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10 NFL sophomores primed to break out

Expect wide receivers Kevin White and Breshad Perriman to make big impacts in their sophomore campaigns after missing their rookie seasons due to injury. AP Photo

The first rule of putting together a list of breakout candidates is recognizing that no player can break out twice. Once you've made a name for yourself on the NFL landscape, you can't do it again the next year. That's why this list of second-year NFL players who we anticipate will emerge this fall won't include any of the top rookies of 2015.

That means no offensive stars like Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota, Amari Cooper or Todd Gurley. It also means no Marcus Peters, who won the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award, or Leonard Williams, the Jets' latest front-seven phenom. And while they began last season on the sidelines, even players like Tyler Lockett and David Johnson had established themselves as starters by the end of 2015.

Instead, what you'll find here is a list of players who didn't see much or any action as rookies, whether due to injuries or crowded depth charts. However, we like their chances to shine in full-time roles this fall.

We limited our list to players who started five or fewer games in their first NFL campaigns, and we found a wave of pass-rushers ready to make life difficult for opposing quarterbacks, starting with an alumnus of -- where else? -- the SEC.


1. Preston Smith, OLB/DE, Washington Redskins

Even though the Redskins already had Ryan Kerrigan and Trent Murphy on hand, Washington took Smith out of Mississippi State with the 38th selection in last year's draft. And though Smith started only one game, he still made a huge impact with eight sacks, including three in one game against Philadelphia. (Those are just regular-season numbers; he also sacked Aaron Rodgers for a safety in the playoffs.) He did that all while only playing 508 snaps. For comparison's sake, J.J. Watt led the league with 17.0 sacks last year, and he played 1,005 snaps. Junior Galette will likely be out at least until training camp with the torn Achilles tendon that knocked him out last season, and Murphy is moving to defensive end, so Smith will have plenty of chances to impress his coaches this offseason.