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The Case for a Kadarius Toney Breakout in 2022 Fantasy Football

Fantasy football leagues can be won in many different ways, but one way to certainly increase your chances is by finding players that go in the later rounds but end up breaking out. Of course, there is no shortage of content out there about players that can break out this season. There are already some popular names being thrown out such as Gabriel Davis, Jerry Jeudy, Courtland Sutton, all the rookies, and a whole bunch more. But one player that is not thrown out there too often, unless you follow me on Twitter then you may be sick of hearing this name, is Kadarius Toney

Toney finished his rookie season with just 39 catches and 420 yards with no touchdowns. I get that those numbers are uninspiring and would not draw excitement from the masses. But that leads to a decreased ADP and getting him at a better value, so let others continue to hard on his rookie production in what was a very tumultuous year for Toney and the Giants. 

So why should you be getting fired up for Toney? Well, there are a number of different reasons such as his rookie production, what he put on film last year, and a new coaching staff with a better all-around situation than a year ago. 

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The Case for Kadarius Toney 

The Giants selected Toney in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft and like most teams, took it a little slow with their rookie. After hardly seeing the field in the first two weeks, he got a bit more run in Week 3. But still, he saw only five targets through the first three games. And no, that doesn’t mean anything and if you think it does, look at Justin Jefferson’s first three games in his rookie season.

What matters is what the rookie does once the team allows them to see the field. In Weeks 4 and 5, Toney saw a combined 22 targets, going for 16 catches and 267 yards. That included 189 yards against the number one ranked Cowboys defense. The next week, he came out and saw three targets on Daniel Jones's first four pass attempts before suffering a high ankle sprain and missing the rest of that game and the next week. After that injury, it led to awful QB play as the Giants had to turn to Jake Fromm and Mike Glennon down the stretch.

In games where Toney saw nine or more targets, he averaged 83.8 yards per game, a 1,424-yard pace, and averaged 16.82 fantasy PPG. That was all still while not scoring a touchdown, something that is very unlikely to happen again. He showed that when he was given the opportunity, he can produce at a high level. 

While we are using a small sample size with Toney, he stood out from a metrics standpoint as well. Toney led all Giants receivers in yards per route ran (2.2), catch rate (68.4 percent), and was second in rating when targeted (82.5), behind only John Ross. In fact, despite missing all that time last year, Toney led the Giants receivers in catches. Additionally, despite fewer opportunities than others, he led them in YAC (239 yards) and YAC over expectation at 62 yards - no one else even reached double digits. What that means is that Toney was not put in a position to do a ton of damage after the catch, but was able to anyway because of his speed and shiftiness. Toney was 16th in the entire NFL in expected YAC over regular YAC, meaning that he overperformed at a high rate. He also created more yards of separation (3.4) than any of the Giants receivers and led them in target share (30 percent) when he was on the field. 

One issue was how Toney was used, as he only saw four targets of 20-plus air yards and two end-zone targets. That largely falls on the QB play, especially in the second half of the season, but also on the coaching staff, which is also new this season. 

Another reason to get excited for Toney is what he put on film last year. Coming out of college, the popular stance on Toney was that he had freak speed and shiftiness, but was very raw as a route runner. Comparisons such as Tavon Austin were thrown his way. And I will admit, I thought there was a lot of potential there, but definitely thought he needed polishing. Well, he showed that he was a better route runner than he received credit for and it is a very small sample size, but he showed that when given the chance on a deep target, he can make the play.

Just rewatch that game against the Cowboys to see Toney cooking Trevon Diggs and others all over the field. Plus, he should be one of the best assets in the league with the ball in his hands after the catch. I am not saying he is the next Tyreek Hill, but he shows flashes that remind the eyes of Hill. There are not many people on the planet, let alone in the NFL, who can move like Toney can with the ball in his hands. He is a threat to take it the distance anytime he touches the ball.

Not only am I banking on Toney, who flashed great abilities as a rookie, to take the next step forward, but I am expecting him to be in a better environment than he was last year. First, once Daniel Jones was hurt, the Giants' QB options were awful. This year, they secured that it should not happen again by signing Tyrod Taylor. He is not going to propel Toney to fantasy greatness, but he also should not allow this offense to completely bottom out like it did last year. But the biggest reason for optimism is the Giants' coaching staff. They nabbed Brian Daboll from the Bills to be their next coach. Daboll has had mixed results in the NFL but he is a seasoned play-caller.

Prior to the last year, he traditionally ran run-heavy offenses, but that all flipped once Josh Allen broke out - then he abandoned the run and talked about how analytics points to passing being a much more positive EV (expected value) play in the current NFL. It was great to see a coach abandon what has traditionally worked for him in order to better suit his team and his players' talents. Toney is the most dynamic player on the Giants' offense and while they will also look to get Kenny Golladay heavily involved, it would be shocking if Daboll saw Toney and didn’t try to make him a heavy part of the offense.

Add in that there is very little competition for targets after the top two options on the Giants. Currently behind them on the depth chart are Darius Slayton, Wan'Dale Robinson, Richie James, Ricky Seals-Jones, and Sterling Shepard whenever he is able to play after tearing his Achilles late in the season. Talent plus opportunity is what leads to breakouts in fantasy football and Toney is currently in a position where he has both. 

Lastly, it all comes down to value in fantasy football. Even if everything was the same here but Toney was going for say a fourth-round pick, that would not be a wise investment. But fortunately for us, Toney is going at a very reasonable asking price regardless of the site you draft on. Looking at early best ball ADP, Toney currently is going as the WR48 in FFPC drafts, at pick 124 overall. In a 12-team league that makes him a borderline 10th-round pick. But that is not the only site you can get him for cheap. He is the WR49 going 115th overall in NFFC drafts and as the WR53, going 111th overall on Underdog. That means you can get Toney outside the Top-100 picks universally and he is being drafted as a WR4 or 5. At that cost, he is a free upside gambling and one worth taking. 

Whether you are an analytics or film person, Toney flashed in each that he can play at a high level in this league. He also is in a better situation than last year with plenty of targets available. Plus, he is purely going off the board as a reserve receiver, meaning that he is a pure upside buy. Take advantage of the market deficiency here and draft a potential breakout receiver at a low cost. 

Make sure to follow Michael on Twitter @MichaelFFlorio



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