If you missed last night's Fantasy Football Today Draft-A-Thon, you missed six straight hours of Fantasy talk – but don't worry, you can watch it all on-demand on our YouTube channel right here.
We had an awesome time with some amazing guests, including Deebo Samuel, who had this to say to our Fantasy Football audience:
"My question to y'all is, have you had your Fantasy drafts yet? Because my input about Brandon [Aiyuk] is, you can't cover him in a phone booth right now."
That fits with everything we've heard from 49ers training camp, but Samuel would know, if anyone would. The 49ers are one of the most fascinating teams in the league from a Fantasy perspective right now, because they have so many elite weapons, with a new quarterback bringing a lot of questions about how they're going to get the most out of them.
The Draft-A-Thon really was a great time, and we raised a ton of money for our friends at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, all thanks to you, our audience. And we're still going, with a ton of awesome experiences and prizes still available to be auctioned off on our eBay storefront – including a private Zoom call with me to chat before your draft. You'll have a chance to ask me any questions you want, so get those bids in!
Now, let's get back to the Fantasy advice. We got some good stuff from Dave Richard Wednesday in the form of his Deep Sleepers list, where he tapped Isaiah McKenzie as his Sleeper of the Summer. If you listen to the Fantasy Football Today in 5 podcast – subscribe here, if, for some odd reason, you don't – you know Dave and I talked about McKenzie earlier in the week, and he also made my sleepers list Wednesday, so I'm in full agreement there.
Today's newsletter is all about breakouts, who are sometimes sleepers but are also sometimes early round picks. They can be anyone you want them to be, as long as they are players who are going to take their game to the next level. As Jamey Eisenberg put it on one of our FFT shows this week, sleepers win you weeks; breakouts win you leagues.
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One last round of breakouts
On Wednesday's episode of Fantasy Football Today on CBS Sports HQ, Jamey Eisenberg, Heath Cummings, and Dave Richard talked about some of their favorite breakouts for the 2022 season, so here are some of their picks before we get to mine. We also talked about some of these players on the FFT Podcast:
Jamey's Favorite Breakout
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My favorite breakout picks
- Jalen Hurts – Hurts is such an obvious breakout candidate that I almost don't want to include him, but … well, there's a reason he's an obvious candidate. There's no established QB who is better positioned for a career season after the Eagles went out and added A.J. Brown, one of the best wide receivers in football. Hurts has QB1 overall upside.
- Tua Tagovailoa – Tagovailoa might be the QB with the second best chance to break out. His upside for Fantasy probably isn't as high because he won't run like Hurts, but the addition of Tyreek Hill and new coach Mike McDaniels could transform Miami's offense. This could be one of the best offenses in the league, and Tagovailoa should be in line for easy career-best numbers. 4,500 yards and 35 touchdowns isn't an unreasonable ceiling for Tagovailoa.
- James Conner – There are those who will tell you Conner has enjoyed too much success at the NFL level to qualify as a breakout, but I think there's a decent chance we haven't seen the best of him yet. The Cardinals are going to use multiple backs, we know that from their history, but they don't necessarily have an obvious option to dominate passing downs, so the hope here is Conner remains the primary rusher – especially near the goal line – and also gets more targets. He had 39 targets all of last season, with 34 of them coming over his final seven games. If he has that kind of usage again, Conner could be good for close to 100 total yards per game and 60-plus catches. If he does that and continues to dominate goal-line work, he's going to be a top-six back.
- Rhamondre Stevenson – Stevenson just may be the pass-catching back for the Patriots to open the season, and at the very least, it sounds like the Patriots are going to give Stevenson and Damien Harris more of a chance on passing downs this season. The hope is that Stevenson locks up a majority of the passing downs early on, because then he would be a Harris injury (or underperformance) away from being in a very valuable spot. Harris is the most likely back to lead the Patriots in carries, but Stevenson is the one to target for upside.
- Rashaad Penny – Penny's injury history is hard to ignore, but one thing I feel pretty confident about is that he's going to get a lot of work when he's healthy. He closed out last season with 92 carries over the final five games, and with rookie Ken Walker recovering from hernia surgery, Penny's path to early-season work seems clear. And despite Walker being an early-round pick, Pete Carroll is the kind of coach who is going to ride Penny if he's going well – Penny got just 85 carries as a first-round rookie, third on the team, back in 2018. This will probably be a pretty bad offense, but Penny is still well situated for career-best numbers, and I'd rather roll the dice on him in the eighth round than take Dameon Pierce in the fourth or fifth.
- DJ Moore – There's no questioning Moore's ability to rack up catches or yards – only four wide receivers in NFL history have more yards through their age-24 season than Moore. And he's done that while playing with probably the worst group of quarterbacks in the NFL over that span, in case you're wondering why he has just 14 touchdowns in that span. Baker Mayfield isn't a superstar, but his career 4.8% touchdown rate looks elite when compared to the 3.2% mark Panthers quarterbacks have posted collectively over the past four seasons. 100 catches, 1,300-plus yards, and six-plus touchdowns is well within Moore's grasp.
- Gabe Davis – I'm still trying to figure out if I want to include Davis in my busts piece as well as my breakouts – that's what I did in my Bills preview early in the offseason. Davis is clearly talented – you don't put up a four-touchdown effort in the playoffs without talent – and he's managed 9.2 yards per target and a near-10% touchdown rate over his two NFL seasons. The problem is, he just hasn't been on the field enough. We're expecting that to change, and if he manages to produce like he has so far on a per-target basis with a bigger role, it'll be easy for Davis to break out. I remain somewhat skeptical, but I've come around on him more as a breakout candidate than a bust, even if I have to spend a top-50 pick to find out.
- Marquise Brown – Brown and Lamar Jackson never quite got on the same page consistently enough for Brown to live up to his potential, so the hope here is that reuniting with his college QB will do the trick. It helps that Kyler Murray has completed a higher share of his passes 20-plus yards down the field over the past two seasons (43.4% vs. 34.3% on 44 more attempts). That was where Brown and Jackson really struggled – Brown had little trouble getting open down the field, but for whatever reason, Jackson had more success targeting other players deep than he did Brown. Brown figures to be the clear No. 1 option on this offense for at least the first six games while DeAndre Hopkins is suspended, and Brown has top-12 WR upside during that stretch.
- Allen Robinson – Yes, I know, Robinson has already broken out, several times before. Call it a "re-breakout" – or a "bounceback," I suppose – but I'm excited about Robinson's chances in this Rams offense no matter what you call it. If you go through every quarterback Allen Robinson has caught passes from in his career, you've got seven names, the best of whom as a passer might be … Andy Dalton? Maybe Nick Foles? Nobody nearly as good as Matthew Stafford, that's for sure, and he's never played with a coach like Sean McVay either. Robinson has long had to thrive on contested catches – more than one-quarter of his catches in four seasons in Chicago were contested – and if you're worried about a dip in athleticism being the cause of his struggles last season, he's going to get a lot more open looks with Stafford and Cooper Kupp. Robinson garnered rave reviews in camp, and a return to the 1,000-yard threshold is expected at this point.
- Elijah Moore – Moore was garnering Antonio Brown comps during training camp last season and had a stretch where it looked like that might not be totally unfair – from Weeks 8 through 13, he averaged 5.7 catches and 76.5 yards with five touchdowns in six games while playing with pretty subpar QBs. He missed the rest of the season, but has been healthy throughout camp and by all accounts has remained the team's best receiver – first-round rookie Garrett Wilson may not even start the season with the first-team offense. If the Jets get better QB play out of Zach Wilson when he's healthy, Moore has already shown massive upside.
- Kyle Pitts – Like Hurts, Pitts is the free square on the breakouts Bingo board. He was the third rookie tight end in NFL history to average more than 60 yards per game – and the first since 1973 – and he didn't even turn 21 until Week 5. The question for me isn't, "Will Kyle Pitts take a big step forward in his second NFL season?" The question is whether we're drafting him as the No. 1 tight end this time next year. I think we will be.
- Albert Okwuegbunam – Okwuegbunam has the size and athleticism to be an elite tight end, and the Broncos are going to have to rely on him given the injuries they've had among their passing game options. What makes me feel even better about this pick is literally as I'm typing this, I'm watching the FFT Draft-A-Thon and Ben Gretch just gave us this bold prediction: "Albert O. will be a top-five tight end." Okwuegbunam got snaps out of the slot in the preseason and they've talked about using him as their Tim Patrick replacement. And with rookie Greg Dulcich placed on IR to open the season, Okwuegbunam has no risk of losing playing time early on. If I'm not taking one of the first three tight ends on the board, I'm probably waiting for Okwuegbunam.
Injuries, news and notes
There were a couple of noteworthy wide receiver notes out of Green Bay Wednesday. The first is actually that the Packers only kept two running backs on their roster, Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon. That's an awfully thin depth chart, even in a league moving away from running backs.
But, that is apparently because Amari Rodgers is going to play some running back for them this season. In the preseason, Rodgers had six carries and seven catches, and even got a few carries out of the backfield. That's not to say Rodgers is going to be the second coming of Deebo Samuel, but it's a way for him to get on the field, and it's an interesting wrinkle that puts him in the late-round discussion for deeper leagues.
The other note folks were talking about was this quote from Packers head coach Matt LaFleur:
"I don't think anybody's clear cut in front of the other guy. I think it's gonna be very much the ball's gonna get spread around and we're gonna try to feature different guys in different spots."
The Packers entered camp with a ton of ambiguity on their depth chart, and it seems they enter the season with the same. They kept seven wide receivers on their 53-man roster, and there just hasn't been much indication out of camp that any one wide receiver is ahead of anyone else.
That's been my assumption all along, which is why I haven't really drafted any Packers wide receivers. The group of Allen Lazard, Sammy Watkins, and Randall Cobb just doesn't do much to excite me, and if I'm drafting anyone here, it's a late-round flier on the likes of Romeo Doubs or second-round pick Christian Watson. But, I'm expecting this to be a mess, with no clear WR1 worth using in Fantasy. I'll let other people deal with the headache.
Zach Ertz, Rondale Moore in question for Week 1
Ertz is dealing with a calf injury, while Moore's issue is "undisclosed." Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury was noncommittal on both players' status, saying they "will be close" for Week 1. Both players figure to be a big part of the offense with DeAndre Hopkins suspended for the first six games, but they have to get healthy first. Moore was at least working on a side field Wednesday, so my bet is that he's closer. He'll be in the WR4/5 conversation when healthy, while Ertz is a low-end starting TE – however, given that Ertz is in his 30s, the training camp injury is a real concern. I'm not in on Ertz.
The Chargers signed Sony Michel
Michel was cut by the Dolphins at the end of training camp, but it unsurprisingly didn't take him long to find a new job. The question is, is Michel signing with the Chargers to be the primary backup/complement to Austin Ekeler? That's my assumption, ahead of someone like Joshua Kelley, who doesn't really have any experience as a lead back. Michel does, and he was actually pretty solid in filling in for the Rams last season, averaging 101 total yards with three touchdowns over the final six games of the season. Michel will have RB3/4 appeal with Ekeler healthy, but he could be a top-12 guy in this option if Ekeler were to miss time. Put him on your late-round draft board.
Kadarius Toney was back at practice Wednesday
Toney was running routes and looked like he was at full speed in individual drills, which is a great sign – though, as Dan Duggan of The Athletic noted, "the challenge is keeping him that way for the next 10 days." Toney has a bunch of upside if he can just manage to stay healthy, but he played just 10 games as a rookie and has dealt with injuries during the offseason, too. He's going undrafted in more than half of CBS Fantasy leagues right now, and he's one of my favorite late-round picks right now.
The 49ers waived Trey Sermon
Well, I just named Sermon as a sleeper yesterday, so that's embarrassing. He's expected to re-sign with the 49ers practice squad, so there could still be room for him if there is an injury, but it's not a great sign that he was the guy the team opted to let go through waivers. I do think it makes Tyrion Davis-Price and Jordan Mason intriguing late-round fliers in deeper leagues, too, instead of Sermon.
Jalen Reagor was traded to the Vikings
Reagor ends up joining the guy the Eagles passed up to take Reagor, but it's not clear he's going to have much of a role. The Vikings like K.J. Osborn as their No. 3 wide receiver, so Reagor is probably there to provide some depth after Bisi Johnson suffered a torn ACL. But, hey, if you're in a deep league, add Reagor to the taxi squad and keep an eye out to see if he has a role in what we expect to be a much more pass-happy Vikings offense.