Predicting breakthrough stars for all 32 NFL teams

Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz had his moments as a rookie, but another year in the system and upgrades in the receiving corps have set him up to take a leap forward this season. John Jones/Icon Sportswire

Marcus Mariota, Brandin Cooks and Stefon Diggs led the list of NFL Nation reporters' picks to make a leap forward in 2016. Who makes this year's list?

From highly drafted rookies to players getting another shot with a new team to others who have risen quickly up the depth chart in training camp, here are the players ready to break out in 2017:

NFC East | NFC North | NFC South | NFC West
AFC East | AFC North| AFC South | AFC West


Dallas Cowboys

Safety Byron Jones

Jones has been a revelation early in camp. His offseason work in improving his ball skills has paid off. Wherever and whenever he could, he caught passes. He even shagged flies during batting practice with the Frisco RoughRiders. He has just one pick in his first two seasons, but with the athletic additions to the secondary, Jones will be allowed to play a centerfield type of role that will give him the chance to make more plays on the ball. -- Todd Archer

New York Giants

Cornerback Eli Apple

His rookie season was filled with ups and downs, as well as nagging injuries. But the first-round pick is healthy now and has put on muscle this year. He has held his own against Odell Beckham Jr. early in training camp, which means he should thrive against the rest of the league. Look out. -- Jordan Raanan

Philadelphia Eagles

Quarterback Carson Wentz

The former No. 2 overall pick is enjoying a strong camp. His delivery looks more efficient, and the accuracy is up. Lacking sufficient weapons and prep time, he finished 25th in quarterback rating (79.3) and threw 16 touchdowns to 14 interceptions as a rookie. Now armed with experience and new receivers Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith, Wentz is poised to take significant steps forward. -- Tim McManus

Washington Redskins

Wide receiver Terrelle Pryor

He finished with 1,007 yards last season, so it's not as though he accomplished nothing -- but that was also his first full season at receiver. Pryor has been the offensive standout through the first week of camp, displaying freakish athleticism and improved receiver skills. He was considered raw even after his big year in Cleveland. His production in 2017 will hinge on how much work he receives in comparison to tight end Jordan Reed and receiver Jamison Crowder. But paired with a better QB than he had in Cleveland, and with increased knowledge, Pryor should thrive. -- John Keim


Chicago Bears

Running back Tarik Cohen

Cohen, drafted in the fourth round, is the undisputed fan favorite in Bourbonnais. The shifty running back out of North Carolina A&T has repeatedly shown that he can outrun defenders in the open field. The Bears haven't had a true third-down running back with a top gear like Cohen's in the John Fox era -- until now. Look for Cohen to be active on game days and likely get on the field for about 10 plays. Chicago is also eyeballing Cohen as a possible returner on special teams. -- Jeff Dickerson

Detroit Lions

Defensive end Anthony Zettel

After playing minimal snaps as a rookie last year, he has become one of the most hyped players through the first week of training camp. Playing at a position of need on a team searching for more of a pass rush, watching a sleeker, faster Zettel blow by Greg Robinson and Cyrus Kouandjio in one-on-one drills is a good sign for the defense (or a bad sign for the offense). It'll be interesting to see how Zettel fares in preseason games. He should see a lot of work since Ezekiel Ansah is still on PUP, and he could be the latest on the list of breakout defensive linemen for the Lions under boisterous defensive line coach Kris Kocurek. -- Michael Rothstein

Green Bay Packers

Defensive tackle Dean Lowry

The second-year pro had only two sacks last season, but both came in December -- a sign he improved as the season progressed. Lowry devoted this past offseason to working on his pass rush, and it has shown so far in training camp. During the Packers' Lambeau Field practice on Saturday night, he had pressures on back-to-back plays, one of which led to an interception. Yes, Lowry was the second of two defensive linemen drafted last year -- Kenny Clark in the first round and Lowry in the fourth -- but so far Lowry looks like he's capable of providing more of a pass rush. -- Rob Demovsky

Minnesota Vikings

Linebacker Anthony Barr

He has had some disappointing seasons since the Vikings drafted him No. 9 overall in 2014. But his raw athletic ability and playmaking have always been evident, and he admitted this summer that a substandard work ethic has been the main culprit. That can be corrected, however, especially when a player is headed into an offseason in which he is likely to be offered a contract extension. Never has Barr been more motivated to perform than in 2017. -- Kevin Seifert


Atlanta Falcons

Defensive tackle Grady Jarrett

Jarrett showed the NFL world what he's capable of when he recorded three sacks of Tom Brady in the Super Bowl. Now he has Dontari Poe playing alongside him. Jarrett won't be known as just Vic Beasley's college teammate anymore. -- Vaughn McClure

Carolina Panthers

Wide receiver Devin Funchess

He was the MVP of the 2016 training camp, then did little during the season to warrant attention. But with the addition of first-round pick Christian McCaffrey to open up the offense (coupled with the breakout history of NFL third-year receivers), this could be Funchess' year. Defenses will focus on McCaffrey, Pro Bowl tight end Greg Olsen and wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin, so Funchess should have plenty of opportunities as the second wide receiver. It's a new role, and the Panthers want to take advantage of his 6-foot-4 frame and speed. -- David Newton

New Orleans Saints

Defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins

The 12th pick in the 2016 draft missed the first seven games last year because of a broken fibula, but he finished with four sacks and a forced fumble. Rankins said he wants those "flash" plays to come on a much more consistent level now that's he's fully healthy and has a full year in the system. Actually, he stressed multiple times that he wants to "dominate" on a consistent level. The 6-foot-2, 305-pounder has real Pro Bowl potential as an athletic big man who can get to the passer and disrupt the run. The Saints are counting on him in the wake of the heart condition that ended veteran DT Nick Fairley's season. -- Mike Triplett

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Linebacker Kwon Alexander

Some believe he already had a breakout season last year when he led the NFL with 108 solo tackles. He also had a whopping 21 tackles (tied for fourth-most in Buccaneers' history) against the Cowboys on Sunday Night Football. Still, much of the football world has no idea who the Bucs' third-year middle linebacker is. Having another year in Mike Smith's defense has done wonders for his confidence. He's routinely stuffing running backs and popping receivers during training camp practices. -- Jenna Laine


Arizona Cardinals

Linebacker Scooby Wright III

It hasn't taken Wright long to show he loves to hit; he doesn't seem to care what he hits or if he's even allowed to. Wright is a special-teams coach's dream. He plays with a controlled reckless abandon and isn't afraid to mix it up. He was a stud linebacker at the University of Arizona as a sophomore, but a knee injury curtailed his career prematurely. He could, doubtless, be a breakout player on special teams, but if given the chance, he could also make a mark as a reserve linebacker. -- Josh Weinfuss

Los Angeles Rams

Tight end Tyler Higbee

He was targeted only 29 times as a rookie, but now -- with Lance Kendricks on the Packers and new coach Sean McVay a master at getting tight ends involved -- Higbee figures to have a prominent role in the offense. He's 6-foot-6 and athletic with reliable hands and an ability to stretch the deep middle of the field. He and Jared Goff, his roommate during training camp, have already developed some nice chemistry. Higbee is competing for snaps with rookie Gerald Everett but has a leg up. -- Alden Gonzalez

San Francisco 49ers

Cornerback Rashard Robinson

Robinson had already turned heads in the spring with his cover skills and unrelenting competitiveness, but he'll draw even more attention when he's able to put the pads on and start getting more physical. At 6-foot-1 and following an offseason in which he added weight to get to around 190 pounds, Robinson is an ideal fit in coordinator Robert Saleh's defense. His length and physical approach will be essential for a defense with a lot of questions at cornerback, even if he struggles early as the No. 1 corner. -- Nick Wagoner

Seattle Seahawks

Running back C.J. Prosise

He played in only six games last season, but Prosise looked like an explosive weapon. He caught 17 of 18 targets for 208 yards and averaged 5.73 yards per carry on 30 rushes. It's a small sample size, but the coaches loved what Prosise brought to the offense and knew exactly how to use him. At the very least, expect him to be on the field on every third down and other obvious passing situations. If Prosise can show his durability, he could be the running back Seahawks fans end up talking about the most this season. -- Sheil Kapadia


Buffalo Bills

Defensive end Shaq Lawson

The Bills' first-round pick in 2016 missed the first six games of his rookie season because of shoulder surgery and was never a natural fit as an outside linebacker in Rex Ryan's 3-4 system. Lawson is back to being a 4-3 defensive end and has impressed so far in camp, overpowering right tackles on a consistent basis. He has slimmed down to 268 pounds after weighing 275 pounds last year and in the 280s at Clemson. -- Mike Rodak

Miami Dolphins

Wide receiver DeVante Parker

Last year, running back Jay Ajayi was Miami's breakout star. This year, that player will emerge from the passing game. Entering his third season, Parker has all the physical tools to be a dominant receiver but hasn't been able to stay healthy and put it all together. He has been one of the most impressive players in training camp thus far. -- James Walker

New England Patriots

Running back Mike Gillislee

When the Patriots were in full pads for the first time and worked on their goal-line running, it was Gillislee who got the first crack at powering the ball over the goal line. He did so with authority, first on an A-gap run and then following fullback James Develin off the left side of the line. Gillislee, who was signed as a restricted free agent from the Bills, looks primed to be the Patriots' top option to replace LeGarrette Blount, and he appears to be off to a nice start in training camp. -- Mike Reiss

New York Jets

Tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins

The former Bucs bust is trying to revitalize his career, and the early signs are promising. He addressed a drinking problem, changed his off-the-field habits and dropped 33 pounds. The tight end position will play a key role in the Jets' new offensive system, and ASJ fits the bill because of his pass-catching ability. Once he returns from a two-game suspension stemming from a DUI arrest last September, he will be one of the featured skill players in the Jets' offense. -- Rich Cimini


Baltimore Ravens

Nose tackle Michael Pierce

Pierce has built on an impressive rookie season by dominating in training camp. His strength and athleticism have been a handful for all of Baltimore's centers, and it's clear opponents won't be able to stop him one-on-one. The Ravens should have one of the top interior defensive line combinations with Pierce and Brandon Williams, a virtual stop sign for opposing run games. -- Jamison Hensley

Cincinnati Bengals

Outside linebacker Carl Lawson

Joe Mixon is certainly a candidate here, but Lawson has thoroughly impressed Bengals coach Marvin Lewis, who said he will have to "unleash" Lawson at some point. Lawson was considered one of the steals of the draft after falling to the fourth round due to injury concerns, but he has already made a name for himself in the early days of camp. -- Katherine Terrell

Cleveland Browns

Running back Isaiah Crowell

It's tough to call a guy who averaged 4.9 yards per carry someone who will "break out." That average alone indicates he has arrived. But coach Hue Jackson admitted he did not give Crowell the ball enough in 2016, and he plans to rely more on the run this season. As Jackson said, if Crowell tallied nearly 1,000 yards when he didn't get the ball enough, imagine what he can do when he gets a heightened workload. -- Pat McManamon

Pittsburgh Steelers

Cornerback Artie Burns

Burns has shadowed Antonio Brown exclusively throughout training camp, and he has held his own against the Pro Bowler. Brown wins his share of matchups, but Burns' range, speed and length are showing up in a big way. Burns will enter the season as Pittsburgh's No. 1 cornerback. -- Jeremy Fowler


Houston Texans

Cornerback Kevin Johnson

The 2015 first-round pick was playing his best football of the season when he broke his foot in Week 6 against the Colts. Now, he enters training camp healthy and has been a standout in the first week. The Texans' secondary finished the 2016 season as the second-ranked unit in passing defense, but Houston lost cornerback A.J. Bouye to free agency and needs someone to fill that void. -- Sarah Barshop

Indianapolis Colts

Wide receiver Donte Moncrief

T.Y. Hilton is the Colts' best receiver, but Moncrief has the tools to become the team's best all-around receiver because of his size and speed. The key for Moncrief is to stay healthy. He missed seven games with a shoulder injury last season but was effective when he was healthy, recording seven touchdowns on just 30 receptions in nine games. -- Mike Wells

Jacksonville Jaguars

Running back Leonard Fournette

The fourth overall pick has drawn praise from coaches and teammates alike regarding his study habits, attitude, maturity and demeanor. They're also loving what they've seen from him in camp. His vision and burst get praised the most, and he has completely busted the narrative about not being a good receiver out of the backfield. Expect Fournette to get 250-plus carries as the Jaguars try to take the pressure off QB Blake Bortles. -- Mike DiRocco

Tennessee Titans

Running back Derrick Henry

The 2016 second-round pick landed on one of the few teams with which he couldn't become an immediate starter. He's a rare physical specimen with the skill set to be one of the NFL's elite backs. Henry considers his rookie campaign, in which he averaged 4.5 yards per carry and scored five touchdowns, a disappointment. That's scary news for defenses around the league, as they will have to face a motivated running back who is built like a linebacker. Titans offensive coordinator Terry Robiskie said Henry is having a phenomenal summer, and he'll continue to push DeMarco Murray for reps in a run-heavy offense. -- Cameron Wolfe


Denver Broncos

Cornerback Bradley Roby

As the Broncos' third cornerback, Roby has essentially been a starter for the league's best pass defense in each of the past two seasons. However, even his hard-to-please teammates say he has taken a big step this offseason through the start of training camp. As he enters his fourth season, Roby has flashed the ability to turn turnovers into touchdowns -- he has scored three times in his career (two interception returns and one fumble return) -- but the corner has shown a better understanding of the big picture on defense and has been far more vocal on the field. As Aqib Talib said, "[Roby] was like a mute last season." Roby is poised to make a leap this season, and the Broncos have already engaged the fifth-year option on his deal for 2018. -- Jeff Legwold

Kansas City Chiefs

Running back Kareem Hunt

Hunt won't unseat Spencer Ware from the starting lineup (at least not at the start of the season), but the third-round draft pick will get a lot of playing time. The Chiefs liked Hunt enough as a runner to trade up to draft him, and he has proven to be more advanced as a receiver than the Chiefs expected. Hunt has shown the ability to not only beat coverage down the field, but also to make difficult catches. -- Adam Teicher

Los Angeles Chargers

Wide receiver Travis Benjamin

In his first season with the Chargers, Benjamin played the backstretch of 2016 with a PCL sprain that forced him to miss the last two games of the year and limited his production. But a healthy Benjamin has been flashing his trademark speed in training camp. He also has a chance to earn his job back as the team's punt returner. -- Eric D. Williams

Oakland Raiders

Defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes

Despite missing all of the Raiders' offseason program due to the quarter system of his school, UCLA (and having to play a game of catch-up as a result), the third-round draft pick was running with the first-team defense by the third practice of training camp. "He's a hell of a player," defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. said of Vanderdoes. "He's really strong, has good hands. He is going to make some noise this year." Only three of Oakland's NFL-low 25 sacks came from defensive tackles last year, and while Vanderdoes is not expected to rack up many sacks, he should provide a push from the interior. "He's been a student of the game," said Raiders defensive coordinator Ken Norton, Jr. "I think he understands how to get lined up. He understands the blocking schemes. He understands how to get on edges. Things that we drafted him for, we're very happy with what we have. He has jumped right in no problem." -- Paul Gutierrez