2012 NFL Predictions: Eric Decker and Players Who Will Take Next Step to Stardom

Tim DanielsFeatured ColumnistAugust 27, 2012

DENVER, CO - AUGUST 26:  Wide receiver Eric Decker #87 of the Denver Broncos makes a catch for a touchdown as cornerback Tramaine Brock #26 of the San Francisco 49ers looks on during the first quarter of a pre-season game at Sports Authority Field Field at Mile High on August 26, 2012 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

It happens every year. A couple players who fans around the league have only heard a little bit about break out and become the latest wave of NFL stars. Figuring out which players will make the leap this season is the tough part.

With that in mind, let's take a look at a trio of rising stars with a great chance to make a major impact in 2012. Not only will they be key pieces for their respective teams, but are also worth targeting in fantasy football drafts as well.


Eric Decker

Decker showed off some of his potential in the Denver Broncos' latest preseason game. He caught two touchdown passes from new quarterback Peyton Manning, who is a major upgrade over Tim Tebow in terms of helping receivers become stars.

The third-year wide receiver is exactly the type of player Manning loves. Somebody who can run perfect routes and be counted on to make big plays in clutch situations. That should make Decker the main target once the regular season begins.

It wouldn't be a surprise to see him top 100 catches, which would be more than double his previous high for a season, and 10 touchdowns. That's the type of impact Manning can have on an offense.


Pierre Garcon

During Cam Newton's impressive rookie season with the Carolina Panthers, he developed instant chemistry with Steve Smith. As Robert Griffin III looks to emulate that success in his first year, he'll be looking in Garcon's direction early and often.

Garcon developed under Manning with the Indianapolis Colts and has now joined the Washington Redskins to become the team's top receiver. He's already caught eight passes in the preseason to help Griffin enjoy a rock-solid preseason.

Last season for the Panthers, Smith caught 79 balls for 1,400 yards and seven touchdowns. Garcon should be able to approach those numbers if Griffin lives up to the hype.


Jamaal Charles

Charles was on the cusp of greatness heading into last season, but a knee injury ended his fourth season prematurely and stopped him from reaching the next level. Fully healed, he's ready to prove himself as an elite NFL running back.

The most important thing coming off ACL surgery was seeing how much burst he had left. Luckily, it doesn't seem like he's lost any of his amazing explosiveness and that sets him up to have a huge bounce-back season.

The Kansas City Chiefs brought in Peyton Hillis to provide some insurance, but Charles will be the main man as long as he's healthy. He's certainly capable of crossing 2,000 total yards and 10 touchdowns.