We're looking at the top 3 wide receiver breakout players for 2018 fantasy football. Guys who have flashed us some nip, but not the whole rack. Or have been completely covered, sweatshirt and all, but like most prude, high school girls, their freshman year of college is littered with 4 Lokos & booger sugar - in millennial terms, we call that, the breakout. 2018, we ain't saying the car's topless, we saying the titties is out.
JuJu Smith-Schuster - WR (Pittsburgh Steelers)
ADP: Overall 45, WR19
I'm sure y'all saw this one coming. I've shown JuJu a lot of love this summer, and it's not stopping anytime soon.
Let's get these statistics out of the way immediately. Last year JuJu's NFL rank for:
|Category||NFL Rank Among WRs||Statistic|
|QB Rating When Targeted||1st||130.6|
|Yards Per Target||
|Fantasy Points Per Target||
|Production Premium (per PlayerProfiler)||
|Target Premium (per PlayerProfiler)||2nd||+45.0%|
|Contested Catch Rate||3rd||73.7%|
|40+ Yard Pass Plays||4th||6|
|Fantasy Points/Opportunity (Standard)||4th||0.33|
Fantasy Points/Opportunity (PPR)
|Yards Per Route Run||10th||2.22|
|Fantasy Rank (STD)||WR6||10.3|
Fantasy Rank (0.5 PPR)
Fantasy Rank (PPR)
**WRs w/ 60+ targets (66)
JuJu will never be Antonio Brown, nor do we need him to be. I very much see him being the Randall Cobb to Antonio Brown's Jordy Nelson, circa 2014. In all honesty, JuJu struggles against press & man coverage, and he's not a great outside receiver, but the Steelers used him perfectly last year as a slot/flanker, which got him away from physical coverage. Per Matt Harmon of NFL.com, JJSC saw press coverage on just 20.5% of his snaps last year. Them drafting James Washington was actually a blessing for Schuster. And plus, the fact that he's so good at contested catches, 3rd in the NFL last year, says he can win even when he has trouble beating press coverage, his hands are incredible.
Now they know what they have in the 2nd year breakout player, and they know how to use him. Once they realized this halfway through 2017, it was on. From Weeks 8-17 (7 games), the rookie's per game averages were 7.6 targets, 5.9 receptions and 98 receiving yards, while scoring in 4-of-7. "He did it while Antonio Brown was hurt!". Okay, well 5 of those 7 games came WITH Brown in the lineup. His per game numbers in those 5? 7.2 targets, 5.2 receptions and 93.6 receiving yards, scoring twice. A tiny drop off.
And for people worried about Big Ben being an issue, here are Ben's second half of the year stats, in his last 8 games - 2,506 yards and 19 touchdowns, yes that averages out to over 5,000 yards and 38 touchdowns, not including his 460-yard, 5-touchdown playoff performance against Jacksonville.
Cooper Kupp - Los Angeles Rams
ADP: Overall 86, WR35
There are a couple things I love about Kupp this year in fantasy. First is that he's the cheapest of the three Rams WRs. Second, I just love Cooper Kupp the player.
I can totally understand if you don't like this pick. I think most of you would probably agree that Kupp is a good player. But you'll probably say that there are too many weapons in LA, and it's going to be hard for him to surpass his production from last year. The safe thing to say is, yeah, he'll probably match it's more of just a gut feeling. I really think, and I'm penning this, so when MFs try to steal this from me next year, y'all heard it first, he's the white Keenan Allen. and bleh. I get that. Honestly, this one
Kupp led the Rams WRs in targets, receptions, yards, tied with Woods for touchdowns. As a rookie. He led all rookies in catches as well with 62. He trailed JuJu in both yards and touchdowns, but a stellar rookie szn nonethemore, finishing as WR23 in PPR leagues, ranking 15th in FPPO, and was a top-16 fantasy WR from Weeks 7 on, and that's not including that 8-69-1 playoff game versus Atlanta.
Coming into his rookie year, we didn't know his role for sure or how this offense was going to work. Now we do, clearly. Kupp was their slot receiver, and will continue to be now that they added Brandin Cooks on the outside. It's very similar to JuJu in that Kupp will succeed tremendously in this spot, but not outside. He's not good against press and man coverage, but he almost never saw it last year and won't again this year. He ran the 5th most routes vs. zone coverage last year in the NFL, which is what many slot WRs see, he had over an 81% success rate vs. zone coverage per Matt Harmon's reception perception, which was tied with Larry Fitz, and ranked ahead of Keenan Allen, Adam Thielen, Jarvis Landry, JuJu Smith-Schuster. And if you swap Tate for Keenan, those are the only slot WRs that had a higher contested catch rate than Kupp last year.
He's also a guy that moves well with the ball in hands, breaking at least 1 tackle o 40% of his catches and 2 or more tackles on 12%. Despite his aDOT being 9.7 ranking 55th among 67 qualified WRs, his 14.0 YPR ranked 22nd and his 9.7 YPT ranked 9th in the NFL.
Now, his 5 receiving touchdowns, I think is all but a guarantee to improve. He had the 2nd most (tied with D. Adams) WR RZ targets in the NFL (23) last year. And imo, not even in my opinion, but factually speaking, Watkins is much more dangerous down the end zone than Cooks is. Watkins actually saw 2 less RZ targets and just 1 fewer target inside-the-10 yard line last year than Cooks did, despite seeing 43 fewer targets. That's just not Cooks' strength, so I don't think the targets that Kupp saw down there are flukey, I think he's Goff's safety blank, especially in tight spaces, like in the RZ, which leads me to my last point.
What I also love is the intangible, the chemistry between Goff and Kupp. That's something that's not going away, and something that's only going to continue to get stronger as these two grow older together, like some married folk.
Anthony Miller - Chicago Bears
ADP: Round 14-16, almost undrafted.
I have a serious man-crush on Anthony Miller, the WR out of Memphis who the Bears traded up for in the 2nd round to grab in the draft. An absolute playmaker in every sense of the word. Also a state champion in the 110-meter hurdles and long jump. A tremendous route runner, with strong hands (has some focus drops but makes ridiculous plays on deep passes and in tight windows so I'm not worried about hands at all), and most importantly, since we're expecting to see him in the slot for the Bears, his agility and burst score rank in the 83rd and 85th percentile, respectively, per PlayerProfiler.com. An 89th % SPARQ athlete, who was prolific in college, Miller scored 33 touchdowns over his final two szns at Memphis. 15 his sophomore year, 18 his senior year. That goes along with 191 catches and 2,896 receiving yards... I think certain guys like this, just have a knack for the end zone. Antonio Brown being one of them... Miller's kinda old already, going to turn 24 in October, so I ain't gonna say he's the next A. Breezy, but if you watch him play, he literally jumps off the screen at you, his route running, his burst and agility, he literally plays just like Brown does, I can't wait to watch this kid play.
The big question mark for Miller is can he get enough volume? Well when you look at everything initially, you're like, no way. But as improved as the Bears offense is, there are a TON of unproven players and question marks. Allen Robinson will lead the team in targets, but I honestly think Miller will be second. They brought in Trey Burton and Taylor Gabriel. Gabriel is pretty much a one-trick pony, who's never caught more than 37 passes in a season and that was back in 2014, and then you have Trey Burton who will definitely give Miller a run for his money in the target category, but Burton's also an unproven guy who's never handled TE1 duties, 37 catches and 327 yards are his career-highs, so again, unproven.
Let's take a look back at last year, Mitchell Trubisky, started 12 games for the Bears. A small sample size, with small pass attempt volume, but I wanted to look at where he was throwing the ball. Welp, what do you know, Kendall Wright led all offensive players by at least 30 targets. And I want to stick to that point. On an episode of the Fantasy Feast I recently listened to featuring Evan Silva, Warren Sharp and Ross Tucker, Sharp goes in depth about how efficient Trubisky is when throwing the ball over the middle, to his slot receivers and tight ends. Even going back to college, for Trubisky's one magical season at UNC as their starter, who was their leading receiver? Ryan Switzer. The 5-8, 185lb slot receiver, formerly of the Cowboys, now part of the Raiders. He caught 96 passes for over 1,100 yards with Trubisky.
So with Miller, it's more of the eye test, I would highly recommend you go to PlayerProfiler and type in Anthony Miller, go to the bottom of his page and watch the video of him against UCONN, you're gonna be amazed. But yeah it's the eye test, the college production and measurables, combined with banking on some good luck, that Trubisky is who the Bears think he is, and that the coaches put him on the field, a lot. Because he's very capable of playing both the outside and slot. I'm making a bold prediction right now, Miller keeps that nack for the endzone, and scores 8 times this year. Yes 8. You done heard it here.