By Joel Deering
The 2018 NFL season is almost here and it’s time to get ready for fantasy football! Every year there are breakout players who shock the fantasy world with their production. This year will be no different. There are several players who now have a greater workload and opportunity to produce for their teams. I’ve made a list of five guys you should be targeting in fantasy football this year. I believe these guys will produce a lot more than they have in the past. I didn’t include any rookies on this list because I feel like when we say the word “breakout,” we’re talking about players who have already been in the league, but haven’t put up numbers that match their potential yet. I’m sure there will be a few rookies who produce big numbers, but I wouldn’t put them in the breakout player category because they haven’t played any games in the NFL yet. Who will be the breakout stars of 2018?
Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee Titans
As the backup running back during his first two seasons in the league, Henry has been effective with limited carries. He received 110 carries in his rookie year, running for 490 yards and 5 touchdowns with a 4.5 yards per carry average. He got a little more work in his second season, running for 744 yards and 5 touchdowns with a 4.2 yards per carry average on 176 carries. Henry got an increased workload toward the end of the season and did pretty well with his opportunity.
With DeMarco Murray now out of the picture, it’s Derrick Henry’s time to shine for the Titans. Henry’s workload will increase significantly this season. I expect him to be a 1,000+ yard runner with at least 10 touchdowns. Henry doesn’t bring a ton of value in the passing game, especially with Dion Lewis in the backfield. Lewis will get the most work in the passing game, but I expect Henry to get a lot of goal line carries, making him a good candidate to rack up touchdowns and fantasy points.
Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, San Fransisco 49ers
Jimmy Garoppolo threw for 1,560 yards and seven touchdowns in six games with the 49ers last season. That comes out to an average of 260 yards per game. That number is even higher when you consider he didn’t start in the first game he played with the team. The seven touchdowns in six games isn’t that great, but you have to remember he was still learning the offense. With a full offseason in this offense and with his receivers, expect Garoppolo to put up bigger numbers this season.
He doesn’t have the big name receivers, but he’s shown he’s still able to produce without them. With a full 16 games, I can see Garoppolo throwing for over 4,000 yards and at least 25 touchdowns. He may not be one of the top producers for quarterbacks, but he’ll at the very least be a solid quarterback option on a weekly basis.
Jerick McKinnon, RB, San Fransisco 49ers
All signs point to McKinnon being the starting running back for the 49ers this season. That alone gives him decent value in fantasy. Most starting running backs put up at least decent numbers. McKinnon is a guy who’ll be better than decent though. When Dalvin Cook went down last season, McKinnon got more work. For the season he produced 570 yards and three rushing touchdowns on 150 carries. Now that he’s going to be the starter, he’ll get a lot more carries, which will lead to more fantasy points.
Where McKinnon becomes even more valuable is in the passing game. He produced 51 catches for 421 yards and 2 touchdowns last year. I have a feeling McKinnon will be used a lot in this 49ers offense in both the running and passing games. Expect McKinnon to put up good numbers every week. Even if doesn’t rush for a huge amount of yards, his receiving ability will make up for it.
Dalvin Cook, RB, Minnesota Vikings
Cook’s rookie year was cut short because of an injury, but he’s back and healthy this year and I expect him to have a huge fantasy impact. In four games last season, Cook ran for 354 yards and 2 touchdowns on 74 carries. That comes out to a 4.8 yards per rush average. If he kept that pace over the 16 game season, Cook would have produced about 1,400 rushing yards and 8 touchdowns.
Cook showed us he can also be a receiving threat. In those four games he played he had 11 receptions for 90 yards. In 16 games that comes out to around 40 receptions for 400 yards. With not a lot of competition behind him in the Vikings backfield, I expect Dalvin Cook to be a big part of this Vikings offense in more ways than one.
Trey Burton, TE, Chicago Bears
Trey Burton produced 23 catches for 248 yards last season with the Eagles. He also had five touchdowns. Not huge numbers, but we have to remember he wasn’t the starter. Now that he’s with the Chicago Bears, Burton will have the opportunity to produce like a top fantasy tight end every week. Burton should be a top target for the young Bears quarterback.
The only thing that concerns me about Burton in fantasy football, is my wonder of if Trubisky is ready to start throwing the ball down the field more. He didn’t average very many yards per throw last season. It was only his rookie year, but the Bears need to let Trubisky throw more deep passes. If Trubisky takes more shots in the passing game, I think Burton will produce solid numbers.