2012 NFL Predictions: 10 Players Primed for a Breakout This Season
Good things come to those who wait, or at least, that’s what we’re led to believe.
This mantra is as applicable in the NFL as it is anywhere else, and there are dozens of talents out there who are more than ready to make an impact in the 2012-13 season.
Whether it’s a rookie looking to live up to the expectations of his school numbers or a veteran who is yet to hit his prime, we’ll consider whom the top candidates are when it comes to a career-changing campaign this time around.
So, here are the top 10 names to watch in anticipation of a breakout season this year.
Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta Falcons
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After posting 959 yards in his rookie season, logic would dictate that Julio Jones is set to do nothing other than build upon an impressive debut season in the NFL.
Bear in mind that Jones completed last season's statistics on the back of a league-wide lockout, cancelling out any chance of offseason coaching.
This time around, Jones has had the full advantage of preseason training and the 23-year-old will only benefit from the influence of new offensive coordinator, Dirk Koetter, who appears adamant to get the ball to the youngster.
Throw into that equation the new and improved bulk of QB Matt Ryan, and Jones may be in for a record-breaking season.
Dez Bryant, WR, Dallas Cowboys
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The controversial wide receiver plays in a position where there is some question amongst the franchise, and it would seem a safe bet that Bryant posts a 1,000-yard season.
Bryant will be the Cowboys’ most likely selection for punt returner, a role in which he scored two touchdowns last season.
This contributed to his overall tally of nine TDs in his rookie year, a fourth best in the NFL for WRs.
As long as Bryant keeps himself in check off the field, this youngster has the potential to become a sporting great.
The issue there is evidently completing the first part of that sentence.
AJ Green, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
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Still only 24 years old, it’s a wonder that A.J. Green managed to make a Pro Bowl appearance in his rookie season.
However, the good times will stop anywhere but there for the Cincinnati Bengal, and this season may see Green move from his 1,057-yard debutant total into the region of 1,200, or perhaps, even 1,300 yards.
In tandem with the wide receiver, Andy Dalton will also grow into his role as the team’s quarterback, and the pair will help each other in breaking new boundaries.
After beginning their resurrection last season with a 9-7 campaign, the Bengals are on target to continue their upward spiral this term, and Green will be a huge factor in any evolution.
Brooks Reed, LB, Houston Texans
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Originally brought in as a replacement linebacker for Mario Williams, Brooks Reed quickly stamped his place on the Houston Texans setup.
Since recording six tackles in his debut match, the 25-year-old has been built up as a future star, and Williams’ move to the Buffalo Bills means Reed will book the starting spot as his own.
The Arizona alumnus is set to get his biggest chance yet in the 2012-13 term, and the fact that he managed to dish out a DDT on New Orleans Saint Joseph Morgan points toward his untapped potential.
Greg Olsen, TE, Carolina Panthers
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With the entire league opening up to the idea of utilising tight ends on a more regular basis, 2012 promises to be a very successful year for Greg Olsen.
Cam Newton has already showed his potential for the long and running games, but has spent the recent months working on his intermediate routes and range of passing.
For a player in his position, Olsen’s 2011 tally of 45 catches for 540 yards and five TDs is nothing to be sniffed at.
While the TE recorded very decent figures during his days with the Chicago Bears, it would appear as if Olsen is yet to do his best work, which will be in Panther colours.
Torrey Smith, WR, Baltimore Ravens
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If Torrey Smith can maintain consistency, there’s no reason to think that the 23-year-old is unable to be a leading factor in any run the Baltimore Ravens make at the championship.
The former Maryland starlet announced himself on the elite stage in the third week of last season, becoming the first NFL rookie to record three touchdowns in one quarter.
After hauling in 152 yards in just five catches against the St. Louis Rams, Smith was then a starter for the rest of the Ravens’ campaign and is set to do so again in 2012.
With a QB like Joe Flacco behind him, Smith can form an effective partnership, and once again, produce big results.
Trent Richardson, RB, Cleveland Browns
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The pick of many to become 2012’s Rookie of the Year, Trent Richardson has a lot of hype to live up to in his coming trials.
The Alabama prospect ran for a monstrous total of almost 1,700 yards in his final collegiate year, averaging around 5.9 yards per carry.
If T-Rich matches that this season, heads will roll.
Admired for his breakaway speed and adversity to fumbling the ball, Richardson will be the Cleveland Browns go-to guy in a division where running the ball is key to any success.
Trent Richardson, 2012’s third overall draft pick, is destined to have a breakout rookie campaign at the Cleveland Browns Stadium.
Demaryius Thomas, WR, Denver Broncos
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With Peyton Manning now running the rule over Denver’s offense, Demaryius Thomas can certainly build on some impressive 2011 numbers to record a far better 2012 season.
Despite some off-the-pitch matters, Thomas remains a very real threat in attack and at 6'3", weighing 230 lbs, the 24-year-old has the weapons to hassle opposition defences.
Eric Decker has looked dangerous for the Broncos in preseason, but Thomas will most likely remain the franchise’s primary asset downfield.
In his last seven games of 2011, Thomas ran 711 yards off 32 catches in an offense orchestrated by Tim Tebow.
Needless to say, Manning can improve those figures.
DeMarco Murray, RB, Dallas Cowboys
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Like Adrian Peterson and Chris Johnson before him, DeMarco Murray heads into this season looking to post massive second-season statistics.
The Dallas Cowboy made headlines when he ran for a team record of 250 yards on 25 carries in Week 7 of the 2011 season against a very hospitable St. Louis Rams.
Now competing in his first full campaign, the man being dubbed by some as “the second coming of Emmitt Smith” is set to make a run at further records.
Provided he can avoid a knee injury that has nagged him in the past, Murray can enter the history books of running backs.
Robert Meachem, WR, San Diego Chargers
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With Vincent Jackson now going about things with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Robert Meachem will get his chance to shine with the San Diego Chargers.
The 27-year-old will be the main man in San Diego and can expect to see a majority of the passing game coming his way in the coming months.
If Philip Rivers can find his throwing form, the two can certainly develop a beautiful partnership together and achieve big numbers as a unit.