Predicting the Next Arian Foster: Which NFL Non-Rookies Will Breakout Next Year?
Houston Texans running back Arian Foster is in the midst of a career year in which he is currently leading the league in rushing. While Foster's 920 rushing yards heading into Sunday's game against the New York Jets is impressive, what is more impressive is that he is tied for ninth in carries yet still finds his name tops among all runners.
Foster was regarded highly among some heading into the season, but no one could have seen the second-year pro leading the league in rushing yards nine games into the season, especially over the likes of Chris Johnson and Adrian Peterson.
Now the question is: Who will be the next Arian Foster?
There are certainly some viable candidates who haven't lived up to their potential or their role hasn't increased yet. When looking for players who could have breakout seasons a year from now, it's important to see how they have played to date and how they finish this season.
Foster is an example of a guy that received significant playing time in the last couple weeks of the season last year and carried it into this year.
With that being said, here are five guys that are poised to breakout next season.
Carolina Panthers RB Mike Goodson
Goodson ran for 100 yards in his first NFL start against Tampa Bay as he took advantage of a slew of injuries at the running back position for Carolina. While Goodson's success may seem like a temporary thing, that may not be true at all.
DeAngelo Williams is out for the rest of the year, and his contract is up at the conclusion of the season. With the Panthers in a youth movement, management may not want to spend the kind of money it would take to bring back Williams, especially since Jonathan Stewart is still under contract.
If Goodson continues to be productive it would seem like the wise move to let Williams walk and have Stewart and Goodson split carries next year. Stewart has battled injuries throughout his young career—including now—meaning if Williams does indeed sign elsewhere, Goodson is a Stewart injury away from being the lead back.
A strong finish from Goodson will certainly sit in the mind of the next coach of the Panthers. Keep an eye on this young back as he has a legitimate chance to become Carolina's No. 1 back heading into next season.
Jacksonville Jaguars WR Mike Thomas
Many have become familiar with Thomas this past week after he was the recipient of David Garrard's Hail Mary that was batted by a Houston defender into his hands that resulted in a Jaguar win. The fourth-rounder out of Arizona has put up solid numbers this season, tallying 41 receptions for 536 receiving yards.
Thomas is in his second season and has made big strides from a year ago. In 14 games last year he caught 48 balls for 453 yards. While his numbers this season don't jump out, it's likely he'll come close to 1,000 yards receiving and catch 70-80 balls.
One thing is clear: He is gaining the trust of Garrard, which is something that will be important heading into next year. With Mike Sims-Walker struggling thus far, expect a nice finish from Thomas and for him to do big things next season.
Detroit Lions QB Matthew Stafford
Unlike Foster, Stafford is a name most NFL fans recognize because he was drafted No. 1 overall in 2009. Stafford's first two seasons have been victimized by injuries and he's likely out the remainder of the year once again.
Is Stafford injury prone or unlucky?
If it's the latter and Stafford can stay on the field next season, he's going to have the type of season that will make Lions fans forget his first two. In the three games he's started this season, he's 1-2 with one of the losses coming in overtime and the other after he left early because of injury.
The talent is there, the poise in the pocket is there; it just comes down to whether or not his body will hold up. If so, watch out for Detroit to make a big leap in the win column and for Stafford to put up big numbers through the air.
Miami Dolphins QB Chad Henne
Henne was supposed to have a breakout year this season, but the experts were a year too early. Last year, Henne started the majority of the Dolphins' games and showed at times why Miami believes he has a chance to be good.
In his third season—his second as the team's starter—he hasn't provided the Dolphins what they thought he would. It led Tony Sparano to bench him in favor of Chad Pennington, which didn't last long after Pennington suffered a season-ending injury in the first quarter against Tennessee last Sunday. Henne came in and led the Dolphins to the victory, but injured his knee causing him to miss last Thursday's game against Chicago.
The injury was initially said to be season-ending, but now the injury is believed to not be as bad as was first believed. Whether or not Henne makes it back this season is yet to be determined. If he does, expect him to finish strong heading into next year. If he doesn't, it shouldn't be too crushing unless Tyler Thigpen somehow wins the job—which isn't going to happen and you know what I'm talking about if you watched the Bears game.
Either way, the former Michigan QB will have another offseason to improve and enough game reps to make the leap from an "okay" signal-caller to a guy that will start living up to his potential.
Denver Broncos RB Knowshon Moreno
In his rookie campaign, Moreno played in all 16 games, finishing with 947 yards on the ground and nine total touchdowns. All in all, it was solid first year for Moreno that has been followed by a sophomore slump.
Moreno has been slowed by a hamstring injury that caused him to miss three games earlier in the year. When he has been on the field, he hasn't produced. It wasn't till last week that Moreno finally broke the 100-yard barrier in a game; he is currently on pace to finish with just 630 yards on the ground.
It hasn't helped that the Broncos running game has been pathetic in general this season. All the reasons he's struggled so far are why he is due for a breakout year next season. Moreno will have the offseason to rest any nagging injuries and Denver's offensive run-blocking cannot get any worse.
DeAngelo Williams is another first-round pick that didn't have very much success in his first two seasons, but broke out in his third as he rushed for over 1,500 yards and found the end zone 18 times. While it would be hard for Moreno to put up those kind of numbers, it isn't unrealistic to think he can top 1,200 yards and reach double-digit scores.
Of all of the players on this list, Moreno has the best chance to replicate the success Foster has had on the field this season for the Texans.