It's Friday, there is a pre-season game on Sunday. There will be Hall of Fame speeches tomorrow we will certainly remember until next year's speeches. What's unique about this Hall of Fame class is none of these players came in with the hype of say Ezekiel Elliot. They weren't unheralded, but the NFL wasn't 24/7 back then as it is now. Brett Favre (who could be arguably the best football player who's prime I've ever seen) was a 2nd Round Pick who was traded and then sat on the bench at first in Green Bay. Then he Wally Pip'd someone and broke out. Every player has to "breakout" at some point, here are some candidates on each NFC team who I think will break out this year.
Green Bay Packers: Mike Daniels Defensive End. Daniels is a very good player, who doesn't play a sexy position. He does dirty work, occupying blockers so Clay Matthews and others can make plays. There's nothing wrong with that, Justin Smith made a great career of it. I'm not saying Daniels is Justin Smith good, because really who is? But Daniels also rushes from the interior in Green Bay's nickel, and applies pressure from there. He had 6.5 sacks last year, and applied pressure on the QB 71 times, and had 19 QB hits. If just some of those QB hits turn into sacks, he could have double digit sacks. Mike Daniels will break out and become a house hold name this year.
Minnesota Vikings: Stefon Diggs Wide Receiver. Diggs made some plays last year, and had a few good games, but can the casual fan name him? Probably not. Diggs is a quality WR who fell to the 5th round in his draft class. As a rookie last year, he was the best WR on the Vikings team. Even so, he's hardly a house hold name, because the Vikings RB is pretty good. Additionally the Vikings QB has been highly debated since being drafted. This leaves less press-ink for Diggs before we even mention the Vikings talented defense. Diggs is going to catch over 80 passes this year though, for over 1,000 yards, and he'll breakout. Get ready for it, because it's coming.
Detroit Lions: Ameer Abdullah Running Back: Here is the thing about Abdullah, he was a first round draft pick that was over-shadowed by Todd Gurley's monster season, and the over-hypeness of Thomas Rawls. I'll get to Rawls in a later blog, but for now I'm focused on Abdullah. The NFL is increasingly becoming a passing league (Vomit) and Running backs who can catch passes are in demand. Abdullah does just that. He caught 25 passes, which would have been more if Theo Riddick didn't catch 93. He also averaged 4.2 YPC in a bad rushing offense. Adullah is a complete back in the way that Marshall Faulk was, while not nearly as talented, he will put up good numbers. I'm guessing at least 1,000 yards rushing, and 300 yards receiving for Abdullah next year which will make him breakout.
Chicago Bears: Kevin White Wide Receiver. White missed his entire Rookie year due to injury. White was just as good as Amari Cooper coming out of college. Most people have forgotten White existed, because he missed his rookie year. White will catch over 60 passes for over 1,000 yards this year and catch some deep TD's breaking out in his "Rookie" year.
Atlanta Falcons: Tevin Coleman Running Back. Coleman was the starter for the Falcons out of training camp last year. Coleman was the better running back for the Falcons last year until he got hurt. Freeman, the fantasy breakout start slowed down near the end of the year last year, averaging less than 3.5 YPC in 6 of the last 7 games. It was his threat as a receiving option that made him special. The Falcons can't rely on just that, they'll need a rushing option, and that is Coleman. Even if they split carries just to preserve Freeman, Coleman will get his touches and breakout in the way this next year I thought he would last year. Probably somewhere in the area of 700-800 rushing yards and a handful of TD's. Maybe more if Freeman misses time. Coleman is good, he'll show us all why I think so.
Carolina Panthers: Devin Funchness Wide Receiver: He was a name last year only because people thought he could replace Kelvin Benjamin's production. People were wrong. That happens. This year though, Funchness should be a lot better. When he came into the league, they weren't sure if he was a WR or a TE. Well, he's a WR. His production started to pick up at the end of last year, and with Benjamin back and getting double teams, he will see his fair share of balls in this offense. Funchness is worth a look as a WR2/3 in deeper fantasy leagues.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Vernon Haregraves III Corner Back: Haregraves will be a rookie CB in a division that likes to throw the ball. This is going to give him ample opportunities at interceptions. Because people stupidly look at interceptions at the barometer for a CB's success, they'll see that Haregraves had 6 as a rookie and think "Oh he's a really good corner." Just like they did with Marcus Peters last year.
New Orleans Saints Colby Fleener Tight End: The Saints traded Jimmy Graham away and then made Benjamin Watson a Touch Down machine. Watson from all accounts available is a great teammate and great guy, but he's not TD machine. Fleener flashed potential, and he'll realize that potential with hall of famer Drew Brees throwing him the ball.
Dallas Cowboys: La'EL Collins Offensive Lineman. Collins went undrafted because his girlfriend was found dead. It wasn't him, he had nothing to do with it, but that wasn't found out until after the draft came and went. Sucks for his bank account, great for the Cowboys. He didn't start last year, in case you have noticed the Cowboys have the best offensive line in football, and it's not close. Adding another should have been top 10 pick to the Starting line will make them even better. Collins will breakout as a Pro Bowl Player this year.
Philly Eagles: No one. They suck. They wanted to blame Chip for everything, but what did they do? They singed a back up QB, to a 3 year deal and guaranteed 18 million. They singed Sam Bradford to a 2 year deal and guaranteed 36 million. Then they traded away the House, and two cars for the #2 pick for another QB. The Eagles might run the first ever 3QB system. They have no fucking clue what they're doing. But Hey, they'll be able to blame Chip for at least another year.
DC Football Team: Matt Jones Running Back. Kind of broke out last year, kind of didn't. They were a weird football team who snuck into the playoffs some how. Jordan Reed is good. De'Sean Jackson is good. That means this RB will never see 8 man fronts. With Alfred Morris out of the way now, look for him to breakout in a big season. 1,200+ rushing yards, 400+ receiving yards.
New York Giants Landon Collins Safety. The thing about the Safety position is scheme plays a big part in it. Put the right player in the right scheme, and they flourish, put them in the wrong scheme, and they don't. Landon Collins is one of those Safeties where I don't think scheme will matter. I've seen him Man Cover TE's, Play deep middle zones, and play up near the line of scrimmage. Again, interceptions grab attention, as do big hits with Safeties. Good thing for Collins is he gets prime time games because the NFL's east coast bias. Once he lays out a couple of guys, and grabs a few picks, you'll realize last year and probably next, he's a talented player stuck on a bad defense. He will elevate them to average though.
Seattle Seahawks: Tyler Lockett Wide Receiver. Yeah he made the pro bowl as a returner, but he's more than a returner. Anyone who watched his games at Kansas St. knew he was going to be good. I was pissed when he fell to the Seahawks. Still am. He's already their best WR, I don't care how much they paid Baldwin. Make no mistake about it, Baldwin's guaranteed money is up in two years, the exact time they'll have to look at extending Lockett. As soon as RW realizes Lockett is open 88% of the time, Lockett will make teams regretting passing on him.
Arizona Cardinals: David Washington Running Back: It's hard to say that Washington, a player who saw significant time last year will breakout, but that's what I think is going to happen. I don't think many people realize just how good he was last year. Part of that is because he split time with two other running backs, and Larry Fitzgerald is still a big name, but his time is coming as the RB1 in this offense. He might be the 2nd best RB in the NFC West, he or Carlos Hyde and I like the durability of Washington more. He might put up over 1,500 all purpose yards next year.
St. Louis Rams: No one. We know who there guys are. Todd Gurley, Robert Quinn, Aaron Donald. Then some guys. I could say Alec Ogletree, who I think is a really good LB, but he can't stay healthy. Quinn and Donald make that defense, and Gurley the offense. They are all already household names. I don't know how this team won 7 games, I don't know how Jeff Fisher and their GM Les Snead still have jobs. It's perplexing, oh well. They Suck.
San Francisco 49ers: Jimmie Ward CB/Safety. I almost went with an offensive guy, only because the coach is Chip Kelly. I almost went with Arik Armstead only because he had the 3rd best Pass-rushing grade at his position last year (Behind JJ Watt and Muhammud Wilkerson that's good company). But Jimmie Ward is the guy. Drafted out of Northern Illinois the spoiled 49ers fans were quick to call him a bust. Because they're mostly idiots, and I'm a 49ers fan but I see it. If a rookie isn't hall of fame caliber right away, they call him a bust. It's an annual tradition like no other, but Ward proved them wrong. A steady presence as the slot corner, Ward was PFF's top rated Corner in the NFL over the last 8 weeks. For the Season he allowed only a 78.0 QB rating when targeted. Great numbers, the issue? He didn't get many interceptions. Ward will probably end up with 5 interceptions this year, and people will wonder where he came from. They shouldn't, because he's been good, but they will.
I'll be doing an AFC version soon. Thanks for reading.