Published On: Mon, May 14th, 2018

Fantasy: 7 breakout candidates to target in 2018

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With the NFL draft behind us and almost all of the notable free agents signed, it’s time to identify this year’s fantasy breakout candidates.

Average draft position (ADP) data courtesy of Fantasy Football Calculator and is based on 12-team leagues with standard scoring.

Patrick Mahomes, QB, Chiefs

The quarterback position is incredibly deep once again, giving fantasy owners an opportunity to sit back and wait before selecting a starter. If you’re exercising that type of patience, Mahomes could be this year’s Carson Wentz – a sophomore QB capable of emerging as a fantasy star. After sitting behind Alex Smith for a year, Mahomes is taking over a Kansas City offense loaded with talent at every skill position, with Sammy Watkins being added to a group that already featured Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, and Kareem Hunt. The Chiefs could also end up in more shootouts in 2018, since their defense lost several key members. Pairing Mahomes with a more steady late-round option like Matt Ryan is a potential league-winning strategy.

Star Potential: ★★★★☆
ADP: 11th round (QB18)

Aaron Jones, RB, Packers

The Ty Montgomery experiment is over in Green Bay and the conclusion is that he works best as a pass-catching specialist. Jones emerged as the lead back a month into the season and popped off for a pair of 100-yard games before a knee injury compromised the rest of his rookie campaign. Jamaal Williams, who was taken a round earlier than Jones in the 2017 NFL Draft, played well over the final eight games, averaging just under 3.7 yards per carry. Jones’ sample size is smaller, but in the four games where he saw at least 13 carries, he averaged nearly 5.6 yards per rush. He’s a far more explosive back, which will make it hard for the Packers to put the SPARQ freak back on the bench. Williams’ fantasy ceiling as starter would be an RB2, while Jones offers RB1 upside if he wins the job.

Star Potential: ★★★★★
ADP: 8th round (RB36)

D’Onta Foreman, RB, Texans

With Deshaun Watson powering the offense, there will be plenty of fantasy value to mine in the Texans’ backfield. Lamar Miller hasn’t maintained high-end production when he’s been asked to carry a full workload. Foreman, a 2017 third-round pick, appeared to be the heir apparent before a season-ending injury cut his breakout performance short in Week 11. That torn Achilles might be the only thing preventing him from opening the season as the Texans’ lead back. Some reports have suggested Foreman might be forced to start the year on the six-game PUP, which would prevent a camp battle and leave Miller locked in as the starter. Even if he’s healthy for Week 1, the most likely scenario involves Miller getting the call early before Foreman usurps him during the season.

Star Potential: ★★★★★
ADP: 9th round (RB37)

Corey Davis, WR, Titans

The fifth overall selection in last year’s draft had a disappointing debut campaign, recording 34 receptions, 375 yards, and no touchdowns, while battling hamstring issues for most of the regular season. Once healthy, Davis began to showcase his potential with a six-catch, 91-yard performance in Week 16, followed a few weeks later by a two-touchdown outing in the divisional-round loss to the Patriots. With a new coaching staff in town, if Davis can improve his chemistry with Marcus Mariota, a top-20 fantasy season is well within reach.

Star Potential: ★★★★★
ADP: 6th round (WR31)

Josh Doctson, WR, Redskins

Entering his third season, the 25-year-old Doctson will finally get his chance to be the Redskins’ top receiver. After being sidelined with injuries for almost all of his rookie campaign, the former first-round pick played in all 16 games last season. When he’s on the field, Doctson is a raw weapon who specializes in winning contested catches and is capable of making highlight-reel grabs at any level of the defense. His 502 yards and six scores from 2017 may not jump off the page, but the Redskins did start pushing the ball his way, resulting in 16 red-zone targets – a number which should actually increase moving forward. If Alex Smith is willing to challenge defenses like he did during his last season in K.C., Doctson will flourish as a fantasy starter with significant TD upside.

Star Potential: ★★★★☆
ADP: 12th round (WR55)

Trey Burton, TE, Bears

Fantasy owners are familiar with Burton thanks to a couple big games while filling in for Zach Ertz in Philadelphia. Those performances helped him cash in as a free agent when he signed with the Bears. New head coach, and former Chiefs offensive coordinator, Matt Nagy has already stated that Burton will play the Travis Kelce role in their system. The 6-foot-3, 235-pound tight end has the speed and athleticism to replicate most of what Kelce can do, and should see enough volume to warrant serious consideration as a top-10 fantasy tight end.

Star Potential: ★★★★☆
ADP: 10th round (TE12)

George Kittle, TE, 49ers

The 49ers were the feel-good story down the stretch and they’re garnering a ton of hype heading into the 2018 campaign. There’s always a lot to like about a Kyle Shanahan offense, and Kittle is definitely one of the players worth scooping up late in drafts in an effort to get in on the windfall. Rookie tight ends often struggle, so seeing Kittle flash at different moments in his first season was promising. He posted a seven-catch, 83-yard, one-touchdown outing in Week 5 and ended the year with 194 yards and a score over his final three outings. Outside of the top eight tight ends, the position is wide open in fantasy and Kittle has as good a chance as anyone to join that group this season.

Star Potential: ★★★★☆
ADP: 13th round (TE17)

(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)

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