Every year in the NFL, players from all positions have breakout years that tell the world they are among the best at their position in football. Every breakout year matters for every type of player, but in dynasty, the focus is on skill players like a wide receiver, tight end, linebacker, safety, and so on. When dynasty breakout seasons occur, it could win dynasty players their league if they correctly acquired the player before the season started. You have a lot of value if you buy a player before they break out, like James Conner or Dalton Schultz. Getting the right dynasty breakout players before or very early in the season can change how your entire season goes. Here are some names to keep in mind in the AFC North.
Devin Duvernay, WR BAL
Duvernay was a Pro Bowler and All-Pro last year in the NFL, thanks to his return work on special teams. Now, he’s set up to be the WR2 on the Baltimore Ravens. With Marquise Brown being traded to the Cardinals, his 146 targets must go somewhere. While Rashod Bateman will get a large amount, it’s fair to say Duvernay will get a decent share too. He’s a multi-purpose wide receiver that can rush, catch, and run deep routes. Last year, he had 47 targets, 33 receptions, and 272 yards with two touchdowns. He will potentially double those numbers this year if he’s healthy.
While the Ravens will be a rushing-oriented offense, they will still have to pass the ball. Duvernay is only entering his age-25 season. The time for a breakout is now, and don’t be surprised if he surpasses his third-round price this year. He’s a worthy dart throw for contenders who need to add to their wide receiver room. The same is true for rebuilders. See if you can get Duvernay thrown in to sweeten a deal. He’s young enough to grow with your team without scoring too much. Regardless, his price will rise by the end of the season, provided he’s healthy.
Ultimately, my projections for Duvernay are 72 targets, 48 receptions, 612 yards, three touchdowns, and 58 rushing yards on eight attempts. If your league does return points, he will likely have nearly 900 return yards and a touchdown. This equates to a 7.5 PPR average but could rise higher if he averages more deep throws or red zone work. For a cheap cost, you could gain a potential WR1 of the Ravens if Bateman were to miss time like last year.
Hayden Hurst, TE CIN
Hurst is on his third team in five years since being drafted, but I expect him to have a career year this year. He is replacing CJ Uzomah, who departed for the Jets in the offseason. Uzomah was a decent fantasy target on the Bengals for bye week coverage. However, it seems like the Bengals have more in the plan for Hurst than just regular tight end usage.
If the Bengals start scripting plays for Hurst, then it’s quite likely he breaks out and reaches upper TE2-tier numbers in 2022. That’s good value for a guy on waivers in most dynasty leagues a few months ago. He’s a cheap depth target that only has upside. You can likely acquire him for a fourth-round pick or so. Hurst was the best bet for a breakout on a team that is set with proven starters or is a rookie. Tight ends take a while to get fully adjusted to the NFL. It wouldn’t be out of the realm of reality for Hurst to break out in his fifth season in the NFL.
David Njoku, TE CLE
Njoku is one of the guys on whom I would put theoretical money to break out this year entirely. Austin Hooper is gone. The team has no proven second option in the offense. The Browns used their franchise tag on Njoku before signing him to a four-year, over $56 million deal. He started to break out last year with 53 targets, 36 receptions, 475 yards, and four touchdowns. I wouldn’t put it past him to double those numbers this year.
The Browns will be without Watson, but Brissett knows to target his best pass-catchers. Njoku is easily the second-best one on the team. Entering his age-26 season, Njoku’s price is that of a TE2. By the end of the season, I expect he will be a certified TE1. He can separate, speed, and now understands how to perform both jobs as a tight end. That’s why I am predicting this year that he has 93 targets, 62 receptions, 768 yards, five touchdowns, and averages 10.6 PPR points. That’s good enough for TE11/2. Buy him now for any dynasty team.
Myles Jack, LB PIT
Jack started his career in Jacksonville, where he became one of the best linebackers in the NFL with an ability to cover or rush the passer. He’s an all-around linebacker that can do anything asked of him. While injuries limited his ability at times in Jacksonville, it was still a shock that the Jaguars let him get free. Their loss is the Steelers’ gain. In every season that he has played at least 14 games, Jack has had at least 90 combined tackles and 66 solo tackles. He has 6.5 sacks and three interceptions in his career. The 27-year-old linebacker is a key piece to have in IDP.
Jack will be an LB1/2 this year, regardless of the presence of Devin Bush. He’s young and a playmaker. According to the Steelers IDP article for DynastyNerds, Jack is the best linebacker the Steelers have had since Ryan Shazier. Buy him now, with his price still unknown to some IDP owners. He will have a ton of potential in Coach Mike Tomlin’s defense. Expect big things this year from Jack in what will be a re-breakout year after his price fell deeply in the off-season.
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As always, May the Force be with You…