As a result of the pass heavy offenses, breakout positions in terms of wide receivers are now more common than ever. Just last year, Allen Robinson, Brandin Cooks, Allen Hurns, John Brown and many more all took their games to the next level. This year, there will most certainly be receivers who emerge. However, none of them are safe bets like Robinson and players like DeAndre Hopkins were the past two seasons. This group of pass catchers I break down features some young players that should shine as they step into bigger roles in 2016.
Donte Moncrief, Colts: Some of the things I look for when it comes to breakout receivers are not only physical skills, but the volume that should be there as well. If you’ve read anything I’ve wrote about Moncrief the past two years, you know he has all the physical tools a team looks for in an upper echelon wideout. However, while his statistics made a big leap in year two, there is a chance they continue to climb in year three.
The Colts are currently in the position to be playing in a ton of shootouts and considering they have trouble running the ball, Andrew Luck will be throwing it early and often. All reports this offseason indicate he has formed a nice rapport with Moncrief and there is a chance he even leads the team in targets over T.Y. Hilton. It’s also worth mentioning that Moncrief is likely the team’s top red-zone threat so 1,000 plus yards and double digit touchdowns is certainly in play.
Stefon Diggs, Vikings: To start his rookie season, Diggs didn’t see much action but when he did get to play, he started off with a bang. Unfortunately, Diggs hit the rookie wall as he cleared more than 50 receiving yards just once in the Vikings last six games. While Laquon Treadwell was drafted in the first round this year, it’s Diggs who is expected to be the Vikings leading wideout.
Now playing the ‘Z’ position, Diggs is able to move all over the field and create mismatches for his playmaking ability. The only thing that worries me about Diggs this season is the Vikings being a run oriented attack. This will be the case as long as Adrian Peterson is in the fold which could hurt in the long run as it doesn’t allow the team to fully evaluate Teddy Bridgewater. Despite that, Diggs should get to show the skillset that makes him one of the league’s more promising young receivers.
DeVante Parker, Dolphins: Like Moncrief and the Colts, the Dolphins are a team that figures to get into plenty of high scoring contests in 2016. Their no huddle up tempo attack also gives more opportunity for all the members of the team’s receiving corps. With that, it’s highly likely that at least one Dolphins wideout comes up with a big year starting opposite Jarvis Landry.
Kenny Stills has looked great in the preseason, but I’m waiting to see the Dolphins fully unleash Parker. A first round pick last season who some compared to A.J. Green, Parker is a big receiver who can grab the ball at its highest point and showed flashes of it in his rookie campaign. While a breakout sophomore season isn’t a guarantee, if he hits it will be in a very big way.
Devin Funchess, Panthers: Like Parker, we saw some of what Funchess has to offer in his second season and if he continues to develop the payoff could be huge. Reports from Panthers camp have been raving about Funchess entering his second year and with Kelvin Benjamin coming off a torn ACL, the pieces are in place for him to have a big role. While he may not turn into a Pro Bowler overnight, Funchess developing into a formidable starter in his second year would be a huge boost for Cam Newton and the Panthers passing attack.
Marvin Jones, Lions: Let’s get this straight: no single player is going to replace the Lions loss of Calvin Johnson. Receivers of that nature just don’t grow on trees. Unfortunately for Jones, due to being a touted free agent brought in to take Johnson’s old spot there will be expectations. While he obviously won’t be “Megatron”, Jones should be very productive in his first season with the Lions.
In a way, Jones is similar to his fellow starter Golden Tate. Both players play bigger than their size, can simply find ways to get open and also haul in difficult catches near the sideline. Last year, Matthew Stafford targeted Johnson 150 times meaning those attempts are now up for grabs. Jones should get at least 110 of them, and it wouldn’t be surprising if he had his first career 1,000 yard season along the way.