Second- and Third-Year WRs headed for a breakout

April 16, 2021

Breakouts

Marquise Brown

After his promising rookie season was frequently interrupted by nagging injuries, Brown played in all 16 games in 2020.

He added 12 catches for 185 and a touchdown in two additional games played from his freshman campaign.

Considering the regression in Lamar Jackson’s numbers during that time, it’s impressive that Brown stayed fantasy-relevant while his team had a slightly down year.

In 2020 it seemed that the rest of the league had watched plenty of Ravens’ film from the previous year, and not much of their roster had changed.

This offseason Baltimore let Willie Snead walk, and added Sammy Watkins, which should be a significant upgrade barring injuries.

Many mock drafts also have the Ravens taking a receiver early this year, so if this takes place it could open things up for Brown to have his biggest year yet.

We’ve seen Brown used as more than just a downfield threat in the past, and he had his biggest season in college at OU, while lined up across from Ceedee Lamb in 2018.

Brown finished that season with 10 more catches than the underclassmen Lamb, for an additional 160 yards and one less touchdown.

Deebo Samuel

The 49ers have traded up to the 3rd-overall pick in this year’s draft and all signs point to them taking a QB.

There is a lot of speculation revolving around which QB they will take, however, we can trust that Kyle Shanahan will make the best choice to improve this offense.

Even if San Francisco does keep Jimmy Garopolo as the 2021 starter, the combination of Brandon Aiyuk, Samuel, and George Kittle is more than any young QB can hope to inherit when they do get their shot. Samuel and Aiyuk have the potential to be the best pair in the league, after the catch. Samuel is a prime candidate for a resurgence in 2021 and beyond.

Jerry Jeudy

In his rookie season, Jerry Jeudy saw an early change in the circumstances surrounding his new role.

A season-ending Week 1 injury to Courtland Sutton certainly added some pressure.

Drew Lock, the Broncos starting QB missed three games between a shoulder injury and the COVID-19 list.

Lock has been called the fifth-best QB in the AFC West, behind Raider’s backup, Marcus Mariota.

Backup Ryan Finley showed just enough promise while filling in for Lock, to be signed by the Texans this offseason, as a likely backup to Tyrod Taylor.

Needless to say, 2020 was a shaky year for the Broncos at the QB position, including Week 12, when they started a WR at QB.

With Both Sutton and Lock, likely returning this year, things are looking up for Jeudy.

Aside from the poor QB play, his biggest problem last year was the lack of other receiving threats around him, as this lead to increased attention from opposing defenses. Look for Jeudy to use his highly technical route-running ability to get separation from No. 2 corners around the league in 2021.

Darius Slayton

Former 5th-round pick, Darius Slayton had a rookie year was unexpected to say the least, posting 48 receptions for 740 yards, and eight touchdowns.

Even in deeper dynasty leagues, he was likely a waiver wire pickup early in the season.

While playing in two more games than in 2019, Slayton added just two more receptions for 11 more yards, but he scored five fewer touchdowns.

This sophomore slump in 2020 can also be partially explained by the addition of a new offensive coordinator in Jason Garrett, which can take time to adjust.

With the additions of Kenny Golladay and John Ross III, Slayton now has two new teammates that should draw plenty of defenders and possibly open things up for him.

Either Darius Slayton or teammate Sterling Shepard should be open often in 2021, but it remains to be seen which one will get the WR2 job across from Golladay.

Jalen Reagor

In the 2020 draft, the Philadelphia Eagles took Jalen Reagor with the 21st-overall pick.

This made Reagor the 4th WR taken in the draft followed by Justin Jefferson, Brandon Aiyuk, Tee Higgins, and Michael Pittman Jr. in that order.

While that is a lot to live up to, this pick was less of a surprise than Henry Ruggs III being the first receiver taken, followed by Jeudy and Lamb. If Reagor can live up to a fraction of the hype that comes with being drafted so early in this group, he should have a great second year.

With his 2020 season hampered by injuries to his shoulder and thumb, Reagor was able to string together 31 receptions for 396 yards and a touchdown despite missing weeks 3 through 7 and returning to a team with all kinds of controversy on his side of the ball.

The Eagles head into 2021 with a new head coach and QB securely in the driver’s seat to start the season.

Reagor’s closest teammates on the depth chart are currently Greg Ward Jr. and Travis Fulgham, so don’t be surprised to see the Eagles add another receiver with the 12th pick in this year’s draft.

Either way, Reagor appears to be in a great position to back up the hype this season, and adding another target should help more than it Hurts.

Denzel Mims

Late in the second round of the 2020 NFL draft, the New York Jets added Mims to lead a struggling WR room.

Mims is another name on this list who struggled with injuries in his rookie season. Due to a hamstring issue, Mims was placed on the IR list and was unable to debut until Week 7.

In the nine games he did play, Mims racked up 23 receptions for 357 yards, on what many considered to be the worst offense in the league. With the second overall pick in the upcoming draft, it is expected that the Jets will take QB Zach Wilson, who has all the potential to be great for Mims if the offensive line is able to protect him.

The Jets already added former fifth-overall pick Corey Davis, who will line up across from Mims. On paper, this appears to be the best pair of Jets receivers in years.

Davis is coming off of his best season since being drafted in 2017, however, he has dealt with injuries in most of the prior seasons. If Davis can stay healthy again, he should draw the top CB on the opposing defense.

With these changes and a full offseason to prepare, expect Mims to have a significantly better opportunity to prove himself in 2021.