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Del Pilar's Digest: Potential breakout receivers

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Recent posts by William Del Pilar

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Posted Aug. 30, 2011 @ 10:34 p.m. ET
By William Del Pilar

Not every third- or fourth-year wide receiver will break out. Despite an increase in the number of such wideouts making their marks in recent years, the WR position still has a steep learning curve. We're also changing the position in our hobby, with the increase of PPR (point-per-reception) leagues and the high-powered offenses making us consider drafting slot receivers. Let's see whom you can draft who is primed to make the jump to the next level.

Note: "WR 1:2 / slot receiver" means the player is second on the depth chart at the No. 1 WR position and also is the team's leading slot receiver.

Mike Thomas, Jaguars         
Entering 3rd year
WR 1:1

Thomas is an all-around receiver with quickness, burst, and explosiveness. He runs solid routes and has good hands. He's entering his third season in the same offense, has the trust of QB David Garrard and had a solid 2010 season, with 66 receptions for 820 yards and four touchdowns. He's a solid No. 3 fantasy receiver, but if the offense can get back on track — a big if — and now that he's a No. 1 receiver, he has No. 2 fantasy upside. He's going 148th overall — the 13th round in 12-team leagues — great value in the later rounds.

Kenny Britt, Titans
Entering 3rd year
WR 1:1

Britt is entering his third season and is coming off commissioner Roger Goodell's decision not to suspend him over off-the-field issues. He's still a problem child but clearly the team's most talented wideout. In 12 games last year, he had 42 receptions, 775 yards and nine touchdowns. The team's new offensive coordinator, Chris Palmer, is keeping most of the previous playbook, allowing Britt to continue his growth without interruption. Expect another year of improvement despite the presence of a new quarterback, Matt Hasselbeck. Hasselbeck is having a solid camp but hasn't played with Britt, although the veteran quarterback will make it a point to develop chemistry with him. If C.J. is holding out entering the season and the running game is ineffective, look for the team to go to Britt. Injury- and trouble-free, Britt will take the next step to low-end No. 1 fantasy production.

Robert Meachem, Saints
Entering 4th year
WR 2:2

Meachem enters the season as a backup, but all the Saints see the field in their spread offense. Leading WR Marques Colston is coming off another knee surgery and, while it's speculation, at what point does he slow down? This year? It's always a possibility. Then you have Devery Henderson, the No. 2 wideout, possibly not making the team. Losing a step is one issue, but his salary is the other. If he is let go, Meachem would become the starter. Meachem also had a trainer in the offseason and is hungry. He may need a few things to fall his way, but he could also play himself into the starting job during the season. The fact he's going 99th overall in fantasy drafts doesn't scare me away. I'll take him toward the end of the middle rounds because of his upside and expect No. 2 fantasy production.

Danny Amendola, Rams
Entering 3rd year
WR 1:1

The Rams put their starting WR jobs up for grabs, and Amendola came down as the No. 1 receiver. He should be a big part of new offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels' offense. He's being selected 127th overall, putting him in the late rounds in most drafts. That's excellent value for someone who posted 85 receptions, 689 yards and three touchdowns. He has a good chance to surpass those numbers, and I view him as a No. 3 fantasy receiver with No. 2 upside, if he can stay healthy all season.

Percy Harvin, Vikings
Entering 3rd year
WR 1:1

Harvin's having a solid camp despite sore ribs and is looking for a breakout season. He came in with a chip on his shoulder, and at the moment, his migraines are not an issue. He feels underappreciated, but QB Donovan McNabb believes he can be an 80- to 90-reception, 1,000-yard receiver. Look for those two to connect often and look for the team to find creative ways to get Harvin the ball. Something I saw: Deep threat Bernard Berrian is getting involved in the passing game as McNabb has gone to him during the preseason. A deep threat such as Berrian will open more space for Harvin underneath. Harvin is being drafted in the middle rounds, which is fair value. He's a No. 2 fantasy receiver to start the season with No. 1 upside.

Austin Collie, Colts
Entering 3rd year
WR 1:2 / slot receiver

Collie's on the Colts, so his production is a given as the slot receiver. His health is the question. So far this camp he's dealt with knee and foot issues. However, he's going to use a special helmet to help prevent another concussion. He's always going to be a risk, but if he's healthy, in PPR (point-per-reception) leagues, he's a No. 3 fantasy wideout with No. 2 potential. He's slowly dropping in drafts, and if you can grab him toward the end of the middle rounds, you're gaining value.

Harry Douglas, Falcons
Entering 3rd year
WR 2:2 / slot receiver

You can't talk about the Falcons without someone talking up Douglas. Two years removed from an ACL tear, the team has plans for him in the slot. Even QB Matt Ryan says Douglas is the Falcon to watch this season. The team wants to begin showcasing an aerial attack to stretch the offense, and Douglas, with his explosiveness back, will be part of that. He's a late-round flier but has greater value in large leagues with rosters of 20 or more.

Mike Wallace, Steelers
Entering 3rd year
WR 1:1

Wallace is going with the 33rd overall pick (ADP) in drafts. That's a lofty status, but he's entering his third season in the same offense, and despite a great season in 2010 — 60 receptions for 1,257 yards and 10 touchdowns — he still has upside. The Steelers will air it out and they have one of the league's better quarterbacks in Ben Roethlisberger. His ability to keep a play alive gives the receivers more time to break off their pass routes and make a play. I expect Wallace to see an increase in receptions and yardage. He's also focusing on 2,000 yards this season. If that keeps him hungry and pushes him that much harder, then I'm for it. He's a No. 1 fantasy receiver.

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