Third Year Breakout or Bust: Wide Receivers (Fantasy Football)

Unlock Bonus Episodes, Premium Stats & More

Join the #FootClan

Unlike running backs, wide receivers don’t typically burst onto the scene as rookies. In fact, one of the most common fantasy narratives is that of the “third-year wide receiver breakout”. That’s exactly what I’ll be looking at in this edition of Third Year Breakout or Bust. 

To see third-year breakout or bust running backs, check out the previous article in this series.  

The wide receiver draft class of 2018 is littered with wideouts on the brink of breaking out in 2020. The five discussed in this article all finished between WR16 and W25 last season, but it remains to be seen which direction they’ll head in 2020. Will they go the way Chris Godwin and Kenny Golladay, who each made the jump to WR1 in their third year? Or will they fall off a cliff like JuJu Smith-Schuster or Corey Davis, who each finished outside of the top 60 fantasy receivers in 2019 after improved second seasons? Obviously, each circumstance is different, but history and probability tell us that not all of the third-year receivers discussed here will break out. In fact, some of them are likely to bust.

Note: All receivers below are listed in order of 2019 fantasy finish, based on .5 PPR scoring

D.J. Chark

His first two years

Despite his second-round draft capital, Chark was slow to get on the field in his rookie season. He didn’t see more than 50% of the Jaguars offensive snaps until Week 8. He started to see increased playing time, but then missed five of Jacksonville’s last six games with a quad injury. He only caught 14 balls on the season and seemed destined for the dreaded bust designation.

Unlock Bonus Episodes, Premium Stats & More

Join the #FootClan

2019, however, was a totally different story. He burst out of the gates on fire, ranking as the WR5 through the first 11 weeks of the season. His pace slowed considerably down the homestretch, in part due to a nagging ankle injury that caused him to miss Week 15 and likely hindered him more than he let on. He managed to finish as the WR16 on the season, despite never finishing better than WR57 from Week 12 on. If his season had ended on a stronger note he may have already been considered a breakout. Instead, he heads into an uncertain third year.

What it’ll take for a third-year breakout

Chark proved in 2019 that he’s capable of putting up big numbers. To break into true WR1 territory, however, he’ll have to put them up more consistently. Much of Chark’s 2020 success will be linked to Gardner Minshew. If the second-year, jorts-wearing, mustachioed gunslinger takes a step forward, Chark will likely be the top beneficiary and could find himself finishing as a WR1. 

D.J. Moore

His first two years

Moore exhibits all the signs of a future WR1. He was the first receiver off the board with the 24th pick in the 2018 NFL draft. He started his rookie season slow and saw the field for less than 50% of Carolina’s offensive snaps through the first six weeks. He was given the starting gig in Week 7 and from that point on averaged 59.7 receiving yards per game. He finished as the WR38, not bad for a first-year receiver who didn’t get the chance to start right away.

He leveled up in his second year, posting 87 receptions for 1,175 yards and four touchdowns. It was good enough to finish as the WR18 on the season, which is even more impressive when you consider he was catching passes from Will Grier, Kyle Allen, and an ailing Cam Newton.  

Unlock Bonus Episodes, Premium Stats & More

Join the #FootClan

What it’ll take for a third-year breakout

Moore should get some consistent quarterback play in the newly acquired Teddy Bridgewater. The Panthers also brought in speedster Robby Anderson. If he and Curtis Samuel can stretch the field, there could be plenty of open space for Moore to operate underneath and soak up targets while racking up yards after the catch. A new coaching staff, a terrible defense, and some positive touchdown regression shouldn’t hurt either.

Courtland Sutton

His first two years

Sutton is another receiver that appears to be trending towards a fantasy breakout. He never broke 90 yards in a single game during his rookie campaign, but he did play all 16 games. He finished as the WR51 while catching passes from Case Keenum all season long.

He saw an increase in nearly every statistical category in 2019. He started the season catching passes from Joe Flacco, finished it catching them from rookie Drew Lock, and still ended the season as the WR19. 

Getty Images / Justin Edmonds

What it’ll take for a third-year breakout

Unlock Bonus Episodes, Premium Stats & More

Join the #FootClan

Denver head coach Vic Fangio doesn’t want to win with offense, which fights against Sutton’s chances to level up. On the other hand, he’ll get a full season with Drew Lock and could continue building his rapport with the young quarterback. The addition of Melvin Gordon could help take some of the defensive focus off of Sutton in 2020, as could adding another highly drafted wideout, as many are predicting. 

Michael Gallup

His first two years

Gallup had a solid, if not impressive, rookie season. The third-round pick finished as the WR77 on the season. He was the fourth-leading receiver on his own team behind Amari Cooper (who only played nine games with Dallas), Cole Beasly, and Ezekiel Elliot. 

In 2019 Gallup finished just 82 receiving yards behind Cooper, despite playing in two fewer games. He more than doubled his receiving yards compared to his rookie season. On top of the big yardage bump, he also tripled his receiving touchdowns from two to six. It all added to him finishing as the WR22 on the season. 

What it’ll take for a third-year breakout

The biggest thing holding back Gallup in 2020 will be his pecking order in the Dallas offense. Cooper and Zeke have been given franchise money while Gallup is still playing on his rookie contract. He showed in 2019 that he can put up top-tier wideout numbers, but whether or not he can overcome the offensive depth chart in Dallas remains to be seen. 

Unlock Bonus Episodes, Premium Stats & More

Join the #FootClan
Calvin Ridley

His first two years

Ridley burst on to the scene with 10 receiving touchdowns in his rookie campaign. He played in all 16 games but only started five of them. He managed to finish as the WR20 on the back of those double-digit touchdowns.

His second season was nearly identical, minus three touchdowns. He saw one more target and one fewer reception, though he also played in three fewer games after missing the end of the season with an abdominal injury. He finished as the WR25 on the season, slightly down from where he finished as a rookie.

What it’ll take for a third-year breakout

Until we see a dropoff, Julio Jones will remain one of the best wide receiver options in all of fantasy football. However, it’s only a matter of time before the torch is passed from Julio to Ridley, much like it was passed form Roddy White to Julio so many years ago. Ridley has all the tools to be a WR1, though it’s difficult to predict if 2020 will be his breakout year if he isn’t even the number one option on his own team.

Other Third Year Breakout or Bust Candidates:

Unlock Bonus Episodes, Premium Stats & More

Join the #FootClan

Christian Kirk
James Washington
Anthony Miller
Auden Tate
Tre’Quan Smith
DaeSean Hamilton
Dante Pettis
Keke Coutee

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *