The Yellowstone caldera will wipe us off the map one day. Liquid-hot magma bubbles ominously below where the bison roam. Geologists say a catastrophic eruption is long overdue. In the meantime, we simmer in the broth and build dynasty rosters that will hopefully bring us joy for years.
Like a caldera, there are NFL players building steam to break through the crust this season. While some of them have been good before and hope to return to their former form, others are just a glimmer of potential with a new optimistic outlook heading into the 2023 season. Let’s traverse the dynasty breakout terrain together.
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Dynasty Breakout Candidates
JK Dobbins (RB – BAL)
The former Ohio State standout is now a full year removed from his catastrophic knee injury. Dobbins is only 24 years old and is one of the most effective ball handlers in the league. He averaged just north of 6.0 yards per carry. carry as a rookie in 2020, a staggering number. In his eight games last season, he averaged a whopping 5.65 YPC and scored three touchdowns. His absence in the receiving game was entirely a figment of Greg Roman’s stale offense. Dobbins will thrive under Todd Monken, who loves to bend the status quo in order to get athletes in space in the passing game. The injury history depresses Dobbins’ dynasty value, opening an acquisition window that promises a boatload of upside.
Javonte Williams (RB – DEN)
Williams and Dobbins are in eerily similar arcs, albeit a year apart. The Denver RB suffered his horrific knee injury early last season and endured the same cartilage and ligament damage that extended Dobbins’ recovery time. While a return to action is highly likely this season, Williams’ managers will need to have some faith and patience for his return to form. Javonte is among the best RBs in the NFL at throwing tackles and breaking up huge chunks of yardage, so buying low on him now figures to pay off through 2024 and beyond.
Cam Akers (RB – LAR)
The fantasy community held a funeral for the Rams last season. Some players were buried, others cremated or sent down the river in a canoe set on fire. Cam Akers was a different story. His wake was already etched in the photo album after he ruptured his Achilles in 2021. While certainly not the picture of efficiency like Dobbins, Akers has also been marred by poor offensive line play dating back to his days at Florida State. Sean McVay put his faith in Cam to finish last season as he caught 20-plus touches and surpassed 100 rushing yards in each of the final three games. The Rams need to wake up from their post-championship coma this season, paving the way for Akers to seriously cash in on his current dynasty value.
TJ Hockenson (TE – MIN)
The dense landscape (err, hellscape) of Dynasty is truly nightmarish. Those of us who unfortunately don’t have Travis Kelce, or even one of Mark Andrews or Kyle Pitts, reek of desperation as they pick through the tumbleweeds. Some have pinned their tempered hopes on Hockenson after his good post-trade stretch with the Vikings last season. He certainly has the talent, but what about the opportunity? His time in Detroit was marred by injuries and long stretches of absence. Jordan Addison’s arrival in the route tree doesn’t instill much confidence that Hockenson can break out and pay off at his current value.
Chig Okonkwo (TE – TEN)
The future for the Titans’ offense is certainly bleak. Derrick Henry remains a monolith in the backfield, yet to collect moss on his north end. The receiving corps has one recognizable name, Treylon Burks, with a litany of non-speaking NPCs behind him. Ryan Tannehill is okay, but his collar is steaming, with a few unfinished sculptures behind him on the depth chart. It’s really hard to does not beams of excitement for Chig Okonkwo. The hyper-athletic former Maryland Terrapin was excellent on a per-touch and per-route basis as a rookie last season. There is a distinct feeling in the air that Okonkwo’s value will explode very early in the 2023 season, so don’t be late to put on the glasses.
Kadarius Toney (WR – KC)
A one-trick pony better have an excellent gimmick. Kadarius Toney’s is spectacular. He is extremely elusive after the catch. That’s about it. Toney was a disastrous first-round pick by David Gettleman in New York. The Giants didn’t appreciate Toney’s talents enough to look past his countless soft tissue injuries and off-field peccadilloes. The new regime cut bait and sent him to the Chiefs for pennies on the dollar. The Chiefs gave him more than 20 snaps just once last season. Multiple injuries and a huge learning curve for Andy Reid’s offense prevented that. A Toney breakout is possible, albeit unlikely given his poor track record with production and availability. We’d need a completely unseen version of Kadarius Toney to warrant treating him as anything more than the dart-throwing he’s been since his Florida days.
Treylon Burks (WR – TEN)
Where I’m incredibly bullish on Burks’ teammate Okonkwo, I’m tempering my optimism about a breakout for the former Arkansas Razorback. Burks has all the physical tools to be a force in the NFL, but his learning curve to fill AJ Brown’s shoes is staggering. The Titans were thoroughly finessed in that deal. Burks is better suited as a big play machine who can impose his will after the catch and get open with the built-in cushion so he doesn’t fall off the line of scrimmage. Tennessee shoehorned their unpolished rookie into the X position vacated by Brown, who is much better at running the entire route tree. Burks started to find a groove last season, despite all the QB turmoil. I like him as a prospect and his theoretical target share is impossible to ignore. As a dynasty asset, though, I think his ceiling for any real breakout is already right above his crown.