2022 Fantasy Football Breakout: Michael Pittman

As NFL offseason activities begin and fantasy football drafts are right around the corner, it’s time to identify the under-the-radar players that could win fantasy leagues in 2022. Some breakout candidates are universally recognized by the fantasy football community, while others are and will be slept on until the breakout begins to appear in the box score. Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. is one of the most popular breakout candidates in fantasy circles, but many are n’t aware of just how tremendous his upside is for the upcoming season.

One could argue Pittman already broke out in 2021. The former second-round pick posted 88 receptions, 1088 yards, and six touchdowns en route to a WR17 finish in PPR leagues. His ADP from him was once far too low based on his 2021 resume, but in the month of June, it has moved up to the WR13 spot (National Fantasy Championships ADP).

However, in casual leagues or “home leagues,” he usually falls more towards the WR17-20 spot – thus making him an appropriate topic for breakout candidates.

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2021 Season Review

Pittman finished the 2021 season with seven games of eight or more targets, and four games of 12 or more targets, all in the context of the 26th-most pass-centric (team pass plays per game) offense in the NFL. Pittman ranked inside the top-20 in targets (129), receptions (88), receiving yards (1008), yards per route run (2.12), snap share 87.7-percent), route participation (98.1-percent), red-zone targets (14), and touchdowns (six) among qualified wide receivers. Overall, he was an efficient weapon for Carson Wentz and provided boom weeks for fantasy owners with five games of at least 20 fantasy points.

Michael Pittman Jr. PlayerProfiler Page

He performed well and notched his first 1,000-yard season with efficiency and consistency, despite sub-par quarterback play via Carson Wentz. Wentz finished 29th in accuracy rating (7.2) and play-action completion percentage (56.0-percent) and 28th in true completion percentage (67.4-percent) and pressured completion percentage (37.7-percent). Wentz didn’t play well enough to keep his jobs in Indianapolis – which is all we need to know.

2022 Season Outlook

While the Colts’ offense will remain a run-heavy attack, the addition of former Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan should provide an upgrade that benefits all of the Indianapolis weapons. In all the key metrics Wentz struggled in, Ryan excelled – despite arguably the worst supporting cast in the league.

News flash: Matt Ryan isn’t washed yet. Behind a shaky offensive line that ranked 32nd in protection rate and depleted weapons, Ryan posted a 7.8 accuracy rating (eighth among qualified QBs), a 72.5-percent true competition percentage (11th), a 47.8-percent deep ball completion percentage (third) , and a 53.8-percent pressured completion percentage (fourth). Ryan has a history of supporting numerous fantasy-relevant pass-catchers throughout his career. Even if you don’t count Julio Jones, we’ve seen Roddy White, Mohamed Sanu, Kyle Pitts, Calvin Ridley, Russell Gage, Austin Hooper, and countless others benefit from the right arm of Ryan. There aren’t many guys who Wentz has propelled to become a solid fantasy option.

All that said, why shouldn’t we expect Pittman to take a major leap in fantasy football? He fits the prototypical alpha profile that has produced tons of monster fantasy seasons in the past. The Colts only added Alec Pierce and Jelani Woods to its pass-catcher group, so Pittman is still set up to be a dominant target hog.

Prediction for Michael Pittman Jr.

Based on Pittman’s 2021 production profile and major quarterback upgrade this offseason, a top-10 fantasy WR finish is far from unreasonable. His key stats and metrics suggest a nuclear breakout is on the horizon, and we should be smashing the button in fantasy drafts, especially in home leagues where he’s likely to slip beyond the WR13 spot. Tyreek Hill and AJ Brown are being drafted ahead of him, but he will finish above both.

While Pittman has the opportunity to dominate his team in targets, Brown will have a ton of target competition in the most run-heavy offense in football. Hill, on the other hand, will also be in a much more run-centric offense, competing with Jaylen Waddle and Mike Gesicki for targets. Ultimately, it’s time to treat Pittman like an elite fantasy WR and ignore some of the household names taken above him. All the stars are aligned for a big season, and he will indeed finish as a top-10 scorer at wide receiver.

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