Fantasy Football: One major breakout candidate at each position

Courtland Sutton, New York Giants (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
Courtland Sutton, New York Giants (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images) /

Players who come out of nowhere and crush their ADP in fantasy football can help you win your league and these are prime breakout candidates for 2021.

Over the years, fantasy football has only continued to increase in popularity. More people are joining leagues and taking an interest in the NFL game we’ve all come to love.

With so much data and resources at people’s disposal, getting a competitive edge over your league mates has become increasingly difficult. However, if you’re able to successfully identify the players who are on the precipice of greatness and who are primed to break out, that will give you a real chance.

Draft season is right around the corner, so don’t go in unprepared; have a plan. The following players are just a handful of candidates that I believe can be a true difference-maker for a fantasy football team. These players can be drafted behind the bigger names, yet have the full capability to outperform their ADP and dominate the league.

Major breakout candidates for fantasy football leagues in the 2021 season

QB: Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns

After a down year in terms of touchdowns and interceptions in 2019, Baker Mayfield bounced back in a big way in 2020. Throwing fewer passes, he cut his interceptions from 21 to a measly eight, all while managing to throw four more touchdowns. His QBR shot up to a career-high 72.2 as well.

Credit this to a change in head coach or Mayfield simply getting better, it was an encouraging step in the right direction. Now entering his second year with head coach Kevin Stefanski, Mayfield is poised to truly break out.

With one of the best run games in the league to take some pressure off Mayfield and OBJ coming back healthy, expect this Cleveland Browns offense to finally live up to the hype that surrounded them not so long ago.

Coming off the board as the 18th QB according to Fantasy Pros expert consensus rankings, Mayfield will absolutely smash his ADP. Going behind guys like Fitzpatrick, Cousins and Lawrence, waiting late in drafts to snag Mayfield is the move. Plug him into your lineups confidently and watch him leapfrog the competition.

RB: David Montgomery, Chicago Bears

The third time’s a charm. Year three, the year David Montgomery finally breaks out. The fantasy football world got a glimpse of his ascension in the back half of last year as Montgomery racked up 598 yards on 116 carries (5.15 yards per carry) with seven touchdowns in his final six games of the season. He also mixed in 24-226-1 on 27 targets in those six games.

Some may chalk this up to an easy strength of schedule, but I believe we are seeing it all finally come together for this underrated running back. While his receiving numbers may take a slight hit with the return of Tarik Cohen, make no mistake, the Bears want Montgomery on the field. Don’t be so quick in assuming that Cohen takes back the pass-catching role in its entirety, either.

For running backs that had at least 60 targets last season, Montgomery ranked No. 5 in catch percentage. The dude can catch the ball. Factor in a new young quarterback who was drafted No. 11 overall to be the face of the Chicago Bears franchise and an immediate upgrade over past quarterbacks, and we have ourselves a recipe for success. Draft Montgomery at the Round 3/4 turn and watch him crush his ADP.

WR: Courtland Sutton, Denver Broncos

The forgotten man. After bursting onto the scene in his sophomore campaign, going 72-1,112-6 on 124 targets, Courtland Sutton quickly got the attention of fantasy football players. However, after tearing his ACL in Week 2 last year, it appears people are easily forgetting how talented this wide receiver truly is.

Currently being ranked as the 28th best wide receiver according to Fantasy Pros, Sutton is being buried below guys like JuJu Smith-Schuster and Brandon Aiyuk. Playing alongside Jerry Jeudy and Noah Fant — both special players — Sutton figures to see a decent amount of man coverage. Teams will be forced to respect the other options in the passing game, which should alleviate some of the pressure from Sutton.

At 6-foot-4, the 40th overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft should feast on opposing corners. While the quarterback situation is still up in the air, Sutton is QB-proof. He was able to produce in 2019 with the combination of Joe Flacco, Drew Lock, and Brandon Allen. Walk away from the draft with Sutton and strike gold!

TE: T.J. Hockenson, Detroit Lions

T.J. Hockenson is by no means a sleeper as he is getting drafted around the TE5 spot, only behind Kelce, Kittle, Waller and Andrews. However, now entering his third year in the NFL at the young age of 24, this is when the training wheels finally fall off.

Last year, we saw Hockenson go for 67-723-6 on 101 targets in his first full 16-game season. This translated into 173 fantasy points in full PPR leagues, which was good enough to be the TE5. The 6-foot-5 former eighth overall pick has a great opportunity to blow last year’s numbers out of the water.

While there has been an obvious downgrade at the quarterback position going from Stafford to Goff, there has been an even bigger decline in pass-catchers. Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones are both gone. The top two receivers for the Lions are currently Breshad Perriman and Tyrell Williams. Meh.

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Expect Hockenson’s usage to skyrocket. For comparison, in Travis Kelce’s third season of playing at least 12 games, he went for 85-1,125-4 on 117 targets, a monster jump from his second year. I’m not saying Hockenson is the next Kelce, but draft this Lions tight end and watch his play elevate into that top tier.