On that chase for the next big fantasy football breakout? Aren’t we all. Welcome to The Next _____ series, where we’ll profile 2015’s season-winning leapers, examine what factors led to the statistical explosion, and what players project for similar jumps in 2016.
Installment One: The Next Allen Robinson
Breakout Label: Midround wideout explodes into an elite WR1.
Breakout Storyline: Though inconsistent in 2014, Robinson flashed elite talent as a rookie who could be thrown open with his jump ball & body contortion skills. Blake Bortles’ trust in the rookie grew quickly, as Robinson began consistently racking up double digit targets before ending the season on the IR. Throughout 2015 OTAs and Training Camp, Robinson was reportedly dominating practices, especially in the end zone, as he consistently made plays over defenders. When the pads came on in the regular season, Bortles officially made the leap as a thrower, and the two’s previous rapport and Robinson’s above-the-rim abilities facilitated a league-leading 14 TD season and created a bonfide WR1.
Favorite “Next Allen Robinson” Candidate: Donte Moncrief
Donte Moncrief (Indianapolis Colts)
ADP*: Standard – #76 overall, WR32; PPR – #48 overall, WR25 (pretty ridiculous differential)
Breakout Storyline / Parellels: Moncrief was already well on his way to a breakout when he and Andrew Luck were on the same field in 2015 (Weeks 1-3 + 6-9). Moncrief’s first five 2015 games with Luck:
- Week 1 @Buf: 6 catches, 46 yards, 1 TD
- Week 2 vs. NYJ: 7 catches, 122 yards, 1 TD
- Week 3 @ TEN: 4 catches, 32 yards, 1 TD
- Week 6 vs. NE: 6 catches, 69 yards, 1 TD
- Week 7 vs. NO: 4 catches, 34 yards, 1 TD
Anyone notice I trend? Yes, Vin, he did score a TD in all of those first five games, very good! And Vin, can you remind me what led to Allen Robinson’s breakout? You’re on fire! It was TDs!
Moreover, the nature of these TDs was eerily similar to how Robinson made his fantasy money; if you check the tape below, Moncrief was a red zone monster. He climbs the ladder over defensive backs and uses his big frame amidst tight windows to haul in Luck’s darts in traffic.
This tape matches Moncrief’s measurables and NFL.com rookie scouting profile. Let’s take a look, and do some cross-comparison with the Jaguars’ stud:
Height: 6’2”. Weight: 222 lbs Arm Length: 32 3/8″
40 yard dash: 4.40 seconds. Vert. Jump: 39.5 inches. Broad Jump: 132.0 inch
(All three led 2014 wideouts at the Combine)
Height: 6’2″. Weight: 220 lbs. Arm Length: 32″
40 yard dash: 4.60 seconds. Vert. Jump: 39 inches. Broad jump: 127 inch
(only Broad Jump was Combine best)
Notes from Moncrief’s profile: “Terrific size. Smooth accelerator — jets off the line, eliminates cushion and has speed to stretch the field vertically. Good balance and body control. Can stem his pattern and leverage defenders. Drives off cornerbacks and creates separation. Knows where the sticks are. Outstanding leaping ability to elevate and pluck throws out of the air. Flashes playmaking ability. Able to sidestep the first tackler and pick up chunk yards after the catch.”
The parallels in build and athletic ability appear almost too obvious, with Moncrief profiling as an even more explosive version of Robinson. Yet, Robinson’s breakout required both a strong QB rapport AND an explosive aerial attack (often necessary due to game flow and poor defensive play).
Well, Moncrief looks to have both factors in his corner as well. First, the connection between Luck and Moncrief appeared quite strong in 2015, especially in the red zone. This seems to have carried over into 2016 camp, as Herald Bulletin’s George Bremer observed: “Yes, Moncrief might assume some of the roles traditionally associated with a “possession” receiver, becoming something of a go-to guy in short-yardage situations.“
Yet, as this article also points out and unlike Robinson, Moncrief has the deep speed to be a pure vertical, breakaway threat as well. Though his 4.40 combine time led all 2014 wideouts (remember, this class included phenoms like Odell Beckham, Mike Evans, and Brandin Cooks), that same article reports Moncrief’s been clocking in at 4.35 these days. “That’s what they’re sleeping on,” Moncrief said Sunday at Anderson University. “But they’ll learn soon.” This imposing combination of jump-ball, possession type skills and blazing fast, downfield monster make Moncrief a natural breakout candidate.
This is especially true in new coordinator Rob Chudzinski’s aggressive, attacking, deep-ball-centric scheme, which profiles highly similar to the Jaguars’ 2015 aerial assault. Also similar, the Colts defense should be abysmal per usual, meaning shootouts will be frequent and the air should remain in the ball. Chud loves moving his receivers around all over the lineup and create mismatches, and no one offers more nightmare potential than a 6’2″ guy who runs a 4.35 and can leap with the best of them.
The main knock on Moncrief as a prospect was that he was “raw” and needed work to become more crisp in his routes. Well, note taken:
“He spent a lot of time in the offseason refining his route running, adding to the potential roles he could play.
“I’ve been able to know what everybody has got and know the reads and how much longer you have on your routes and the ways you can work with your routes,” he said. “Being able to mature there will help my game.”
If Luck and Moncrief maintain health, all the stars are glaringly aligning to a massive breakout for the third year athletic freak. In regards to size and athleticism, Moncrief matches or bests Robinson in ever meaningful category, and we’ve already caught glimpses of these measurables translating onto the field when he and Luck played together. Though his path to targets appears a bit less clear than Robinson’s in 2015, the aforementioned reports of a “go-to short yardage” role gives him a real shot at leading the Colts in receptions, and especially TDs, in 2016. Chudzinski’s scheme will maximize the dangerous size/speed/leaping combination that Moncrief presents, and a weak defense ensures this offense will remain pass-centric. Don’t be shocked when he enters 2017 as a bonfide WR1 selection.
Bold Projection: 90 catches, 1,250 yards, 13 TDs
Other potential “Next Allen Robinson” candidates (5th-8th round wideouts with WR1 ceilings):
Josh Gordon (Cleveland Browns): I cover Gordon’s fantasy ceiling and floor in far greater detail here, but we’ve already seen elite WR1 numbers from the uber talented but oft-troubled wideout. In a strong offensive scheme under Hue Jackson, Gordon is among the best bets to ascend to the elite if his head remains on straight and his ability remains high. Those are massive ifs, however.
Kevin White (Chicago Bears): Unlike Robinson, White’s breakout would come without any previous NFL tape to judge. His insane athleticism + easy path to volume with Matt Forte and Martellus Bennett removed give White that Year 1 explosion upside.
Devante Parker (Miami Dolphins): Similar to Demaryius Thomas who thrived in Adam Gase’s “bubble-screen &take off” scheme, Devante Parker has some insane speed, size, and tackle-breaking abilities. A very fair bet to lead Miami in receiving TDs, and double digit scores isn’t ridiculous.
Tyler Lockett (Seattle Seahawks): After Marshawn Lynch and Jimmy Graham went down and the offense became the Russell Wilson show, Lockett exploded for some monstrous games. Already being listed as a starting WR and with Pete Carroll promising to keep the attack aerial and open, Lockett is primed to build off his impressive rookie finish.
Cardinals WRs- Larry Fitzgerald, John Brown, Michael Floyd: Chasing a 10th Pro Bowl and a first Super Bowl ring, Larry Fitzgerald is my favorite of this trio to emerge as a worthwhile WR1. Though Fitzgerald’s floor may be the highest, John Brown and Michael Floyd each offer a higher ultimate ceiling as younger, more explosive talents. In the end, Arians’ scheme and Carson Palmer’s vision keep the ball fairly spread, which keeps all receivers viable starting options but not my favorite bet for true breakouts.
Desean Jackson (Washington Redskins): Entering a contract year, Desean Jackson will have a little extra motivation in 2016. That’s dangerous, as Jackson is still among the league’s most explosive deep threats when healthy and playing with a straight head. The emergence of other weapons in Washington could place DJax in a number of one-on-ones, and he’s still got plenty left to win those for some massive days.
*ADP data collected on August 2nd, 2016 from FantasyPros composite tools