Second Year Breakout Candidates

In dynasty, we all like to focus on the younger (dynasty buzz word), high upside players who haven’t quite “broken out” yet. We all want to call our shot on a player’s breakout season. That being said, it would be too chalky to go with players like Derrius Guice, Dante Pettis or Christian Kirk even though all technically qualify.

To qualify the players had to meet three simple criteria:

  1. They were drafted in 2018
  2. They scored outside the Top 36 at their position


  1. They aren’t any of the players listed above

I used PPR scoring to determine positional ranking

Jaylen Samuels, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers

2018 Finish: RB56

Jaylen Samuels presented quite the curious case in 2018, especially in leagues that awarded him tight end eligibility thanks to his college designation and NFL combine grouping. Truthfully, it’s hard to place a positional tag on the 5’11”, 228 pound swiss army knife. Samuels’ college career saw him amass 201 receptions and 182 carries across his four years at North Carolina State. That versatility is likely what attracted Pittsburgh to Samuels in the first place.

The situation was further compounded when Le’Veon Bell decided that he was going to sit out the 2018 season in hopes of avoiding a major injury while looking to land a new contract. James Conner was given the first crack at the lead back gig in Pittsburgh. Conner came out of the gate like a man on fire, racking up 1,085 scrimmage yards and 10 total touchdowns through the first eight games of the 2018 season (midpoint). Unfortunately, injuries limited him to five games over the second half of the season and it showed in his counting stats with just 385 scrimmage yards and 3 total touchdowns.

This paved the way for Jaylen Samuels’ mini break out during weeks 14-16. That three-game stretch saw Samuels average 109 yards from scrimmage and, unsurprisingly, he caught all 12 of his targets.

Pittsburgh has a long history of valuing the pass catching ability of their running backs and, while James Conner was more than serviceable, Samuels offers a more versatile option for the Steelers offense. The Pittsburgh passing attack will be looking for creative ways to offset the loss of Antonio Brown and I can easily see a path to targets for Samuels in 2019.

Add in the fact that the Steelers have hired Samuels’ college position coach as their new running backs coach, and I see a team that wants to deploy Samuels much like he was used at NC State. In his last three seasons with the Wolfpack, Samuels averaged 69.7 scrimmage yards and 1.2 touchdowns on five receptions and roughly four rushing attempts per game.

I’m not going as far as to say that Samuels will supplant Conner as the lead back in Pittsburgh, but anyone thinking that Samuels hasn’t carved out a significant role in this offense is being extremely short-sighted.

Prediction: Jaylen Samuels will be a weekly flex play (with upside for more) in 2019.

DaeSean Hamilton, WR, Denver Broncos

2018 Finish: WR99

The Denver Broncos drafted Hamilton in the fourth round (113th overall) of the 2018 NFL Draft.  This pick was largely overshadowed by the Broncos second round (40th overall) selection of fellow wide receiver Courtland Sutton. We could be looking at the starting wide receivers of the future in Mile High. Sutton put up a WR50 season in 2018 which was far superior to Hamilton’s WR99 finish, but that’s largely a product of Sutton being targeted in all 16 games, while Hamilton was limited to just seven.

To say that Case Keenum held this offense back would be as much of an understatement as saying that Joe Flacco will cause it to flourish but alas here we are. What I do know is that A.)  Flacco has an affinity for the tight end position and B.) the Broncos don’t currently have one of note on the roster (save it Jake Butt truthers). How that benefits Hamilton is simple. He is scheduled to work primarily out of the slot this year and Flacco’s eye should be drawn to him as a preferred short to intermediate area target.

We got a glimpse into what Hamilton’s role could be in the Broncos offense moving forward. Over the final four weeks of the 2018 season, Hamilton was targeted 38 times and posted a 25/182/2 stat line. If we extrapolate that production out across sixteen weeks (I know) we’re talking about 152 targets and a stat line of 100/728/8.

Do I think Hamilton will hit triple digits on receptions? NO

Do I think eight touchdowns is realistic? NOT REALLY

Do I think he will improve on his 7.3 yards per reception average? MOST DEFINITELY

@MikeClayNFL has Hamilton projected to see 103 targets and finish with a 66/740/4 stat line which also makes him Denver’s top fantasy producing wide receiver. Those 164 PPR points would’ve secured a low-end WR3 finish for Hamilton in 2018. I believe they are all extremely reasonable thresholds for Hamilton to hit and would take the over on the yards and receptions.

Prediction: DaeSean Hamilton will finish inside the Top 36 PPR wide receivers in 2019.

Rashaad Penny, RB, Seattle Seahawks

2018 Finish: RB68

Rashaad Penny’s 2018 rookie season was a massive disappointment. The Seahawks first-round pick kicked off his rookie campaign with a finger injury that required surgery and an Eddie Lacy-esque 16 pound weight gain between the NFL combine and training camp.

Incumbent Seahawks running back Chris Carson proceeded to grab hold of the lead back duties in training camp and never let go. The second-year back handled 267 touches across 14 games for Seattle and turned in an RB15 campaign with 205.4 PPR points. While Carson is the clear frontrunner to lead the Seahawks backfield again in 2019, the departure of Mike Davis (RB36 in 2018) has left 146 touches up for grabs in Seattle. I don’t believe Carson will see much more than the 19 touches/gm that he handled in 2018. This should result in Penny more than doubling his touches from 2018 (96). The Seahawks have too much draft capital invested in Penny to not significantly expand his role in 2019.

In limited action last year, Penny provided a few shining moments that underscored his immense fantasy upside.

Week 10 @ LAR – 12/108/1

Week 13 v SF – 7/65/1

Assuming 200 plus touches for Penny, he should easily exceed 1,000 scrimmage yards and threaten to score 6-8 touchdowns.

For comparison sake, Houston Texans running back Lamar Miller had 236 touches in 2018 and his 1,136 yard, six touchdown season yielded an RB23 finish.

If Rashaad Penny were in the Texans offense he would offer an RB1 ceiling. Unfortunately, he’s currently relegated to being the 1B in Seattle.

Prediction: Rashaad Penny will finish as a low-end RB2 in 2019.



Diehard Eagles fan, World's Okayest Dad and Dynasty / IDP Writer for the Dynasty Football Factory.

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