<
>

Predicting breakout candidates for all 32 NFL teams

play
Cruz: Shepard will emerge as breakout star in OBJ's absence (1:08)

The NFL Live Crew predicts who will be the breakout star of the NFL season, with Victor Cruz making a case for Sterling Shepard to fill Odell Beckham Jr.'s shoes. (1:08)

We're less than two weeks from the beginning of the NFL regular season, and rookies and previously unheralded or underperforming players are suddenly ready to become household names.

Our NFL Nation reporters break down who will take off this season.

Jump to:
ARI | ATL | BAL | BUF | CAR | CHI | CIN
CLE | DAL | DEN | DET | GB | HOU | IND
JAX | KC | LAC | LAR | MIA | MIN | NE
NO | NYG | NYJ | OAK | PHI | PIT | SF
SEA | TB | TEN | WSH

AFC EAST

Buffalo Bills

WR Cole Beasley

How can a player with 319 career receptions and 3,271 receiving yards qualify as a breakout candidate? Because for the first time in his career, he's on a team that prioritizes him in the passing game. The Bills want quarterback Josh Allen to take fewer shots downfield in 2019, and signed Beasley as an incentive for him to do so. He's shifty, gets open nearly at will and has reliable hands. Don't be surprised if he beats the 75/833/5 line he put up during his career-best season in 2016. -- Marcel Louis-Jacques


Miami Dolphins

LB Jerome Baker

The Dolphins' coaching staff is extremely high on Baker, who might go from rookie who shows some playmaking flashes to the playcaller and central piece of Miami's defense. Baker has emerged as a do-it-all linebacker who could end up leading the team in tackles and sacks while still showing off his coverage prowess. This spring and summer, Baker has looked in full control of the defense, fluid in his own game and ready to emerge as a breakout player. -- Cameron Wolfe


New England Patriots

OT Isaiah Wynn

The 2018 first-round draft choice out of Georgia was a forgotten man last season after tearing his Achilles tendon in August and missing the season, but he has worked hard to put himself in position to be the team's starting left tackle. There aren't many more important jobs in New England than protecting Tom Brady's blind side. Wynn's combination of athleticism and power is impressive, even if he isn't the prototype from a size perspective (6-foot-2, 310 pounds) at left tackle. The key for Wynn will be his health, and if he stays on the field, he has a chance to be mentioned among the game's best at the position. -- Mike Reiss


New York Jets

DT Quinnen Williams

Let's not overthink this. Williams, drafted third overall, is an uber-talented rookie who will get substantial playing time. Sure, his inexperience will hurt him at times, but he'll be able to make splash plays that no one else on the Jets' defensive line can make. "And he's only scratching the surface," defensive coordinator Gregg Williams says. -- Rich Cimini

AFC NORTH

Baltimore Ravens

WR Miles Boykin

The third-round pick has been the Ravens' best rookie this summer, and it's not even close. With the Ravens being extra cautious with first-round pick Marquise Brown (offseason foot surgery), Boykin has been the top newcomer in the wide receiver group. He has been an impressive route runner and is a deceptive deep threat as a long strider. He also has a knack for making contested catches, especially in the red zone. The Ravens have struggled to find wide receivers in the draft, but Boykin looks like he'll break that trend. -- Jamison Hensley


Cincinnati Bengals

DE Carl Lawson

After a strong debut season in 2017, Lawson had a quiet sophomore year before he tore his ACL in the team's eighth game. But the former fourth-round pick out of Auburn could be in for a big year. Lawson told the coaching staff this is the best he has felt in a long time. And if that's the case, he could easily match or exceed the 8.5 sacks he racked up as a rookie. Lawson could give Cincinnati another imposing pass-rusher, something that will help an ailing defense. -- Ben Baby


Cleveland Browns

CB Greedy Williams

If Williams doesn't win a starting job out of camp, he's a virtual lock to start soon thereafter. That's how impressive the second-round pick out of LSU has been since minicamp. With second-year Pro Bowler Denzel Ward opposite Williams, the Browns seem primed to feature a formidable CB duo for years to come. -- Jake Trotter


Pittsburgh Steelers

WR James Washington

Washington is beating coverages too often in practices and preseason games. The talent is obvious enough that he should be able to shrug off a disappointing rookie year. He shed 15 pounds, knows the offense better and has at least three transferable NFL traits: He makes contested catches, he's an explosive jumper and he's got strong hands. Rookie linebacker Devin Bush is also a breakout candidate, but as a top-10 pick, he's expected to do so. -- Jeremy Fowler

AFC SOUTH

Houston Texans

S Justin Reid

The Texans have had a lot of turnover in the secondary since the end of last season, so their 2018 third-round pick is expected to take on even more responsibility at safety. Coach Bill O'Brien said Reid is "a very smart player," which helped him pick up the Texans' defense quickly last season. Reid said he's "expecting a huge jump from myself from Year 1 to Year 2," and the Texans feel the same way. -- Sarah Barshop


Indianapolis Colts

CB Rock Ya-Sin

Ya-Sin, who was selected in the second round after being projected by some as a first-round pick, moved up the depth chart pretty quickly in training camp and started the second preseason game for the Colts. The coaching staff likes Ya-Sin's toughness, ability to match up with bigger and speedier receivers, and his short memory on the field. "When you've got that kind of toughness and competitiveness, you just feel his presence," coach Frank Reich said. "You just feel guys like that, his presence. I mean, this guy just competes his tail off, and I love the tone -- I feel like the whole defense has felt that." -- Mike Wells


Jacksonville Jaguars

S Ronnie Harrison

The Jaguars dumped Barry Church midseason because Harrison had made so much progress as a rookie that they felt comfortable starting him at strong safety. One of the biggest issues in the secondary in 2018 was communication, but that hasn't been a problem in camp, in part because of Harrison. He's a physical player who can play in the box but also has enough speed and athleticism that the Jaguars feel comfortable playing him as a single high safety in certain calls. -- Mike DiRocco


Tennessee Titans

LB Rashaan Evans

Evans, in his second year playing for defensive coordinator Dean Pees, is playing with the confidence to become the leader of the defense. The Titans will rely on him to call the plays in the defensive huddle. Evans' instinctive ability to track running backs is surfacing as he plays more. He will also get more chances to rush the passer by blitzing the interior gaps and seeing opportunities to attack as an edge rusher. -- Turron Davenport

AFC WEST

Denver Broncos

LB Bradley Chubb

Yes, he had 12 sacks as a rookie and already had one "breakout,'' given he challenged Jevon Kearse's single-season rookie sacks record of 14.5. But Chubb is going to the next level in 2019. He and Von Miller might just be the best edge-rushing tandem in the league, and first-year Broncos coach Vic Fangio's coaching résumé includes some of the best pass-rushers the game has seen. Toss in Chubb's maturity and work ethic and it's all there for the second-year linebacker to have an enormous impact in every game he plays. -- Jeff Legwold

play
1:45

Clark expecting Chubb to continue progression

The NFL Live crew discusses their expectations for Bradley Chubb in his second year with the Denver Broncos.

Kansas City Chiefs

S Juan Thornhill

The Chiefs' second-round draft pick has been impressive in training camp and the preseason with his range and playmaking ability. He has yet to break into the starting lineup, but it seems only a matter of time. The Chiefs need his abilities at the back end of their defense. -- Adam Teicher


Los Angeles Chargers

LB Kyzir White

A fourth-round selection in 2018 who played safety at West Virginia, White earned a starting job as a rookie last season but a knee injury limited him to just three games. However, White appears fully healthy in training camp, making plays all over the field. With safety Derwin James out for an extended period due to foot surgery, White is an explosive playmaker who can help fill the void for the Chargers. -- Eric D. Williams


Oakland Raiders

TE Darren Waller

Sure, he's played only a combined 16 games since the start of the 2016 season, after failing a drug test. But he said he has been "clean" for two years now and is highly motivated. Physically, he has the hands and speed of a receiver and the size of an imposing blocker. Jon Gruden's offense is friendly to tight ends and, at 6-foot-6, 255 pounds, Waller will benefit, as Jared Cook did last season with 68 catches for a team-leading 896 yards. -- Paul Gutierrez

NFC EAST

Dallas Cowboys

WR Michael Gallup

With Amari Cooper, Jason Witten, Randall Cobb and Ezekiel Elliott around, Gallup's numbers might not explode to No. 1 receiver levels, but he will easily outpace what he did as a rookie, when he caught 33 passes for 507 yards and two touchdowns. His connection with Dak Prescott increased later in his rookie season, and they have been better together this summer with timing on back-shoulder throws. Gallup still needs to be better with his releases, but he can go up and get the contested passes and run past defenders. He will be a big-play threat for this passing game. -- Todd Archer


New York Giants

S Jabrill Peppers

Everything is set for the uber-athletic safety to shine in his first season with the Giants in a full-time playmaking role. He had 79 tackles last season with the Browns. If he doesn't top 100 this season with the Giants, it will be a disappointment. He might not be lockdown in coverage against tight ends and running backs, but he's going to be down near the line of scrimmage plenty with opportunities to make plays. He's too good an athlete not to have success in that role. -- Jordan Raanan


Philadelphia Eagles

TE Dallas Goedert

Zach Ertz is one of the best tight ends in the game and the clear No. 1 in Philly, but look for the Eagles to run plenty of two-tight-end sets to get Goedert involved. He flashed his ability as a rookie, posting 33 receptions for 334 yards and four touchdowns. His work this offseason prior to being shut down with a calf injury (he's expected to be fine for the opener) signalled that he's poised to make a bigger impact in Year 2. -- Tim McManus

play
2:08

Yates and Dopp like what they saw from Derrius Guice

Field Yates and Daniel Dopp were encouraged by Derrius Guice on Thursday night and could see a productive season for the second-year running back.

Washington Redskins

RB Derrius Guice

Guice, a second-round pick in 2018, missed last season with a torn ACL, so durability will be a concern for him as well. However, the Redskins love what he adds as both a runner and a receiver. The Redskins also know their path to victory this season is through running the ball and playing good defense, and Guice is pivotal to that success. He'll split time with Adrian Peterson, but the Redskins know Guice could be electric, so his workload will increase. -- John Keim

NFC NORTH

Chicago Bears

WR Cordarrelle Patterson

Patterson is versatile but he has never put up big numbers, except as a kickoff returner, where Patterson earned Pro Bowl honors in 2013 and 2016. The Bears plan to use Patterson in multiple roles on offense -- receiver, runner and perhaps occasionally as a passer. Bears coach Matt Nagy is very creative on offense, so Patterson figures to be in good situations with favorable matchups. It would not be a surprise if Patterson tallied 650-plus all-purpose yards on offense in 2019. -- Jeff Dickerson


Detroit Lions

TE T.J. Hockenson

It might be odd for a first-round pick to be here -- and for a rookie tight end to be here, considering production has not been high at the position for first-year players. But at the very least, Hockenson is going to be a dynamic red zone threat who should see a lot of targets from Matthew Stafford in the end zone this season. Already one of Stafford's most sure-handed options, Hockenson has a sneaky chance to exceed expectations in 2019. -- Michael Rothstein


Green Bay Packers

RB Aaron Jones

For two years, fans (and fantasy owners) have been clamoring for Jones to get the ball more. Last season, he led the league in yards per carry (5.47), but the Packers dropped back to pass at a higher rate than any other team. The new offense under Matt LaFleur is based on the marriage between the run and the pass, and Jones is a tailor-made for the outside zone scheme. If he can stay healthy -- and he's toned up to try to avoid the injuries that have cut short his first two seasons -- then his first 1,000-yard season could be a reality. -- Rob Demovsky


Minnesota Vikings

RB Mike Boone

He has gone from last on the depth chart to, at the very minimum, contending for the No. 3 job. Boone's skill set more closely mirrors Dalvin Cook's than that of Alexander Mattison, who is locked into the No. 2 job right now, and Boone's ability to break off big runs in the open field and his skills as a pass-catching back will only help his case as the Vikings determine how many backs they'll keep. Coach Mike Zimmer said he was more impressed with what Boone did on special teams than how he ran the ball in the Vikings' second preseason game, and an increased workload there -- possibly including some reps as a returner -- could earn his spot on the 53-man roster. -- Courtney Cronin

NFC SOUTH

Atlanta Falcons

DE Takk McKinley

The 2017 first-round pick came to the league with a chip on his shoulder, and it's gotten bigger based on McKinley paying close attention to outside criticism. But it seems McKinley is learning to take his frustrations out on opponents rather than voicing his anger on social media. His progress and potential as a pass-rusher has head coach/defensive coordinator Dan Quinn excited. -- Vaughn McClure


Carolina Panthers

WR Curtis Samuel

The third-year wide receiver finally had a full offseason not hampered by health issues, and it has shown on the field. His speed, as running back Christian McCaffrey said, is rare not just in the NFL, but "the world.'' Add that to more polished route running and Samuel is poised for big things. -- David Newton


New Orleans Saints

DE Marcus Davenport

The second-year player hasn't been the Saints' biggest breakout yet this summer. But few young players have a higher ceiling than the 14th pick in the 2018 draft. The opportunity is definitely there after the Saints let former starter Alex Okafor leave in free agency. Davenport showed potential with four sacks in his first seven games last season before suffering a significant toe injury. Now he is healthy again, with a full year of development under his belt. -- Mike Triplett


Tampa Bay Buccaneers

WR Chris Godwin

He's no longer splitting time with DeSean Jackson, and coach Bruce Arians is not only lining him up outside but in the slot too, as the Bucs' "go-to guy down the middle." In fact, Arians believes he can have 100 catches this season. Moreover, his chemistry with Jameis Winston has gotten better, and it's resulting in more targets in the end zone. The only thing Godwin has had to work on this camp is adjusting to more traffic inside and being what Arians calls a "grimy player" --- not allowing the occasional ball to get stripped away. -- Jenna Laine

NFC WEST

Arizona Cardinals

LB Dennis Gardeck

The second-year linebacker from the University of Sioux Falls and West Virginia State has shined all camp, enough so that defensive coordinator Vance Joseph feels more than comfortable enough with Gardeck to run him with the first-team defense in place of injured Haason Reddick, a former first-round pick. Gardeck has also impressed coach Kliff Kingsbury with his worth ethic and his versatility. Gardeck earned a spot on the roster as an undrafted free agent last year with his play on special teams, and has continued to prove himself in camp this year with his performance at linebacker. -- Josh Weinfuss


Los Angeles Rams

TE Gerald Everett

A third-year pro, Everett was a standout through the offseason program and carried that momentum into training camp. He has seen an increased number of reps with the starters and has developed an improved connection with quarterback Jared Goff. Last season, Everett flashed talent against the Kansas City Chiefs and New Orleans Saints, but look for him to play a more consistent role, and have consistent success, in 2019. -- Lindsey Thiry


San Francisco 49ers

LB Fred Warner

He started all 16 games as a rookie and led the 49ers in tackles, but that was just the beginning for Warner, about whom teammates rave for his study habits, work ethic and athleticism. Warner has been all over the field in training camp and says his confidence has jumped to another level. If he can turn all of that into more splash plays and the Niners contend for the postseason, Warner will start getting recognition as one of the game's best young middle linebackers and defensive leaders. -- Nick Wagoner

play
0:58

Penny couldn't find his role last season with Seahawks

Field Yates admits that running backs are the most likely to have breakout seasons in their first year, but Rashaad Penny wasn't one of them.

Seattle Seahawks

RB Rashaad Penny

The 27th overall pick in the 2018 draft spent his underwhelming rookie season as Seattle's third option behind Chris Carson and Mike Davis, but there are plenty of reasons to think he could break out in 2019. Davis' departure means Penny will be the clear-cut No. 2 back in an offense that runs the ball as often as any in the NFL and wants to get its backs more involved in the passing game. All of that plus Carson's injury history suggest the flashes that Penny showed as a rookie could be more frequent in Year 2. -- Brady Henderson