Cooper Kupp's 2021 season is a rare target for fantasy players. A record-breaking season from a wide receiver ADP sitting outside the top 12 swung fantasy leagues. To pinpoint the subsequent record-breaking wide receiver breakout is aspirational at best and foolhardy at worst. Looking for underlying factors that lead to the breakout can help identify future success. As they say, "teach a man to fish…".
Over the past ten seasons, Deebo Samuel (WR3 in 2021), Stefon Diggs (WR3 in 2020), Chris Godwin (WR2 in 2019), Odell Beckham Jr (WR1 in 2014), and Josh Gordon (WR1 in 2013) finished within the top three wide receivers after seeing a preseason ADP outside the top-20 receivers. Only five out of thirty potential players return that reward level (Kupp's WR19 ADP misses the cutoff). That 16% rate spread over 12 teams drops the odds even further.
However, targeting the top ten seasons from players outside the Top 20 in ADP gives a much greater chance of hitting a difference-making piece in lineups. 34 out of 100, or a 34% chance over the last decade of landing a WR1 later in drafts. Every year except an anomaly in 2018 has produced multiple of these players. Diving into the previous five shows three clear trends that carry over throughout the past five years:
|Player||Year||PPR Pts||Positional ADP||Overall ADP||Reason|
|Deebo Samuel||2021||21.2||35||87||3rd Year Breakout|
|Diontae Johnson||2021||17.2||22||60||3rd Year Breakout|
|Stefon Diggs||2020||20.5||23||58||Wrong - Josh Allen's Accuracy|
|Keenan Allen||2020||17.5||21||56||Wrong - Justin Herbert Rookie|
|Will Fuller V||2020||17.2||33||77||Injury History|
|DK Metcalf||2020||17.0||20||48||2nd Year Breakout|
|Chris Godwin||2019||19.7||20||50||3rd Year Breakout|
|Cooper Kupp||2019||16.9||21||51||Injury History|
|Allen Robinson||2019||15.9||30||77||Wrong - 754 Yards in Prior Year|
|Larry Fitzgerald||2017||16.3||25||55||Wrong - Age Concerns|
|Jarvis Landry||2017||16.3||26||58||Wrong - Low TD Producer|
|Tyreek Hill||2017||16.0||21||49||2nd Year Breakout|
|Adam Thielen||2017||15.0||45||117||4th Year Breakout|
For a good reason, the fantasy football hive mind has treated rookies with caution. The position traditionally required an acclimation period. But with spread offenses trickling into lower levels of football and receivers entering the league from sophisticated college systems, players have been able to produce early. Looking back has shown four players who qualified on ADP and produced immediate breakouts: Ja'Marr Chase (ADP WR26), Justin Jefferson (49), Michael Thomas (50), and Odell Beckham Jr Jr. (72). Three of these players fit similar profiles, Chase, Jefferson, and Beckham were first-round picks who stepped into positions that immediately saw production depart, with A.J. Green's 104 targets, Stefon Diggs 94, and Hakeem Nicks 101 targets. Thomas is an outlier, a second-round pick who immediately made an impact while the team's leading receiver Brandin Cooks remained.
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