It’s after the Fourth of July, which means that it’s high time we turn our attention to fantasy football sleepers, breakouts, and busts for every NFL team. The ADP is per 4for4’s ADP data. We started with the AFC East, and we now move on to the AFC North. Did Kenny Pickett’s hands grow this offseason? Is Najee Harris good? Will a guy nicknamed “the sixth offensive lineman” run more routes than Jaylen Warren? WILL DIONTAE JOHNSON EVER SCORE A TOUCHDOWN AGAIN!?!?! We answer none of those questions, and more, with the Pittsburgh Steelers’ sleeper, breakout, and bust!
Sleeper: Diontae Johnson, Wide Receiver (WR49, Pick 133 Overall)
I didn’t really think that I could find this kind of value this late in drafts. I really didn’t, it doesn’t make a ton of sense. Diontae Johnson is the best wide receiver on the Steelers and he averages 9.6 targets per game during the Biden Administration. Over the last two seasons, he’s played all 33 games and has thirteen games without double-digit targets. In fact, he’s second in the league with 20 double-digit targets in that span, behind just Justin Jefferson. In all, six players have at least 15 games of 10+ targets over the last two seasons, and Diontae Johnson is the only one not going in the first 14 picks. For that reason, and that reason alone, you should be scooping up Diontae Johnson in your fantasy drafts. He’s an absolute steal at ADP, because he is going to have all the opportunity in the world to produce, and that’s before we get into the fact that 133 receivers in NFL history had between 140 and 150 targets in a season (Diontae had 147 last season). On average, they scored a touchdown on 5% of their targets, which means that the universe owes Diontae Johnson 7 touchdowns.
Breakout: George Pickens, Wide Receiver (WR28, Pick 71 Overall)
Despite Kenny Pickett being one of the singularly worst quarterbacks in the NFL last season (more on that below), there are a lot of statistics that are encouraging for George Pickens building on his 84 targets, 52 receptions, 801 receiving yards, and 4 touchdowns. Pickens had the third-highest average depth of target (aDOT) among wide receivers last season, and despite Kenny Pickett playing like warmed-over garbage, he still had the fifth-highest target quality rating (per PlayerProfiler.com’s metric). Pickens was also a highlight machine, with the fifth-highest contested catch rate among receivers with at least 75 targets. This all added up to over 15 yards per reception, a number that ranked twelfth in the league.
Unfortunately, Pickens’ potential breakout is already built into his price, as he’s going ahead of teammate and potential 175 target player Diontae Johnson. While I feel good about Pickens breaking out, that’s unfortunately already baked into his price.
Bust: Kenny Pickett, Quarterback (QB21, Pick 174 Overall)
I am not going to lie to you and say that Kenny Pickett showed flashes of justifying his first-round draft capital in his rookie season. He had 6.1 yards per attempt on 32 pass attempts per game, averaging 200 passing yards, 0.4 touchdowns, and 0.9 interceptions per game in his first nine career games before leaving in week fourteen with an injury. While that’s dreadful, it was even worse below the hood. Per PlayerProfiler.com, he ranked second in interceptable passes, with 40 such passes across his 13 games. That came out to a 10.3% interceptable pass rate (rounded up), and that’s first among the 34 quarterbacks to throw at least 200 passes last year, a full 2% higher than the #2 quarterback, Justin Fields.
In fact, Pickett had the second-worst interceptable pass rate of all time (as far back as PlayerProfiler tracked the data, so, 2017, but of all time sounds way better) just a skosh behind just 2017 Tom Savage’s 10.3% (rounded down). These are the only two on record with an interceptable pass rate over 9%, but there are some great guys he’s keeping company with above 8.5%: 2021 Taylor Heinicke and 2020 Nick Mullens.
They call him Kenny Pick It for a reason, folks.