February 26, 2021

Time Skew

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Breakout WR’s – The Sophomore surge

6 min read
Everyone is looking for the next breakout star to win their league. In this article, we're going to look at the sophomore breakout candidates from an exceptional 2020 class that could grab you a fantasy championship.

Everyone is looking for the next breakout star to win their league. In this article, we’re going to look at the sophomore breakout candidates from an exceptional 2020 class that could grab you a fantasy championship.

The exceptional class of 2020 made a massive impact on the fantasy scene. From all positions, there were breakout stars, but let’s zero in on the WR’s that caused a stir. A total of 10 rookie WR’s caught at least 400 yards and two touchdowns. Additionally, 11 rookie WR’s finished in the top 80 with five finishing in the top 26. The below chart shows their season stats from weeks 1-16:

2020 Rookie WR Data Analysis (Stat Credits: Time Skew Fantasy)
(Image Credit: Grankforksherald.com)

2018-2020 breakout WR’s

The class of 2020 is deep at the WR position, providing a great opportunity for a breakout star to emerge next season. Over the past three seasons, we have seen 13 sophomore WR’s outscore their rookie season by more than 5.0 fantasy points per game. Therefore, predicting and drafting one of these players will be key to your 2021 draft strategy.

A closer look at the 2017-2019 rookie WR’s first two seasons is below, highlighting the big jump for most of the class.

2017-2019 WR Draft Class – Rookie & Sophomore Season Data Analysis (Stat Credits: Time Skew Fantasy and FantasyData)

Over the previous three seasons, a sophomore WR will (on average) increase their rookie season fantasy points by 57.7 or 4.2 per game. This average increase equates to an overall average sophomore season of 127 fantasy points or 9.5 per game. Additionally, DJ Chark has had the greatest breakout sophomore season over the last three years by scoring 158.5 fantasy points or 10.7 per game more than his rookie season. But who are the prime candidates to break out in 2021?

2021 early breakout WR’s

Quintez Cephus 6’1”, 202lbs – Detroit Lions

The Detroit Lions drafted Quintez Cephus in the fifth round from the University of Wisconsin. During his first year at Detroit, he caught 18 of 32 targets for 298 yards and a touchdown during weeks 1-16. The Lions front office has hit the reset button and traded long-time QB Matthew Stafford to the L.A. Rams. Detroit obtained their new starting QB in return in Jared Goff as well as two first round draft picks. The wide receiver locker room will see new faces next season as Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones and Danny Amendola all hit free agency this offseason. Therefore paving the way for the sophomore receiver to emerge as the team’s top receiver and be in line for a heavy workload.  Above all, if Goff and Cephus can start the year off on the right track together, Cephus has a chance to be the breakout receiver of the year.

Early prediction: 105 targets, 77 receptions, 989 yards, 7 touchdowns, WR 25

(Image Credit: Priceofdetroit.com)

Van Jefferson, 6’1”, 200lbs – Los Angeles Rams

Van Jefferson was drafted in second round by the Rams from the University of Florida. Jefferson had a sub par rookie year compared to the other receivers chosen in the first two rounds. He was targeted only 23 times, caught 15 for 170yards and a single score during first 16 weeks of the season. However, next year he is expected to breakout and serve as the Rams WR3 behind Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp. Not to mention the Rams have been busy this offseason. Following a second round loss in the playoffs to the Green Bay Packers, the Rams acquired Matthew Stafford in hopes to take them to the promise land. Stafford will provide a spark to the passing attack as he is widely known as a gunslinger and has thrown over 4000 yards in all but two seasons when he played all 16 games. Target Van Jefferson in your drafts and you will be thankful.

Early prediction: 97 targets, 75 receptions, 853 yards, 6 touchdowns, WR 32

(Image Credit: ramblinfan.com)

Collin Johnson 6’6”, 222lbs – Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jags selected Collin Johnson in the fifth round from the University of Texas. Johnson’s first year in Jacksonville saw him get utilized more in the offense as the season progressed. He finished with 18 catches on 31 targets and 2 TDs through weeks 1-16. Jacksonville’s offense will look totally different next year as they hold the first pick in the draft expecting QB Trevor Lawrence will join the team. Wide receivers Keelan Cole and Chris Conley are free agents opening the door for Johnson. Therefore, we believe Johnson will slot into the WR3 role on the team behind the duo of DJ Chark and Laviska Shenault. Provided Lawrence transitions well into the NFL in the early part of the season, the Jags will be more effective on offense. Take a chance on Johnson and brag to your league mates when he ends the year as a fringe WR3.

Early prediction: 85 targets, 63 receptions, 723 yards, 5 touchdowns, WR 36

(Image Credit: 247sports.com)

Tyler Johnson, 6’1”, 206lbs – Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The rookie season for Tyler Johnson was perfect. He was selected in the fifth round by the eventual Super Bowl Champion Buccaneers. Tyler recorded a total of 11 receptions, on 16 targets for 153 yards and 2 scores from weeks 1-16. During the playoffs and week 17, he caught an additional 3 balls on 5 targets for 47 yards. However, it is unknown who will stay on the team next season as Antonio Brown, Chris Godwin and Rob Gronkowski are all free agents. This potentially will create a significant void in the Bucs passing game providing opportunity for Johnson to flourish. In addition, Tom Brady plans to return and has been on record in the past stating that he genuinely believes in Johnson and trusts him in key situations. Therefore, look for Johnson late in your drafts as a shot in the dark candidate in a high scoring offense.  

Early prediction: 58 targets, 39 receptions, 573 yards, 5 touchdowns, WR 50

(Image Credit: bucswire.usatoday.com)

Devin Duvernay, 5’10”, 200lbs – Baltimore Ravens

Devin Duvernay finished the season with a relatively quiet year statistically. The third round rookie out of Texas compiled 20 receptions on 25 targets for 201 yards for the Ravens from weeks 1-16. Duvernay was unable to find the endzone through the air but managed to return a kickoff for a score in week 3. Duvernay hopes to find his way into a more permanent role in the offense next season. There is potential his snap count will increase with the likes of Willie Snead and veteran Dez Bryant on their way out. People believe Baltimore will sign a top free agent to play on the other side of Marquise Brown. If that happens Duvernay will compete against Miles Boykin for the WR3 role. If the Ravens begin to use him more effectively, he could be a boom/bust pick for you in the last round of your draft.

Early prediction: 52 targets, 35 receptions, 465 yards, 4 touchdowns, WR 60

(Image Credit: russellstreetreport.com)


Overall, a common element of your draft strategy next season should include selecting a few sophomore WR’s as depth options to your overall WR core. As the projections included within the article are current and are based on current NFL rosters, you need to understand many things can happen between now and your leagues draft. The NFL draft and free agency are still to come which will drastically affect the rosters of all teams. During the offseason, teams will also make trades and players will unfortunately get injured resulting in team depth charts and roles to change. Average draft positions will fluctuate throughout the offseason as more information is known. However, the one the constant is that these WR’s based on history will surge during their sophomore season and finish with a better statistical fantasy season.

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Jarrod "FridgeRaider" Gliddon
Jarrod “FridgeRaider” Gliddon

Reigning 2020 Playoff League & Keeper League Champ. (2x) HBFFL Champion.
Redraft writer for Time Skew Fantasy Football @timeskewfantasy
Co-host of HBFFL’s FF_Force Podcast

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