Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

08 Jun 2009

Who's Primed To Breakout?

Our question for today: Which NFL player flying underneath the radar is ready to break out and become an elite, All-Pro caliber player? Think Barrett Ruud and Nnamdi Asomugha before 2007, or Michael Turner and Cortland Finnegan a year ago. Don't pick guys who are already great and just not perceived as such (like Trent Cole or somebody).

If I have to pick two...I'll go to the Bay and pick Darren McFadden on offense, now that his explosiveness is back and his turf toe is gone. Defensively, I'll be a bit of a homer and choose Michael Boley, who is absolutely perfect for the Giants scheme.

Your thoughts?

Posted by: Bill Barnwell on 08 Jun 2009

73 replies , Last at 19 Aug 2009, 5:24pm by tommeehawk

Re: Who's Primed To Breakout?
by Or (not verified) :: Mon, 06/08/2009 - 1:19pm

Miles Austin. If he can stay healthy, I could see him having a really solid year.
Defensively, I think LaRon Landry will become an elite safety.

Re: Who's Primed To Breakout?
by manderson (not verified) :: Mon, 06/08/2009 - 2:33pm

I've been really curious about him actually. He seemed really good as a rookie but i havent been able to see many Redskins games. Was he good last year?

Re: Who's Primed To Breakout?
by Joe T. :: Mon, 06/08/2009 - 3:17pm

You don't see him much on the broadcasts, except when he's creaming somebody. I assume its because they don't put the ball near him often. It really is a shame he and Taylor didn't get to play together longer, that would have been the nastiest secondary in the league.

Re: Who's Primed To Breakout?
by Theo :: Mon, 06/08/2009 - 4:23pm


Re: Who's Primed To Breakout?
by Tim Wilson :: Mon, 06/08/2009 - 3:33pm

I like Austin a lot too as the deep threat in Big D, but he's not even going to sniff All-Pro status, which was one of the criteria posed in the question. I could see Austin posting 1,000 yards and 7 TDs, which would be great for a guy with under 30 career catches.

Re: Who's Primed To Breakout?
by Pete (not verified) :: Mon, 06/08/2009 - 1:29pm

I've said Anthony Gonzalez before in one of these forums although he just got injured: http://www.twazzup.com/shared/nfl_updates/s3A9?u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.nfl.co...

Re: Who's Primed To Breakout?
by shake n bake :: Mon, 06/08/2009 - 3:13pm

Not a serious injury as far as anyone can tell right now. He didn't leave the field, he just stretched instead of worked out for the rest of the practice and the next day of OTAs.

He was who I thought of when I saw the question. Great DVOA numbers the last two years, now stepping into a bigger role where he'll get a lot of targets.

Re: Who's Primed To Breakout?
by Bobman :: Mon, 06/08/2009 - 3:22pm

I love Gonzo and don't want to jinx anybody, but the way their O has been set up for a few years now, it's almost assured that the #1 WR will get about 90+ catches, 1,200+ yards, and 10+ TDs. Unless Dallas Clark passes 80/1,000/10, Gonzo is VERY likely to surpass 75/1,000/8. Especially with the traditional WR3 spot up in the air and likely to be shared by a few guys.

Even if Clark does manage to hit "the other Tony Gonzalez" territory in terms of production, with their improved OL health and experience (3 rookies started a total of about 20 games last year), improved QB health, and (most likely) run game, I'd expect Gonzo to get very close to those numbers. Not quite like the 2004 team (in terms of production from the top 3 receivers), but not too far off.

Re: Who's Primed To Breakout?
by slipknottin :: Mon, 06/08/2009 - 1:31pm

I think Landry is already an elite saftey. He was a huge reason that the redskins defense gave up very few long plays all season.

I could see Boley breaking out, I could see Canty having a really good season as well. I think anytime guys move from a 3-4 DE to a 4-3 Dlineman it gives them a chance to suprise alot of people with stats and plays.

I think Chris Long and Adam Carriker may both put up very good seasons, actually having an attacking defense will suit them both well.

Greg Olsen is another guy who may suprise alot of people with Cutler throwing to him.

Re: Who's Primed To Breakout?
by BadAstronaut :: Thu, 07/30/2009 - 3:11pm

Couldn't agree more about Greg Olsen. Without many receiving threats outside of Hester, Olsen should get the benefit of mis-matches in coverage and a much better QB throwing his way. I see a young Tony Gonzalez type when I look at how athletic Olsen is.

Re: Who's Primed To Breakout?
by Danish Denver-Fan :: Mon, 06/08/2009 - 1:34pm

Russel, Brian. You heard it here first...

Re: Who's Primed To Breakout?
by Doug Farrar :: Mon, 06/08/2009 - 1:45pm

That's BreakOUT, not DOWN.

I'll say Pierre Thomas on offense -- he's put on some muscle and should be ready for a role that will give the Saints' offense some actual balance. On defense, Brandon Flowers of the Chiefs.

Re: Who's Primed To Breakout?
by billsfan :: Mon, 06/08/2009 - 1:45pm

I've been saying Devin Hester as a WR since late last season, when he started to look competent. Not sure if he qualifies as under the radar, though.

Re: Who's Primed To Breakout?
by Eddo :: Mon, 06/08/2009 - 4:10pm

I can see Olsen being an All-Pro, with Cutler throwing to him now. There are too many good receivers in Hester's way, however.

Re: Who's Primed To Breakout?
by justanothersteve :: Mon, 06/08/2009 - 7:10pm

I thought of Olsen also, but he was a Pro Bowl alternate last year. So if Cutler is even a bit better than Neckbeard (quite likely), he has a great chance to have a better year than any NFC TE this side of Witten. He's easily the best receiving target on the team and is bound to be Cutler's go-to guy. Barring injury, I'd be surprised if he wasn't named to the Pro Bowl.

Re: Who's Primed To Breakout?
by Keith (not verified) :: Mon, 06/08/2009 - 2:04pm

Jordy Nelson.

Re: Who's Primed To Breakout?
by Joe T. :: Mon, 06/08/2009 - 2:10pm

Donte Stallworth.

Re: Who's Primed To Breakout?
by Bobman :: Mon, 06/08/2009 - 3:15pm

Is that, um, breakout of jail?

Re: Who's Primed To Breakout?
by billsfan :: Mon, 06/08/2009 - 5:01pm

Maybe he meant Stallworth's hamstring would breakout...

Re: Who's Primed To Breakout?
by chowder (not verified) :: Mon, 06/08/2009 - 6:09pm

He's not likely to brake for anyone outside the crosswalk...

too soon?

Re: Who's Primed To Breakout?
by Drunkmonkey :: Mon, 06/08/2009 - 2:11pm

Richard Marshall for the Panthers. The Panthers basically gave him the starting role by getting rid of Ken Lucas. Even though it was a necessary salary cap move, the Panthers are completely confident in Marshall, and he's going to deliver.

On offense, does Vernon Davis count? I mean, he has his ups and downs, but I don't think he's really perceived as truly great by anybody. All I keep hearing is that he's doing great in OTA's with his new offensive coordinator, and that the system will allow him to finally flourish.

Re: Who's Primed To Breakout?
by Jeff George (not verified) :: Mon, 06/08/2009 - 2:45pm

Dwayne Bowe. Needs to be seen if he is effective without Gonzo but I have to think Cassel is an upgrade of Tyler Thigpen.

Re: Who's Primed To Breakout?
by njjetfan12 :: Mon, 06/08/2009 - 2:46pm

Dustin Keller. Without a very good #2 WR, Keller will be getting ALOT of looks, as long as he improves his blocking enough to allow him to stay on the field for most plays

Re: Who's Primed To Breakout?
by Chris UK (not verified) :: Tue, 06/09/2009 - 6:27am

True that he will get a lot of looks but I don't see the Jets passing the ball much next season.

Re: Who's Primed To Breakout?
by Tim Wilson :: Mon, 06/08/2009 - 3:05pm

Michael Turner signed a huge free agent deal before last year, I don't think he's really a good "under the radar" example. Deangelo Williams is probably the better example.

All-Pro is a tough challenge. Only gonna be a handful of guys in the league who achieve that level, and far fewer who are deep under the radar currently.

So if All-Pro is the hurdle, I don't know. Vincent Jackson seems like a possibility. Maybe Rashard Mendenhall? Sedrick Ellis? Mike Jenkins in Dallas? Cullen Jenkins?

But if the slightly less difficult criterion is "stud level breakout year" instead, then I'd say:

Felix Jones
Jonathan Stewart
Martellus Bennett
Steve Smith (NYG version)

Orlando Scandrick
Lawrence Timmons
Paul Posluszny

Re: Who's Primed To Breakout?
by Big Johnson (not verified) :: Mon, 06/08/2009 - 4:31pm

I like seeing Vincent Jackson getting some love. Norv should take off the training wheels in the chargers passing game. They had the most effective passing game in the league last year.... and the number 1 wideout is an absolute manbearpig. I know norv is an idiot but he stated how he felt vincent was the best wideout hes ever coached. that included michael irvin. Barring injury i cant see him not breaking out into the upper echelon of receivers. Its a shoe in!

Re: Who's Primed To Breakout?
by Drunken5yearold :: Wed, 06/10/2009 - 12:27am

I came to mention Jackson so I'm glad to see that he is getting some attention. In his case, it's not really breaking out but going from very good to a Pro-Bowl level. He's got a lot of things in his favor:

1) The Charger's offense is now focused more around Rivers and the passing game than LT and the running game.

2) The other Chargers receivers are nothing special, so he's really only competing for catches with Gates and LT.

3) The Charger's beat writer reports that he's looked absolutely amazing in practice so far this offseason.

Re: Who's Primed To Breakout?
by dryheat (not verified) :: Mon, 06/08/2009 - 3:12pm

John Carlson. In fact, I'm attempting to trade Witten in my dynasty league in order to protect him.

Re: Who's Primed To Breakout?
by Tim Wilson :: Mon, 06/08/2009 - 3:21pm

Wow! That's a big bet, letting go of the best TE in the league based on Carlson's potential. But I suppose you'll get something decent in return for Witten.

Re: Who's Primed To Breakout?
by Bobman :: Mon, 06/08/2009 - 3:30pm

Although a Seattlite I am not a Seahawks fan. But Carlson came and talked to the local Boys and Girls Club pre-season football signup-fest and he is very impressive as a person. Seems squeaky-clean, very well-grounded, a good off-the-cuff speaker for someone his age, and very dedicated. Given their WR situation and a quality QB, I could see it and would be very happy for him.

(full disclosure: he failed my "real football player" test when he answered a question wrong, saying he'd rather score a TD than get a pancake block on Ray Lewis that springs another guy for a TD. Come on, man, you'll end your career with 30 or more of those things, but don't get too many chances to put a legend on his ass. While I was hoping he'd illustrate for the kids that it was not all about TDs and sometimes the thrill of contact makes the unglamorous blocking assignments worth it, his answer was very literal. "Well, I've never pancaked Ray Lewis but I have scored a few TDs and they feel pretty great, so I'd go with that.")

Re: Who's Primed To Breakout?
by dryheat (not verified) :: Tue, 06/09/2009 - 8:26am

In his defense, catching a TD pass might be harder. I've seen plenty of RBs and WRs, not to mention TEs, pancake Ray Lewis.

Re: Who's Primed To Breakout?
by Theo :: Mon, 06/08/2009 - 4:31pm

Lawrence Timmons.
Was backup linebacker for the steelers last year, but with Foote gone, he'll step in and will do fine. I think even better than Farrior and make the Pro Bowl.

Re: Who's Primed To Breakout?
by Tim Wilson :: Mon, 06/08/2009 - 5:24pm

I agree on Timmons as posted above, and I think Anthony Spencer is in a similar situation in Dallas. Stat-friendly attacking 3-4 scheme and he'll have the starting spot now.

Re: Who's Primed To Breakout?
by BywaterBrat (not verified) :: Mon, 06/08/2009 - 5:01pm

Rashard Mendenhall/Limas Sweed are both going ot be big for the Steelers O which has been lacking since the Bus (I know FO hates Bettis, but sometimes you jsut have to watch the game to realize the magic)

Jennings for GB should benenift from Rodger's return to the mean on luck

Hester will catch at least 8 TDs

Anthony Gonzalez and Steve Slaton are both jumping to Pro Bowl-level as well albiet that isn't too surprising

Vilma for NOLA will be able to focus on hsi responsibilities hopefully instead of chasing down WR

Re: Who's Primed To Breakout?
by Harris :: Mon, 06/08/2009 - 6:59pm

Stewart Bradley.

Hail Hydra!

Re: Who's Primed To Breakout?
by Tim Wilson :: Tue, 06/09/2009 - 1:15pm

I tend to think guys who intern at Vogue in the offseason are not necessarily poised to become All-Pros.

Re: Who's Primed To Breakout?
by ammek :: Thu, 08/06/2009 - 10:02am

Shall we call this the Jinx of the Anticipatory Messageboard (JAM)?

Re: Who's Primed To Breakout?
by InsideTheNFL (not verified) :: Mon, 06/08/2009 - 7:39pm

Offense: Trent Edwards, QB, because I think it's a smart idea to use him in a no huddle offense.

Runner Up: Earl Bennett, WR: The Jay Cutler factor, plus he's the number 2 guy and they played together at Vanderbilt

Defense: Aaron Curry, LB, I think he'll be great right off the bat.

Runner Up: Abram Elam, CB, it's his 4th year already, 3rd year starting, but Mangini has a Man-Crush on him, so I think he'll get plenty of chances to succeed and he'll work well in the Browns system.

Re: Who's Primed To Breakout?
by Temo :: Mon, 06/08/2009 - 8:01pm

Dan Orlovsky

Re: Who's Primed To Breakout?
by dbostedo :: Tue, 06/09/2009 - 12:28pm

Ahh....this has gone from funny to annoying, and back to funny again...Nicely done.

Re: Who's Primed To Breakout?
by Anonymous is a jerk (not verified) :: Mon, 06/08/2009 - 8:23pm

Chris Henry WR of the Cincinnati Bengals. Carson Palmer likes to throw to him, he has already put up pretty good numbers for being third on the chart, and it is his contract year.

I would also like to bitch about the fact that the default name is anonymous when you allowed some one to register that name

Re: Who's Primed To Breakout?
by Tom Gower :: Mon, 06/08/2009 - 8:28pm

If he can avoid Mangini's doghouse, Eric Wright could be the next Browns CB to be an Official FO Binky. Quentin Groves could, if the Jags get good play from the defensive tackles. Can't think of any great offensive candidates off the top of my head.

Re: Who's Primed To Breakout?
by The Anti-Dave (not verified) :: Tue, 06/09/2009 - 12:20pm

I like Groves personally, but I think Derrick Harvey is a better breakout candidate. He came on down the stretch last year and is more suited for an every-down end role. Undrafted rookie FA Julius Williams may have more of a designated pass rusher impact for the Jaguars than Groves. But much depends upon the play of the DTs for sure.

Re: Who's Primed To Breakout?
by lionsbob :: Mon, 06/08/2009 - 9:46pm

Parys Haralson and Stephen Nicholas on defense

Mike Walker on offense

Re: Who's Primed To Breakout?
by Robo-Hochuli (not verified) :: Tue, 06/09/2009 - 1:58am

If you want a Niners LB, go with Manny Lawson. He's not coming off an ACL injury this year, and he'll finally be used in the pass-rushing role he was drafted for.

Re: Who's Primed To Breakout?
by lionsbob :: Tue, 06/09/2009 - 9:43am

Haralson is already good at the pass-rushing role that Lawson is suppose to be drafted as (8 sacks last season).

Re: Who's Primed To Breakout?
by Robo-Hochuli (not verified) :: Tue, 06/09/2009 - 5:00pm

Haralson is good, but that's all. He's good, he's not elite. I'd love to be wrong, but I don't see him taking the next step. I don't see him as an elite talent. I think we've seen his ceiling. It's not bad, and I'm happy to take it as it is. Again, I'd love to be wrong, and I'll gladly admit a year from now if that's the case.

In that context, I believe Lawson's ceiling is higher than Haralson's, even though it hasn't yet manifested itself in terms of production. Many people say it isn't until the second year after an ACL injury that the player is full speed again, and it didn't help that Nolan loved his overly confusing defensive packages that left Lawson on the sidelines in 2008. That Lawson was a DE in college, was drafted to be an pass rushing OLB, but ended up playing a lot of coverage (after demonstrating as a rookie that he could play coverage as a 4-3 OLB) suggests a few things: 1) He's an athletic freak, but we knew that, and 2) Nolan made some really weird personnel utilization decisions, but we also knew that. Singletary has made it clear that Lawson is going to be used as a pass rusher (and that he's making the 3-4 stick), so if it ever happens for him it will be in 2009.

I didn't even intend to make any predictions in this thread, but now suppose I have to: barring injury, Lawson will finish 2009 with more sacks than Haralson.

Re: Who's Primed To Breakout?
by lobolafcadio :: Tue, 06/09/2009 - 5:09am

I agree with Mike Walker on offense.
On defense, I'm sure Trevor Scott will explode this year, even as just a pass-rush specialist.

Re: Who's Primed To Breakout?
by JasonK :: Mon, 06/08/2009 - 10:10pm

Donnie Avery. He'll be the go-to guy in the StL passing game by default, and the defense is still poor enough that they're going to be throwing more than they want to be.

Re: Who's Primed To Breakout?
by rambler (not verified) :: Tue, 06/09/2009 - 6:14pm

I was going to say the same but it seems too obvious. Who's going to draw the double coverage away from him when the Rams have to throw? As a Ram's fan, I hope he does well though.

I'll go with Tashard Choice, RB Dallas Cowboys. Probably won't get enough carries in a deep RB team but, if by chance he does, could be the pro-bowl backup to Peterson or Jackson.

Re: Who's Primed To Breakout?
by dpease :: Tue, 06/09/2009 - 12:24am

I'll homer for the Cowboys cos I really like some of their post-Parcells picks, esp Marty-B, but I think Bmore's McClain and Freddy Jackson for the Bills should have good seasons, too. On defense, what about Gaines Adams?

Re: Who's Primed To Breakout?
by Key19 :: Tue, 06/09/2009 - 1:41am

Felix Jones.

Re: Who's Primed To Breakout?
by Temo :: Tue, 06/09/2009 - 10:53am

I'd almost prefer he DIDN'T have a breakout all-pro season, because that means he's getting used extensively and I'd rather see the RB trio split touches more or less equally.

Re: Who's Primed To Breakout?
by D :: Tue, 06/09/2009 - 1:45am

Jerious Norwood. Michael Turner is virtually guaranteed to break down next year and in 297 career carries he has averaged 5.8 ypa. He has also put up fantastic receiving numbers in very limited action. All told his situation is not all that different from Turner last year except Norwood can catch passes out of the backfield.

Re: Who's Primed To Breakout?
by parker (not verified) :: Tue, 06/09/2009 - 10:57am

How about non 1st round draft picks who haven't made the pro bowl yet?

Re: Who's Primed To Breakout?
by Drunkmonkey :: Tue, 06/09/2009 - 11:49am

How 'bout them?

Re: Who's Primed To Breakout?
by Soulless Merchant of Fear (not verified) :: Tue, 06/09/2009 - 11:33am

Please, sweet baby Football Jesus, let it be Trent Edwards.

Re: Who's Primed To Breakout?
by Darrel (not verified) :: Tue, 06/09/2009 - 12:02pm

Erik Coleman, now that he is out of the shaddow of the disposed Lawyer Milloy, he is the defacto leader of the Falcons revamped young defence.

Pierre Thomas, with Duece gone for good.
He should get most of the touches in balance to the Saints great passing attack.

Re: Who's Primed To Breakout?
by Joseph :: Tue, 06/09/2009 - 3:27pm

As a Saints homer, I will say:

Pierre Thomas on O (several commenters have already mentioned why)
Also Robert Meachem or Adrian Arrington will probably have good stats/DVOA because one of them will be Drew Brees WR4

On D, Roman Harper SS--Based on these minicamps and OTA's, he was voted MLtBO on the Saints D by far--at least twice as many votes as the next guy.
DT Sedrick Ellis was number 2 in the same poll. He may "break out" and make the Pro Bowl, but he is somewhat of a "name" player being he was drafted #7 overall last year.

Re: Who's Primed To Breakout?
by Shotgun (not verified) :: Tue, 06/09/2009 - 3:33pm

I'm a Viking's homer, so I'll go with:

Offense: TE Visanthe Shiancoe; He'll get over 800 yards receiving this year without Favre. With Favre, he breaks 1000.

Defense: MLB EJ Henderson; He should have made the pro bowl 2 years ago. Last year he was off to an amazing start before dislocating his toes. He'll be a starter in the pro bowl this year.

Re: Who's Primed To Breakout?
by Xeynon (not verified) :: Wed, 06/10/2009 - 10:29pm

Brent Celek - he's a prototypical WCO tight end, he's now completely comfortable with the scheme, and he no longer has to split playing time with The Franchise Player, L.J. Smith.

Not so much because I'm a homer as because I follow the Eagles and other NFC East teams much more closely than others around the league.

Re: Who's Primed To Breakout?
by shake n bake :: Wed, 06/10/2009 - 11:47pm

But he'll still have to deal with Dan Klecko eating away at his targets.

Re: Who's Primed To Breakout?
by ninerbeliever (not verified) :: Tue, 06/16/2009 - 2:49pm

Ryan Leaf Will break for Mexico

Re: Who's Primed To Breakout?
by Soccerfan (not verified) :: Thu, 07/02/2009 - 8:11pm

Oguchi Onyewu

--oh, is this American football?

Re: Who's Primed To Breakout?
by Bill Barnwell :: Wed, 07/08/2009 - 7:23pm

If you're saying Oguchi Onyewu's going to be the breakout star of 2009, you're clearly not much of a football fan, either.

Re: Who's Primed To Breakout?
by Niners :: Wed, 07/22/2009 - 10:44pm

Vernon Davis in my unbiased opinion.

Re: Who's Primed To Breakout?
by Joe the Plummer (not verified) :: Thu, 07/30/2009 - 9:01am

RB Brown, rookie rusher on the Colts, will supplant Addai by week six and lead your fantasy squad to glory during the playoffs.

Re: Who's Primed To Breakout?
by bubqr :: Fri, 07/31/2009 - 8:26am

Felix Jones
Hakeem Nicks
Josh Morgan
Adam Carriker (
McKelvin (next year's D.Revis)
Amobi Okoye (He will be the real beneficiary from the recent additions)
Mike Walker
Deshaun Foster
Jason Campbell (Snyder will regret the J.Cutler/M.Sanchez stuff when he'll leave in FA)
Dustin Keller
Greg Olsen
Clint Ingram
Aqib Talib
Tyrell Johnson

Re: Who's Primed To Breakout?
by Jay Cutler (not verified) :: Sun, 08/02/2009 - 2:28am

Zach Bowman, CB from the Bears

Big play corner

Re: Who's Primed To Breakout?
by Thee Web Guy (not verified) :: Tue, 08/04/2009 - 12:19pm

underneath the radar

WR Earl Bennett - the Cutler connection + deep threat (not deep pharynx)
TE Vernon Davis - offensive TE friendly + oh sh*t dump passes
RB Hightower - more running offense + job security + EZ Nose

Re: Who's Primed To Breakout?
by Nathan :: Tue, 08/04/2009 - 9:01pm

Limas Sweed
Brent Celek
Ray Rice
Felix Jones
Chris Horton
Melvin Bullitt
Quintin Mikell
Visanthe Shiancoe
Pierre Thomas

Re: Who's Primed To Breakout?
by MilkmanDanimal :: Wed, 08/19/2009 - 3:16pm

Offense: Pierre Thomas
Defense: Tanard Jackson

Re: Who's Primed To Breakout?
by tommeehawk :: Wed, 08/19/2009 - 5:24pm

vote obama out !

o.j. might break out !

Login or register to post comments