(CBS Local)- One of the biggest questions that fantasy football owners ask themselves before their league draft is which players could be due for a breakout year? Three years ago, Ravens’ QB Lamar Jackson was coming off a solid rookie season, but then he erupted into a fantasy monster. Last year, rookie running back Jonathan Taylor and wide receiver Justin Jefferson made immediate impacts, totaling 215 and 186 fantasy points respectively.
For breakout players, there is always a mix of rookies and second-year players who establish themselves as the stars of the fantasy season. With that in mind, we took a look through the CBSSports.com fantasy football experts lists of potential breakout players to identify two at each position to watch. If you want to check out Jamey Eisenberg, Dave Richard, and Heath Cummings’ full explanations, CBS Sports’ fantasy football hub has you covered.
Jalen Hurts, Philadelphia Eagles
Hurts showed up on our Top 10 QBs rankings list for fantasy this season, so it’s not really a surprise that Jamey and Dave have him listed as a breakout player as well. One of the biggest reasons is, of course, Hurts’ ability to make plays with his legs in addition to his arm.
“Hurts looked the part of Fantasy star last year, when he scored 20, 43 and 19 Fantasy points in his first three starts against New Orleans, Arizona and Dallas, and he was on pace for 4,517 passing yards, 27 touchdowns and 11 interceptions, as well as 1,269 rushing yards and five touchdowns over 16 games. That’s likely not realistic, but his rushing potential gives him a huge advantage over most quarterbacks,” Eisenberg writes.
The projections have him throwing for 3,625 yards and 23 touchdowns while adding another 794 and five TDs on the ground for a strong 19.6 fantasy points per game average. At an ADP of 82 at the moment, Hurts is lasting into the sixth round in early drafts.
Joe Burrow, Cincinnati Bengals
Burrow was on his way to being a breakout fantasy star last year before getting injured in Week 11. He averaged 20 fantasy points per game last season, and the Bengals added his former teammate, J’Marr Chase with their first-round pick to upgrade his receiving corps.
In addition to expected improvement now that he’s seen NFL action and learned the pace of the game, Cummings points out that the Bengals were one of the most pass-happy offenses last season, averaging 40 attempts per game with Burrow under center.
There’s no reason to expect that to change with Chase in the fold. With a projection of 332 total points (19.5 per game) and an ADP of 106 at the time of writing (eighth round in 12-team leagues), Burrow can establish himself as a viable starting fantasy option this season.
Antonio Gibson, Washington Football Team
Gibson showed his ability to be a factor in fantasy last season, when he totaled 165 points (11.8 per game) in just 14 games, 10 starts for Washington. His value as a pass catcher is what makes him plenty exciting, considering he snagged 36 of 44 targets last season.
With Curtis Samuel added to the mix on offense and Ryan Fitzpatrick under center, the thought is that Gibson should have more room to operate than he did at times last season.
D’Andre Swift, Detroit Lions
With Kerryon Johnson now in Philadelphia and Adrian Peterson no longer on the roster, Swift becomes the top back in Detroit. The Lions added Jamaal Williams from Green Bay in free agency, but all expectations indicate that Swift will get the majority of the workload.
The Lions added to their offensive line by bringing in rookie tackle Penei Sewell with their first-round pick and, as Cummings notes, Detroit’s offense is likely to be running back friendly.
“Anthony Lynn’s offenses have historically been very running back friendly, with the position garnering more than 30 touches per game most years,” Cummings writes.
Swift is a factor in the passing game as well with 46 receptions for 357 yards last season, and that was with Detroit still having Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones (both gone) on the roster. He’s getting drafted early (ADP of 17) but he’s just outside the Top 10 running backs in projections so, if you find yourself in the mid-second round looking to add another back, Swift is a solid choice.
CeeDee Lamb, Dallas Cowboys
This is pretty simple. Lamb fell just short of 1,000 yards receiving last season (935) and was just outside the Top 20 of fantasy receivers, despite having a mix of Andy Dalton, Ben DiNucci and Garrett Gilbert throwing to him after Dak Prescott went down.
Prescott is back healthy and Lamb enters Year 2 as part of a dangerous Cowboys offense. As Eisenberg points out, Lamb was over 16.2 PPR points in every game with Prescott last season, seeing eight targets per game. No reason to believe that won’t continue as the two build more chemistry together in a full year.
Ja’marr Chase, Cincinnati Bengals
There have been reports recently of Chase struggling in training camp which is exactly the opposite kind of news that potential fantasy owners want to hear. But, even with the struggles, there will be opportunity available to Chase in the Bengals offense.
As mentioned above, the team was one of the most pass-happy in the league last season with Joe Burrow attempting 40 throws per game. Three receivers, Tyler Boyd, Tee Higgins and A.J. Green topped 100 targets as a result. Green is now in Arizona and Chase steps in to work with his former LSU teammate. At the very least, you’d expect him to get as many targets as Green did (104).
Projections have him at 111 targets over the course of the season and totaling 144 fantasy points in non-ppr leagues (223.3 in PPR).
Dallas Goedert, Philadelphia Eagles
Goedert appeared in two of the three breakouts pieces thus far, and he’s expected to be the starting tight end for the Eagles when they line up in Week 1. The only uncertainty here is whether Zach Ertz will still be with the team. If he is, the ceiling for Goedert likely lowers some, as Ertz is still a viable tight end. But, if Ertz is gone, Goedert showed what he can do as the main focus at tight end last season.
“Goedert played four games in 2020 with Ertz injured, and Goedert scored at least 18 PPR points in two of those outings. And in two full games with Hurts he saw 14 targets,” writes Eisenberg.
The Eagles tight end made an appearance on the Top 10 tight ends ranking as well and is projected to finish inside the Top 10 this season.
T.J. Hockenson, Detroit Lions
As alluded to in D’Andre Swift’s notes above, the Lions passing game doesn’t have a ton of proven options in the receiver corps. That’s what makes Hockenson very appealing.
He was targeted 101 times last season and hauled in 67 receptions for 723 yards and six touchdowns. With an unsettled receiving corps after the departures of Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones in free agency, Hockenson may be the best available option for new starting QB Jared Goff.
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