Fantasy Football: Predicting a "Breakout Candidate"

Taylor RummelSenior Analyst IJune 27, 2009

CHICAGO - DECEMBER 22: Devin Hester #23 of the Chicago Bears returns a punt against the Green Bay Packers on December 22, 2008 at Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois. The Bears defeated the Packers 20-17. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

A dream of every fantasy football manager is to draft the "next big thing" in the middle-late rounds.  The guy who flashes the potential to be a game-changer in real life and difference-maker on your fantasy roster.

  Two years ago, it was the sensational rookie running back from Sooner Country, Adrian "All Day" Peterson who took the fantasy world by storm.  Last season the title was claimed by back Michael "The Burner" Turner, who had switched teams during the off-season.

  Who is it going to be this year?

  To start, lets have a look at ten of the most notable breakout performers from last season and reasons as to why they may have experienced so much success.

  -Michael Turner-

  Everyone knew he had potential, the question was when would he have a chance to start?  An answer came in the off-season when the Chargers let him go; an when the Atlanta Falcons signed him.  No longer was he hidden in LaDanian Tomlinson's shadow; Turner was ready to show not just the Falcons, but also the entire NFL what he had, and he sure showed them.

  -Roddy White-

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  Although Roddy White was another Falcon, the similarities between him and Turner end there, (although they both put together sound statistical seasons).  White, instead of benefiting from opportunity, benefited from consistently improving in each season he has played in the NFL.  In 2005 he caught 29 passes for 446 yards.  In 2006 he caught 30 passes for 506 yards.  In 2007 he caught 83 passes for 1,202 yards.  And last year he caught 88 passes for 1,382 yards.

  -Calvin Johnson-

  The Big Nasty from Georgia Tech improved upon his rookie numbers last season, raising his catches from 48 to 78, his yards from 756 to 1,331, and his touchdowns from four to 12.  Aside from the insane amount of talent that Johnson possesses, perhaps what increased his numbers so dramatically was the fact that fellow talented wide receiver Roy Williams was shipped to the Dallas Cowboys mid-season.  No longer did he have to split a significant amount of targets with another receiver on the team.

  -Dwayne Bowe-

  Bowe, like Johnson, improved upon his rookie numbers from two seasons ago.  Receptions increased by 16, yards by 27, and touchdowns by two.  He was hampered by inconsistent quarterback play, but now has capable QB Matt Cassel to throw him the ball.

  -Steve Slaton-

  The first of three rookies on this list of 2008 breakouts.  Slaton enjoyed a fine season last year with the Texans, since he was in position to start come the regular season.  He proved that his college career was no fluke as he totaled 1,282 yards on 268 carries, and an extra 377 yards on 50 receptions while also scoring ten total touchdowns.  Look for these numbers to grow next season since he will hopefully have a fully healthy Matt Schaub throwing him the ball and keeping the passing game, (and in turn running game) honest.

  -Chris Johnson-

  Rookie number two on the list.  Johnson ran the fastest combine 40 time out of anyone in the draft last season, clocked with a robust 4.24 seconds.  He let his speed know on the field as well, garnering 1,228 yards on 251 carries, for a stellar 4.8 ypa while also adding in nine touchdowns.  Look for Johnson to improve upon these numbers since LenDale White, (the other back in this rbbc) is not looked too highly upon amongst the Tennessee Staff.

  -Matt Forte-

  The third and final rookie on this list.  Forte enjoyed perhaps the best rookie season of any player this decade in terms of fantasy production in his first season in the bigs.  He was the starter from day one, and boy, did he let know that he was the starter.  Forte rushed the ball a ridiculous 316 times, and caught the ball an equally ridiculous 63 times for a grand total of 1,715 total yards, and 12 scores.  Of the three rooks, I feel that Matty F has the highest chance of failing to meet his previous seasons' statistics, just because they were so crazy.

  -DeAngelo Williams-

  The Panther had a season for the ages last year.  Like many on this list, Williams had improved statistically in each of his seasons in the league.  In 2006, (his rookie season), he rushed the ball 121 times for 501 yards and a score.  Then in 2007, he ran with the ball 23 more times for 216 more yards and an additional three scores.  And then there was last season:  273 carries, 1,515 yards, 20 total TDs.  It is important to note that his ypa went up each season as well.

  -Matt Schaub-

  I know what you are thinking, "How can a guy who missed five games last season be considered a "breakout player"?  Well i'll tell you why.  Despite the fact that he missed nearly 1/3 of the season, he still managed to pass for over 3,000 yards and 15 scores.  That's Matt Ryan's numbers in 1/3 less the time.  Schaub had talent to work with, (especially with Slaton's emergence) and is looking at a dandy season next year.

  -Aaron Rodgers-

  After three seasons of waiting on the bench in favor of old man Favre, Rodgers finally got his chance to show his stuff last season.  And show his stuff he did to the tune of 4,038 passing yards and 28 touchdowns compared to just 13 interceptions.  Rodgers is an example that opportunity can make flourish.

  So with all this in check, let's look at a simpler and more mathematical way to look at the above "reasons" as to why these players achieved such high success.

  Forty percent of the "break-outs" showed statistical improvement each year.

  Thirty percent of the "break-outs" were rookies in a position to start.

  Ten percent of the "break-outs" benefited from a key departure on their team.

  Ten percent of the "break-outs" benefitted from a key addition on their team.

  Ten percent of the "break-outs" benefited from joining a new team.

  With that in mind, here are ten players who show one of those pre-requisites for this upcoming season.

  Chris "Beanie" Wells- (Rookie in position to start).
  Michael Crabtree- (Rookie in position to start).
  Derrick Ward- (New team).
  Kyle Orton- (New team).
  Jerricho Cotchery- (Key departure from team).
  Domenik Hixon- (Key departure(s) from team).
  Donnie Avery- (Key departure from team).
  Anthony Gonzalez- (Key departure from team).
  Devin Hester- (Key addition to team).
  Greg Olsen- (Key addition to team).

  Target these "break-out candidates", and you will sure assume some middle-late round stars on your roster.