By: Josh Shippen
Each year there are surprise players that suddenly break out in the NFL. In this article, I will be attempting to predict thirty of these breakout players.
- Daniel Jones, QB
I liked the Daniel Jones pick for the New York Giants coming out of the draft, and while I will admit he has had many issues in his first two seasons the surrounding talent has been remarkably bad and his schemes have continued to switch. Jones will have a bounce back year with a new offense, especially with Golladay in town.
- Tua Tagovailoa, QB
The NFL community and especially Dolphins fans went berserk after Tua’s first few games in 2020, saying that he was a bust and that the Dolphins needed to address their quarterbacks in the draft. This is not true at all. Tua had some good stretches of play and was not exactly playing with the most talented WR corps ever seen. Tua will have a good second year in Miami.
- Jacob Eason, QB
Jacob Eason put up some pretty impressive college tape, and some great stats to go along with it before he was drafted in 2019. The Colts have been experiencing dysfunction at quarterback, and if the whole thing falls apart then this strong armed quarterback might have a chance to prove just what he can do.
- Josh Rosen, QB
Many people actually thought that Rosen was one of the better quarterbacks to come out of the 2018 draft, hence why his fall from grace came as such a surprise. What people do not seem to be acknowledging is that the first two teams he was with featured two of the worst offenses of the 2010’s era, leaving Rosen at a massive disadvantage. Rosen has a good chance to make the leap at some point, especially if he is on the fading 49ers.
- D’Andre Swift, RB
Swift had a better season than people realize in Detroit, his early failures cast him in a dark light in the beginning of the season and I hope they do not continue to stick. Detroit has always relied on their backfield to do well so it is likely that Swift gets many carries. Swift should have an improved second season.
- Chase Edmonds, RB
The absence of Kenyan Drake leaves a hole in the Cardinals backfield, and let’s just say that Edmonds is not about to be the player to fill that hole. Edmonds has had some really good games in the last two seasons, and if he begins to show consistency he could easily become the starter over James Conner in this offense.
- Jeremy McNichols, RB
The Titans are very set at running back with Derrick Henry, but I am continually surprised at how good his backup, Jeremy McNichols, looks when he hits the field. McNichols has been bouncing around the league for years, and I believe there is some untapped potential that should be explored by another team. McNichols has potential to succeed.
- D.J. Chark, WR
D.J. Chark had an amazing 2019 season that left me and many others thinking that we were looking at one of the next great receivers. Unfortunately, the Jaguars had a terrible 2020, and this really hurt Chark’s development. If Trevor Lawrence turns out to be the real deal in Jacksonville, Chark could be set for a pretty awesome year.
- Darius Slayton, WR
Slayton’s breakout season will go hand in hand with Jones’s; with Sterling Shepard being a pretty big question mark and with Kenny Golladay and Evan Engram’s injury concerns it seems likely that Slayton will get a lot of targets in 2021 which will be great for the Giants. Look for a big season here.
- Adam Humphries, WR
Adam Humphries had some really great seasons on the Bucs before transitioning to the Titans offense where he was mostly a third receiver that had injury problems and was covered up by the insane play of A.J. Brown. Humphries could have a breakout year once Washington’s offense gets going and once Curtis Samuel gets exposed as not being very good.
- John Brown, WR
John Brown has been a trusty wide receiver in recent years, and I would argue that his greatest success came recently in Buffalo. However the emergence of Stefon Diggs and Cole Beasley posed problems for Brown, and he was picked up by the Raiders. His role as a reliable receiver behind young talents Henry Ruggs, Hunter Renfrow, and Bryan Edwards is not going to go unnoticed. He will have a great year.
- Denzel Mims, WR
Denzel Mims may be stuck on the Jets but that does not mean that his career is doomed to mediocrity. Mims will become more relevant as he is more healthy and as he has a competent quarterback throwing his way. Mims was a stud in Baylor and will have some great seasons in the NFL.
- Andy Isabella, WR
I have tried to predict the Andy Isabella breakout season for three unsuccessful years, but I now believe that this really will be the year as the Cardinals emerge as an NFL superpower. The former UMass receiver has insane potential in an offense that loves its four receiver sets.
- Jakobi Meyers, WR
Just as one surprising receiver talent out of nowhere (Edelman) heads out, another one of the same breed (Meyers) comes in. Meyers’s play was marred by the fact that New England was an eyesore in 2020, but assuming the Patriots go quarterback in the draft Meyers could emerge as a talent that boosts New England’s offense for years to come.
- Van Jefferson, WR
Van Jefferson had some quietly good games in Los Angeles that were covered up by how absolutely prolific Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods are as a receiver tandem. Jefferson could emerge should Stafford find the need to spread targets around to get comfortable in his new offense.
- Tyler Conklin, TE
While the absence of Kyle Rudolph certainly does mean the emergence of Irv Smith, it also welcomes in a new player alongside him. Tyler Conklin is a talented tight end that can play the role previously filled by Irv Smith last year as the talented backup tight end. He will not go unnoticed in 2021.
- Gerald Everrett, TE
Gerald Everrett was covered up by Tyler Higbee in Los Angeles, but all of that is about to change now that Everrett has locked in a number one spot in the Seattle Seahawks offense. Wilson loves himself a good tight end, and Everrett will benefit from his great play.
- Jacob Hollister, TE
While Dawson Knox himself almost made himself I do think it is more likely that Buffalo explores more options in their tight end room. This could come in the form of Hollister who was remarkably successful in his tenure in Seattle.
- Rashan Gary, DE
Rashan Gary looked like a bust in his first year in Green Bay, but showed definite improvement in his second season with this 13-3 juggernaut. Rashan Gary may have been hidden behind Preston Smith and Za’Darius Smith in 2020, but I suspect we will be seeing much more of Gary in 2021.
- Tyus Bowser, DE
Guys let me tell you about Tyus Bowser, the ceiling for this guy is so through the roof that I find it insane that nobody is talking this guy up more. Bowser thoroughly outplayed Matt Judon in 2020 and has potential to be the anchor of this defense now that Baltimore has decided to lock him up on a multi year deal. I am so confident that Bowser will be a dominating presence that I am ready to say he might be in contention for defensive player of the year by the time he’s done with the 2021 season. Ravens fans should be ecstatic that Bowser is on their team for this year.
- Joe Schoebert, LB
Joe Schoebert is a part of the D.J. Chark anomaly, I felt similarly to Schoebert last year as I feel to Bowser this year. Schoebert has a ridiculously good playmaking ability and if the Jags decide to pick up their play in 2021 then Schoebert could be exposed as a huge piece to this defense.
- Foye Oluokun, LB
It feels like Deion Jones is becoming a little less of a factor in Atlanta, which brings about the emergence of late round pick Foye Oluokon who already had a good 2020 season. Oluokon will become extremely valuable for a crappy defense in 2021.
- Mykal Walker, LB
The second Falcons linebacker to make this list is Mykal Walker, Walker had a great season right along with Oluokon in 2021 and might be the start of the next big defense in Atlanta. Or if expectations are reasonable he could be an OK player for a pretty bad defense.
- Cole Holcomb, LB
Washington looked like a much better team down the stretch, especially on defense, and now that Ryan Kerrigan has recessed the credit has to be partly given to Cole Holcomb. Holcomb is going to have a great year on this surging Washington team.
- Dre Greenlaw, LB
Dre Greenlaw is in the shadow of Fred Warner, but at the same time has definitely been a disruptive force on this 49ers defense, especially in their Super Bowl defense. It is entirely possible that Greenlaw breaks out and makes him and Warner look like the best linebacker tandem in the NFL.
- Kevin Pierre-Louis, LB
Pierre-Louis will stand out because he is on a terrible Texans defense whose only other hope is the overrated Zach Cunningham. Pierre-Louis is going to be a breakout star whose play might even award him a Pro Bowl berth.
- T.J. Carrie, CB
I am so glad for the Colts’ sake that Carrie was re-signed. Carrie is an extremely talented player who has been underrated with every team he has been with, and who was especially underrated on a Colts defense that featured a lot of very good players.
- L’Jarius Sneed, CB
L’Jarius Sneed was one of the few bright spots of a defense that was honestly mightily disappointing. Sneed had some injury concerns during his rookie year but his potential is great on a team that needs a defense if it wants to be a Super Bowl team.
- Jordan Whitehead, S
Jordan Whitehead is ridiculously underrated for the level of player he is. Admittedly a lot of credit had to be given to all of the players around him, however Whitehead to me looked like one of the most aggressive and talented players in the Buccaneers’ backfield. Look for a Pro Bowl level season to come from Jordan Whitehead.
- Rock Ya-Sin, S
Rock Ya-Sin had a pretty good rookie year, and a really bad second year. Fortunately it is not out of the ordinary for players to slump in their second year, Ya-Sin has the potential to bounce back big and make this already good Colts defense even better.