much more dangerous Bateman in Year 2 after an injury last season hamstrung him during a crucial learning period. Consider something in the realm of 75-1,000-8 to be a win.
QB Tua Tagovailoa, Miami Dolphins
More weapons than most teams … an improved offensive system … another year of maturation … there’s quite a bit to like about Tua breaking through in 2022. If Tagovailoa cannot take a step forward with the likes of Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle, Mike Gesicki, Cedrick Wilson, and Chase Edmonds catching balls, he’ll be a pine-rider for the rest of his NFL days. It cannot be overstated how much Hill’s presence does for the rest of the cast and also Tua’s efficiency. The third-year quarterback doesn’t need to be slinging it 600 times to challenge a top-12 fantasy placement with this cast.
RB J.K. Dobbins, Baltimore Ravens
A torn anterior cruciate ligament ended Dobbins’ second season before it ever began. He appeared in 15 contests in 2020, rushing for an impressive 6.0 yards per carry on 134 attempts (805 yards) and finding the end zone nine times. Dobbins should be at full strength by Week 1, even though the team will take it easy on him during the summer practices. Dobbins doesn’t offer too much as a receiver, and he’s better in non-PPR scoring, though a serious shot at scoring double-digit touchdowns will make him a weekly lineup fixture. Expect a shared backfield but a No. 2 result.
WR Gabriel Davis, Buffalo Bills
In 2021, Davis was a fairly popular preseason pick for breaking out, including by yours truly. His season started on a slow note for the first half of the year. Including two playoff contests, Davis scored nine times over the final seven outings, highlighted by a four-TD performance vs. Kansas City. Davis has a shot at going from a low-volume deep threat to being more targeted after Cole Beasley’s departure, especially if Jamison Crowder’s durability woes resurface. The offensive coordinator change shouldn’t make much of a difference as the system is largely the same, and it all funnels through Josh Allen anyway. Few receivers have Davis’ dichotomous boom-or-bust profile, so understand the risk being assumed.
RB Cam Akers, Los Angeles Rams
In his second year, Akers was poised to break out for the Rams until a preseason Achilles tendon tear sidelined him until Week 18. He will be 100 percent entering this fantasy draft season. The Rams allowed Sony Michel to walk, and Darrell Henderson Jr. is merely a change-of-pacer who has durability concerns. While the Rams are likely more recognized for their aerial prowess, everything flows through a balanced rushing attack and play-action passing. Akers is a rock-solid RB2 who could threaten for a low-end RB1 finish.