Need Fantasy Football draft advice? Talk to CBS Sports on your Google Assistant to get insights on the best sleepers and to help decide between players. Just start with, "Hey Google, talk to CBS Sports."
When you base your rankings around a projection system, sleepers and busts come naturally. It can be as simple as identifying high-profile players who are going to disappoint and low-profile players who are going to surprise. But it's not so simple with breakouts, because most projections are going to struggle predicting a player will do something they've never done before.
That's why, if you've seen my projections, you're about to hear something that sounds more optimistic about these three receivers than my rankings suggest. These are breakout candidates who could post career years and smash their ADP. Here's how:
You've probably heard most of the hype surrounding Marquise Goodwin. He was Jimmy Garoppolo's favorite target at the end of 2017, commanding 24 percent of the team's targets. He turned those targets into 29 catches for 384 yards and a touchdown over the final five games of the season. The former Olympic long-jumper is one of the fastest players in the league, and he finally learned a deeper route tree in his first year with the 49ers. But there's always been the caveat: "Pierre Garcon will be back."
Garcon is back, but Goodwin is getting all the hype. There's the dusting of Richard Sherman; the reports indicating Goodwin is still the No.1 receiver; and nearly every day another highlight of Garoppolo finding his favorite receiver in practice. We shouldn't make too much of training camp chatter, but one thing we certainly haven't heard is that Garcon has come back and claimed the No. 1 role in this passing game.
Goodwin's 15-game pace with Garoppolo was 87-1,152-3. And that final number leads us to the final criticism of Goodwin: He doesn't score touchdowns. While it's true he's never scored more than three in a season, that's misleading. In 2016 he scored three touchdowns on 68 targets. In 2013 he scored three times on 32 targets. There's no reason to suspect he gets less than 100 targets in 2018, which should lead to five-plus scores. Goodwin is a borderline No. 2 receiver by my projections and he has upside beyond that. He's a steal as the 42nd receiver off the board on draft day.
Corey Davis did not live up to the hype as a rookie. He struggled to stay healthy, struggled to get targets, and struggled to produce when he did. But his final playoff game against the Patriots showed us why the Titans took him in the first round of the 2017 draft. Davis caught five of eight targets for 63 yards and two touchdowns against the Patriots.
Now that performance enough is not enough to propel him into breakout status, it was just a reason for hope. The reason for the breakout hype is the same reason he was the No. 5 overall pick in the draft. He's a big receiver who can get behind the defense, and in college he showed a "my-ball" mentality. He excelled in the end zone, just like he did in that game against New England.
I was still a little skeptical coming into camp but now that we've gone almost two full weeks without seeing Rishard Matthews on the field, I'm coming around. Davis looks every bit the part of the Titans No. 1 receiver. As long as he stays healthy that could mean near 80 catches with more than 1,000 yards and a possibility of double-digit scores.
At first glance, Amari Cooper may not seem to fit in this article. Isn't he more of a bounceback player than a breakout player? Not if you think he could reach a whole new level in 2018. Cooper had two outstanding years before a disappointing third season, but he's still just 24 years old and the Raiders are talking about feeding him the ball. Also, red zone vulture Michael Crabtree is gone, so there's hope for more touchdowns.
What does a Cooper breakout look like? It starts with targets. Let's take the Raiders at their word and say they target him like a true No. 1. We'll give him 144 targets, or nine per game. Let's disregard last year's 50 percent catch rate — he was playing hurt — and give him the 62 percent rate he posted in 2016. He's been right around 14 yards per reception for most of his career, so it doesn't take much imagination to see him hauling in a few more deep passes and getting up to 14.5.
That scenario gives Cooper 90 catches for 1,305 yards. In 2017 he caught seven touchdown passes on 48 receptions. I think you can do the math of how awesome he'd be if he comes anywhere close to that rate.
So what sleepers should you snatch in your Fantasy Football draft? And which wide receivers do you need to jump all over? Visit SportsLine now to get Fantasy Football cheat sheets from the model that called Alvin Kamara's huge breakout last season and find out.