Top 5 Wide Receiver Breakouts in 2019 Fantasy Football

by Nick Ercolano August 12, 2019

Top 5 Wide Receiver Breakouts in 2019 Fantasy Football

We hit them running bykes last week - these are the mid-to-late round WRs that are aboutta explode. Let's get this bread.

Draft Guide Giveaway question:

Most likely to usurp their teammate WR1 in fantasy this year, and why?:

  • Chris Godwin over Mike Evans?
  • Mike Williams over Keenan Allen? or
  • Anthony Miller over Allen Robinson?

 

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Chris Godwin - Tampa Bay Bucs

Current ADP: WR19, 48th Overall

I haven't talked to many people in the industry that aren't banking on a breakout year from Godwin. We're finally getting to see Godwin unleashed after sitting firmly behind Mike Evans and some combination of Adam Humphries & DeSean Jackson during his initial two NFL seasons.

During Godwin's rookie season in 2017 he played on just 41% of the teams snaps. That was 4th behind Evans, DJax and Humphries. He finished with respectable 525-yard output. Last year, he saw an uptick in playing time, to just over 57% - but still not anywhere near a full-time player. Still fewer snaps than Evans and Humphries, just above D-Jax. He finished last year with 842 yards and 7 touchdowns on 95 targets, catching 59 of them. That was while being a 57% snap player. AND while ranking 78th among NFL WRs in catchable target rate, and target accuracy per PlayerProfiler. With Humphries in Tennessee and D-Jax in Philly, that opens up over 11.5 targets/game - what the two combined have averaged over the last two seasons - and we have a great sample of what Godwin has done with one of the Bucs WRs out over the last two years - he has certainly shown he can operate as the alpha if he needs to. But we've also seen him throw up a couple of dud games. We have a seven-game sample over the last two years where either Mike Evans or DeSean Jackson didn't play.

  • 10-5-68-0
  • 6-3-98-0
  • 12-7-111-1
  • 6-5-101-1
  • 10-1-13-0 (Week 14 vs. NO)
  • 3-0-0-0 (Week 15 @ BAL)
  • 9-6-114-2

The highs are high, but the lows are low. Like ecstasy. So, Chris Godwin is basically the ecstasy of fantasy football.

I went back and watched those Week 14 and 15 games to see wtf happened, they were bad games for sure - those are going to happen. Of the 10 targets he saw in Week 14, 6 of them were overthrown or tipped by a defender before they got to Godwin. A couple of them he was just straight up smothered and couldn't create separation against Eli Apple. A couple he dropped, one on a big hit other just a drop. Just a bad game. But he was overthrown on multiple deep balls by Winston so who knows what would've happened - 6-of-10 were bad throws.

The second game, @ BAL is naturally of course just a really tough matchup bad weather conditions that day really bad, there was a total of 288 passing yards that day. Godwin has a bad drop to start the game, had a big play called back because of holding. Whatever another bad game.

So I will preface this with a few things - I really don't think Godwin is good enough to be an elite WR from a talent standpoint. He had a lot of trouble separating in those games, like consistently smothered. I also don't think this offense is in store for something magical - like they were already throwing the ball and racking up yards at an elite pace last year between Winston and Fitzpatrick so the volume isn't going up.

The reason I'm encouraged by Arians coming in has nothing to do with like his scheme and how much better I think they're going to be with him there, it's the fact that he said he's not taking Godwin off the field and he's going to be the slot WR here. For someone that seems like he has trouble separating, being in the slot is a massive boost to your value because you won't be seeing top CBs against you and usually have a cushion to work with, it's much easier to separate. It's why you see a lot of these less-than-stellar athletes pop off in the slot: JuJu, Thielen, Boyd, Kupp - and when you put a guy like Michael Thomas who's stupid athletic into the slot, he explodes. I will also say, that bit about the routes and seperating is completely subjective to what i saw - per Matt Harmon of Yahoo, who does Reception Perception said this: "A favorite during the 2017 prospect charting, Godwin’s strengths have transferred to the NFL level. His 81.8 percent contested catch rate (88th percentile) from the 2018 sampled games is a reminder of his trump card trait. Of course, let’s not forget this is a dedicated route technician and strong separator as well, posting a 73.2 percent success rate vs. man coverage (87th percentile) last year."

chris godwin 2019 fantasy

So, Godwin playing in the slot, given his athletics should thrive as a PPR option in the slot. So, what about in standard leagues - those little 8 yards gains don't do a whole lot for us. But Godwin seems to be a guy that can get in the endzone and is involved down there for this Bucs team. Listen to this stat:

chris godwin 2019 fantasy

Last year, Godwin led the Bucs with 11 targets inside the opponent's 10-yard line. O.J. Howard, Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson combined to see the exact same number of 10zone targets as Godwin. COMBINED. That 11 10zone targets were tied for 3rd most among NFL WRs last year. Again, he played on 57% of the Bucs snaps in 2018. He didn't convert a single one during his rookie season, but he was still 2nd on the team in 10zone targets so it shows Winston is a fan of him down there.

Cameron Brate needs to gtfo of Tampa Bay tbh. I read a study by the American Health Association that Cameron Brate is actually the leading cause of anxiety in America.

Regardless, I think Godwin is in line to see a massive uptick in playing time. If he's playing in the slot, with Jackson and Humphries gone, opening up triple-digit target numbers, in an offense like Arians where we've seen what he did with a guy like Larry Fitz in the slot (albiet, he was the only thing in their passing game) - the floor for Godwin seems high. I think 75-85 receptions, 11-1200 yards and 8-10 touchdowns is certainly within grasp for Godwin.

 

Christian Kirk - Arizona Cardinals

Current ADP: WR30, 74th Overall

Y'all know we're all in on Kirk over here at the HQ.

Christian Kirk is going to be the top dog in Arizona’s receiving core as early as yesterday. What we have from Kirk is a sensational college resume. A breakout age of 18 years old, with a college dominator, the percentage of his college team’s receiving stats he accounted for in the 73rd percentile.

christian kirk 2019 fantasy

The list of NFL players that came into the league with a breakout age of 19.0 or younger, top 3rd percentile in dominator and did that at a power 5 conference school is crazy exclusive.

christian kirk 2019 fantasy

That's a pretty goddamn good list.

Kirk’s rookie season ended with a broken foot following Week 13. In the 10 games that he played with Rosen:christian kirk 2019 fantasy

This is a 16-game pace of nearly 100 targets and 900 receiving yards. Keep in mind how bad this offense was, and how much more accurate downfield Kyler Murray is than Josh Rosen. Kyler Murray and Kirk actually played together at Texas A&M back in 2015 during his freshman year, Kyler wasn’t the full-time starter but they were on the field together for around 650 of Kyler’s passing yards.

Again, back to how impressive those numbers truly were, as a rookie, while in this offense. Found this crazy, yet unsurprising stat as I was looking at how to identify top 24 WRs and such.christian kirk 2019 fantasy

Last year, Arizona ranked 20th in pace (secs/play) in neutral game scripts and 28th when trailing by 7 or more, which was the majority of the time. The ranked 31st in offensive plays/game - only Adam Gase's Dolphins ran fewer. He was setup for failure.

We have Kliff coming in, this offense will run a million more plays relative to 2019. What we know for sure is that this Cardinals offense is going to be up-tempo, fast-paced which points to good things for Kirk, along with the rest of the WRs.

From Scott Barrett's article on PFF - 96 stats -- 3 fantasy football stats for every NFL team for 2019 - "Last season, and among all 64 Power-5 teams, Kliff Kingsbury’s Texas Tech offense ranked third in snaps per game (84.8), fourth in pass percentage (57.9%), and fifth in targets to running backs (78)."

During Kliff's tenure down in Lubbock, the Red Raiders featured a passing attack that ranked in the top-10 in the country in all six seasons of his tenure, ranked in the top-20 nationally for total offense in all six seasons and finished in the top-25 in scoring five times. The offenses averaged at least 30 points per game, 470 total yards per game and 300 passing yards per game in all six seasons. The Red Raiders averaged over 500 yards of offense in four seasons and over 450 passing yards twice. Dating back to his first offensive coordinator job at Houston in 2011, a Kingsbury-led offense never finished outside the top-20 in the nation in total offense and never finished outside the top-15 in passing offense. He led the country in scoring and yards twice - we can go on for as long as a fucking 18-play drive. 

Kirk's air raid runs through versatile and athletic receivers. Kirk is the perfect fit for this offense, given his speed and versatility. In the air raid offense, he’ll be running on the outside and in the slot plenty, using his 4.47 speed to separate from defenders over the middle, but he played a lot downfield last year too, he ran 71% of his routes on the outside.

christian kirk 2019 fantasy

He had 100% of the Cardinals touchdowns of 40+ yards last year. He had a 20.4% target share in the offense last year, that’s great for a rookie and was super successful against pretty much all coverage types that are thrown his way. Matt Harmon from Yahoo, does the Reception Perception and puts it in the FFBallers UDK each year and Kirk didn’t disappoint – he had an 82% success rate vs. zone and nearly a 70% success rate vs. man coverage.

He can do it all, there’s a reason his closest player comp is Stefon Diggs. This offense is going to open him up – and that’s all we’re hearing out of camp. He’s been the best WR easily of the group, Kliff said he’s caught onto the crazy air raid offense very quickly, no surprise given what they ran at Texas A&M was a bit similar. I don’t listen to a lot of coach speak during this time of the summer, but when there’s smoke there’s fire, when you keep hearing the same thing over and over again, from different sources.

 

Curtis Samuel - Carolina Panthers

Current ADP: WR37, 91st Overall

Samuel isn't a guy, admittedly, that I really liked coming into the offseason, but man. The more and more I research. The more and more I read, articles, blog posts, beat reports about their training camp, the more I've come to the conclusion that there is no chance in hell I'm taking D.J. Moore in the 5th round with Samuel sitting here in the 8th or 9th round.

Samuel entered his rookie season with that deadly August hamstring pull. That lead to an ankle injury, which lead to a back injury and before you know it his rookie season ended with nothing to show for it in 8 appearances. In 2018, he entered the year with a heart issue that kept him out until Week 5. But from that point on, Samuel was legitimately good. He averaged more FPPG on the year than Moore did, scoring double-digit FPs in 7-of-13 (54%) games, compared to just 31% of the time for Samuel. He's fully healthy, he's a ridiculously explosive athlete and he's just 23 years old, coming into his 3rd NFL season.

curtis samuel 2019 fantasy

I will say this, there are a lot of numbers being thrown around comparing the two CAR WRs about how they finished, and how Samuel had more targets over the 2H, etc. but Cam didn't play Weeks 16 and 17 and was shot in Week 15 - plus his shoulder was clearly donezo over the last few weeks so I'm not sure we actually saw what this offense will look like in terms of target splits with Cam under center and them two on the field.

But what you're hearing out of Carolina about Samuel is pretty wild. Beat reports are going nuts about him, suggesting he might even be the true #1 herecurtis samuel 2019 fantasy

Ron Rivera is talking about how far along ahead he is compared to previous years, Norv Turner said Samuel is "becoming an outstanding route runner".

And that's echoed by route aficionado, Matt Harmon of Yahoo, his synopsis from Samuels' reception perception from this year:

"Samuel was the most stunning positive result from the 2018 charting process. If you still have any shred of belief that he is some sort of gadget, hybrid player based on his role at Ohio State, let it go. Samuel’s blistering 76.6 percent success rate vs. man coverage score puts him at the 94th percentile among players charted in Reception Perception’s history. He faced man coverage on 68.4 percent of his charted routes as the flanker receiver. Samuel has strong release moves off the line of scrimmage when he is pressed, with a 74.6 percent success rate (79th percentile). It is impossible to watch the 2018 Carolina Panthers and not realize that, right now, Samuel is clearly the best route runner and separator on the team. He also demonstrated tremendous ball skills in tight coverage, seeing a contested-catch attempt on 35.2 percent of his sampled targets and hauling in 73.7 percent. It is not a stretch at all to say Samuel looks like an early-career Stefon Diggs. Not only do they run routes the same way, but their Reception Perception results are also strikingly similar."

curtis samuel 2019 fantasy

The guys that had a higher success rate vs man coverage than Samuel did last year: Michael Thomas, Odell Beckham, Davante Adams, Antonio Brown, Stefon Diggs, Keenan Allen. That's it. Right underneath him: Julio Jones, Tyreek Hill and Calvin Ridley.

The team overall really doesn't have much on the outside, at all. I don't think for a second Greg Olsen is holding up in 2019 - it could be a giant funnel on the outside to Samuel and Moore, both can eat, with C-Mac getting the dump-offs. I realistically wouldn't be surprised if going into next year we're talking about this duo as one of the most polarizing duos in the NFL - but I'm not looking to grab both guys and I'll take Samuel over Moore 4 rounds later all day and then tomorrow.

There's just too much smoke coming out of Samuel's corner for this not to be a thing right now.  

Honorable Mentions

Marquez Valdes-Scantling - Green Bay Packers

 

Keke Coutee - Houston Texans

 

Less Than Honorable Mention, But Still Honorable

Dante Pettis - San Francisco 49ers

I get the hype, he was good down the stretch last year. And he's an exciting young player, that sits atop the wide receiver depth chart, probably by default. There's a lot of mystery factor here because we don't know what we're getting from Pettis - can he be a true #1? Eh. But this offense should be much better back with Jimmy G under center - however, that whole little breakout Pettis had, came without Jimmy G under center. So, I know Pettis will be a very popular breakout pick in 2019, I am not totally on board yet - someone sell me in the comments section. If you can sell me on Pettis - I'll give you a draft guide 100%. Good luck.

Anthony Miller - Chicago Bears

He was on my breakout last year, but if there's one lesson to learn from that, is that it's VERY hard to break out, especially as a rookie when you don't have an accurate quarterback. Not much has changed in Chicago.

J.J. Arcega-Whiteside - Philadelphia Eagles

Idk - I just like this guy a lot and he's been dominating training camp supposedly, down by the endzone where we knew he would - he needs to get on the field tho. If there's an injury to any of the top 3 guys in Philly - Alshon, D-Jax or Agholor - JJAWs will end up being a really popular WW pick up at some point this year.



Nick Ercolano
Nick Ercolano

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