The third-year wide receiver breakout. One of the more popular narratives of fantasy football analysts and players alike for years, until we were spoiled by the wide receiver class of 2014, which changed the way fantasy football and especially dynasty league enthusiasts view the position for better, or worse. I believe in some cases the third-year breakout can still occur, as we must look at each player independently.
Prime Breakout Candidate
We now turn our attention to Devin Funchess who now has a full-time role in the Panthers offense, with an abundance of vacated targets up for grabs, and doesn’t cost half as much to acquire as some other trendier breakout candidates. Even with all the positive buzz from training camp, Devin Funchess is barely on the redraft radar, and currently holds a dynasty ADP of WR80.
At 6-4 and 232-pounds, Devin Funchess’ athletic profile is highlighted by a 107.9 (87th-percentile) Height Adjusted Speed Score (HaSS) and a 126.5 (78th-percentile) Burst Score. Coming out of Michigan as a positional convert, Funchess played tight end his freshman and sophomore years before transitioning to wide receiver in his junior year. Funchess’ 11.8 (14th-percentile) College Yards Per Reception wasn’t wowing anyone, although he was still highly productive, posting a 41.4-percent (82nd-percentile) College Dominator Rating.
We must keep in mind that along with switching positions, Devin Funchess is extremely young for a third-year player, having just turned 23. Along with being younger than all but one (Amari Cooper) of his peers from the 2015 draft class, Funchess is younger than many notable sophomore and rookie wide receivers.
Room for Growth
Along with Devin Funchess falling behind Corey Brown on the depth chart, looking at his advanced statistics, admittedly, there are some negatives to point out. The most concerning of these being his drop rate of 10.3-percent (No.4), correlating with a catch rate of 39.7-percent (No.108) in 2016.
There are also some positives to point out, as Devin Funchess saw a 23.7-percent (No.19) Red Zone Target Share. In 14 games played, and seeing significantly less (52.7-percent Snap Share) opportunities, he was only 2 red zone targets behind Greg Olsen and 1 behind Kelvin Benjamin. Funchess also led the Panthers in yards per reception and he was even with Ted Ginn in Target Distance. Although Funchess didn’t have the number of chances deep that Ginn had (20 to 14), he was arguably just as effective, as Cam Newton had his highest passer rating on deep passes when targeting Funchess.
With changes abound to the Panthers’ passing offense, and locked into a starting role opposite of Kelvin Benjamin this season, the opportunity is now for Devin Funchess. Ted Ginn and Corey Brown left behind 148 of the 160 vacated targets for the Panthers. Funchess’ target share is on the rise even with the Panthers’ plans for rookie RB Christian McCaffrey to be a featured part of the offense, and WR Curtis Samuel also being given opportunities to showcase his 4.31 speed.
Check out Devin Funchess & Kelvin Benjamin on the Updated PlayerProfiler Seasonal & Dynasty Rankings:
Funchess is presently the third option in the passing game, a role in which Ted Ginn received 95 targets (17.2-percent Target Share) last season. An injury to Kelvin Benjamin, who has had his share of injury and conditioning issues could thrust Funchess into a lead role.
Devin Funchess’ efficiency will need to improve for him to truly ascend and seize the opportunity in front of him. Three years younger and the superior athlete to Kelvin Benjamin, Funchess could outright pass him as the WR1 for Carolina. He is the quintessential buy low target in dynasty leagues as impatient fantasy owners may have grown frustrated with him. In startup drafts or deeper redraft leagues, he makes for a late round, high upside option with his combination of athleticism, youth and opportunity.
As a young player still honing his craft at the position, now is not the time to write off Devin Funchess. With growing opportunity in the offense, this is the time to acquire Funchess and stash him on the back end of rosters in dynasty leagues.