<
>
Insider

NFL's top 25 breakout prospects

David Johnson and Thomas Rawls both shined as rookies. Getty Images, USA TODAY Sports

Every year, Football Outsiders puts together a list of the NFL's best and brightest young players who have barely played.

Everybody knows that Andrew Luck and Jameis Winston are good. There's a cottage industry around the idea of hyping every draft's No. 1 quarterback as a potential superstar. This is a list of players who have a strong chance to make an impact in the NFL despite their lack of draft stock and the fact that they weren't immediate NFL starters. (Our full criteria for who's eligible for this list is at the bottom of this article.)

We have included the likes of Geno Atkins, Elvis Dumervil, Malcolm Butler, Arian Foster and Jamaal Charles in previous versions before they blew up.

Here's our ranking of the NFL's top 25 prospects for 2016.


1. David Johnson, RB, Arizona Cardinals

412 offensive snaps, third-round pick (2015), age 24

You may remember Mr. Johnson as a major swing factor for your fantasy football league last winter. His advanced statistics certainly backed up the touchdowns: Johnson finished fourth in rushing DVOA and eighth in DYAR in his rookie season. And while he's not a dumbfoundingly obvious talent like Todd Gurley, that's the reason the Cardinals were able to get Johnson in the third round. At 6-foot-1, 224 pounds, Johnson is built to be a workhorse back. He also made outstanding plays as a receiver, finishing sixth in receiving DYAR among running backs and averaging 4.0 more yards after the catch than expected given where he caught those passes. The usual caveats about running backs apply -- high attrition, increased role-splitting -- but Johnson sure looks like a franchise running back as we enter 2016.