Targeting third-year receivers has been a trend in fantasy football for the past several years, but there’s evidence that being able to predict second-year success can be even more profitable. The whole goal is to be ahead of our competition and be able to identify the breakouts before they happen; not one year after it has happened and then pounce in Year 3. Over the past five years, there have been a number of wideouts who have seen significant fantasy leaps from Year 1 to 2. Below is a collection of them with their fantasy finishes in PPR formats with Year 1 followed by Year 2 after the (>) symbol.
2014 Draft Class: Sammy Watkins WR27 > WR20, Odell Beckham WR7 > WR5, Brandin Cooks WR56 > WR13, Jordan Matthews WR25 > WR17, Allen Robinson WR65 > WR6, Jarvis Landry WR31 > WR9, Donte Moncrief WR79 > WR36, John Brown WR53 > WR26, Martavis Bryant WR59 > WR39
2011 Draft Class: A.J. Green WR16 > WR3, Julio Jones WR22 > WR11, Randall Cobb WR89 > WR15, Leonard Hankerson WR124 > WR65, Cecil Shorts WR147 > WR25, Denarius Moore WR51 > WR36, Jeremy Kerley WR91 > WR46
Let’s now take a look at a handful of 2017 sophomores who could be in line for significant bumps in production, followed by three deeper dives to monitor over the summer and into the regular season.
Corey Coleman (2015 finish: WR84) — The first wideout taken in the 2016 draft, Coleman was drawing some Odell Beckham comparisons coming out of Baylor. Coleman’s rookie year got off to a surging start with a 5-102-2 line in Week 2, but he then broke his hand in practice the following week and missed six games. Coleman could never get back on track, failing to top 41 yards in any of the final eight contests, taking a back seat to Terrelle Pryor. Pryor has since left for the Redskins. Cleveland signed Kenny Britt, but it’s clear the organization wants Coleman to take the next step to No. 1 status. Continuing their rebuild, the Browns are missing a whopping 285 targets from last season. Britt will fill a large chunk of that, and so will first-round TE David Njoku, but Coleman has a massive opportunity awaiting him. The one thing standing in his way is health, or lack thereof. Coleman missed time last offseason with a hamstring issue and injured it again this spring. He’s dealt with soft=tissue problems dating back to his early college days. When healthy, Coleman is a terror on the outside, possessing the speed to beat defenders over the top and out-run them after the catch. Just go back and watch his Week 2 tape against Baltimore. Big-armed rookie QB DeShone Kizer winning the quarterback job would be another boost to Coleman’s outlook. Cody Kessler and Brock Osweiler don’t have the arm (Kessler) or accuracy (Osweiler) to consistently get the ball to Coleman down the field. Coleman has the highest ceiling in this group of second-year receivers but also comes with a terrifying floor.
Will Fuller (2015 finish: WR66) — After the first four weeks of Fuller’s rookie season, he had some wondering if we could see another WR1 finish from a rookie. Fuller exploded onto the scene with 323 yards and two touchdowns in his first four pro games and could have had a couple more touchdowns and couple hundred more yards if not for untimely drops. Fuller then fell off a cliff, totaling just 312 scoreless yards the final 10 games, missing another two with injuries. He was a forgotten man in fantasy land by the time December rolled around. Gone now is Brock Osweiler, who couldn’t throw the deep ball to save his life. Rookie Deshaun Watson doesn’t have the biggest arm, but he showed well on vertical passes at Clemson and is a much better fit for Fuller’s downfield skill set. Either Watson or Tom Savage can’t be any worse than Osweiler, and Fuller remains locked into No. 2 duties opposite DeAndre Hopkins. Fuller said he feels much more comfortable in coach Bill O’Brien’s complex offense heading into Year 2. Currently being drafted as WR71, I’m buying Fuller at his 14th-round ADP all day. No other receiver at that range comes with the monster upside that Fuller brings to the field.
Tyreek Hill (2015 finish: WR25) — Hill was one of the biggest winners of the spring. The Chiefs surprisingly cut Jeremy Maclin in June, leaving Hill as the favorite to handle No. 1 receiver duties. The passing offense runs through Travis Kelce, but there’s enough to support one more option in Kansas City. Hill should be that guy after setting the world on fire as a rookie. In the four games Maclin missed to injury last season, Hill saw 25.2 percent of the target share and averaged over 72 yards from scrimmage. He led all players in all-purpose yards last year and is as explosive an athlete there is in the league. It’s going to be near impossible for Hill to score at the clip he did as a rookie, but the expected uptick in volume can more than propel Hill to high-end WR2 status. His ADP is getting a bit out of hand at WR22, but the upside is mouth-watering as a do-it-all receiver/runner/returner. Hill can score from anywhere on the field. He just may be coach Any Reid’s latest DeSean Jackson.
Robby Anderson (2015 finish: WR70) — Anderson was one of the few bright spots in a lost Jets season. The undrafted rookie out of Temple climbed the depth chart and posted a productive 42-587-2 line with Ryan Fitzpatrick and Bryce Petty throwing him the ball. The quarterback situation isn’t much better in 2017, but the Jets have cut all their veterans and are ready to let their youngsters sink or swim. Quincy Enunwa figures to handle No. 1 duties as the short-to-intermediate target, while Anderson fills the top downfield threat role. Anderson is the lone Jets pass catcher with field stretching ability. One concern for Anderson is that he was popped for a felony charge at a music festival back in May, but the Jets seem to not be too concerned about the issue. Another is the Jets’ completely up-in-the-air quarterback situation. Anderson meshed well with Petty as a rookie, but Petty doesn’t figure to be in the 2017 plans. It’s expected to be either Josh McCown or Christian Hackenberg under center. McCown at least showed some chemistry with deep-threat Corey Coleman with the Browns last season and has a gun-slinger mentality as someone who isn’t scared to take chances deep. Anderson has some WR5 appeal.
Josh Doctson (2015 finish: WR170) — Doctson’s rookie year never really got off the ground. Limited by an Achilles’ issue almost as soon as he was drafted, Doctson missed much of OTAs and training camp before playing in two games and then landing on season-ending I.R. By all accounts, Doctson has looked completely healthy this offseason, but the Redskins continue to nurse him along, for good reason. Doctson was running with the second-team offense, behind Ryan Grant at the Z spot, when minicamp closed, which is a bit of a concern. However, Doctson should have no trouble passing the career backup when things get serious this summer. If anything, this will keep his ADP way down for early-summer drafters. Doctson is fully expected to fill the old Pierre Garcon role in Washington’s offense. But unlike Garcon, Doctson has far more ability in the red zone. Garcon was the WR23 last season and totaled 114 targets. The Redskins have a wealth of playmakers at Kirk Cousins’ disposal, but the top four of Jordan Reed, Terrelle Pryor, Jamison Crowder, and Doctson have clear paths to targets in one of the league’s pass-happiest offenses. Doctson has the talent and situation to return WR3 value.
Tyler Boyd (2015 finish: WR64) — Nothing broke in Boyd’s favor during the offseason. The Bengals re-signed Brandon LaFell and gave him $3.3 million guaranteed, essentially locking him into a 53-man roster spot for 2017. Cincinnati then used the No. 8 overall pick on speedy WR John Ross and a fourth-rounder on Josh Malone. Do-it-all RB Joe Mixon was taken in the second round and should see his fair share of pass-game looks. On top of the infusion of young talent, A.J. Green is back to 100 percent after tearing his hamstring late in the year, Tyler Eifert is expected to be fully healthy off back surgery in time for Week 1 at the very latest, and Giovani Bernard remains on the mend from ACL surgery. However, I’m still somewhat intrigued by Boyd heading into Year 2. He ran just under 90 percent of his rookie-year routes out of the slot, and Ross profiles more as a raw, outside deep threat out of the gates. Plus, Ross missed all of OTAs and minicamp due to a ridiculous NFL-mandated rule, continues to recover from shoulder surgery, and has a history of injuries. Boyd’s role on offense seems rather secure. He shouldn’t draw much attention from opposing defenses in an offense that might be as loaded as it has been in the Andy Dalton era and will face with plenty of single-coverage. The Bengals’ extremely weak offensive line may also bode well for Boyd, forcing Dalton to execute quick dump-offs to avoid pressure. Boyd could easily match his catches and yards totals from a year ago while progression to the mean suggests he’s capable of scoring more touchdowns after finding pay dirt just one time as a rookie. Boyd scored 21 touchdowns in three seasons at Pitt and is a sure-handed receiver with adequate size at 6’2/197. Boyd makes more sense in deeper formats but is a player to keep an eye on when it comes to his role.
Ricardo Louis (2015 finish: WR122) — Count me as someone somewhat getting sucked into the Louis hype from OTAs. By no means am I full-blown going out there trying to get Louis wherever I can, but Louis’ intriguing blend of size and athleticism coupled with a wide-open competition for No. 3 receiver duties in Cleveland at least has me interested. Louis caught just 18 passes for 205 scoreless yards as a rookie but has 4.43 wheels at 6’2/215. He drew nothing but praise from the coaches in June. “There’s not a guy in that room that prepares any more diligently off the field at home than Ricardo,” WRs coach Al Saunders said. “He’s really helped himself understanding what he has to do. … He goes a hundred miles an hour and he is a talented young man.” Both Kenny Britt and Corey Coleman have been injury-prone throughout their playing careers. If one goes down, Louis will have a shot at big-time snaps in an offense that will likely be playing from behind often in 2017.
Laquon Treadwell (2015 finish: WR190) — Treadwell appeared in nine games as a rookie, catching one pass for 15 yards. The former No. 23 overall pick battled complications from a broken fibula suffered at Ole Miss and also suffered finger, hamstring, and ankle injuries his first season in the NFL. Treadwell was never right, and it showed as he continued to be buried on the depth chart. Now healthy, Treadwell has been running with the first-team offense as the No. 3 receiver, ahead of Michael Floyd, who has drinking problems and may not be long for Minnesota. Treadwell is highly unlikely to pass either Stefon Diggs or Adam Thielen, but there’s a role for him if he can win the third-receiver gig vacated by Cordarrelle Patterson and Charles Johnson. Treadwell just turned 22 last month and was a first-rounder for a reason. It’s far too early to write him off as a bust. There’s nowhere to go but up, and he could become a real asset if Diggs again struggles to stay healthy.
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