By Matt Cott and Matthew Schwimmer of RotoAnalysis.com
After breaking down some playoff pickups last week (read: sneaky playoff pickups), the guys from RotoAnalysis are back this week to look at some of the biggest breakouts that happened unexpectedly this season. While breakouts from RG3, Trent Richardson, and Doug Martin weren’t necessarily out of the blue, there were a ton of rookies and other previously unheralded players who excelled for the first time this season, to the tune of hundreds of fantasy points. Many of these players are probably the reason why you’re in (or out of) the playoffs in the first place. Here are some of our favorite breakout players this season:
Alfred Morris, Redskins RB
The guy RG3 says should be rookie of the year went from 3rd on the depth chart to Mike Shanahan’s horse with 28 carries in week 1. He hasn’t looked back and is currently the 10th RB on the season. While the touchdowns have slowed down in recent weeks, his usage has been consistent and he’s definitely one of the players who has swung any fantasy league after the draft the most. It’s pretty funny to look back at last season, Roy Helu, and Evan Royster now that we see how solid this 6th round pick has been.
Bryce Brown, Eagles RB
Coming into college, Brown was the #1 overall recruit in his class — ahead of studs like Trent Richardson, Matt Barkley, and Manti Te’o. After leaving Tennessee his sophomore year a disappointment, nobody thought he would end up making it to the NFL. But he persevered and worked his way up the Eagles depth chart past Dion Lewis. His last two weeks have been nothing short of studly. 2 of the 10 best weeks for a RB this season have come courtesy of Brown. If you had him in your lineup each of the past two weeks, which could be just the playoff push your team needed.
Danario Alexander, Chargers WR
I remember right when Alexander signed with the Chargers (October 18th) we got a question on Twitter from a guy wondering if he should stash Danario Alexander on his bench. I dismissed, saying that he had upside but would just never pull it together. Well, he has. Receiver is one of the easiest positions to quickly adjust to, and “DX” has broken out to be the #1 target and replacement for Vincent Jackson that Malcom Floyd wasn’t developing to be. An All-American out of Missouri, Alexander had the talent to be an NFL level WR but was always derailed by injuries or stuck in a crowded receiving corps. I really like him for the rest of the year and he’s an interesting name to look at for next year’s fantasy drafts.
T.Y. Hilton, Colts WR
Hilton’s ascension to fantasy relevance has correlated with two things: Andrew Luck’s similar rise to tentative fantasy starter status, and the slight, and I emphasize slight, decline of Reggie Wayne towards the end of the season (I don’t want to hear any ‘Reggie Wayne vs. Pierre Garçon’ questions this week. Wayne is still an amazingly consistent stud: he’s had less than 71 yards one time this season, and never less than 50.) A big question heading into this season for the Colts, mostly revolving around Austin Collie, was ‘Is Andrew Luck good enough to support two consistent fantasy receivers?’ The last six weeks have proven that: yes, in fact, Andrew Luck can definitely do that, and T.Y. Hilton has obviously stepped up in that number 2 role, posting three 100-yard games in the last six weeks as well as three TD’s over that span. The Colts play the Titans this week and the Chiefs in week 16. Hilton is a start-able option in both of those matchups and will be a consistent name in fantasy for years to come.
Chris Givens, Rams WR
At first, Givens’ success seemed unsustainable, but over the last eight weeks Givens has been the epitome of consistent, averaging 68.75 Yards Per Game and putting up less than 50 yards only once. Haters argue that Givens’ yards output is fluky given his abnormally low receptions total, and in most cases they would be right; however, Givens has actually been 12th in the NFL so far this season in Average Depth Of Target (via the great site ProFootballFocus.com), on average being 14.8 yards in front of the line of scrimmage when Bradford has targeted him. Additionally, Givens was never the focal point of the Rams’ passing attack thanks to the presence of the seemingly dynamic Danny Amendola, until last week, when Givens put up 11 receptions and 92 yards against the 49ers stout defense. Chris Givens is a talent to be reckoned with in this league going forward, and, if Amendola (currently listed as a game-time decision) is out this week, Givens is definitely a starting consideration in as shallow as 10-team leagues.
Brandon Myers, Raiders TE
Yeah, I know Brandon Myers just had an awful game against a Denver defense that has been surprisingly bad against the tight end so far this season, but I still think he’s a top five or six tight end heading into the playoffs. This year Myers is averaging 56 yards per game, he’s had four TD’s in the last six weeks, and he’s been grabbing 5.38 receptions per game at an absurdly high conversion rate of 77.8% of his targets. The replacement level at tight end is also very low right now. In a 12-team league, the 13th best tight end so far this season has been Scott Chandler, who has more games with 2 or less points (5) then of double-digit points (3). Myers may not be completely consistent, but he has talent and will provide points on a regular basis, which makes him a legitimate starter heading into the playoffs. Not bad for a 6th round pick in 2009 with less than 1000 college receiving yards.
Agree? Disagree? Questions? Tweet @RotoAnalysis and be sure to follow Moe @MoeProblems and Matt @KidCotti21. Check out their work on RotoAnalysis.com, as well as The RotoAnalysis Fantasy Sports Podcast.