2010 NFL Breakout Player Watch
Here's an early look at some of the potential breakout players in the NFL for the upcoming season.
Some may have already "broken out" and if they have, I expect them to take the next step into furthering their careers.
Last season saw the emergence of Miles Austin as the future of the prestigious Dallas Cowboy receiver corps. Sidney Rice finally delivered on his monster potential, Brent Celek became a top tier NFL tight end, and Elvis Dumervil again, despite people's criticism, showed how good he really is.
Whose this year's crop of breakout stars?
Matt Moore—QB—Carolina Panthers
This might be a head scratcher to some, with the Panthers recently drafting Notre Dame's Jimmy Claussen and Tony Pike from Cincinnati, but anyone who saw Matt Moore play last year knows that Moore should at least start the year as the Panthers’ signal caller.
Playing in seven games and starting five, Moore threw for 1,053 yards, eight TD and two INT. Moore made several nice throws during the final five games of the year and showed he could lead the offense that was dying for a quarterback who could make a play.
Claussen is certainly the future in Carolina, but Moore will look to make for good trade bait in a year or two.
James Laurinaitis—MLB—St. Louis Rams
The former Ohio State standout had one of the quietest rookie seasons of anyone last year playing for the lowly Rams.
Starting every game in the middle of Spagnuolos young, up and coming defense, Laurinaitis finished his rookie year with 120 tackles, 2 sacks, and 2 interceptions.
If he is not named defensive captain this year, it won't be long after that. He is the definition of a hard worker and matches that with superb tackling ability and excellent instincts. His stock is rising quickly.
Felix Jones—RB—Dallas Cowboys
Each passing day it becomes more and more clear that Felix Jones will get the bulk of the carries in his third season in Dallas.
Jones is a true home-run threat, but is also a very good all around running back. The former Arkansas standout is simply too good to be a third down, change of pace back behind Marion Barber.
Alex Smith—QB—San Francisco 49ers
Now, like most people I'm not confident in saying that Alex Smith will have a breakout year, but I believe the 49ers will win the NFC West this year based on their defense alone.
Having said that, they need Alex Smith to step up and make some plays. Smith cannot blame a lack of talent around him for his failures.
Vernon Davis proved his worth last year having the best season of any tight end in the league, Michael Crabtree will surely follow up a decent rookie season with a very good sophomore year, and having drafted young offensive linemen Anthony Davis and Mike Iupati should help Smith stay on his feet.
Bottom line: This will be Smiths make or break year not just in the Bay Area but also for his career.
Darren McFadden—RB—Oakland Raiders
At this point all the recent Raiders draft picks are on a short leash, uber-bust JaMarcus Russell was sent packing and now its time to see some results from the array of top draft picks still on the roster.
McFadden as well as 2009 first pick, Darius Heyward-Bey will both be looked upon to deliver on the seemingly unlimited athletic ability both showed in college.
McFadden, in my eyes, has all the ability to be a very good NFL back, with only a little over 800 yards in 2 seasons; McFadden must dedicate himself to being a team leader and the face of the franchise.
Devin Thomas—WR—Washington Redskins
I've been waiting for Devin Thomas to breakout since he first arrived in Washington. Much like McFadden, Thomas now headed into his third NFL season has done very little for his team.
The 6’2”, 215 lb. receiver will be given an opportunity to step up and win a starting job out of training camp, with a weak corps of receivers in the nations capital.
Thomas will have to beat out Malcolm Kelly, Joey Galloway and Santana Moss to be Donovan McNabb's second favorite pass catcher. I think it's almost predetermined that his favorite will be Chris Cooley.
Joe Flacco—QB—Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens have to be one of the favorites in the AFC. They improved every weakness on the team and added a lot of depth to an already good team.
The arrival of Anquan Boldin is the most impactful acquisition of the off-season and could be one of the biggest in team history.
Finally, Baltimore has a top-tier receiver, something they never truly have had. The top 3 players in Ravens history in receiving yards are Todd Heap, Derrick Mason, and Mark Clayton.
Derrick Mason is one of the most underrated players at his position ever, but he only played in Baltimore for 5 seasons. Mark Clayton has been there the same amount of time, but it's still shocking that he is the third all time receiving leader.
Expect Joe Flacco to reach the next level of his already bright future, and make the Pro Bowl.
David Harris—MLB—New York Jets
In most football circles, David Harris is considered the heart of the Jets defense.
Darrell Revis is the star, Bart Scott is the leader, but David Harris is the captain in training and most people don't even know who he is.
How valuable is he? Josh McDaniels offered Brandon Marshall for him in a trade before last season; we all know how that ended. Expect Harris to be named to his first pro bowl this season.
Jamaal Charles—RB—Kansas City Chiefs
In Week 9, Jamaal Charles was handed the starting job in Kansas City; he didn't disappoint.
At that point in a backup role he had 116 yards and 0 TDs. As a starter for the next 9 games, he ran for 1,004 yards and had 7 touchdowns.
Charles is one of the fastest running backs in the league and truly showed he had arrived in the final game of the season when he ran for 259 yards on 25 carries, scoring 2 touchdowns against Denver. Fantasy owners, draft Charles in the top 5.
Kenny Phillips—S—New York Giants
Kenny Phillips was one of the top young safeties in the league last year before going out with a knee injury.
Now paired with former Miami Hurricane teammate, Antrel Rolle, the twosome look to be the best pair of safeties in the league. Phillips, if healthy, will take the next step in his career and become a household name.
Jermichael Finley—TE—Green Bay Packers
Finishing his 2009 campaign with 676 yards and 5 touchdowns, Jermichael Finley is one of the best young tight ends in the league.
With the continued success of the young Packers, Finley also looks to be progressing nicely. If Aaron Rodgers makes the Pro Bowl this year, expect Finley to be with him.
Finley is a star in the making.
Mike Wallace—WR—Pittsburgh Steelers
With the departure of Santonio Holmes and the recent injury of Limas Sweed comes the birth of a future star in Mike Wallace.
With 756 yards and 6 touchdowns in a slot role last year, Wallace will take advantage of the departure of Holmes and the injury to Sweed, and become the future star that Santonio Holmes was supposed to be for the Steel City.