Shawn Siegele discusses the fifth-year WR breakout candidates who could rescue the late rounds of your fantasy draft.
We focus on WR breakouts by class because you’re looking for very different indicators depending on the amount of experience your candidates possess. This year I’ve done the WR Breakout Series in two-parts. In Part 1, I released the updated 2019 version of the historical WR Breakout Study. Today, we take a deeper dive into the specific candidates to target.
What We’re Looking For
In 5 Things to Know About Fifth-Year WR Breakouts, we profiled the breakout WRs since 2000 and discussed the key elements of their resumes. These were the two most important takeaways:
- Only one of the 14 players was selected in the first 50 picks. Eight were selected after pick 100 or not at all.
- Nine of those players had just changed teams.
This fits very closely with Blair Andrews’ parallel study in The Wrong Read.
The fifth season is entirely the domain of players drafted outside the first 100 picks. While the fifth-year breakout class is the smallest of the five, it’s the key time to grab late-round picks who’ve managed to stay in the NFL. Especially if they just moved to find a new source of opportunity.
I used the RotoViz Screener to pull up all of the fourth-year WRs from a season ago, and then I removed all of the players who had already hit 200 fantasy points at one point in their careers.
A few of the former breakouts are surprising, and one lands on our bounceback WR list.
Immediately we’re faced with five former top-50 picks.
- Nelson Agholor posted a deceptively solid season a year ago and is reportedly having a fantastic camp. Unfortunatley, there’s no room for him to emerge in Philadelphia. The talents of DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery are probably overstated at this point in their careers, but Zach Ertz is a monster, while J.J. Arcega-Whiteside and Dallas Goedert are the next big thing at each position. Agholor would be much more appealing should the Eagles find a way to trade him.
- Devin Funchess was a trendy re-hype candidate after the move to play with Andrew Luck. Then followed three “or at least he was” statements of varying severity. In order: …before they drafted Parris Campbell …before Deon Cain was the most impressive player in Colts camp …before Luck retired.
- Phillip Dorsett is still in the NFL, and there was a moment about a month ago when this was relevant for deep best ball leagues. The emergence of Jakobi Meyers, the reinstatement of Josh Gordon, and the activation of Demaryius Thomas have pushed him out of even Watch List territory.
- DeVante Parker still plays for the Dolphins. Miami looks like they may go 0-16.
- Breshad Perriman might be the most interesting member of the group after he averaged more than 10 PPG over the final month off 2018. He’ll battle for relevance in a deep Buccaneers WR corps.
History does not support the selection of these players, and fantasy owners don’t find them particularly intriguing either.
Here’s Where It Gets Interesting
Once we remove the big names – players who were given early-career opportunities and failed – we’re left with a group that had to fight to stay in the NFL. Adam Humphries and Chris Conley switched teams. Darren Waller switched positions. Jake Kumerow is again a camp story after he impressed a season ago before landing on IR.
Humphries finished as WR24 last season, ahead of trendy breakout candidates like Chris Godwin and Mike Williams, and ahead of new teammate Corey Davis.1 He’s crested 600 yards for three consecutive seasons and now moves to a Tennessee team desperate for an underneath threat.
We have a great tool to evaluate Humphries’ 2019 outlook and his breakout potential. The Range of Outcomes App gives Humphries a startling “high” projection.
To understand where the high end of the projection comes from, we can click on his “Matches” and look at their subsequent seasons. A trio of eye-popping names emerges.
Humphries matches with three of our historical fifth-year breakouts, and plenty of similarities emerge. All three players broke out for the first time in their fifth seasons. Golden Tate and Emmanuel Sanders had just changed teams.
Kumerow is an interesting character as a former Wisconsin-Whitewater star who has fought through adversity to remain in the league. He endured stints on the practice squads of the Bengals, Patriots, and Packers, and was placed on IR both in 2017 and 2018.
Before his injury last season, Kumerow was fourth in the NFL in preseason receiving yards (190), averaging 31 yards per reception and scoring 2 TDs. He backed up those numbers by rehabbing successfully and scoring a 49-yard TD late in the regular season after being activated from IR.
Kumerow’s story has been overshadowed by the Marquez Valdes-Scantling buzz this offseason, but there are reasons to be skeptical of MVS as well. Kumerow has played well enough again this season to almost certainly make the team, and that gives him a shot to be the next James Jones. He’s a Watch List candidate who has more upside than 11th-round pick Geronimo Allison. Just watch out for Green Bay’s even deeper sleepers, including my favorite undrafted free agent.
Waller’s NFL journey has also been circuitous and featured heartache of the self-inflicted variety. He found himself on injured reserve early in his rookie season of 2015, and then suffered NFL drug-related suspensions during the 2016 (partial) and 2017 (seasons).
Waller is a success story. He got clean and was reinstated by the league in 2018. The Ravens waived him and re-signed Waller to their practice squad. The Raiders poached him in November, and he finished the season with six receptions for 78 yards.
Waller generated RotoViz interest back in 2015 when he was drafted out of Georgia Tech as a big receiver. He wasn’t just big, he was wildly athletic. His Freak Score of 91 slots in just below D.K. Metcalf’s 92.
At 6-foot-6 and 245 pounds, the switch to TE may have been inevitable, and he provides a desperate Oakland passing game with much needed matchup ability. Devin McIntyre explains why Antonio Brown’s theatrics will benefit Waller and potentially lead to a breakout season.
If you’re a Hakeem Butler fan still smarting over his draft collapse, not to mention that salt-in-the-wound injury that landed him on IR, Waller may be the consolation play for you. Though far removed from his college days, Butler was his closest comp in the Box Score Scout.
Here’s the disappointing thing about Conley. Despite entering the NFL as one of the most athletically gifted WRs in memory, he simply wasn’t a good college player. That inability to translate athleticism to production also plagued him for a Chiefs team that prizes SPARQ-y receivers and deploys them to devastating effect.
Conley both failed to earn targets in Kansas City – even after Sammy Watkins’ injury – or to do much with them. Although he was a puff piece all-star early in Jaguars camp, buzz has recently shifted to Dede Westbrook and D.J. Chark. With Marqise Lee also activated, Conley’s path to fantasy value has narrowed considerably.
How to Play It
As a pass-catching TE, Darren Waller is a key part of any draft plan. He was our target when we reverse engineered an FFPC Main Event draft, and his presence helps you avoid reaching for the second tier at the position.
Adam Humphries is the best fifth-year breakout option at WR. His current ADP doesn’t reflect his 2018 finish or the upside from his top comps. Some restraint is still necessary. Tennessee’s QB situation is unsettled, and Humphries earns only the No. 76 ranking in our official projections.
Jake Kumerow remains free in drafts and is the perfect hedge for Valdes-Scantling. He should be owned in deeper dynasty leagues and reside at the top of your Watch List for redraft.
Image Credit: Bryan Lynn/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: Adam Humphries.
- I chose those players specifically since they all played in 16 games. (back)