As the preseason gets underway and fantasy football season creeps closer, let’s follow up on last week’s AFC North/East piece with a forecast for the potential breakout players from every AFC South and West team.
Jack Doyle, TE
With Dwayne Allen in New England, Jack Doyle is now the default #1 tight end in Indy. And that’s not to say that Doyle isn’t qualified for the role. He’s a tremendous all-around player, his teammates love him, and he developed an impressive rapport with Andrew Luck last season. Unfortunately, it looks like Luck may miss some time to start the 2017 season. That affects every player on the offensive side of the ball, but Doyle is the best equipped to weather the storm; inexperienced quarterbacks love to dump it off to their tight end and Doyle is the biggest red zone target the Colts have.
Leonard Fournette, RB
I’m actually watching Fournette play against my team right now, and my only thought is that I’m glad none of the Patriots’ starters are playing. Fournette is tough to bring down; his combination of size, speed, and ferocity is rare. As the fourth overall pick in this April’s draft, Fournette will have first dibs on the starting running back job in Jacksonville. The Jaguars don’t have a great offensive line, but Fournette is too talented not to have an outstanding rookie season. Don’t expect him to have an Ezekiel Elliott-caliber campaign, but he’ll more than live up to his late second round draft stock.
Derrick Henry, RB
Judging from his Twitter, Henry is still living in his college days. Fantasy owners can only hope his level of play begins to reflect his dominance at the collegiate level. That may seem unlikely, given that DeMarco Murray is firmly entrenched as the starting running back in Tennessee. However, Murray faded down the stretch last year as the Titans make a clear effort to phase Henry in. Additionally, he’s been injury-prone throughout his career and will be 29 this season. Even if Murray doesn’t get hurt, there’s a chance Henry may usurp him as the primary back for an exciting young offense. Tennessee’s outstanding offensive line all but guarantees success for whomever ends up being the lead back.
Deshaun Watson, QB
The Texans were a tough team to come up with a breakout candidate for. Their quarterback situation is uncertain, Lamar Miller has a stranglehold on the running back position, and DeAndre Hopkins is absurdly talented but his quarterbacks struggled to feed him last year. Ultimately, I decided that Watson has the best chance to have an impactful fantasy campaign. Why? I can’t really explain it. I’ve always been a believer in the “it” factor (sorry, but Lonzo Ball is going to be a legendary NBA point guard). I believe Watson has the “it” factor. That, and he has a solid supporting cast around him. You definitely shouldn’t draft Watson as a starter, but he’s a late-round flier or waiver wire pickup who could pay big dividends.
Patterson has always had the potential to be, as Al Davis would’ve put it, a “great playa”. All joking aside, Patterson’s skill set truly is impressive. He can do anything asked of him on the offensive side of the ball and is a deadly kick and punt returner to boot. The Raiders took a flyer on Patterson, and you should too. He can be had very cheap, and while he may only look like the 3rd-best receiver in Oakland right now, he does enough of everything else to make his presence felt.
Los Angeles Chargers
Hunter Henry, TE
Henry somewhat lived in the shadow of Antonio Gates last season but he still put in a nice rookie season. I’m somewhat bullish on the Chargers as a whole and Henry stands to benefit from that. It’s likely he will become the primary tight end in Los Angeles’ offense this season. The Chargers would be foolish not to utilize his talents. If you’re hesitant to draft a tight end early and would like to wait until the middle rounds, Henry is your guy.
No, this is not a joke. No, this is not because I’m lazy. I really tried to think of a player not named Sanders or Thomas who even has a remote chance of having an intriguing fantasy season. I couldn’t. Don’t draft anyone from Denver. C.J. Anderson will only disappoint you and Demaryius Thomas and Emannuel Sanders are both being horribly overdrafted.
Kansas City Chiefs
Kareem Hunt, RB
Andy Reid’s feature back is always going to be a top 10 fantasy commodity. Unfortunately, neither Spencer Ware nor Charcandrick West seemed to be up to the task last year. This year, my money is on Hunt, a third-round pick in April’s draft, to set himself apart from the others. The big “if” is his pass protection, but he can do everything else that Reid looks for. Hunt could be this year’s Jordan Howard.
Do you agree with my picks? Which players do you think are headed for breakout seasons? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below! Tune in for the next installment of this series of articles, as I break down potential breakout candidates for every AFC South and AFC West team. And, as always, Roll Armchair.