You’ve likely set a draft date for your fantasy football league and are plotting feverishly to pick up a guy like Patrick Mahomes or Julio Jones. But finding the perfect breakout player is just as important to winning in fantasy, or finding value in a team that may defy expectations and go on a playoff run.
Here are five players poised to experience a breakout year in 2019, based off of coaching changes, rotating roster pieces and added experience at the pro level.
QB Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens
If you paid any attention to Lamar Jackson’s collegiate career at Louisville, you know the Heisman winner is nearly impossible to defend. In Week 11 last year, Jackson stepped in as a rookie to start in place of the injured Joe Flacco. Once Jackson took over, the outlook changed for the Ravens, and Jackson earned himself the permanent starting spot, even though Flacco returned from injury four games later.
Jackson led the team to a 6-1 record as a starter, with the one loss in overtime to the Kansas City Chiefs. He completed just 58.2% of his passes and threw six touchdowns to three interceptions, but his skill as a runner made up for it, with 695 rushing yards and five TDs. He’s already collecting footage for his highlight reel in the preseason, and with a year in the pros under his belt, you can expect more confidence and bigger production in 2019.
Lamar Jackson posted
a HIGHER YPA &
a BETTER PASSER RATING
his rookie year than:
Andrew Luck, Jared Goff, Sam Darnold, Carson Wentz, Derek Carr, Nick Foles, Andy Dalton…
Plus he can do this ⬇️⬇️ 💥💥pic.twitter.com/vD92YZkRo7
— Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) August 16, 2019
RB Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings
Under coordinator Kevin Stefanski and adviser Gary Kubiak, the Minnesota Vikings have a new offensive system in place with an emphasis on the run. Third-year pro Dalvin Cook hasn’t had a chance to show off much of his talent in the NFL due to a torn ACL his rookie season and a hamstring injury in 2018.
Last season, Cook appeared in 11 games and ran for 615 yards and two touchdowns, while also catching 40 passes for 305 yards and two more scores. Should he stay healthy all season, he’s poised for a huge year with an improved Vikings offensive line, Kubiak implementing his boot-action scheme and head coach Mike Zimmer looking at Cook as his go-to guy in the run game.
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) August 18, 2019
WR Dede Westbrook, Jacksonville Jaguars
Slot receiver Dede Westbrook led a struggling Jaguars team with 717 receiving yards and five touchdowns in 2018, his sophomore campaign. A top target for quarterback Blake Bortles, Westbrook should enjoy his best year yet with Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles heading the offense under new coordinator John DeFilippo, who worked with Foles as quarterbacks coach in Philadelphia from 2016-17.
DeFilippo got fired as offensive coordinator of the Vikings in Week 14 last year, after Minnesota lost to the Seahawks, 21-7. Slot receiver Adam Thielen benefited from DeFilippo’s play calling at Minnesota last season, when he caught 113 passes for 1,371 yards and nine touchdowns. Look for Westbrook to experience somewhat similar success for Jacksonville in 2019.
Dede Westbrook with a 74-yard punt return touchdownpic.twitter.com/6j1BvhYexR
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) December 16, 2018
TE David Njoku, Cleveland Browns
Everyone is talking about the tandem of quarterback Baker Mayfield and wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., but the Browns have another weapon who should continue to see an uptick in performance in 2019. Third-year tight end David Njoku racked up 639 yards and four touchdowns in 2018, after he tallied 386 yards and four scores during his rookie season. Defenses will target Beckham and Jarvis Landry, which will open up lanes for Njoku to connect with Mayfield. Njoku should add even more yards and a few more TDs to his stat line in 2019.
— Jeff D NOT @ SDCC (@JeffDLowe) November 25, 2018
LB Bradley Chubb, Denver Broncos
Bradley Chubb debuted as a rookie in 2018, and he notched 60 tackles, 12 sacks and two forced fumbles with Denver. With former Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio now the head coach of the Broncos, Chubb will get the level of coaching necessary to put him over the top and make him a potential top-five sack leader at the end of 2019. With teammate Von Miller, the pair will dominate the league as one of the fiercest linebacker duos in 2019 and drum up nightmares for any quarterback they face.
Bradley Chubb is unblockable. Speed to power and rips through for the strip sack. How are you supposed to block Chubb and Von Miller for four quarters?
— Rob Paul (@RobPaulNFL) August 20, 2019