To draft a solid squad in fantasy football, you want to pick players with skill, but you also want to pick players with opportunity. Last season, nobody was thinking about Kenny Golladay. However, when Golden Tate was traded to the Eagles and Marvin Jones went down with an injury, Golladay flourished as Matthew Stafford’s primary target. The opportunity to be the top receiver in Detroit allowed Golladay to showcase his value to fantasy football owners. Now in 2019, Golladay is being drafted in the third or fourth round after being a nobody just a season ago.
However, most breakout candidates are players that the average fantasy owner has heard of; a breakout candidate is someone who has been ineffective at times or performed marginally in years past, but will improve tremendously. Everyone is always looking for a sleeper in their fantasy football draft. If that sleepers becomes a star, he has broken out. Over the course of the 2019 season, the list of players below will transform into absolute studs.
Mitch Trubisky, Chicago Bears (ADP: 174)
I get the feeling that the Bears have been very cautious thus far with Trubisky and that they are about to unleash him this season. The Bears are stacked with weapons on offense, and this will be his second year in Matt Nagy's complicated offense. Let's not forget that Trubisky is mobile too, rushing for 400-plus yards in 14 games last season. The best part about Trubisky is that you can draft him as a late QB2 in deeper drafts and watch him grow into a full-time starter.
Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens (ADP: 192)
I can't promise you that Jackson will be a consistent scorer each week. I can promise you that there will be some weeks where his ceiling is astronomically high, and he will lead all QBs in fantasy points. If Jackson rushes for over 1,000 yards as expected, all he will need to do is to throw for 200-plus yards per week with a TD to be a fantasy superstar. The Ravens have plenty of weapons for him with Miles Boykin, Marquise Brown, Mark Ingram, Justice Hill, and a myriad of talented tight ends. Now, all Jackson has to do is get more comfortable in the pocket and figure out how to read opposing defenses so he can get to the next level.
Josh Jacobs, Oakland Raiders (ADP: 40)
Very rarely do rookie running backs come into a situation as awesome as the one Jacobs has inherited in 2019. The Raiders are awful offensively, and they are desperately looking for an exciting three-down back. Jacobs showed great speed and quickness at Alabama and is built such that he is dangerous in short-yardage situations too. While he lacks fluidity as a pass receiver, he is decent enough to get about 30-35 receptions this year and stay on the field on third downs. I can see Jalen Richard playing in blowouts, but if the game is close, Jacobs should be in there. Jacobs has been going in the late third- to early-fourth round in drafts, but he might end up having second-round value come season's end.
Rashaad Penny, Seattle Seahawks (ADP: 71)
Fantasy owners need to be patient with Penny because the breakout is coming—I am just not sure when. Right now, Penny is sharing carries with Chris Carson, but smart fantasy football owners know that the season is a long one and things happen over 16 weeks. Just because Penny is not starting today doesn't mean that he won't get the job in Week 11 and lead teams to fantasy championships. Call it a hunch, but I think Penny's opportunity to shine happens in 2019 and I don't mind stashing him on my roster until that happens.
Duke Johnson, Houston Texans (ADP: 139)
After Cleveland signed Kareem Hunt, Duke Johnson realized that his time with the Browns was coming to an end. He finally got his wish and was sent to the Texans last week. I love the landing spot for him and think he could be extremely successful playing in Houston. Johnson has been underutilized as a runner, and he could eclipse 100 carries this season. He also seems to be a lock for 60-plus receptions either out of the backfield or in the slot should Keke Coutee be injured again. Most of all, I have little confidence in starter Lamar Miller, so I think Johnson is a steal in the middle rounds.
Chris Godwin, Tampa Bay Bucs (ADP: 41)
Last year in Las Vegas, I was able to draft Bucs WR Chris Godwin in the ninth round of most of my drafts. This year, his ADP has jumped much higher, and he is now going in the fourth round of drafts. Is this too great of a jump? Not a chance! Godwin is a future star in this league and my pick for breakout player of the year. More importantly, it seems like Bucs new head coach Bruce Arians has fallen in love with Godwin as well, telling reporters that Godwin will stay on the field full-time. This should increase his snap count dramatically and put him in position to get 1,000-plus receiving yards this season. Two other things to note: 1) Having Mike Evans on the other side of the field helps Godwin, as Evans always draws the attention of the opposing team's top CB which creates a mismatch for Godwin, and 2) The Bucs should be so horrible defensively that their offense will need to score points to keep them in games. For all these reasons, Godwin should be ready to break out for fantasy owners in 2019.
Christian Kirk, Arizona Cardinals (ADP: 62)
One of the things that I feel sets me apart from most other fantasy football analysts is that I enjoy watching college football. I watched Kirk tear up the SEC while playing for Texas A&M and saw how frustrated he was last season playing with Josh Rosen. This year that all changes with the addition of Kyler Murray. Head coach Kliff Kingsbury's air raid offense is primed to explode, and Kirk should be a huge beneficiary. His ADP is currently an early sixth-round pick, but I expect him to be a fifth-rounder for sure come late August.
Michael Gallup, Dallas Cowboys (ADP: 105)
I think Cowboys WR Michael Gallup steps up into becoming a legitimate threat this season. In his rookie year, Gallup averaged more than 15 yards per reception and started to gel nicely with QB Dak Prescott as the season unfolded. With Cole Beasley shuffling off to Buffalo and TE Jason Witten more of a mentor than the pass catcher that we remember, there should be plenty of opportunity for Gallup to build on last season's success. Gallup's breakout began in last year's 100-plus yard effort against the Rams in the playoffs, and he will continue to thrive this season. He plays in a division that has terrifically weak secondaries, and Dallas’s offense seems to want to throw more than it has in past seasons. I can see Gallup doubling his 2018 reception total from 33 to 66 with over 900-plus receiving yards and six or seven TDs.
Vance McDonald, Pittsburgh Steelers (ADP: 98)
Breakouts come when an opportunity arises. McDonald is in a perfect situation in Pittsburgh with Antonio Brown in Oakland and Jesse James in Detroit. Add in the fact that Big Ben loves throwing to his tight end and the makings are there for McDonald to have a breakthrough season. It would not shock me to see McDonald start the season as a top-10 fantasy tight end in most rankings and finish as a top-five option.
Dallas Goedert, Philadelphia Eagles (ADP: 153)
Call this a speculation play. If Zach Ertz gets injured at any point this season, Goedert's value jumps exponentially. The best part about drafting him is that he has standalone value even if Ertz stays healthy. The Eagles like to use the double tight end set in the red zone, and Goedert should easily eclipse last year’s numbers by 20%. Think 50 catches for 550 yards and five TDs without Ertz being injured. If Ertz is out, bump those numbers up to 70 catches for 800 yards and eight TDs.