For a while, receiver was one position where I took pride in finding breakout players. The past two years (including 2017), that hasn’t been the case. On the surface, they should be easy to find. But as you’ll notice with my 2017 breakout picks, a season that starts with optimism can change quickly. What I wrote about these wideouts entering 2017 can be found here.
DeVante Parker, Dolphins: Parker is the player I assumed would be the biggest beneficiary of Jay Cutler joining the team. Like Cutler’s old target Alshon Jeffery, Parker has the ability to win vertically and I figured the opportunity to do that would be there with a quarterback who wasn’t shy. In his first three games, Parker was on the right track hauling in 18 passes for 220 yards and a touchdown, but after missing a few weeks due to injury, his production became inconsistent.
Parker finished the season with 57 catches for 670 yards and a touchdown. Despite missing games, he set a career high in targets, but only Antonio Brown played a higher percentage of snaps lined up against a top tier corner. Ryan Tannehill returns to the Dolphins this year, and with chances at receiver, it’s uncertain what role Parker will have at this time. The potential is shown often enough to tease fans and fantasy football players alike, it just might take a change of scenery to fully come together.
Hit or miss: Push
Willie Snead, Saints: With Brandin Cooks leaving in the offseason, I expected Snead and Michael Thomas to benefit from their increase in targets. Efficient in his first two years, I even threw out I wouldn’t be surprised if Snead had 1,000 yards and half a dozen touchdowns. Let’s just say that didn’t happen. Snead was suspended for the first three games of the year a week or so before the season started. After that, he was battling injuries and had to claw his way back up the depth chart.
As a result, Snead for the year hauled in eight passes for 92 yards and played less than 300 snaps in the regular season. A free agent this offseason, Snead signed a two year deal with the Ravens who on paper figure to have an improve receiving corps.
Hit or miss: Miss
Chris Hogan, Patriots: With Julian Edelman lost for the season, I was expecting Hogan to emerge as one of Tom Brady’s leading receivers. He missed seven games due to injury, but Hogan produced when he played hauling in 34 passes for 439 yards and five touchdowns. That primarily came from a stretch of weeks two through five where Hogan had 280 yards and five touchdowns. It wasn’t until the Super Bowl that Hogan made a big impact for the Patriots as he hauled in six catches for 128 yards and a touchdown in that game.
This year is another promising one in terms of opportunity for Hogan. The Patriots traded Brandin Cooks, Edelman is missing the first four games due to suspension, and Danny Amendola left in free agency. The scheme and talent level are promising for a potential 2018 breakout. Ultimately it comes down to if Hogan’s health will be permitting.
Hit or miss: Push
Martavis Bryant, Steelers: With Antonio Brown drawing plenty of attention opposite him, I figured Bryant could be in for a monster year with off field distractions out of the way. Despite a personal best in games played, Bryant had a career low in yards per catch and touchdowns finishing with 50 receptions, 603 yards and three touchdowns. Much of the production I assumed for Bryant ended up going to JuJu Smith-Schuster whose 58/917/7 line is similar to what I would have figured Bryant produced.
During the draft, Bryant was traded to the Raiders for a third round pick. How many targets he sees with his new team is unknown, but odds are he’ll be used more as the vertical threat we became accustomed to.
Hit or miss: Miss
Cameron Meredith, Bears: The promise Meredith showed at the end of 2016 along with the departure of Alshon Jeffery really had me excited about what he was capable of in 2017. Unfortunately, a knee injury in preseason ended his year before it began. The Bears placed a low restricted free agency tender on Meredith and that allowed the Saints to come in and sign him.
If he is healthy, the fit could be very beneficial for both sides. Meredith could establish himself as the clear second option behind Michael Thomas while also reuniting with his receivers coach from 2016. He is a name that all fans (especially fantasy players) should monitor with camp upcoming.
Hit or miss: N/A