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By Moe Koltun, Matt Cott, and Matthew Schwimmer of Roto Analysis
When it comes down to it, breakout players end up deciding the fate of most fantasy football leagues. Who was able to snag them first? Who found that diamond in the rough? These players end up swinging the balance of the league and can carry a team to a championship. This week, we at RotoAnalysis are going to focus on a few breakout performers from so far this season that we think could remain very important going forward. They’re already getting going, and should just continue their strong play so far.
Knowshon Moreno, Broncos RB
This has been a “re-breakout” in reality, but one that was completely unexpected. Now in his 5th season in Denver, Moreno has bounced in and out of playing time. He has never been the most dynamic back in terms of yards per carry or receiving ability, but the former first rounder is proving to be a steady commodity this year. Montee Ball is failing to live up to the hype, and Ronnie Hillman hasn’t gained the trust that Moreno has from the coaching staff. It’s obvious just how good this Broncos offense is, and there will be plenty of red zone opportunities available. Moreno has dominated those snaps among their running backs, and has four of five available TDs. The last of those five was also the one where Ronnie Hillman and Montee Ball famously played “rock-paper-scissors” to see who would get to go in and score. Sit back and enjoy as your late-round pick or waiver-wire add carries you to wins week in and week out.
Torrey Smith, Ravens WR
It might be a cliché, but sometimes third year wide receivers do break out, and Torrey Smith is the epitome of a third year receiver breakout. After being selected in the second round of the 2011 draft by Baltimore, we all knew Smith was loaded with physical upside and had the potential to be a game-changing deep threat. Through his first two seasons, though, that’s all Smith was—a deep threat, and he didn’t garner nearly enough usage to make him a solid fantasy starter, catching 50 and 49 balls in his first two seasons respectively.
Well through five games in 2013, Smith already has 27 receptions, more than half of his total from last year, and he has 51 targets and 556 yards to back up the legitimacy of those receptions. While he’s still mostly a deep threat, a deep threat who gets target over 10 times a game is an extremely valuable commodity, and the dearth of receiving options in the rest of the Ravens’ receiving game is going to be a huge boon to Smith’s fantasy stock this entire season. The loss of Anquan Boldin has made Smith both the team’s deep threat and possession receiver out of necessity, and even though he only has one touchdown so far, I’d expect that number to go up while he sustains the receptions, targets, and yardage. The rest of the way, Torrey Smith is a no-doubt starter at receiver in any league, and he may reach the heights of a WR1 if he grabs a few more TD’s in the coming weeks.
Antonio Brown, Steelers WR
Despite already having his bye week, Antonio Brown ranks 6th amongst wide receivers. This is largely due to his 196 yards and 2 touchdown performance against the Bears that raked in 31 of his 52 fantasy points on the season (60%). While it is the only game that he has reached the endzone, Brown is still the clear #1 option in the Steelers passing game. The addition of Le’Veon Bell should help Brown’s performance as it will prevent defenses from playing exclusively against the pass. Despite the 0-5 start, Big Ben will use the bye week to help rejuvenate this Steelers offense that will improve. Brown has at least 5 catches in each matchup this season and has seen his target count rise each week to where he has 13 in each of his last two games. Consider Antonio Brown a good WR2 going forward.
Agree? Disagree? Questions? Tweet @RotoAnalysis and be sure to follow Moe @MoeProblems, Matt @KidCotti21, and Matt@Schwimingly. Check out their work on RotoAnalysis.com, as well as The RotoAnalysis Fantasy Sports Podcast.