June 21, 2024

Super Sophomores

6 min read

Super Sophomores:  

The 2nd Year Players You Should  Be Buying  

 

It takes a lot to go right for rookies to turn themselves into legitimate set-and-forget starters by the end of their 1st season.  The situation that occurs much more frequently is a high-talent rookie showing flashes of greatness but lacking enough consistency to avoid that 2nd-year question – “Will they take the next step this year?”. One of my favorite strategies for building or improving my Dynasty roster is identifying some of these year 2 breakout players and targeting them during the training camp window. During training camp, the hype for the incoming rookie class is typically at its highest point since the NFL draft, and those 2nd-year breakout candidates tend to fly under the radar a bit. In this article, we’ll look at 3 players entering their 2nd season who are perfect buy-low breakout candidates for savvy managers to target.  

Skyy Moore  

Moore came into the NFL draft process with considerable hype and for good reason. His college production profile speaks for itself. He began with a bang as a true freshman, leading the team in receiving yards, and only got better from there. His 25/391/3  stat line from the 2020 Covid-shortened season (5 games)  equates to a 65/1016/8 stat line over a 13-game schedule. He then followed that up with a 94/1291/10 line in his final year at WMU that was good for the top 15 in the country in receiving yards and top 10 in receptions. Once in the NFL, though, Moore had a disappointing rookie season, catching 22 of 33 targets for only 250 yards. This shouldn’t be too much of a surprise, as successful WRs from non-Power 5 schools historically take a bit longer to get comfortable and make an impact at the NFL level than Power 5 prospects. Moore has all the talent to make it happen and now steps into 2023 with the opportunity to do so. While Travis Kelce will be the focal point of this passing attack as long as he is around, the departures of JuJu Smith-Schuster and Mecole Hardman leave over 130 targets from last season up for grabs. Moore profiles as the best option to take on these vacated targets and has been seeing every single starter’s rep in 2 wide sets in training camp. The competition for these targets is a bit underwhelming too, with Marquez Valdes-Scantling being more of a deep ball specialist, Kadarius Toney’s inability to stay on the field, and Rashee Rice still getting acclimated as a rookie. There seems to be a lot of optimism in Kansas City surrounding Moore this year as well, with NFL reporter James Palmer writing “Skyy Moore has come into camp ‘a completely different player’ I’m told” and Chiefs’ safety Justin Reid said, “He looks like an entirely new player. I expect a lot from him this year”. Moore’s current price makes him a fair swap for some less inspiring assets like Brian Robinson Jr., Wan’Dale Robinson, or Khalil Herbert, so he is valued well below his ceiling right now. With All-Pro QB Patrick Mahomes throwing the passes, expect Moore to make that 2nd-year leap and have himself a huge season.  

 

Treylon Burks  

Injuries, conditioning problems, and the immense pressure of being the rookie expected to replace AJ Brown all contributed to a  disappointing rookie season for Burks. Still, in his time on the field, we saw flashes of the elite talent Burks possesses. He made some very impressive catches in games against the Packers,  Bengals, and Eagles (hanging on to his lone TD catch of the year while taking a brutal hit that put him out of the game), and the data suggests Burks has the talent to be a very successful NFL WR. He ranks above average in average yards After the Catch, average yards per Route Run, Team Air Yards%, and Target Rate per Route Run. All reports from training camp indicate that Burks is in much better shape than last year at this time which should help keep him healthy and on the field to make plays. The addition of DeAndre Hopkins to the Titans’ wide receiver room is also a huge help for Burks’ production. Burks should thrive with Hopkins drawing attention from the defense, while also learning a lot from Hopkins to help him grow into the elite wide receiver he could be. One quote that stood out to me from Titans’ reporter Mike Herndon at training camp was “Treylon Burks and Hopkins were virtually inseparable on Friday, spending time together with Tannehill during special teams periods and constantly communicating between reps”. There are few players in the league that you’d want mentoring your young wide receivers more than DeAndre Hopkins, so this is definitely a positive sign for Burks’ growth as a player.  Finally, if you’ve read my Tyjae Spears column, you know that I  expect the Titans’ offense to be throwing the ball a lot more under  Tim Kelly this season. The Titans’ run-heavy offenses of old certainly had a difficult time producing 2 fantasy-relevant WRs,  but that shouldn’t be the case this year. In 2020, Kelly’s Texans offense had Brandin Cooks finish as PPR WR16 and Will Fuller finished as PPR WR32 while only playing in 11 games. Hopkins and Burks are a much more talented and dynamic duo than Cooks and Fuller, and Burks comes into this year without the health concerns that plagued the often-injured Fuller. Burks’ current price reflects his status as a potentially elite up-and-coming receiver, but there are other players in this range that I would send away for Burks in a heartbeat (Jameson Williams, Michael Pittman Jr., Chris Godwin). It is not unreasonable to expect big things out of this new-look Titans’ passing game, so it looks like wheels up for Treylon Burks!  

James Cook  

Congrats, Devin Singletary, you are now a Houston Texan. That departure opens up a whole world of opportunity for 2nd year running back James Cook in Buffalo. Singletary finished the last 2 seasons in Buffalo as the PPR RB20 and RB23, primarily because of his pass-catching role within the offense. He finished each of those seasons with 35+ receptions on 50+ targets, and this is something we should expect to see continue for Cook. Nick Goodwin wrote a great Dynasty Dilemma article on Cook, which I highly recommend reading for a deeper look at his situation with the Bills. He notes how the Bills spent high draft capital on Cook with the intention of him becoming an all-purpose weapon for their offense. There is minimal competition for touches in that role because career pass-catching specialist Nyheim Hines was recently lost for the season to a knee injury, and neither Damien Harris nor Latavius Murray poses any real threat through the air. Cook will almost certainly lose some TD value with Buffalo QB Josh Allen being the team’s primary goal-line rushing weapon. But the same was true when Singletary was there and that didn’t stop him from finding the end zone 12 times on the ground in the last 2  seasons en route to two top-24 finishes. When we look at Cook’s metrics too, it becomes clear that he has the talent to take advantage of his touches. He ranks above average in Broken  Tackle Rate, average yards After Contact, Target Rate per Route Run,  and average yards per Route Run. I would definitely consider moving off some players like Isiah Pacheco, Elijah Moore, or Alexander Mattison if it meant getting James Cook on my roster. With Singletary proving that the RB1 role in Buffalo can produce a reliable fantasy asset, I’ll gladly bet on a more talented running back to step into that role and hit the ground running. Don’t be surprised when Cook finishes as a top 20 fantasy RB this season.