Fantasy Fox: Searching for the next unsung breakout receiver

The Fantasy Fox attempts to find the next Sidney Rice, circa 2009, specifically the next unsung wide receiver (30 or fewer catches last season) who's primed for a major breakout in 2014.

Giants receiver Jerrel Jernigan (29 catches, 329 yards, three TDs in 2013) collected seven-plus targets in his final four games last season.

Andrew Weber / USA TODAY Sports

While writing for Sports Illustrated in 2009, I astutely predicted that Vikings wideout Sidney Rice -- coming off a 15-catch debacle in 2008 -- would amass 1,150 receiving yards and seven TDs with Sage (Freaking) Rosenfels as his starting quarterback.

Of course, that was before Brett Favre officially entered the purple picture and helped Rice tally 83 catches for 1,312 yards and eight touchdowns, while playing a major role in Favre's MVP-caliber season with Minnesota (33 TDs/7 INTs/4,202 yards).

During that era, Rice had stealthily graduated from an eminently replaceable asset to respectable receiver in fantasyland.

But that ascension has sparked a prove-it-again ritual within my annual fantasy research, in the quest to find a new stud out of the rubble of receivers with 30 or fewer catches from the previous season.

In my search for the next Sidney -- a prospective 1,100-yard receiver who will undoubtedly be drafted at Round 11 or lower -- I have established the following criteria:

1. The receiver has an established quarterback throwing him the ball.

2. The wideout has the physical traits to be a No. 1, 2 or 3 option in real-world circles.

3. The receiver has modest competition within his own team, fueling a potential breakout.


* * *

This year's hunch pick is ... Giants wideout Jerrel Jernigan. Here are five reasons to support his breakout from the phalanx of receivers with 30 or fewer catches last year.

1. Of his final four games last year (Week 12/Weeks 15-17), Jernigan racked up seven-plus targets each time.

2. For Week 17, Jernigan (29 catches, 329 yards, three TDs last year) rolled for 147 total yards (90 receiving) and two touchdowns against the Redskins.

3. The Giants upgraded their coaching staff by hiring former Packers quarterbacks coach Ben McAdoo as offensive coordinator. For the 2012 and '13 seasons, McAdoo spearheaded a top-seven offense that was equal parts prodigious and diverse.

4. At 5-foot-8, Jernigan doesn't have the size to be a consistent wide-align target. Hence, it's incumbent on the Giants to use him creatively -- perhaps a hybrid of running back/receiver Darren Sproles (Eagles) and Pats receiver Julian Edelman (105 receptions last season).

5. For what it's worth , during his three final years at Troy (2008-10), Jernigan averaged 77 catches, 930 yards and seven touchdowns.

In his final collegiate season (2010), Jernigan crossed the high-end threshold of seven catches, 90 yards and/or one score eight times -- highlighted by a 10-catch, 209-yard, one-TD explosion against Arkansas State.

One last thing: In 2010, Jernigan collected 10 or more catches three times.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Here's the next cluster of intriguing assets -- for both standard-scoring and PPR leagues -- among the receivers with 30 or fewer receptions in 2013 ... and Michael Crabtree doesn't count:

For this mini-section, think upside!

1. Malcom Floyd, Chargers
2. Miles Austin, Browns
3. Markus Wheaton, Steelers
4. Tiquan Underwood, Panthers
5. Leonard Hankerson, Redskins
6. Justin Hunter, Titans
7. Mike Williams, Bills
8. Stephen Hill, Jets
9. Griff Whalen, Colts
10. Andre Caldwell, Broncos
11. Da'Rick Rogers, Colts
12. Aldrick Robinson, Redskins
13. Marquise Goodwin, Bills
14. Junior Hemingway, Chiefs
15. Chris Owusu, Buccaneers

Jay Clemons can be reached, day or night, via Twitter at @FOX_JayClemons.