Predicting the Breakout Star from Every NFL Team's Rookie Class

Wes StueveContributor IIIJuly 2, 2013

Predicting the Breakout Star from Every NFL Team's Rookie Class

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    Typically, every NFL team has one rookie break out and establish himself as a legitimate star. Some teams have more, and some have none. Most have at least one.

    It isn't always so easy to tell who that player might be. It can be a seventh-round pick, or it can unsurprisingly be a team's first selection. It could be anyone.

    Factors considered here were pre-draft evaluations, talent level and fit with NFL teams. Position was also considered. A quarterback isn't too likely to be a star right away, though Robert Griffin, Russell Wilson and Andrew Luck certainly disagree.

    Position was an issue in another way as well. Is a center really a star? How about a kicker? Some less glamorous positions were still featured, but primarily due to a lack of other options.

    Your team is certainly going to have a draft class full of stars, but who is going to be the one to stand out in 2013?

Chicago Bears

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    Breakout Star: Jon Bostic, LB

    Bostic is a terrific athlete with the ability to play in coverage or attack against the run. He's currently engaged in a competition at middle linebacker, and it's unknown how much playing time he will see as a rookie.

    If Bostic is on the field, he can be a dangerous players. Generally, 6'1", 245-pounders aren't this athletic, and Bostic has a desirable skill set. His potential is sky-high.

Cincinnati Bengals

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    Breakout Star: Tyler Eifert, TE

    Eifert is sort of a tight end/wide receiver hybrid. The 6'6", 250-pounder is an excellent athlete with superb body control and catching ability. He can line up in line, in the slot or even out wide.

    With Jermaine Gresham on the roster, Cincinnati has the fun problem of using both players. The team will likely solve the issue by moving Eifert around, which only makes him more dangerous. 

    Besides A.J. Green, the Bengals lacked much in the way of vertical threats. Eifert gives them another one, in addition to being a dangerous red-zone threat. 

Buffalo Bills

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    Breakout Star: Kiko Alonso, ILB

    Aggressive to the point of stupidity, Alonso is a fun player to watch. He plays with passion and delivers bone-jarring hits while displaying few flaws. 

    Alonso will never be a perfect player. He isn't athletic or smart enough for that. He will, however, make plenty of plays and be an enforcer against the run.

    The Oregon product will be fighting his way through traffic as a rookie, and Buffalo's run defense will benefit.

Denver Broncos

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    Breakout Star: Sylvester Williams, DT

    Williams, a 6'3", 313-pound defensive tackle, plays like an even bigger man. The North Carolina product is a near-immovable run-stopper with the athleticism to make plays in the backfield.

    At times, Williams will look bad. He's a project player who needs time to reach his full potential. Denver has an amazing defense already, and Williams is a terrific fit along the inside. He can focus purely on clogging up the run at first and allow other aspects of the game to come to him.

    It could take a while for Williams to reach his full potential, but he's talented enough that less than his full potential is still excellent. 

Cleveland Browns

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    Breakout Star: Barkevious Mingo, OLB

    Few players possess the raw pass-rushing ability of Barkevious Mingo. The No. 6 overall pick is absurdly explosive with unnatural bend and closing speed. His relentless motor doesn't hurt things either.

    Working against Mingo is his size. The 6'4", 237-pounder is slender and struggles against the run. This, along with stiff competition from Jabaal Sheard, could keep him on the bench for most run downs. 

    Despite a possible lack of playing time, Mingo will make an impact for the Browns. Pass-rushers like this don't come along too often, and Mingo could be a terror from day one.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Breakout Star: Johnthan Banks, CB

    Tampa Bay finished its defensive-backfield overhaul by drafting Banks in the second round. The lengthy cornerback isn't exactly an amazing athlete, but he is technically sound with solid physical ability. 

    Banks will be working opposite Darrelle Revis, which will make the rookie's job much easier. The Buccaneers can shift help over to Banks without worrying about Revis, and the former Jet will be handling opposing No. 1 wide receivers, leaving Banks to cover lesser players.

    It is unlikely that Banks will ever be a star. He should be a solid starter who looks better because of the cornerback he's playing opposite. And he should be that right away.

Arizona Cardinals

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    Breakout Star: Tyrann Mathieu, S

    Because of character issues, Mathieu fell to the third round. Teams were worried about failed drug tests, but Mathieu's on-field ability is undeniable.

    The 5'9", 186-pounder is undersized, so he isn't a typical defensive back. He is, however, extraordinarily explosive and possesses supreme playmaking ability. 

    If Mathieu's head is on straight, he can be a dynamic player for Arizona, both as a defensive back and return man. 

San Diego Chargers

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    Breakout Star: Keenan Allen, WR

    When healthy, Allen is a dangerous player. The 6'2", 206-pounder is surprisingly quick and explosive with the ball in his hands. 

    Allen is the type of player offenses want to get the ball to. He makes plays, and he is big and physical enough to fight for contested balls. The California product isn't quite athletic enough to be a superstar, but a healthy Allen is dangerous.

    The health is a crucial modifier, though. Allen wasn't quite right in 2012 as he dealt with a knee injury, and he will need to improve from last year to be the player San Diego expects him to be.

Kansas City Chiefs

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    Breakout Star: Travis Kelce, TE

    It's difficult to find a tight end more physical than Kelce. The 6'5", 260-pounder is mean, tough and strong. He's a dominant blocker with impressive athleticism.

    Kelce will immediately be a top-level blocker. His receiving ability may take a little more time to come around, but he has plenty of upside there. Kelce's speed, physicality and catching ability all make him a threat in the passing game.

    Perhaps Kelce's biggest value comes in the red zone, where his size and physicality are both crucial. Defenses will need to focus on him from day one.

Indianapolis Colts

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    Breakout Star: Bjoern Werner, OLB

    Werner's best trait was one of the most dominant abilities in the draft: his first step. Werner gets off the line with astonishing burst, a key factor for a pass-rusher.

    For Indianapolis, Werner will be moving to outside linebacker after previously playing defensive end. This will mean an adjustment for Werner, and his first step should help him make the transition.

    In coverage and run defense, Werner might struggle. His pass rush should still be a legitimate threat, though, and 10 sacks isn't out of reach. 

Dallas Cowboys

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    Breakout Star: Gavin Escobar, TE

    No one will mistake Escobar for a blocking tight end. Fortunately, he's a talented receiver with vertical ability.

    Behind Jason Witten, Escobar will get playing time only when the Cowboys use two tight ends. With Escobar's skill set, Dallas could be inclined to do so fairly often, though.

    The Cowboys have no shortage of playmakers, and Escobar is yet another potential weapon for Tony Romo.

Miami Dolphins

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    Breakout Star: Dion Jordan, DE

    Jordan is the epitome of a freakish player. The 6'6", 248-pounder is so athletic that he routinely played cornerback at Oregon. His combination of size and coverage ability makes him a legitimate option to cover Rob Gronkowski.

    Jordan isn't just a coverage player, though—he plays defensive end. The No. 3 overall pick is explosive off the edge with terrific length and closing speed. He is a double-digit sack player.

    Not many players can do this many things on the football field, and that makes Jordan a potential superstar. 

Philadelphia Eagles

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    Breakout Star: Lane Johnson, OT

    To start his career, Johnson will play right tackle, with Jason Peters manning the left side. That's great for Johnson, whose biggest weakness is raw footwork in pass protection.

    An amazing athlete, Johnson is superb at getting to the second level in the run game, and his quick feet help him keep the most explosive of pass-rushers at bay. He isn't the most technically-sound player yet, but he should be outstanding on the right side, even as a rookie.

    In time, Johnson will be able to move to the blindside, but for now, he can be one of the game's best right tackles. 

Atlanta Falcons

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    Breakout Star: Desmond Trufant, CB

    The Falcons traded up for Trufant, and he's supposed to start for them at cornerback. The team expects and requires big things from the No. 22 overall pick.

    A great athlete, Trufant has the ability to play right away. He's not perfect by any means, but he is a solid overall player and shouldn't be a liability as a rookie.

    Not exactly a star, but not a bad thing either.

San Francisco 49ers

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    Breakout Star: Tank Carradine, DE

    The only reason for skepticism here is the same reason Carradine fell out of the first round: a torn ACL suffered in 2012. Carradine isn't yet healthy, and it's unknown how much he might contribute in 2013.

    The 6'5", 276-pound Carradine is being groomed as Justin Smith's replacement, and he has the ability to be an All-Pro player. Athletic enough to be an edge-rusher and powerful enough to play defensive tackle, Carradine has a unique skill set. 

    If he's healthy and ready to go, Carradine should rotate along the San Francisco defensive line, and he should be incredible. 

New York Giants

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    Breakout Star: Johnathan Hankins, DT

    This one is a little weak.

    Hankins, while undeniably talented, isn't a premier player and may not make much of an impact in 2013, much less break out as a star.

    But again, there is that talent.

    The 6'3", 320-pounder is a solid athlete with strength and power. In time, he has the potential to be a terrific player.

    So is it impossible he is one already as a rookie?

Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Breakout Star: Johnathan Cyprien, S

    At 6'0", 217 pounds, Cyprien is a large safety. He also displays exceptional range, though, and is a playmaker in coverage. That is a scary combination.

    Coming from Florida International, Cyprien isn't an established player, but he has abundant potential. It is entirely possible that Cyprien begins to reach that upside in 2013, and he could be a key player on Jacksonville's defense.

New York Jets

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    Breakout Star: Sheldon Richardson, DE

    When the Jets drafted Richardson, it seemed like an odd fit. Later, the team announced it was moving Quinton Coples to outside linebacker, making room for Richardson at defensive end.

    One thing is certain though: If Rex Ryan didn't have a plan for Richardson, New York wouldn't have picked him. Coples is better off at defensive end, so the Jets must have really wanted Richardson.

    In the right situation, Richardson can be a terrifying player. Few interior defensive linemen possess such burst and speed. He has serious ability as a pass-rusher, and he should be able to make plenty of plays in the backfield as well.

    Richardson may never be a truly complete player, but he will be a playmaker. 

Detroit Lions

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    Breakout Star: Ezekiel Ansah, DE

    The No. 5 overall pick, Ansah was perhaps the most physically impressive player in the draft. At 6'5", 274 pounds, Ansah is big and amazingly athletic. 

    At this point, though, it is difficult to say just how impressive Ansah will be as a rookie. His pass-rushing ability still has a ways to go, and it could take some time for him to develop into a star.

    Of course, sometimes physical ability shines through despite a lack of refinement. Ansah is impressive enough for that to happen. 

Green Bay Packers

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    Breakout Star: Datone Jones, DE

    At 6'4", 280 pounds, Jones shows a shocking combination of strength, athleticism and fluidness. He is big and powerful enough to hold his ground against the run while maintaining enough burst, speed and flexibility to make plays in the backfield.

    Jones should probably still work on gaining some weight to better defend the run, but it is his current skill set that makes him such an interesting player. Few 3-4 defensive ends offer such pass-rushing ability.

    Jones should start right away and could soon establish himself as an impact defensive player for the Packers. 

Carolina Panthers

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    Breakout Star: Star Lotulelei, DT

    It is still hard to believe Lotulelei fell to the No. 14 pick. 

    The 6'3", 311-pounder is a good athlete with exceptional power. He pushes offensive linemen backwards with ease, while also using above-average quickness to penetrate backfields.

    As a run-stopper, Lotulelei is exceptional. He's similarly impressive as a pass-rusher, though, as he uses his physical ability to either slip past or overpower linemen on his way to the quarterback.

    Lotulelei should immediately provide a huge boost to Carolina's run defense, and he won't exactly be a non-factor on passing plays either.

New England Patriots

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    Breakout Star: Aaron Dobson, WR

    A 6'3", 210-pounder, Dobson is extremely talented. He has incredible vertical ability and should be the deep threat the Patriots otherwise lack.

    It is unlikely that Dobson will really be great as a rookie, however. He isn't a complete wideout yet, and he's fairly one-dimensional. 

    He should still be an impact player, though, and at a position where New England needs someone to step up.

Oakland Raiders

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    Breakout Star: Sio Moore, OLB

    An explosive pass-rushing linebacker, Moore is an intriguing fit in Dennis Allen's defense. He has serious potential in a 4-3/3-4 hybrid defense and could make an impact immediately.

    Moore's ability to make plays behind the line of scrimmage is an impressive trait. He wasn't a fit for every team, but in Oakland, he could be a star. 

St. Louis Rams

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    Breakout Star: Tavon Austin, WR

    It's difficult to find a more exciting player—at any level of football—than Austin. The 5'9", 174-pounder is definitely small, but he is fast, quick and oh so explosive. 

    One of the best things about Austin is his versatility. He can line up out wide, in the slot, even at running back. And he's definitely going to be active on returns.

    As a rookie, Austin may not yet be able to dominate all by himself. But if the Rams give him the ball in space—and that should be their first offensive priority—he will make plays.

Baltimore Ravens

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    Breakout Star: Arthur Brown, ILB

    Baltimore's second-round pick, Brown is undersized but gifted. The Kansas State product plays with a rare mean streak, and he flies all over the field.

    Brown is a complete player, with the burst to power through the line of scrimmage and the coverage ability to easily handle tight ends. He may not be Ray Lewis—at least to start—but he could be an elite inside linebacker. 

Washington Redskins

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    Breakout Star: David Amerson, CB

    Amerson is the type of cornerback who will rack up plenty of interceptions but also draw the ire of fans when he gets burned for a touchdown. His ball skills are incredible. His ability to run with wide receivers? Not so much.

    As a rookie, Amerson's ball-hawking ability should get him on the field plenty. There will be times when he looks truly awful, and there will be times when he makes game-changing plays.

    That may not quite be a star, but it's the best thing the Washington class has to offer. 

New Orleans Saints

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    Breakout Star: Kenny Vaccaro, S

    In all likelihood, Vaccaro will never be a star. He will be a solid player, though, and he should be one immediately. 

    The versatile Vaccaro could conceivably play either free or strong safety at a high level. He has shown the ability to play up at the line of scrimmage against the run or in the slot in coverage.

    So, it may be a stretch to call Vaccaro a star—it is for many of these guys. Vaccaro, at least, will be starting as a rookie.

Seattle Seahawks

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    Breakout Star: Christine Michael, RB

    With Marshawn Lynch and Robert Turbin, Seattle is loaded at running back. That works against Michael. On the other hand, he is way too talented not to be the guy here.

    The 5'10", 220-pounder possesses great power but is also a terrific athlete, as his 4.40 40-yard-dash time suggests. In time, Michael can take over for Lynch without the Seahawks taking a step back. At least, he has that potential.

    Whether Michael ever reaches that upside is up in the air, but even as a rookie, he could be yet another weapon in an already-dangerous Seattle offense.

Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Breakout Star: Markus Wheaton, WR

    Wheaton was the perfect fit for Pittsburgh's offense. The Steelers have long loved throwing downfield, and with Mike Wallace now a Dolphin, they needed another deep threat.

    Wheaton is that deep threat.

    Like Wallace, Wheaton was a third-round pick, known for his speed and lack of size. Wheaton could find himself on the field a lot as a rookie, even if he doesn't do much more than stretch the field. Fortunately, he is quite good at that.

Houston Texans

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    Breakout Star: D.J. Swearinger, S

    The potential issue here is whether Swearinger will have the chance to establish himself as a rookie. With Ed Reed and Danieal Manning at safety, he may not see the field too often.

    If he does, look for Swearinger to impress. The 5'10", 208-pounder is known for his huge hits, but he's also strong in coverage and can play the run. He's the type of player who fans love for his big plays but also adds value on all downs. 

Tennessee Titans

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    Breakout Star: Chance Warmack, OG

    Whether a guard can be called a star is debatable, but if it can be, Warmack is one. The 6'2", 325-pounder is a physically-dominating run-blocker with surprising ability in space.

    Warmack doesn't look impressive. His massive gut and short stature guarantee that. His play on the field is incredible, though, as he routinely destroys defenders.

    Again, calling Warmack a star may be a stretch. But he will have a huge impact on Tennessee's offense from day one, and that, in many ways, is the definition of a star.

Minnesota Vikings

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    Breakout Star: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR

    One of the draft's top talents, Patterson is a potential superstar. The 6'2", 216-pounder is fast, with incredible run-after-catch ability. He may not be there yet, but in time, Patterson should be a game-changer.

    The question with Patterson is how good he will be immediately. He is a superb physical talent but is raw as a route-runner. There is a reason Patterson fell to the No. 29 pick, and it certainly isn't his natural ability. 

    If Patterson plays like he can, the Vikings have another star to replace a departing one in Percy Harvin.