This article is part of our Football Draft Kit series.
Identifying breakout players is a humbling endeavor. Every season breeds new levels of unpredictability and surprises that help lead fantasy teams to victory. In 2013, two relatively bottom-of-the-barrel ADP Denver Broncos – Knowshon Moreno and Julius Thomas – benefited from playing with Peyton Manning during his record-breaking season, propelling many of their fantasy owners to championships. Josh Gordon, whose ADP was outside the top 80, finished 2013 as the top-ranked wide receiver.
Last season, it was Odell Beckham Jr. who took the league by storm. Despite being a first-round pick, Beckham was mostly an afterthought during fantasy draft season because of a hamstring injury. But he finished as one of five rookies among the top-25 fantasy wide receivers last year, joining Mike Evans, Kelvin Benjamin, Jordan Matthews and Sammy Watkins. The immediate impact of the 2014 wide receiver rookie class has portended similar, and most likely inflated, expectations for this year's rookies, a trend already evident in early ADP lists.
This time last year, we attempted to quantify next-level breakouts based on factors beyond opportunity, including pedigree and skills. Some of those players busted, like Toby Gerhart and Justin Hunter, but the exercise also led us to Emmanuel Sanders and DeAndre Hopkins, among others.
But quantifying breakouts based on historical markers is less predictive than in worlds like fantasy baseball. The most obvious choices are usually well documented and fully priced by draft season, and breakouts still don't always come to fruition for those