NFL's Rising Stars: 10 Players Who Are Ready To Take Center Stage

Taylor ThomasContributor IIMarch 21, 2011

NFL's Rising Stars: 10 Players Who Are Ready To Take Center Stage

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    In the midst of the NFL labor situation, football still carries on in my eyes. I have created a list of potential breakout stars for the 2011 season. Last year's shockers included the likes of Arian Foster, Tramon Williams and Roddy White. These players were little known heading into the season. But now they can be argued as being in the top five of their respected positions. When ranking these breakout stars, I took into account what they have done in their careers so far as well as what kind of impact they will have on their teams. Here we go!

10. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie CB

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    Now this is done under the assumption that the Cards will beef up their pass rush in the draft or free agency. We are all aware of DRC's ballhawking big play potential. But with a bolstered pass rush, he should be able to capitalize more often. With Dockett and possibly Von Miller chasing down quarterbacks, DRC can do what he does best: pick and return. Expect upwards of five interceptions with a handful of touchdowns.

9. Jermichael Finley TE

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    I had Jermichael as a breakout star at this time last year. But he went down with a season ending injury early in the year. The injury was not all that serious, and he will be back at full strength for Week One. Finley has all the physical tools that scream mismatch when on the field. He also has a tremendous supporting cast in the receiving corps to take coverage away from him. Oh, and he has some Super Bowl MVP named Aaron Rodgers throwing it to him. I can see 900 plus yards and 10 touchdowns.  

8. Malcolm Jenkins, FS

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    Malcolm Jenkins was a bit of a breakout star last season. But this season, I believe that he establishes himself among the top safeties in the league. Last year, he split time with Darren Sharper and also had to play some corner because of injuries. But this year, he will be in his third season in Greg Williams' system and has every vote of confidence from his team. Look for him to come close to Sharper's numbers from the Saint's super bowl season a la eight picks and three touchdowns.

7. Shonn Greene RB

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    Mr. Greene was considered a bit of a bust in his rookie season with the Jets. But what do you expect from a guy backing up Tomlinson? This season, Greene will be put in a starter's role and will receive his carries in bunches. Any back put in the Jets pounding run game will come up with positive yards. But Shonn has the physical skill set to take that pounding to a new level. He will easily hit the 1,200 yard mark with 10 plus touchdowns. 

6. Jacoby Ford WR

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    Jacoby Ford may very well be the most explosive player in the NFL today. He showed his speed and athletic ability in many ways last season, including in the return game and as well as a receiver. If the Raiders want to start winning, they need to get this guy the ball. Next year, he will be seen scoring left and right. He can be used in the return game, the ground game and the passing game. It also helps that he is really the only legitimate option for Jason Campbell in the passing game. 13 total touchdowns. 

5. Matt Ryan QB

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    I think this season, Matty Ice opens it up a bit more. It's a passing league, and Michael Turner has quite a few carries under his belt. With Roddy at the top of his game and maybe a speedy wide out addition in free agency, Ryan could easily top the 4,000 yard, 30 touchdown range.

4. Michael Crabtree

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    Michael Crabtree finally showed signs of life late last season. Many were labeling as a bust, but I think he was just put in a less than prime situation. With somewhat of a solid quarterback last year, he was able to burn past defenses. This year, the 49ers will have a veteran quarterback, and Crabtree will thrive. He is a big time player and loves the spotlight. Watch for him to become the go to guy for this team. I see 70 plus catches with 1,100 yards. 

3. Cory Redding DE

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    You may be scratching your head at this pick, but let me explain. The Ravens have this guy named Haloti Ngata plugging up the middle and terrorizing opposing teams. Oh, and they have Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs and...well, you get the idea. Basically, I see offensive lines focusing more on Ngata and the middle, which in turn will open up the outside for Redding to wreak havoc. I can see him easily reaching 10 sacks.

2. LeSean McCoy RB

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    LeSean McCoy actually had a great year last season, but that was overshadowed by the Mick Vick Show. This year, defenses will be ready for the Eagle's passing attack, and so McCoy will be relied on a ton this season. He has the speed and acceleration to take it to the house on any given play. He also is a tremendous receiver out of the backfield. With defenses occupied with Vick, McCoy will capitalize big time on draws and screen plays. Look for him to exceed 1,600 all purpose yards and near 15 total touchdowns.

1. Dez Bryant WR

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    This year, Dez Bryant will become an unquestioned top five NFL Receiver. He had a great rookie season last year, and that was with Jon Kitna throwing him passes. You can bet Tony Romo can't wait to hit the field with this new receiver and make everyone forget about last season. Dez has everything in place to be a beast wide out. He has tremendous size and excellent body control. Watch out. 15 touchdowns with 1,400 yards.