Everyone loves a breakout. Okay, maybe the unfortunate, acne-ridden high school student who can’t get a date doesn’t love breakouts, but in the sports world it’s all good. The question is, how are “breakout” players defined?
A true breakout player essentially needs to establish a new base-line level of performance. Safe to say Tom Brady can’t break out at this point, unless he launches a string of 6,000 yard seasons. As far as the New England Patriots are concerned, just about every player besides Brady and the rest of the established Pro Bowl candidates has statistical room to post breakout seasons. So let’s eliminate the players with an all-star designation already under their belt.
Most players also break out during the earlier stages of their career. Stevan Ridley, for example, broke out last season—his second in the league—with 1,263 yards and 12 touchdowns. Typically this is because they enter their physical prime and their talent takes over. It also helps to have a year or two of NFL experience so they can focus on production rather than assimilation.
For the players who take a bit longer to break out, the biggest reason is usually opportunity. Any time a players is given the opportunity for more playing time than in previous seasons, they have an excellent chance of posting a career year.
In other cases a player may be asked to do different things than in years past, like changing positions and learning a new technique to better utilize their skill set. Sometimes having more talent around them allows a player to focus strictly on their own strengths rather than try to carry too big a load.
Of course health plays a major role as well. While all the above scenarios are fairly easy to recognize ahead of time, injuries or a lack thereof are impossible to predict. Sometimes all a player needs is a full season of good health to show what they can do.
The Patriots have a host of players who meet one, and in some cases several, of these criteria. Does that mean all of them are due for breakout seasons? Of course not, but it does mean the odds are in their favor.
After weighing all these factors, here are the six New England Patriots most likely to break out in 2013.