Finding fantasy football breakout candidates heading into a new season is about more than just recognizing potential snap increases — for IDP purposes, that is not overly difficult.
Finding the players who can excel in their increased roles and produce for more than just one season is where things become more challenging. Keeping dynasty IDP in mind, let's look at players who could potentially check all of those boxes and break out in 2022.
Notes on which players can qualify as breakout candidates:
- No rookies included
- Must be IDP-relevant for at least consecutive seasons
- Linebackers: 75% increase in production from the previous year
- Defensive linemen: At least 75% increase in sack production from the previous year
- Safeties: Finish in the range of 90-plus total tackles on the season
- Cornerbacks: Finish in the range of 70-plus total tackles on the season
A 75% production increase for Collins this season shouldn’t be a difficult task, considering he only managed 25 total tackles as a rookie on just over 200 defensive snaps. With Jordan Hicks now out of the picture in Arizona, the prophecy of having “two trees in the middle of the field,” as promised by Cardinals’ general manager Steve Keim last offseason, should be fulfilled. It finally seems like we’ll have the two first-round linebackers in Arizona together with Collins and Isaiah Simmons.
Collins earned positive grades as a rookie, albeit on limited snaps, including a 69.3 overall grade, a 71.5 run defense grade and a 64.8 coverage grade. Collins’ 13.17% tackle efficiency as a rookie was also above average, which is a sign that he’s less likely to underperform relative to expectations like his teammate Simmons, who posted a below-average efficiency of 10.71% in 2021.
The expected significant increase in snaps is going to be the major contributing factor for Collins breaking out, but his draft capital and positive marks in his early NFL career are all good signs that we’ll see him make an IDP impact for years to come.
#FFIDP – ARZ linebacker, Zaven Collins, played just 228 snaps in 2021.
In 8 games where he played 15+ snaps, per @PFF:
74.6 overall grade ????
71.2 run defense ????
73.6 coverage ????
☝️Keeping that up will also help his dynasty stock.
He'll be full-time in 2022 and ready to eat.???? pic.twitter.com/7kCfiVCgVR
— Jon Macri (@PFF_Macri) May 13, 2022
Owusu-Koramoah has a lot going for him heading into 2022: He's coming off a rookie season where he earned a top-10 overall grade for his position (76.5), including a top-10 grade in run defense (78.7) and a very respectable 67.4 coverage grade, which ranked inside the top-20 linebackers as well.
Owusu-Koramoah’s 597 defensive snaps fell outside the top-50 linebackers last season, leaving plenty of room for that volume to increase quite a bit in Year 2. Owusu-Koramoah has already shown flashes of being an exceptionally better player than the likes of Anthony Walker and Jacob Phillips — his competition for snaps in Cleveland — and boasts second-round draft capital that the Browns will want to get the most out of.
The Browns are among the most zone-heavy defenses in the league, which helps breed positive efficiency for linebacker tackling, combined with a major snap increase. That's why Owusu-Koramoah comes in ranked as the LB12 for this season. Along with some big-play upside, as he has flashed some pass-rush ability both in the NFL and in college. There’s no reason IDP managers shouldn’t expect a big season from the former golden domer.
Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah ranks among linebackers | 2021
|Overall grade||Run defense grade||Coverage grade||1st contact rate||Pressure rate (min. 50 attempts)|
|76.5 (10th)||78.7 (6th)||67.4 (18th)||11.86% (9th)||18% (9th)|
One more second-year linebacker to close out this position group: Werner likely has the most difficult path to snaps of the group, playing on a Saints team whose LB2 usage varies wildly from week to week. That usage should continue again in 2022 with Demario Davis serving as the team’s first high-volume linebacker, but the difference this year is that Werner is now the team’s clear second option.
In 2021, the Saints' second linebacker averaged a 75% defensive snap share, which isn’t necessarily ideal but also won't ruin his IDP-relevancy. There will certainly be weeks that are much lower than that 75% average, but there will also be weeks that are much greater so it’s still going to be important to temper expectations for Werner as long as Davis is in the picture.
That being said, Werner meets the qualifications for a breakout season. Even if this doesn’t end up being his best fantasy season of his IDP career, he should still hit that 75% production increase, assuming health. Werner earned excellent grades as a rookie, including a 91.0 run defense grade (second among all LBs) and 79.9 overall grade, which was second among rookie linebackers and sixth among all linebackers. This should give IDP managers confidence that he will continue to be an IDP asset long after this season and produce even more once he takes over that LB1 role with the team.
#FFIDP – 2ish minutes of New Orleans Saints linebacker Pete Werner playing the run like you like it (as a rookie!):
91.0 run defense grade in 2021 (2nd among all LBs)
— Jon Macri (@PFF_Macri) June 15, 2022
This cannot be overstated, but Barmore posting 48 total pressures as a rookie in New England, which ranked second-most since 2006 among interior defensive linemen, is a very impressive feat. This is currently being overlooked in plenty of IDP drafts because he only managed 1.5 sacks as a rookie.