It seems every NFL season has a handful of guys who go from being relative unknowns to breakout superstars. The 2008 NFL season is underway and as such, I’d like to make my predictions about who this years' breakout players will be:
Philip Rivers - After Rivers' performance in the 2007 playoffs, I think Norv Turner will actually start letting him be the focal point of the offense. If he can continue to build on the momentum from the end of last season, Rivers could put up some huge numbers, especially considering all the weapons around him.
Tarvaris Jackson - Tarvaris Jackson is going to prove a lot of his doubters wrong this year. He has a great running game behind him, the league’s best offensive line protecting him, a highly underrated receiver core to throw to, and a defense that will give him plenty of chances for short drives. Jackson’s stats last year are misleading; the poor play of wide receiver Troy Williamson really hurt Jackson took the shine away from some of the nice throws he was making. Tarvaris has all the physical tools and weapons necessary to be successful in the NFL. Now he just needs to put it all together.
Michael Turner - Two homer picks already, I know, but Turner was a beast in San Diego so it’s easy for me to project that he’ll continue to have success in Atlanta. Turner runs right over people and that quality should help him gain tough yards. He has a talented but young offensive line blocking for him, and also has a very good compliment back in Jerious Norwood. His old-school school, ball control head coach should afford him plenty of carries, and we know about Turner’s speed; he isn’t nicknamed “The Burner” for nothing.
Marion Barber - I don’t know if Barber qualifies as a breakout player, considering he did have 1000+ total yards and 10+ TDs last year. But with Julius Jones now in Seattle, Barber could easily be in store for a 1500 yard, 15+ TD season. The only question mark here is whether or not Felix Jones steals away a significant amount of carries. Jones is a homerun threat, but Barber will get the goal line runs.
Chris Johnson - Its hard for a guy to breakout in their rookie season, but Chris Johnson guy is in the perfect situation to do it in Tennessee. Vince Young is developing painfully slowly into a down-field passer, and as a result he’ll have to dump it off to Johnson a lot. CJ has the speed to take it to the house every time he touches it and possess great vision for finding an open lane. Johnson is a tad bit undersized but he nonetheless can run with power. When it is all said and done, I think he will end up being a better running back than Reggie Bush.
Ted Ginn - Its almost like people are already giving up on the guy because he was a draft "reach", but Ted Ginn has all the potential in the world to develop into one of the best playmakers in the league. Now he actually has a quarterback that can get him the ball Chad Pennington. Look what Pennington did with similar receivers in Santana Moss and Laveranues Coles; those guys developing into 1000 yard receivers, and I think Ginn is more talented than either of those guys. The Dolphins look like they are going to be a run-first team, so I think teams will stack the box often and that should give Ginn plenty of chances to beat them deep.
Sidney Rice - I’m not sure why Sidney Rice didn’t get any hype last year before the draft (besides on this site, of course) but I thought he was the 2nd best receiver in the draft behind Calvin Johnson. Why Rice didn’t get drafted until the 2nd round boggles my mind. Rice showed flashes of greatness last year, making the type of catches Randy Moss made in his time with the Vikings. In fact, I think Rice has best body control of any wide receiver in the NFL not named Randy and has excellent hands to go with it. He also has great size (6'4 210) and leaping ability. Everyone is talking up Bernard Berrian as the go-to guy in the Vikings passing attack, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all if Sidney Rice emerges are the #1 by season’s end.
Zach Miller - We have another overlooked player here in Zach Miller. The guy could end up being the top pass catching target for the Raiders and could potentially put up Pro Bowl type numbers. Last year, with 3 different QBs, Miller had over 400 yards and 4 touchdowns, and that was only his rookie year! With a year under his belt, no other big-threat receivers on the team, and a talented young QB in Jamarcus Russell, Miller could double his totals from last year.
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