Which 2020 rookies have a chance to breakout in 2021?
By: Joe Mason @JosephMason94
Rookies that have a quiet or disappointing first year offer opportunities for a discount on their fantasy value. In 2019, guys like Josh Allen, Mark Andrews, and D.J Moore all made giant step ups from their 2018 rookie campaign. Last year in 2020, guys like T.J. Hockenson, Diontae Johnson, and Kyler Murray all made significant strides moving near the top at their position.
There are some obvious guys that I believe will bounce back such as Tua or Jeudy, but I want to call out some guys who are under the radar that have low risk high reward returns.
Quintez Cephus (DET)
Cephus had a relatively quiet rookie year putting up 20/349/2 on 35 targets but he did so in the shadows of Golladay, Jones, Amendola, and Hockenson. The reason he is on the year two breakout list is because the talent is there, and he’s the only wideout currently under contract for the Lions in 2021.
Cephus received a second/third round grade but fell to the fifth round out of Wisconsin after some off the field issues. He missed his entire 2018 college campaign but returned in 2019 after the charges were dropped. He is not a fast receiver, but his play style dictates physicality and he makes the contested catches.
Pre-2020 NFL draft, Ohio States Jeff Okudah, who some regarded as a top five talent and top cornerback in the class, gave his thoughts on who gave him the most trouble in college.
Cephus has the potential to be the next Cooper Kupp for Jared Goff. With the departures of Golladay and Jones likely, Cephus will have all the opportunity in the world to contribute in 2021. The Lions likely take a WR in the upcoming NFL draft, but even if they go with Ja’Marr Chase at seventh overall, I still like Cephus’s chances to contribute. It will just mean that his price would be even cheaper to acquire. He can be had for a 2021 third round pick and has top 36 WR upside.
Adam Trautman (NO)
Trautman did not play much in his rookie year, putting up 15/171/1 on 16 targets in 15 games. He came from Dayton which is a smaller school but hung 70/916/14 in his last year in college.
2020 was not a great class for tight ends, especially with the upcoming 2021 class led by Kyle Pitts. Pre-draft a lot of analysts were split between Trautman and Kmet for which TE was going to lead the class. Trautman ended up being the fifth TE selected in the 2020 NFL draft in the third round to New Orleans. We know coach Sean Payton likes his tight ends, so Trautman instantly was on the radar after being selected.
He slotted in behind Jared Cook on the depth chart but was very impressive in camp. Coaches and players nominated him as the best rookie performer in camp during the 2020 pre-season. With the Saints in trouble with their current cap situation, look for Jared Cook to sign elsewhere. I fully expect Trautman to be the TE1 for the Saints in 2021.
DeeJay Dallas (SEA)
In a fantastic running back class in 2020 led by guys such as Swift, Taylor, and Dobbins, Dallas is somewhat of a hidden gem. DeeJay was selected in the fourth round of the 2020 NFL draft out of Miami, where he put up 833 all-purpose yards with eight touchdowns in his final year in college.
Seattle decided to invest in a running back in the middle rounds knowing Rashaad Penny would most likely not be able to play after he tore his ACL in 2019. Dallas began the year and the third RB on the depth chart behind Carson and Hyde. As injuries pilled up at the RB position in Seattle, Dallas got his chance to start in week eight.
Dallas finished as the RB3 in week eight in his first NFL action. The reason why he is on this list is he has a chance to either lead or split the backfield work with Penny with the unknown future of Carson and Hyde who are both UFAs this upcoming offseason. He can produce on the ground and through the air, and any RB on the Seahawks is a player I want in fantasy especially after Pete Carroll commented he wants to commit more to the running game for the Seahawks in 2021. Dallas can be acquired for a third-round rookie pick.