Every season in the National Football League, there are players that both flourish and flounder. Last year we saw Steve Smith, Miles Austin, Ray Rice, Jamaal Charles, Matt Schaub, Sidney Rice and Brent Celek have great years. Whereas players like Eddie Royal, Matt Cassell and Steve Slaton stepped back.
Here are 10 players - some second and third year players and one fourth-year player - that are primed to have breakout seasons and are on the brink of stardom.
Joe Flacco, QB, Baltimore Ravens
Flacco passed for 3,613 yards, 21 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in 2009 and is in line for a breakout season. With the addition of Anquan Boldin, he should be an even better quarterback now that he'll be throwing to a true number one receiver. The Ravens also added Donte Stallworth this off-season. Stallworth, who was suspended last season for being convicted of vehicular manslaughter, is looking to resurrect his career in Baltimore. He should play the slot. The Ravens also re-signed Derrick Mason, who had his eighth 1,000-yard season in nine years and third in a row last season. Flacco has an elite arm, a solid run game and should have every opportunity to succeed this year and take the next step in his career.
Shonn Greene, RB, New York Jets
Shonn Greene was the New York Jets best running back at the end of last season. He certainly showed flashes of brilliance down the stretch in 2009. Green has the confidence of his coaching staff, playing on a young Jets team. The Jets are looking to build around their bruising sophomore running back. Greene has a knack for grinding it out and then busting the big play. He may lose a little playing time due to a crowded backfield, but he'll get the most touches out of the stable.
Chris Wells, RB, Arizona Cardinals
Wells averaged 4.5 yards per carry, 793 yards and seven touchdowns while splitting time in the backfield. The Cardinals seem to be much higher on Wells than teammate Tim Hightower. Wells should see more carries than he did last year due to the retirement of Kurt Warner. Most speculate that Arizona will change the offensive scheme, relying more on the run game to help take some of the pressure off Matt Lienhart. The recent signing of Alan Faneca should help bolster the offensive line to open more holes. Wells possesses a physical running style that wears down defenses as the games go on if given the touches. There is no reason why he shouldn't have a breakout year.
Chad Henne, QB, Miami Dolphins
Henne had the whole offseason to focus on being the starter for the Dolphins in 2010. Bill Parcells and Jeff Ireland gave him a gift in Brandon Marshall. Those two will have the whole spring to work together, building a rapport and trust in one another. In three of his last five starts, Henne threw for over 325 yards, throwing to the likes of Ted Ginn Jr. and other young receivers. With one of the NFL's better offensive lines in front of him, two quality running backs and now arguably the best wide receiver in football, I think it's safe to say Henne is poised for a breakout year.
Michael Crabtree, WR, San Francisco
After Crabtree's six-game rookie season holdout, he stepped into the starting lineup and immediately produced. He finished his season with 48 catches for 625 yards and two touchdowns. Despite all the time he missed, Crabtree never had less than three receptions in 11 games. That said, he never had more than 80 receiving yards in a game either. The Niners have a revamped offensive line and the quarterback situation is not in flux anymore. With a full spring under his belt and more time to work with starter Alex Smith, Crabtree should have a great 2010 season.
Hakeem Nicks, WR, New York Giants
Nix was a surprise rookie in the 2009 NFL season. He finished the year with 47 catches, 790 yards and six touchdowns showing his ability to stretch the field and make a big play. This year he could become more of a playmaking threat for quarterback Eli Manning. Steve Smith will remain Eli's favorite target, while Mario Manningham should also play a significant role in the passing game. But Nix could become a very important part of the Giants offense.
Mike Wallace, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
Wallace had an excellent rookie season posting 39 catches, 756 yards and six touchdowns for a tremendous 20-yard average. With Santonio Holmes being traded, it looks like the Steelers trust the young receiver out of Ole Miss. He should challenge Hines Ward for the number one receiver spot, inheriting the big play role from Santonio Holmes which should not be a problem. Wallace proved that he could get open over the top of defenses and make the big play himself. Over the final three games of this season he combined for seven catches, 226 yards and three touchdowns.
Devin Aromashodu, WR, Chicago Bears
This Chicago Bears wide receiver has a great name first and foremost, Gbolahan Devin Aromashodu. I just love the way that one rolls off the tongue. Aromashodu should have a good season. He already has a great relationship with starting quarterback Jay Cutler. He also has the ability to go and get the ball. It does not have to be perfectly thrown to him. Aromashodu should have a chance to find work in Mike Martz's offense if he continues to work hard. Did I mention he has a great name.
Kevin Kolb, QB, Philadelphia Eagles
Kolb has all the tools around him to become a successful starting quarterback in the NFL. The Eagles two legitimate wide receivers, a proven slot receiver, an elite tight end and a running back that can catch the ball. Kolb thew for over 300 yards in his two starts last season, showing moxie and great accuracy. Kevin shouldn't have too hard of a job spreading the ball around and letting his playmakers make plays. He seems to fit like a round peg, in a round hole in Andy Reid's west coast offense.
Felix Jones, RB, Dallas Cowboys
On paper this year Jones is the starting running back in Dallas, edging out Tashard Choice and Marion Barber. Barber has a punishing running style that is not conducive to longevity at his position. Felix is not the picture of health, spending a lot of time in the trainer's room. Jones has game breaking speed and averages nearly six yards per touch. He's slated for around 220 touches this season. He also plays in a dynamic passing offense where defenses can't key on the run.
I didn't add Percy Harvin because he won Rookie of The Year.
Other young players who could make heads turn excluding any rookies: (Mark Sanchez, NYJ) (Matt Stafford, DET) (Lesean McCoy, PHI) (Jared Cook, TEN) (Austin Collie, IND) (Donnie Avery, STL) (Jeremy Maclin, PHI)
I'm sure I left out a whole bunch of your favorite players...
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