Third Year Receiver Breakout Candidates: Demaryius Thomas, Danario Alexander & Emmanuel Sanders

We all know the theory that NFL wide receivers have a good chance of breaking out in their third year in the league.  Obviously, there are some players who don’t qualify as “breakouts” like Dez Bryant or Victor Cruz, as they have already emerged as viable fantasy options.  Let’s start taking a look at the receivers who haven’t yet fully emerged, but have the potential to do so this season:

Demaryius Thomas – Denver Broncos
He showed the potential to make the big play last season, with 32 receptions for 551 yards and 1 TD.  His 17.2 yards per receptions placed him 11th among receivers with at least 30 catches.  Now, just consider that it came with Tim Tebow throwing him the ball in the second half and in games that saw the Broncos complete 10 passes if they were lucky.

Now, imagine what could be possible with a healthy Peyton Manning throwing him the ball?  It could be a big year for Thomas and he is well worth drafting in all formats.

Danario Alexander – St. Louis Rams
The first question with Alexander is if he can stay healthy for an entire season (he’s already been bitten by the injury bug as he’s missed OTAs with a hamstring injury with a hamstring injury according to Jim Thomas via Twitter) as he’s played just 18 games over his first two years in the league.  If he can, a starting job is wide open in St. Louis for him to try and grab.

Last season Brandon Lloyd led the team in receptions (51), yards (683) and touchdowns (5).  He has high tailed it out of St. Louis, however.  Alexander and Brandon Gibson tied for second in receiving yards, with 431 (Alexander did so in just 10 games).  Granted, the team was hit with a lot of injuries, but there is no clear-cut option who is any better.

I wouldn’t consider drafting him as anything more than a late round flier at this point, but how often can you get a potential starter at that point in your fantasy draft?

Emmanuel Sanders – Pittsburgh Steelers
He has been overshadowed by Antonio Brown among young Steelers receivers with potential.  With Hines Ward no longer in the mix Sanders should get a major opportunity to produce as the team’s third receiver (barring a contract dispute with Mike Wallace, though you have to think that will get settled).

Sanders has shown the potential to excel in the third receiver role, with 35 first down receptions on his 50 career catches.  With a Steelers offense that has evolved into a much more passing oriented attack, a consistent role as the third receiver with Ben Roethlisberger throwing him the ball could lead to a 50+ catch performance (Ward had 46 receptions in ’11).

Of course, it is all dependent on Sanders staying healthy.  Think of him as a potential WR5 with upside on draft day.

What are your thoughts of these three receivers?  Who do you think will emerge in 2012?  Who do you think will fall flat?

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Make sure to check out our 2012 fantasy football rankings:

Breakout Candidates: Which Sophomore Wide Receivers Could Emerge In 2012?
Breakout Star: Vernon Davis

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