2021 Breakout WR’s

Michael Ainsworth/Associated Press

Dave Carey (@87_Carey) & Justin Rosser (@Justinrosser10)- June 05, 2021

Russell Gage 2020 WR37

Russell Gage is a 25y/o wide receiver out of Louisiana State who checks in at 6’0″ and 184lbs. Gage had a quiet first year of his career in Atlanta seeing only 10 TGTs playing in the shadows of Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley. 2019 was a busier year where he was targeted 74 times and scored the first TD of his NFL career. Fast forward to 2020 and Gage made the most of his opportunities catching 72 passes on 109 TGTs. Gage was rostered at only 9.7% in 2020, reflecting the doubts that were shared by most Fantasy Managers. So why do we see Gage as a plus target in 2021?

  1. The departure of Julio Jones looms large
    • Julio Jones accounts for a career average of 137.25 TGTs 15.0 YPR
    • Julio Jones caught 51 passes for 771 yards in 2020 playing in only 9 games
    • In 7GP without Julio Jones in 2020 Gage tallied 30/340/2TD’s on 45 targets
  2. Atlanta + Matt Ryan will continue playing a pass first game
    • ATL ranked 9th in 2020 passing the ball 62.06% of the time after rankings 1st in 2019 at 66.97%
    • TE Kyle Pitts projects to be quickly integrated into the Falcons offense and will run routes that complement Gage typically lining up on the opposite side of the field as a slot WR
Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Josh Reynolds (11) stiff-arms Seattle Seahawks strong safety Jamal Adams during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 15, 2020, in Inglewood, Calif. (Ashley Landis/AP)

Josh Reynolds 2020 WR62

It’s not often that a player goes from a crowded WR group like that of the Los Angeles Rams to become the clear-cut WR2 on a team with low competition for targets. This is the case for Josh Reynolds as he wound up with the Tennessee Titans this off-season.

The 6-3 196lb 26 y/o receiver was playing behind some established players like Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp while in Los Angeles. We didn’t get a good look at him while in LA so it fits that Reynolds could realize some of his potential in 2021 filling the shoes of recently departed Corey Davis. Let’s take a look at some convincing statistical reasons to support Reynolds as a breakout in 2021:

  1. Corey Davis’ role for Tennessee is vacant
    • Davis tallied a 65/984/5TD receiving line in 2020
    • Davis vacates 92 targets
    • Davis only played in 14 games for Tennessee in 2020, leaving room for a healthy Reynolds to outproduce his 2020 stats
    • Davis had a career high 15.1 yards per reception in 2020
  2. Competition on the depth chart
    • AJ Brown is as elite as it comes at the WR position, he will be drawing heavy coverage in 2021 and commanding safety help on his side of the field
    • Rookie Dez Fitzpatrick and 3rd year WR Cameron Batson currently sit as the only notable players on the Titans depth chart to earn a target share’s which could impact Reynolds ceiling

Curtis Samuel 2020 WR24

2021 is a season of new beginnings and the same goes for Curtis Samuel, as he signed with the Washington Football team. The 5’11”, 195 lb, 24 year old receiver has a chance to improve on his previous career high in FPTS with 217.10 in 2020, playing opposite of star Terry McLaurin. Finishing the season as WR #25, the sky is the limit with this young team with the slinger under center, the magician himself, 38 year old Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Samuel will re-unite with former HC Ron Rivera and OC Scott Turner who he is already very familiar with from their time together in Carolina. Washington is already showing their enthusiasm level for Samuel to be very high after signing him to a 3yr- 34.5Mil deal early on in free agency.

  1. Samuel is a dual threat player who can line up in a variety of positions
    • Over the past two years he’s had 60 rushing attempts for 330 yards
    • Samuel ended 2020 with some highlight games including a week 16 matchup against Washington where he had 5 receptions for 106 yards along with 7 rush attempts for 52 yards
    • Washington is already using Samuel in a variety of ways through OTA’s in 2021 where has worked out of the slot, backfield and outside WR positions.
  2. In 2020 Samuel took big leaps forward in the following areas:
    • 79.4% Catch rate as compared to 51.4% in 2019
    • YAC per reception was 4.2, up from 2.8 his career average
    • QB passer ratings when targeting Samuel were 109.2, up from 89.4 in 2019
    • YAC per rushing attempt doubled from 2019 to 2.8 per attempt

Michael Pittman Jr 2020 WR79

In 2020 Indianapolis selected Pittman in the 2nd round of the NFL draft. Pittman is listed at 6’4″ 220lbs and is 23y/o. In 13 GP Pittman posted at 40/503/1TD stat line in 13GP. These numbers don’t stand out in any way as being impressive so the masses shouldn’t be racing to draft him ahead of his pedestrian ADP. GM Chris Ballard and the Indianapolis scouting department were keenly focused on Pittman and when they landed him in early round 2 were confident that they drafted the team’s WR of the future. That being said, here are a few good reasons to expect him to improve on his 98.9 FPTS in PPR.

  1. Pittman only played 13 games in 2021
    • Extrapolate his per game average across a full season and he jumps to WR 63 which is encouraging for a young WR
    • Missing the entire month of October interrupted his season and slowed the build of momentum
  2. Phillip Rivers retires > Enter Carson Wentz
    • Phillip Rivers finished the year with a QB rating of 97.0 which leaves very little room to support a high end WR
    • Rivers utilized his TE’s to a total of 82/895/8TD in 2020
    • In 2020 Wentz had a higher Intended Air Yards per attempt at 8.8 than Rivers at 7.2 which favors Pittman’s route tree

Deebo Samuel 2020 WR96

After a promising rookie campaign in 2019 with 15 games played, 81 targets, and 57 receptions totaling 802 yards, 3 TDS in the air with 159 rush yards, and 3 TDs on the ground, his second season…not so much.

In 2020 the 6’0″, 215 lbs product from South Carolina just could not stay healthy, he only played in 7 games for San Francisco. He turned in 33/391/1TD and rushed for a mere 26 yards and 0 TDs. Not only did he miss out on 9 games because of injury, but he was also a non-factor in 3 of the 7 games that he did play. The combination of these factors has the fantasy community down on Deebo Samuel.

Fast forward to 2021 with Jimmy Garoppolo, newly drafted Trey Lance at QB in the bay area, and a fully healthy Deebo, this could be one of the bargain bins’ best grabs of 2021 relative to his WR34 ADP. He is so dynamic and can blow a game up at any moment, he comes off like a slightly “poor mans” version of Tyreek Hill.

  • As compared to Brandon Aiyuk (WR23), Samuel(WR34) is available at a draft day discount
  • Trey Lance opens up the offense if he plays in 2021, including run pass option with Deebo getting the ball in different situations
  • In 4 games where Deebo was healthy in 2020 he averaged 17.03 PPG in PPR formats
  • Deebo Samuel has been used in the 49ers run game successfully averaging 11.4 YPC in 2019 with 3 TD’s. He is an excellent weapon on motion sweep plays

Thanks for stopping by and checking out the latest work from the Fantasy Marksmen for the upcoming 2021 NFL season. Give these players some thought for your upcoming NFL drafts. Hopefully you can find some value here at the WR position relative to the draft capital you need to invest. Best of luck in 2021!

Dave Carey (@87_Carey) & Justin Rosser (@Justinrosser10)- June 05, 2021

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