My Top Offensive Breakout Candidates
My Top Offensive Breakout Candidates
1. QB Josh Allen – Buffalo Bills
Although I am not huge on Josh Allen after his 2019 season, I believe the Buffalo Bills will finish 11-5 and take the AFC East crown in 2020 primarily down to Josh Allen’s development. Allen threw for 3,089 yards, 20 touchdowns, 9 interceptions and 14 fumbles in 2019 whilst completing 58.8% of his passes. However, Allen’s receivers had the highest drop percentage, dropping 7.2% of their passes, further, despite some early season struggles with turnovers, in his last 8 games Allen threw 10 touchdowns to only 2 interceptions and 4 fumbles.
Even with his better play in the final 8 games of the seasons Allen was still arguably the worst deep passer in the NFL in 2019, despite having potentially the strongest arm. Although Allen dialled back his deep attempts, he still threw deep the at the 6th highest rate which is a recipe for disaster when you have a completion rate of 24.1% and the highest rate of uncatchable and inaccurate passes on those deep throws.
However, Allen is still only going into his third year in the league and everyone knew he was raw when the Bills drafted him. Allen showed a lot of development from his 1st to 2nd season, hence, I expect Allen to make a similar leap in his 3rd year in the league. Ultimately, if Allen can become even an average deep ball thrower the Bills could have an explosive deep passing game with Diggs and Brown on the outside.
2. QB Drew Lock – Denver Broncos
I’m not ready to wholeheartedly jump on the Drew Lock bandwagon as of yet but his potential for the 2020 season is unmatched amongst young quarterbacks in my opinion. Lock only started 5 games in 2019 but finished 4-1 completing 64.1% of his passes for 7 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. Lock is clearly a very talented young quarterback with the size and arm talent to make it as a starting quarterback, however, in 2019 teams had very little tape of the Broncos quarterback, so it will be interesting heading into the 2020 season to see how Lock plays now defensive coordinators have adequate film on him.
To an extent, regardless of the studying of Locks film by defenses, the Broncos offense will still be electric. All you have to do is look at what Denver has surrounded Lock with to see the Broncos offensive potential. Sutton, Jeudy and Hamler are a nasty receiver trio with the ability to stretch the field, gain separation and score from anywhere, Fant is potentially the most athletically imposing tight end in the NFL and like Lock is primed for a breakout season in 2020, and Denver’s running back duo is possibly the best in the league with Lindsay and Gordon splitting snaps. Hence, with all the weapons Lock is surrounded by as well as an adequate offense line, the young quarterback is positioned perfectly for a breakout season in 2020.
3. RB Devin Singletary – Buffalo Bills
Singletary had an incredible under the radar rookie year in 2019, especially when you take into consideration his limited carries and opportunities. Only Derrick Henry had the same yards per carry as Singletary, 5.1, he forced 42 missed tackles on just 181 touches making him one of the most elusive backs in the league in 2019 and he forced a broken tackle every 7.6 carries ranking the 5th least amount of carries.
Singletary might be 5ft 7 and 203 pounds, but he plays a lot bigger, and while he might not have explosive speed, he can turn the corner, bounce off and break tackles as well as being incredibly shifty in the open field and small spaces with great cuts and jukes. One of Singletary’s best traits is that similar to Ezekiel Elliott he falls forward when being tackled helping the offense to move the chains more consistently.
Unfortunately, Buffalo drafting Zach Moss could cut down on some of Singletary’s carries and touches, but nonetheless I still expect Singletary to have a huge season for the Bills in 2020.
4. RB Sony Michel – New England Patriots
Sony Michel might have already had his breakout moment in the 2018 postseason, in which he totalled 336 rushing yards and 6 touchdowns over a 3-game stretch on course to scoring in and winning the Super Bowl. However, Michel had big expectations going into the 2019 season and fell short of them with rumours claiming he was stuck in Belichicks doghouse and struggling with injuries.
Hence, now fully healthy and arguably the 2nd best offensive weapon on the Patriots offense, Michel has another opportunity to shine. If Michel can just get back to his 2018 regular season form which saw him averaging 4.5 yards per carry for an average 71.6 yards per game, the Patriots will be very happy. Further, Newton’s presence as a runner will lift pressure and concentration put on Michel and the offensive line is better than last year in New England with Wynn and Andrews back healthy, so Michel has a big opportunity to become a star in 2020.
5. WR Darius Slayton – New York Giants
Giants rookie quarterback Daniel Jones built a great connection with rookie wide receiver Darius Slayton in 2019, which they will look to build upon in 2020. Slayton has all the tools to be a great number one receiver in the NFL with the speed, size and technical ability. Despite only starting 9 out of 14 games in 2019, Slayton put up 740 yards and 8 touchdowns, as well as some elite performances against the Jets and Eagles in which he totalled 121 yards and 154 yards respectively. Hence, with another offseason under his belt as well as becoming the number one receiver its far to say expectations in the Big Apple are very high for the 2nd year receiver, and I expect him to break the 1,000-yard mark as well as double figure touchdowns.
6. WR Diontae Johnson – Pittsburgh Steelers
Diontae Johnson has huge expectations in Pittsburgh as well as for a lot of fantasy football fans. Johnson started 12 of 16 games in 2019 for the Steelers and finished with 680 yards and 5 touchdowns. While his numbers might not indicate or project very well for the rookie moving forward, his quarterback play must be considered. Johnson was playing with Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges under center in 2019, neither of whom performed well. Nonetheless, Johnson still showed out, consistently getting open with his slick route running, hauling in 91% of his catchable passes as well as braking 18 tackles on 59 catches.
Then when you consider he will be catching passes from Ben Roethlisberger in 2020 his huge expectations become very understandable. Big Ben loves throwing to undersized elusive receivers, looking as far as Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders. Therefore, if Johnson can continue or build on his play in his rookie season, the Steelers could be looking at two 1,000-yard receivers again in 2020.
7. TE Hayden Hurst – Atlanta Falcons
Although Hayden Hurst’s numbers in his first two seasons in the league may not represent that of 25th overall pick, you have to consider his situation in Baltimore. The Ravens are a run first team and have had 3 good tight ends since Hurst was drafted there in 2018. However, even with the situation limiting his targets etc. he has been very productive in his limited opportunities. In 2019 Hurst had the 7th best catch percentage amongst tide ends with 78.9% and didn’t drop a pass. He was also great on 3rd downs catching 70% of his 10 targets for 6 first downs.
Further, Matt Ryan perfectly summed up Hurst’s effect on the Flacons offense “He is for sure one of the fastest and most athletic tight ends I've ever played with, He's a mismatch problem, he's going to create separation and win in different ways than those guys did." If Austin Hooper can put up close to 800 yards in the Falcons offense, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Hurst finish 2020 with 800-900 yards and around 8 touchdowns.
8. TE Noah Fant – Denver Broncos
Noah Fant is 6ft 4, 249 lbs and can run a 4.5 40-yard dash as shown at both the 2019 combine and the NFL with his big 75-yard touchdown catch. Fant is one of, if not the most athletic tight end in al of football and is a big play waiting to happen. In 2019, Fant ranked 2nd in yards per reception amongst tight ends with over 50 targets with 14.1 and 1st in yards after catch per reception with 8.3. Overall, Fant is an athletic freak with the ball in his hands or catching in deep, however, he needs to evolve more in his short to intermediate route running so that he can act both as a safety blanket on 3rd downs and a RedZone threat for quarterback Drew Lock.
While Fant did not have a huge rookie season finishing with 562 yards and 3 touchdowns, neither did George Kittle, Travis Kelce or Rob Gronkowski, all of whom have been the premier tight ends over the last 5 years. Kittle had 43 catches for 515 yards and 2 touchdowns, Kelce didn’t even catch a ball as a rookie and Gronk had 42 catches for 546 yards as well as 10 touchdowns. Kittle and Gronk both jumped to 80+ catches for 1,300+ yards and 5+ touchdowns in year 2, while Kelce jumped to 67 catches for 862 yards. If Fant can mirror even some of the development and production of these three elite tight ends in their second seasons the Broncos will be looking at a superstar and franchise tight end.
9. OT Jonah Williams
Jonah Williams missed the entire 2019 seasons to injury after being drafted 11th overall in the 2019 draft by the Bengals. Obviously, Williams has a lot of talent and potential hence being drafted 11th overall and he was tipped by many scouts to be a plug and play prospect in 2019. Williams will start immediately for the Bengal’s in 2020 and provide an immediate upgrade over 2019 left tackle Cordy Glenn. In college, Williams was both a great run blocker and pass blocker, hence his ability to be a day one started immediately after being drafted. Williams was graded by Pro Football Focus as the 2nd best run blocking lineman and the 4th best pass blocking lineman. Therefore, assuming Williams hasn’t regressed due to his injury I think it’s safe to expect a breakout year from the 2019 first round pick.
10. OT Isaiah Wynn
Isaiah Wynn has had a very unlucky beginning to his career in the NFL, the 23rd overall pick in 2018 suffered a torn Achilles in the 2018 preseason and then missed 8 games in 2019 season after being placed on injury reserve. However, in the 8 games he started for the Patriots in 2019 he had some very promising play.
Whilst Wynn struggled a little blocking the pass in 2019, he was a very good pass blocker, especially given his inexperience. On 502 snaps, Wynn allowed only 2 sacks and a pressure rate of 4.6% which according to Pro Football Focus ranked 18th amongst tackles.
Therefore, when you consider his play in 2019 was his first season healthy and add on another offseason in which Wynn can both get fully healthy and grow as a tackle, I believe it’s fair to expect a potential Pro Bowl season for the young left tackle if he can stay healthy.
11. OG Chris Lindstrom
Like Isaiah Wynn and Jonah Williams, injury denied us of seeing any more than 5 games of 2019 14th overall pick Chris Lindstrom, however, in that very small sample size he showed enough promise to suggest great things to come in 2020.
Lindstrom performed above average in both the run and pass game as a rookie in his first 5 games, despite playing against some great defensive lines such as the 49ers, Jaguars and Buccaneers. Assuming Lindstrom can come back the same athletically as well as develop as a blocker in his first full offseason as a pro, I believe we can expect big things from the starter in his 2nd year which will go a long way in helping the Falcons offensive line to protect Matt Ryan who was pressured in 27.1% of his drop backs and sacked 48 times in 2019.
12. OG Dalton Risner
Dalton Risner is looking like a steal at the 41st overall pick in the 2019 draft. The rookie started all 16 games in 2019 and made an instant impact on the Broncos offensive line which was truly lacking any talent. Risner allowed only 3 sacks on 590 pass blocking plays and blocked for the run relatively well. What was very promising about Risner was as the season progressed his play did as well, which puts him in very good stead to make the jump to a very good started in 2020 especially given offensive line coach Mike Munchak is one of the best in the business. Hence, I believe Risner will be a rock in the interior offensive line for the Denver in 2020 which will not only help to protect Lock but also help develop rookie center Lloyd Cushenberry.
13. C Garrett Bradbury
There are a lot of mixed feeling regarding Vikings center Garrett Bradbury and his play as a rookie. While some believe he had a relatively disappointing rookie season others saw his play a rather promising. I, however, fall right about in the middle. Bradbury started all 16 games as a rookie but his first 4 were disastrous, Bradbury allowed 13 total pressures in his first 4 games in 2019 and was on course to allow 15 more than any center in all of football in the previous season. While Bradbury’s play blocking for the pass got better, he still allowed the 5thmost pressures amongst all centres, 11 of which came against Kenny Clark and the Green Bay Packers.
Yet, even with his awful play against the pass he showed to be a good run blocker, at times leading the way for running backs Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison. So, despite struggling as a rookie, Bradbury showed a lot of promise that his pre-draft profile suggested. I believe Bradbury will have become a much better pass blocker over the offseason as I truly believe the offenses potential rests in his hands. If Bradbury as the center can become an above average pass blocker to go alongside his run blocking it will see a big increase in the Vikings offensive line play which will allow for the Vikings passing game to be far more efficient and Bradbury to potentially have his name thrown around for a Pro Bowl nomination.
14. C James Daniels
James Daniels is one of my favourite offensive line prospects due to his incredible versatility. Daniels can play at center or either guard spots sustaining his high level of play. The Bears moved Daniels to center ahead of the 2019 season after playing his rookie season at left guard. Daniels still rotated with Whitehair throughout the season but in his 432 total pass blocking snaps, Daniels only allowed 20 pressures and zero sacks. Which is not only impressive for a good veteran guard, but it is particularly impressive for a 22-year-old.
Given Daniels progression from year one to year two I believe 2020 will be a Pro Bowl year for Daniels, as not only is Daniels a very good offensive lineman, I believe the Bears have some very nice pieces across the line bringing him more recognition.
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