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 West.
Baron Browning, LB DEN
Last year, Vic Fangio mistakenly tried to use Baron Browning at the inside linebacker position, which ultimately didn’t work out. With Fangio out of the picture, new coach Hackett and company decide to move Browning to outside linebacker/edge rusher, and it’s been working out terrifically. He’s an under-the-radar candidate for an explosion this year past the value you paid to get him, likely a waiver claim or late-round rookie pick. Browning has been making play after play in the backfield this preseason, either sacking the quarterback or creating pressure.
Last year, over 14 games, he had 58 tackles, two tackles for loss, and a quarterback hit. Moving outside, he won’t rack up a ton of tackles but will have a better chance to make many impact plays. Impact plays score more in IDP123 scoring, so this is good news. Browning will get plenty of starts this year as neither newcomer Randy Gregory nor Bradley Chubb has yet managed to stay healthy for an entire season in their career. Buy Browning now, as he is likely a dynasty IDP breakout. He has the potential to be a crucial piece for many IDP teams needing LB depth. If he gets DL added to his position, he will likely be a DL2/3.
Mecole Hardman, WR KC
Last year, Hardman had his best season yet in his third year with the Chiefs. In what is his contract year, he will be playing to set his family up financially for a lifetime. Last year, Hardman played the most snaps of his career at 52% of the offensive snaps. This led to 83 targets, 59 receptions, 693 yards, two touchdowns, and 46 rushing yards on eight rushes. All those numbers, aside from the touchdowns, were career highs. He’s been climbing the numbers chart every year of his career. Despite the increased wide receiver room competition in JuJu Smith-Schuster, Skyy Moore, and Marquez Valdes-Scantling, this gives me high hopes.
Hardman is one of those players that will either completely break out or bust in 2022. He has had plenty of good moments but hasn’t put it together. Of course, that has to do with his limited playing time and targets playing behind a better clone of himself in Tyreek Hill. However, Hadman has advanced chemistry and playbook knowledge with Mahomes. That’s why I’m predicting him to be a dynasty breakout this year as a potential WR2/3, although Smith-Schuster’s health will determine that and if Moore plays as much as expected.
Regardless, my projections for Mecole Hardman are seven rushes, 48 yards, 89 targets, 62 receptions, 740 yards, five touchdowns, 401 return yards, and a 9.9 ppg PPR average over 17 games. Buy him low now for a late second because he’s an excellent depth wide receiver who can provide more value than the cost you paid. After all, he’s only entering his age-24 season. With his speed, the sky is the limit.
Joshua Palmer, WR LAC
I know I put Palmer as a breakout candidate last year, but I’m returning to the same well for a second helping of Palmer breakout-itis. This year is the real deal. Palmer has secured the WR3 job on a huge, prolific Chargers offense. Keenan Allen is entering his early 30s and isn’t guaranteed to keep performing as an elite wide receiver. Mike Williams just got paid but has a history of injuries. Meanwhile, Palmer has the draft capital (third-round), a solid rookie season in limited playing time, and is only entering his age-24 season.
Last year, on 38% of the team’s offensive snaps, Palmer secured 33 receptions on 49 targets for 353 yards and four touchdowns. In games that Palmer had 60% or more snaps, he averaged over 13 ppg. I’d expect many more games like that this year and in his dynasty future. I’m replanting my flag on Josh Palmer having a dynasty breakout season. He’s worth a second-round pick to a rebuilder, contender, or anyone. If Williams or Allen gets hurt, Palmer could be a WR1 or high-end WR2.
In a year, he might even be the WR2 on the Chargers. He’s a terrific buy right now with limitless upside. Honestly, he plays the game strongly and reminds me of a young Keenan Allen. My pessimistic projections, or low-end, of what will happen are 75 targets, 51 receptions, 588 yards, five touchdowns, and an 8.3 PPR ppg average. Not bad numbers for a WR4 in dynasty. Those numbers rise mightily with any injuries to the top-two wide receivers on the Chargers.
Divine Deablo LB/DB LVR
Deablo played a lot of safety last year for the Las Vegas Raiders before moving into a linebacker role. This year, he is set to start at the weak-side linebacker position next to elite linebacker Denzel Perryman. Last year, Divine scored more than seven points in IDP123 scoring in four of his last six games, which gives optimism to this year. On only 26% of the defensive snaps, Divine was quite busy. He had a ton of tackles in such a short time. Last year, Divine Deablo had 45 combined tackles, 28 solos, a tackle for loss, and a fumble recovery. Imagine how many more tackles he could make if he played even 50% of the time or 100%. He’s primed for a breakout year in his second season at only 24 years old.
Deablo will likely have DB designation to start the year, which is enormous. He’ll be playing linebacker and scoring linebacker points, but you can put him in your DB position. This is massive as it’s basically a cheat code. He’s a potential DB2 or LB3 that can be had for very low prices. He’s young enough to fit rebuilders or contenders though I’d want him on my contending roster. Don’t be surprised if Divine Deablo has a dynasty breakout year as a three-down linebacker. Buy him now before that price rises tremendously.
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As always, May the Force be with You…