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Where To Draft the 9 Biggest 2017 Fantasy Football Breakouts in 2018

  • David Gonos

MIN-Thielen-Jim-Mone 2017 fantasy football breakouts

The dust hasn’t even settled yet on last Fantasy season, but here we are, looking ahead to August! Many times we do this because the 2017 Fantasy Football breakouts are still fresh in our minds, and we want to try to understand what we should expect of them in 2018. Of course, after this next season, we’ll do the same thing with 2018 Fantasy Football breakouts, wondering why we didn’t draft them!

Taking a healthy look back on the season shouldn’t be something that draws up ire and makes you mad at every bad move you made – did you grab Wendell Smallwood or D’Onta Foreman over Alvin Kamara in Week 4? … Ouch. And this isn’t the time to pat yourself on the back for being smart enough to know Terrelle Pryor wasn’t going to produce fourth-round Fantasy value? You look back because you want to focus on how what happened in the past will affect your next Fantasy Football drafts.

Featured Adam Thielen AP Photo Credit: Jim Mone

Where Should You Draft These 2017 Fantasy Football Breakouts in 2018?

Consider these players being drafted in 12-team, standard non-PPR leagues this coming NFL season. You can also check out Jake Ciely’s Way Too Early Fantasy Football rankings here!

Carson Wentz, QB, Philadelphia Eagles

Before his Week 14 knee injury ended his season, Wentz was the second-highest scoring Fantasy quarterback in the game! With an NFL-high 33 touchdown passes at that point, he proved to be a Fantasy beast, especially after Week 4. He threw four touchdown passes four times in the nine games between Weeks 5 and 14.

The knee injury shouldn’t affect Wentz much at all from a Fantasy perspective next season, and we like him as Top-Five quarterback, which means he’ll be picked in the first five rounds of most drafts. The problem is – we should expect his interceptions to rise a bit from just seven in 2017. The fact Alshon Jeffery signed a four-year deal in early December should help Wentz’s numbers, too.

Alvin Kamara, RB, New Orleans Saints

Considered the Fantasy Rookie of the Year this past season, the Tennessee product scored the fourth-most Fantasy points among all running backs. That’s the most Fantasy points by a rookie RB not named Ezekiel Elliott since 2012. The really interesting part here is that Kamara wasn’t even being used much until Week 4, the week before the Saints traded away Adrian Peterson. The Saints had a bye the next week, then started ramping up their Kamara usage. From Weeks 6-17, only Todd Gurley scored more Fantasy points than A.K.-41. He’s a late-first-rounder for 2018, especially considering how Ingram slowed to the finish, averaging just 2.56 yards per carry in his last three games.

Kenyan Drake, RB, Miami Dolphins

The Alabama product turned into one of the best Fantasy free-agent pickups this season, right after Jay Ajayi was shipped to Philadelphia after Week 7 (he had just four carries before Week 8!). From Weeks 8-17, he put up RB1 numbers, and just five RBs rushed for more than his 641 yards in that span.

Damian Williams is a free agent, but the Dolphins will certainly bring someone else in. Drake, however, proved to be the unquestioned starter, and that makes him a 300-touch threat in 2018 – and a solid fourth-round choice.

Dion Lewis, RB, New England Patriots

Staying in the AFC East, another huge breakout player was had by Lewis, who posted one of the best second-halves by any Fantasy player.

Remember when people drafted Mike Gillislee in Round 5 last summer!?! But you were smart enough to dodge that obvious mistake. Once the Patriots got through their bye week, Lewis scored 14 or more Fantasy points in six of eight games, and he finished with Top-Five RB numbers after Week 10.

Here’s the problem: he’s still going to be a Patriots running back next year, which makes him a dangerous Fantasy pick by any measure. Gillislee and Rex Burkhead will likely be back next season, and don’t forget James White. Lewis looks more like a middle-rounder at best next year.

Alex Collins, RB, Baltimore Ravens

The former Seahawks running back made some noise in Baltimore in his second NFL season, after the ‘Hawks cut him. He saw playing time, along with Javorius Allen, after Danny Woodhead’s hamstring injury in Week 2, but this should be a crowded backfield once again this summer. Look for Collins in the middle rounds as a Fantasy RB3, with RB2 potential depending on his usage.

Stefon Diggs, WR, Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings’ NFL Playoffs hero certainly upped his Fantasy profile in January, which realistically could continue to climb if the Vikings end up in the Super Bowl. There are plenty of reasons to pass on Diggs:

  • The Vikings’ QB issues might still be unsettled in 2018, with Case Keenum possibly playing elsewhere.
  • Adam Thielen is still this team’s No. 1 target, with TE Kyle Rudolph not far behind.
  • The return of Dalvin Cook (knee) should also take away some targets from others in the passing game.
  • If Pat Shurmur becomes the Giants’ new head coach, the Vikings will have a new offensive coordinator. Look at how that affected the Falcons and Redskins last season.

Diggs is too good to be considered a WR2, but he might just be one of the best flex players or WR3s in 2018 Fantasy.

JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers never traded Martavis Bryant, and it looks like he’ll be back again in 2018. Really, though, that should affect JuJu’s Fantasy value either way. He’s the third passing option after Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell, which is why he was only targeted more than seven times just three times in 2017.

If Todd Haley ends up elsewhere, this Steelers offense could have some issues, which could affect the number of plays for Smith-Schuster. For now, he’s a mid-round pick with WR2 potential.

Adam Thielen, WR, Minnesota Vikings

Most of what was said about Diggs also goes for Thielen, who was THE Fantasy breakout player of the year. However, he should be affected a little less, as whoever the 2018 Vikings quarterback is will be targeting Thielen first in the passing game. He has decent size, is in his prime (turning 28 years old in August), and he officially has the faith of the Vikings’ coaches and quarterbacks. You should expect to see him taken as early as Round 2 and as late as Round 4, as a borderline WR1.

Evan Engram, TE, N.Y. Giants

The last time a rookie tight end finished as a Top-Five tight end was in 2010 – when Rob Gronkowski outplayed his fellow rookie Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez. The outlook is not as promising for Engram, however, as there are doubts about who will be quarterbacking this Giants team in 2018. Interestingly, if the G-Men hire Pat Shurmur as their new head coach, the tight end should remain a very big part of this offense. Hunter Henry took a step back after his great rookie season with the Chargers, but Engram isn’t dealing with Melvin Gordon and Keenan Allen stealing targets. Depending on the new QB, Engram looks to be a Top-Five Fantasy tight end once again, worth a sixth- or seventh-round pick.

Having a good idea of where the 2017 Fantasy Football breakouts will be drafted in 2018 should give you a leg up on your competition. Now, as rookies get signed and free agents switch teams, you’ll already have a good idea of where these players were already ranked.

David Gonos

David Gonos has been writing about sports online since 2001, including CBSSports.com, FoxSports.com, NFL.com, MLB.com and SportsIllustrated.com.