Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Breakouts: Terrelle Pryor on the Verge of WR1 Status
- These receivers will still be available in the middle and late rounds of your 2017 fantasy football drafts, but they'll play like early-round stars.
The Staples Series of the SI/4for4 Fantasy Football Draft Kit will cover the three labels fantasy owners have come to know and love over the years: breakouts, sleepers and busts. In this installment, SI’s Michael Beller and 4for4’s John Paulsen give their breakouts at the wide receiver position.
Terrelle Pryor, Washington Redskins (ADP: Round 4)
Yes, Pryor broke through his perceived ceiling last season, catching 77 passes for 1,007 yards and four touchdowns, finishing as the No. 21 receiver in both standard and PPR formats—all while playing for a Browns team that finished 30th in yards per game and 31st in points per game. That’s where Pryor’s 2017 breakout candidacy takes off. He’s now part of a Washington offense that is one of the most pass-friendly in the league; in two years with Kirk Cousins at the helm, the Redskins have 4,426.5 passing yards per season and 24.2 points per game. By comparison, the 2016 Browns had 1,200 fewer passing yards and averaged 16.5 points per game.
Pryor now plays in an offensive environment in Washington he only could have dreamed of in Cleveland. Even though he won’t have much of the passing game to himself the way he did with the Browns, the upgrade in overall environment is well worth what he might give back in target share. Pryor can be a WR1 this season. — Michael Beller
Stefon Diggs, Minnesota Vikings (ADP: Round 7)
There’s no doubt that Diggs has been held back by his quarterback play in Minnesota, and that could continue with Sam Bradford at the helm in Minnesota this season. Still, Diggs is too good to be mired in WR3/4 territory forever, and Bradford isn’t a helpless case under center in the Brock Osweiler mold. The third-year receiver out of Maryland has 136 receptions on 195 targets for 1,623 yards and seven touchdowns in his career. That translates to 1.05 fantasy points per target in standard-scoring leagues, and 1.74 points per target in PPR leagues.
By comparison, the top-12 fantasy receivers averaged 1.26 standard-league points per game, and 1.89 PPR-league points per game. Diggs isn’t far off that pace, and he achieved that while hitting the end zone just four times as a rookie, and three times last year. An uptick in targets and touchdown rate, both of which are in order, could turn Diggs into a top-20 receiver. — MB
DeVante Parker, Miami Dolphins (ADP: Round 9)
This has the feeling of a make-or-break season for Parker, despite the fact that he was a first-round draft pick just two years ago. Parker has all the talent in the world, but he hasn’t quite caught on in the NFL, hauling in 82 passes for 1,238 yards and seven touchdowns in his career. Like Diggs, he has dealt with a target share not befitting his talent level, accumulating 141 looks from Miami quarterbacks the last two seasons. Also like Diggs, he has done nearly as much as possible with an underwhelming number of targets, averaging 1.18 points per target in standard-scoring leagues, and 1.76 points per target in PPR formats. You’ll notice he’s even closer to the WR1 class than is Diggs on a points-per-target basis.
Unlike Diggs, however, Parker has a bad foot injury in his past that dates back to his final season at Louisville, and it’s possible that has robbed him of some of his explosiveness. There are also more reasons to worry about his target load than there are Diggs’s. First of all, the Dolphins are committed to a run-heavy offense after Jay Ajayi’s breakout 2016 campaign. Second, Jarvis Landry is the unquestioned target king in Miami, totaling 296 targets the last two seasons. Still, given Parker’s obvious talent and stage of his career, a breakout appears in the offing. — MB
Willie Snead, New Orleans Saints (ADP: Round 8)
After bouncing around on teams’ practice squads in 2014, Snead finally landed with the Saints. The next season he drew 101 targets, catching 69 passes for 984 yards and three touchdowns, following that up with 72 catches, 895 yards and four scores on 104 targets in 2016. Both stat lines translated to low-end WR3 in all fantasy formats, and that was with Brandin Cooks in town. Now that the Saints former No. 1 receiver is in New England, Snead’s role should increase significantly this year.
Cooks racked up 117 targets last year, leaving behind plenty of looks for Drew Brees to redirect toward Snead and Michael Thomas, and even with the latter as the clear No. 1 option, the former will benefit. Snead has played at least 70% of the snaps 17 times over the past two seasons, averaging 5.8 catches on 8.2 targets for 77 yards and 0.24 touchdowns per game. Had he played at that rate last year, he would have finished as the No. 14 receiver in standard leagues and as the No. 12 receiver in PPR formats. If Snead sees an additional 20 targets at his career fantasy-point-per-target average of 1.80, then a top-20 finish is definitely in the cards. — John Paulsen
Pierre Garcon, San Francisco 49ers (ADP: Round 10)
Garcon turns 31 in August, but he’s coming off a season where he caught 79 passes for 1,041 yards and three touchdowns in Washington. Garcon is the 46th receiver off the board in early drafts, but was the No. 22 WR in PPR formats last year—in fact, Garcon has turned in six top-40 fantasy seasons in the last eight years. Playing under Kyle Shanahan again (in 2013, Garcon caught 113 passes for 1,346 yards and five touchdowns with Shanahan as the Washington offensive coordinator), Garcon should see heavy volume, especially considering the lack of competition he’ll face for targets in San Francisco. Also working in Garcon’s favor is the likelihood that the 49ers will have to throw often due to negative game script. — JP
Cameron Meredith, Chicago Bears (ADP: Round 10)
Meredith began to rack up starter’s snaps in Week 5 last season, and from that point forward, he averaged five catches for 70 yards and 0.33 touchdowns per game, good for 14 PPR points per game—for reference, that’s what Demaryius Thomas scored as the No. 16 fantasy receiver in 2016. Meredith’s numbers are especially impressive considering he had a three-week stretch from Week 7 to Week 10 where he only saw two targets per game.
The 6' 3" receiver with an outstanding catch radius figures to be the most-targeted receiver in Chicago despite Kevin White’s return from injury. Quarterback could be an issue in Chicago, but Mike Glennon is a capable passer. Also, like Garcon and the 49ers, Meredith and the Bears are likely to face plenty of negative game script, which will probably force them to throw the ball more than they’d like. — JP
John Brown, Arizona Cardinals (ADP: Round 11)
Heading into last season, the 25-year-old Brown was one of the true up-and-coming receivers in the league, coming off of a 65-catch, 1,003-yard, seven-touchdown sophomore year. But Brown struggled with his sickle-cell trait and a cyst in his back, and he made only 39 receptions for 517 yards and two touchdowns. Heading into 2017, however, Brown is reportedly feeling like his old self again, and Carson Palmer has taken notice: “He doesn’t look like he looked last year. He just has a different energy about him. He’s heavier. He’s stronger. He looks more explosive than he did last year, I think, with all the health issues he had last year.”
Michael Floyd is out of the way, so outside of Larry Fitzgerald, Brown’s main competition for targets is J.J. Nelson and Jaron Brown. If John Brown is back to full health, he’s going to be a great value in the middle rounds. He’s currently going in the ninth through 11th rounds, on average, after having an ADP in the fifth round at this time last year. — JP