ESPN’s 2013 Fantasy Football magazine came out a few days ago. It’s absolutely chalked-full of great data, analysis and information. One particular piece of information that caught my eye came from Tristan H. Cockroft. He compiled some stats and noticed that fantasy wide receivers typically make the most significant leaps in their second and fifth seasons. There is an impressive chart in the magazine that backs this up. So, it got me thinking. Which sophomore wideouts are in line for a positive spike in production as they enter their second season?
T.Y Hilton, Indianapolis Colts: Hilton posted a very successful rookie campaign in 2012, catching 50 balls for 861 yards and an impressive seven scores. He served as Andrew Luck’s primary deep ball target, posting 11 plays of 25 yards or more. His blazing speed (4.34) makes him a threat to take on deep on every snap. Hilton also showed a ton of talent in the open field, ranking second among all receivers in yards after catch (7.9). Hilton’s rookie year wasn’t anywhere near his ceiling. The Colts are switching to a more short, intermediate passing attack, which Hilton should thrive in. It will allow him to catch more balls, as he only posted four games with five or more catches. I’d expect Hilton to catch much more than just 50 passes in his sophomore season and it appears that this offense is only getting better. Simply, there is a plethora of upside with Hilton.
Kendall Wright, Tennessee Titans: Wright showed a ton of promise for the Titans last season. He led the team in targets and catches, but despite catching a solid 64 balls, he only posted 626 yards and four scores. Simply, Wright has much more to offer if the Titans continue to get him the ball. An uptick on production could land him inside the top-30 fantasy wide receivers in 2013, but it may all depend on the play of Jake Locker. He sure is athletic, but has struggled with his accuracy so far in his career. Still, Wright will have the opportunity to be the best wide receiver on this roster. Kenny Britt can’t seem to stay on the field, so Wright may very well be the guy in Tennessee. Again, there is definitely upside here, as Wright finished inside the top-25 in fantasy point per snap in PPR formats last season. The sky is the limit for this kid if he continues to be targeted over 100 times.
Ryan Broyles, Detroit Lions: How tough and resilient is this kid? In college, he was an absolute monster before tearing his left ACL. Then, after showing some flashes as the Lions number two wideout, he tore his right ACL. You would think he’d taking ages to recover from this unfortunate experience. However, reports out of camp are that Broyles has been fully participating in minicamp and he believes he will be ready for Week 1. As long as he can stay on the field in 2013, I think he has some serious breakout potential. Like I said, he showed some flashes during his rookie year and if he often lines up in the slot for Detroit next year, he could put up some strong numbers. We know how much the Lions love to throw the ball, and with Calvin Johnson being the main guy opposing defenses watch, Broyles can sneak around and see a ton of single coverage. Detroit has high hopes for this kid, as they selected him in the second round of the draft, despite coming off ACL surgery. And he does have the pedigree, having set the all-time FBS record for career catches. The high volume of passes combined with opportunity could spell an emergence in Broyle’s sophomore season.
Chris Givens, St. Louis Rams: During his rookie campaign, Givens was the definition of a pure deep threat. He fits into that Mike Wallace type of mold, a guy who has 4.41 speed and can stretch the defenses. There was a five game stretch last year where Givens posted at least one catch of at least 50 yards, two of which went for touchdowns. However, despite being the Rams deep ball guy last year, reports out of camp indicate that they want to move him around more and find ways to get him the ball. This should boost his fantasy value and allow him to catch more passes. He only caught 42 balls last year and posted seven games in which he caught two passes or fewer. The Rams are looking like they are going to sling the ball around quite often and with a guy like Givens who has scary speed, there is automatic upside. His aDOT (15.5) ranked 10th in football last season and while I expect that to regress a bit, he still clearly has some monster big play potential.
Adam Pfeifer is a featured fantasy sports columnist for Rant Sports.
You can follow him on Twitter @aPfeiferRS.