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Breakout Wide Receivers You Must Own in 2019 - Mid-Round ADPs

As the relentless pace of draft season rapidly approaches its conclusion, the team at RotoBaller remains committed to providing you with all resources that are needed to prepare for your remaining drafts. That is why we are delivering an endless stream of news, research, and recommendations that are designed to help you achieve your championship aspirations.

This includes our latest analysis of players that are primed to deliver breakout seasons at each critical position. This article will focus on wide receivers that are destined for a major statistical surge but are not being selected until Rounds 6-8 during your draft process.

Their ADPs separate these players from several other prominent breakout candidates that are being drafted in earlier rounds. The receivers that will be examined should all function as reliable, highly productive options, that should also operate as integral components on your rosters.

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Robby Anderson, New York Jets: ADP 70

One year ago, Anderson was being selected at the onset of Round 8. His ADP was the byproduct of optimism that he could perpetuate his late-season momentum from 2017 when he averaged 98 yards-per-game (Weeks 8-13) and accumulated 941 yards.

But Anderson failed to build upon that encouraging sequence during the early portion of 2018, as he averaged a discouraging two-receptions and 27 yards-per-game in September. If his 123-yard performance in Week 5 is excluded, he averaged just 32.5 yards-per-game until Week 13.

However, after averaging just 4.3 targets per-game during his first six matchups, Anderson’s average rose to 8.5 during his final eight games. That soared to 9.75 in Weeks 14-17, which was the sixth-best average among wide receivers during December. His forgettable early-season production also became a distant memory after he was deployed more frequently on intermediate routes during that four-game sequence. The expanded usage propelled Anderson to a 104-yards-per-game average during Weeks 14-16, while he also generated three touchdowns during that critical span.

Anderson’s red zone opportunities also rose considerably, as all nine of his targets were collected during his last six contests. He ultimately led the Jets in targets (94), receptions (50), receiving yards (752), and receiving touchdowns (6), while his ability to operate as a dynamic downfield weapon boosted his season-long average to 15 yards-per-reception. He also finished third among all receivers in targeted air yards (TAY-16.5) and ninth in percentage share of team's air yards (TAY%-33.6%) according to NextGenStats.

Anderson should benefit from the rapport that he developed with Sam Darnold as the 2018 season progressed, while the addition of Jamison Crowder will force opponents to account for his presence in the slot. If Adam Gase follows through with his stated goal of expanding the diversity of Anderson’s routes, then these factors will help Anderson sustain his favorable late-season output throughout all of 2019. That will result in a breakout season that owners can embrace.


Curtis Samuel, Carolina Panthers: ADP 78

Samuel has been the subject in a surging stream of expectations during recent weeks. The topics have included his improved route-running, his favorable foot speed, and his unchallenged explosiveness. The enthusiasm escalated after his training camp performances, as he demonstrated his ability to blaze beyond defenders as a downfield weapon, while proficiently executing shorter routes through the middle.

Samuel’s collection of enticing attributes can result in a succession of big plays, and a significant increase in his overall production. This has placed the 23-year-old on the threshold of a breakout season while presenting potential owners with exceptional value at his current ADP.

Unwanted health issues (back/ankle) limited him to seven games and just 115 yards during his 2017 rookie season and relegated him to spectator status from Weeks 1-3 last season (irregular heartbeat). Once he finally emerged on the field, Samuels’ usage and production were equally microscopic. He averaged a 26% snap count from Weeks 4-11, which was reflected in his virtually undetectable averages of 2.7 targets and 20.6 yards-per-game during his first six matchups.

But the proliferation of his role resulted in an expanded snap count from Weeks 12-16 (90%). That coincided with a 21% count for Devin Funchess during that sequence and created a surge in Samuel’s targets (8-per-game-Weeks 13-17). His output also improved sizably during that span (4.5 receptions/60 yards-per-game), while he also led the Panthers in yardage during their matchups in Weeks 13 and 14 (88/80).

Despite the limited stage of a 47-touch season, Samuel still managed to generate seven touchdowns. He also collected all nine of his red zone targets during Weeks 9-17, and a healthy percentage of the 79 targets that Funchess captured in 2018 now awaits him. D.J. Moore is also primed to accrue outstanding numbers this season, and there has been escalating conjecture regarding the prospects of both Panther receivers. This includes comparisons regarding which player is most likely to deliver the most productive year. The belief from here is that Samuel and Moore can both achieve breakout status, with Samuel supplying exceptional value as your draft reaches Round 7.


Dede Westbrook, Jacksonville, Jaguars: ADP 79

Westbrook has not engendered the level of attention that other trendy targets such as Moore, Samuel,  and Chris Godwin have captured in recent months. However, the third-year receiver's desirable blend of speed, acceleration, and dependable hands should be utilized more effectively than at any other point of his career.

Westbrook played in seven games as a rookie in 2017 (core muscle injury) collecting 27 of 51 targets for 339 yards and a touchdown. His output rose in 2018, as Westbrook led the Jaguars in multiple categories - (101 targets/66 receptions/717 receiving yards/5 touchdowns). He also performed in all 16 of Jacksonville’s matchups (77,4% snaps). However, he consistently labored within an impaired aerial attack that ranked just 26th, while being perpetually encumbered by the well-chronicled inadequacies of Blake Bortles. However, Westbrook now appears destined to be the primary beneficiary of an impending transition to Nick Foles.

Westbrook operated in the slot on 92.1% of his routes in 2018 and garnered 93 of his 101 targets while performing inside. This places him firmly within Foles’ historical comfort zone. Foles launched 70.9% of his passes in the direction of Eagle slot receivers last season, which was second only to Jared Goff. Foles should transition fluidly into a pattern of frequent dependence on Westbrook. This will provide Foles with an opportunity to deploy his most dynamic weapon, who possesses the explosiveness to accumulate significant yardage after the catch.

The departures of Donte Moncrief and T.J. Yeldon have created 167 additional targets and Westbrook will be operating within a Jaguar roster that is largely hampered by a dearth of receiving talent. Oft-injured Marqise Lee will join D.J. Chark, Chris Conley, and Keelan Cole in providing competition for targets – although Cole does not appear to have the same degree of confidence from the Jaguar coaching staff. The uninspiring options at tight end (Geoff Swaim/Josh Oliver) will also be limited to inconsequential percentages of targets. This underscores Westbrook’s importance to Jacksonville’s passing attack while also presenting owners with a viable breakout option to target at his current ADP.


Christian Kirk, Arizona Cardinals: ADP 81

Kirk generated nearly 3,000  receiving yards during his three years at Texas A&M (2,856) while averaging 78 receptions and 8.6 touchdowns-per-season during his collegiate career. That provided the motivation for Arizona to deploy the 47th overall pick on Kirk during the 2018 NFL draft.

Kirk's established his presence last September, collecting a season-high eight targets, and generating his highest reception and yardage totals of the season (7 catches/90 yards). He was second only to Calvin Ridley among rookies in targets (68) before a broken foot abruptly ended his season in Week 13. That prevented him from continuing the promising usage and production that he had attained since Week 6.

Kirk had averaged 6.8 targets per game during those final 10 matchups while accruing 6+ in each contest. If you discard his 8-yard performance in Week 10, Kirk also averaged 61 yards-per-game during his last 10 contests. His pace would have resulted in 57 receptions and 787 yards throughout 16 games. That output would have placed him third among first-year receivers in both categories, and would also have led the Cardinals in receiving yardage.

He still tied for third among newcomers with 43 receptions and was fourth in yardage (590) despite the condensed season. Kirk also accrued those numbers despite the debilitating constraints of Arizona's substandard coaching and impracticable offensive approach. But Kirk Kingsbury's adaptation of the Air Raid offense will supply Kirk with an opportunity to utilize his strengths. He should also benefit from his previous experience with this strategic approach during his tenure at A&M, which includes a reunion with former teammate Kyler Murray. 65 receptions and 900 yards are attainable if Murray can overcome the deficiencies of Arizona’s offensive line.


Courtland Sutton, Denver Broncos: ADP 90

Denver’s projected distribution of targets among its arsenal of wide receivers is more nebulous than the majority of franchises. The 6’4”, 216-pound Sutton enters his second season with an opportunity to seize the Broncos’ WR1 responsibilities. His primary competition for targets appeared to reside with fellow second-year receiver Daesean Hamilton who had averaged 9.5 targets and 6.3 receptions per-game from Weeks 14-17. But Hamilton’s usage might be more constrained than previously expected due to Emmanuel Sanders’ rapid return from his devastating injury. The 32-year old‘s recovery from a torn Achilles has occurred well ahead of schedule while altering the original forecasts for teammates Hamilton and (to a lesser degree) Sutton.

But even though Sanders will now procure a more substantial role that what had previously appeared possible, Sutton can deliver a downfield presence that neither Sanders or Hamilton can provide. He possesses a favorable blend of size, route-running acumen, dependable hands, and the capability of capturing jump balls. This supplies him with the opportunity to lead the Broncos in targets, while easily providing a path for pacing the team in yardage, and red zone targets. If Sutton can capitalize on his strengths, he should deliver a sizable increase in his reception and yardage totals.

Sutton performed in all 16 games during his initial season and led Bronco receivers in snaps (819/76.3%). He ultimately captured 6+ targets in eight different contests, averaged 6.5 from Weeks 11-16, and generated 54 yards-per-game from Weeks 9-16. Sutton finished third among rookies with 704 yards and was deployed downfield with enough frequency to lead all first-year receivers with 16 receptions of 20+ yards. Sutton was also seventh among all receivers in yards-per-reception 16.8, and his average rose to 23.7 from Weeks 6-10.

There are several hurdles which do not exist with the other breakout candidates that have been examined. Sutton does need to improve on his 2018 catch rate (50%). It will also be incumbent on Joe Flacco to locate Sutton with accuracy, after finishing 29th in NextGenStats’ average air yards differential (AYD/-2.5). However, Sutton will function as Denver’s primary downfield weapon throughout the season. That places him in position to reach 900+ yards if the tandem of Sutton and Flacco can connect with any consistency.

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