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. If you buy a player before they breakout, like James Conner or Dalton Schultz, then you have a ton of value. 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 South.
Nico Collins, WR HOU
This feels like a safe pick for a player to break out on the Texans. While Brevin Jordan and Garrett Wallow are other options, the highest potential lies in Collins, who’s got the chance to be a dominant wide receiver. The former third-round pick in the 2021 draft had a decent first season with Houston and quarterback Davis Mills. He played in 14 games, eight starts, and had 60 targets with 33 receptions for 446 yards and a touchdown. That’s a good rookie year for a player in a struggling offense. The expectations have risen for this year with his explosive training camp.
The 6’4” wide receiver has dominated training camp with high-light catches and routes. He’s earned Mills and offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton’s trust with his play so far. In the preseason, Collins was outstanding against the Rams recently with a big touchdown and four receptions for 48 yards. With him serving as the second option in the passing offense, Mills is set up well to throw plenty toward Collins. He has the talent to become a great wide receiver with speed, size, and hands. He’s a young quarterback’s best friend since Mills has to put the ball in the zip code of Collins.
This is one reason why I believe Nico breaks out. My projections for Nico Collins are he gets 102 targets, 63 receptions, 869 yards, six touchdowns, and averages 10.9 PPR PPG. That’s a WR3/4 season for the young Collins. As Mills matures, Collins could rightfully explode. If the Texans get another quarterback, the same explosion can occur. With Collins’ deep-threat ability, don’t be surprised if he beats my projections. He will exceed many expectations this season in a growing Texans offense.
Kwity Paye, DL IND
Everyone in IDP leagues is always looking for the next breakout season from a cheap player who can get a bunch of points/sacks. Paye will likely be that player this season. He had an okay year in 2021, his rookie year. He had four sacks, ten quarterback hits, and three tackles for a loss over 15 games while he battled injuries. He’s healthy and performing in training camp/preseason so far.
With Indy’s new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley hiring, expect Paye to be rushing the quarterback. Gus likes to rush his defensive ends plenty which favors Paye. He was a tremendous pass rusher in college. With him being valued as a DL3, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him end up as a DL2. Paye has the talent and is in the right system. Don’t be shocked if he winds up closer to ten sacks or more with a legitimate pass-rushing partner in Yannick. Teams won’t be able to double-team Paye. Buy him now while you can. As shown below, he still has the excellent speed to get after the quarterback.
Travis Etienne, RB JAX
Don’t call it a comeback; call it a breakout. Yes, Etienne missed his entire rookie season due to a Lis-franc injury. That was a blessing in disguise for him. Why? Well, he got to avoid the entire sad comedy of Urban Meyer trying to run an NFL team. He avoided learning bad play styles and having a frustrating/sad rookie year. He got to hide in the training room. This means that Etienne is fully healthy, entering his first playing year in the NFL with a new coaching staff that loves to rush the ball.
Etienne is now playing in a Doug Pederson offense. He loves to run the ball and to run it with multiple backs. This might sound detrimental to Etienne, but it’s not. James Robinson is recovering from a torn Achilles. He might be back in time for Week 1, but it remains to be seen how he does. Will he have that burst still? Can he play a lot? Etienne is fully healthy and will be the starting running back. The Jaguars aren’t going to waste a first-round pick that easily.
With Etienne being an elite pass-catcher, this raises the volume of targets and rushes he will get in the offense. He has a long relationship with quarterback Trevor Lawrence as his battery mate out of the backfield. Don’t be surprised if Etienne approaches 100 targets this year. Anytime a running back can lead the backfield in targets and rushes, that’s a breakout season. Buy Etienne while you still can. He will be an RB1 sooner than later. My projections for Travis Etienne are 83 targets, 62 receptions, 474 yards, five touchdowns, and 949 rushing yards on 194 carries for five touchdowns. This is a PPR average of 15.3 ppg.
Austin Hooper, TE TEN
It’s not a breakout; it’s a re-breakout year for Hooper. He’s finally free from the dreaded Cleveland tight end merry-go-round in which you never knew how many snaps he would play. Out from a tight end committee and into the Titans’ offense where he’s the best tight end they have had since Delanie Walker, at least from a receiving perspective. This is a dynasty breakout again for Hooper. His price is starting to rise from the bottom of the tight-end price board.
Hooper will be a strong target for quarterback Ryan Tannehill on the Titans. Treylon Burks has had some injury issues or substellar play this preseason. There are rumors that rookie wide receiver Kyle Phillips will breakout this year, but he’s a rookie that was taken in the fifth round. He might get a good number of targets, but not enough to threaten Burks or WR1 Robert Woods. Nor should it threaten Hooper, who will be a red zone target for Tanny. Hooper has caught 23 touchdowns in his career.
Last year, Hooper had 61 targets, 38 receptions, 345 yards, and three touchdowns in 16 games. Those numbers will significantly rise as long as he is healthy. Currently, he’s the number two option in the Titans’ passing offense. Don’t be shocked if he plays like his Pro-Bowl years instead of the last two in Cleveland. My projections for Austin Hooper this year are 63 receptions on 86 targets for 602 yards and five touchdowns which is a 9.6 PPR ppg average. Buy Hooper now, as he’s a top TE2 for your dynasty team.
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As always, May the Force be with You…