Sam Howell, QB - Washington Commanders
Look back at what Howell did at North Carolina before he lost his weapons, and what he was forced to do? Run the ball. He has that sneaky rushing ability - that’s going to help. He has the talent, and we had a glimpse of it at the end of last year. We also got a glimpse of it this preseason, and I’ve been very intrigued since Eric Bienemy came over to help him take that next step in his 2nd year.
He was drafted way too late in the NFL Draft, and I think he has the weapons to elevate him when he needs it. Terry McLaurin has the turf toe - that’s not great, and I have a little bit more hesitation for Howell because of that, but apparently, McLaurin can be fine a few weeks into the season. He has Jahan Dotson, who seems to be blooming into a potential high-end WR, and we can’t forget about Curtis Samuel, who’s also a legit weapon in the slot. He’s also got Antonio Gibson out of the backfield, and Bienemy’s system is going to help him.
This is a long shot obviously, and I could’ve gone with someone like Lamar Jackson, who I love this year, but I wanted to go with someone who I think can make a big leap, and at the end of the year, could potentially be a fringe QB1 fantasy option.
Pat Freiermuth, TE - Pittsburgh Steelers
I look for a few things for a TE breakout, and one of those things is a player that’s making progress throughout their career… Freiermuth’s going into this third year, which is when we tend to look for these breakouts for TEs.
In his first year - 60 catches for 497 yards; 2nd season, 63 catches for 732 yards - nice improvement there. Freiermuth is 6th all-time in receptions among TEs over their first two seasons in the NFL. Some of the names ahead of him? Gronk, George Kittle, Jimmy Graham and Aaron Hernandez.
He was only behind Kelce, Andrews, and Kittle in yards/route run last year among qualifying tight ends… and with the way Kenny Pickett is looking, this offense can take a step forward, and Freiermuth can combine his ability, the breakout, and the ascending offense into a potential Top-5 finish this year at the position.
I still think there’s a good chance that Freiermuth leads George Pickens in target share with Diontae Johnson being the clear 1 as he did last year.