Every year, there seems to be one player on every team who comes out and has a monster season. We thank our lucky stars that he chose to don our favorite jersey and help our favorite franchise win football games and contend for playoffs spots.
Last year, we saw Arian Foster, a relatively unknown running back for Houston, come out and rush for over 1500 yards on the year, including a 230-yard performance against the Colts in week one.
Here's a list of one player from each team that I feel will have a great season for their teams come next season.
Drafted third overall out of Alabama, Marcell Dareus was perhaps the most gifted prospect in April's draft. The Bills desperately needed to upgrade their defensive line and find a way to rush the interior, and they may have found their solution by drafting Dareus.
He'll be added to a D-line that features 2010 Pro Bowl nose tackle Kyle Williams, giving the Bills some respectable talent in the pass rush. For a man who's 6'3" and over 300 lbs., Dareus possesses rare speed to compliment his size.
The Bill had another tough season on defense, as they finished 28th in points allowed in 2010. Watch for Dareus to have a big rookie season and help Buffalo's defense move up in the rankings by stopping the run up the middle and putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
The talk of the town at the receiver position in Miami is Brandon Marshall. He was a giant acquisition coming out of Denver and holds the record for most receptions in a game. The only problem is that his first year in Miami was statistically his worse.
Then there's Davone Bess, an undersized receiver/punt returner out of Hawaii, who went undrafted in 2008 and finished only second to Desean Jackson and Eddie Royal in receptions his rookie season.
In 2010, Bess practically rivaled Marshall's numbers, putting up 79 receptions, 820 yards and five touchdowns, two more than than Marshall's total.
Bess should continue to grow next season in Miami and break the 1,000 yard mark in receiving yards.
It could be said that Gronkowski had his breakout season last year, coming in as a rookie tight end and starting all 16 games, catching 10 passes in the end zone and piling up just over 500 yards.
My theory is Gronkowski will have an even bigger year in 2011, as we all know how much Tom Brady loves to aim for big targets in the red zone. At 6'6" and 265 lbs., Gronkowski has the potential to become an elite tight end in the NFL.
With targets like Wes Welker, Deion Branch and other 2010 rookie tight end Aaron Hernandez, the Patriots pass offense should remain lethal for years to come, and Gronkowski will play a big part next year.
At only the age of 24, Mark Sanchez has helped push the New York Jets to the AFC Championship in two consecutive years.
However, this may have had less to do with stellar performances from Sanchez and more to do with the coaching of Rex Ryan, a dominant defense and a great receiving core.
That will all change in 2011. There's no doubting that if Sanchez wants it badly enough, this could be his team for years to come. He's proven he can win in the playoffs, and his stats continue to improve with every passing year.
For quarterbacks who'll only be entering third third year in the league, Sanchez is easily the most experienced. He'll not only bring the Jets a successful record and another deep playoff run, but I believe he'll put up the biggest numbers of his career, tossing at least 20 touchdowns and breaking the 4,000 yard mark.
The question will be if he can keep his offensive production high with Braylon Edwards out of the lineup, as it looks as if the Jets organization simply can't keep him in New York. Time will tell, but something tells me this will be the year Sanchez steps up and not only becomes a winning quarterback, but an elite passing machine.
Heath Miller has been a big target for Roethlisberger at the tight end position ever since he came into the league in 2005. Miller played in both Steelers Super Bowl wins, made a Pro Bowl in 2009 and is a constant red zone threat.
He'll have the season of his career in 2011, and here's why. With the sudden emergence of Mike Wallace, Big Ben has found a way to stretch the field, as now the Steelers have two elite wide receivers in Wallace and veteran Hines Ward.
Wallace will undoubtedly face double coverage most weeks, as he's proven that if left open, he'll score. Ward seems to be slowing down, as he had his lowest reception and receiving yard totals in almost ten years.
That leaves a big target open up the middle in Heath Miller. The Steelers passing attack should be one of the best in the NFL come kickoff, and Miller will play a huge part in their success. He'll bounce back from only 512 yards and two touchdowns in 2010 and have a monster season.
It wasn't long ago that Anquan Boldin was considered one of the most intimidating presences at wide receiver. Lining up with Larry Fitzgerald to create one of the better wide out duos of this generation, Boldin played a gritty and physical game that relied on speed and high reception totals.
Then he was injured in Arizona, traded to Baltimore and never regained his elite status in a Ravens uniform. He came up short in a division playoff loss to Pittsburgh, and questions of whether his best days are behind him have begun to surface.
I say Boldin still has a lot of football to play, and he'll find his place in Baltimore this upcoming season. In Arizona, defenses constantly compensated for Fitzgerald's acrobatic style of play, leaving Boldin in single coverage.
Boldin is now the prime target for Joe Flacco and will learn to change his style of play. An aging Derrick Mason and the absence of distraction T.J Houshmandzadeh will only mean that the ball will find its way into Boldin's hands more often and he'll bounce back in 2011.
Last year it was Peyton Hillis, the new NFL Madden poster boy, who shocked fans everywhere and emerged as a top running back. This year, it'll be ex-Longhorn Colt McCoy who steps into the Browns offense for an entire season and gives Cleveland their first real starting quarterback in years.
In only eight games in 2010, McCoy threw for 1,576 yards, six touchdown passes and seemed to fit nicely into Mangini's offense.
The Browns traded their sixth overall pick in the 2011 draft to Atlanta, passing on wide receiver Julio Jones. To me, this indicates that the Browns believe they can wins games with their offense and need to focus more on the defensive aspect of their game.
McCoy had great success for his entire career at Texas, and he'll step in as the starting quarterback for the Browns, play a majority of the games and continue to help a young Cleveland roster establish itself.
In 2009, the Cincinnati Bengals used their ninth overall selection on Keith Rivers, a linebacker out of USC, leaving names like Ryan Clady, Jerod Mayo and Joe Flacco on the board.
Though he played a decent rookie season, it came to an abrupt end after a block by Hines Ward that broke the jaw of Rivers and forced him to sit the last nine games on the bench.
The following year, after failing to be drafted by the Chargers, USC linebacker Rey Maualuga was drafted in the second round by the Bengals, beginning rumors about whether or not Rivers would live up to his potential as a top 10 pick.
Though he has been slowed down by injuries, Rivers had his best season in 2010, finishing second to Dhani Jones in tackles on the team. Hopefully able to play a full season, Rivers should live up to his talent and make a difference on defense.
With Maualuga seeking trouble off the field and pleading guilty to drunk driving charges in February of last year, the weight of the linebacking core will rest on Rivers' shoulders, and he'll be forced to have a great season. He will do just that.
Pierre Garcon, the sixth round pick out of Mount Union, has done nothing but impress critics since the day he walked onto the field.
In 2009, he helped the Colts to a Super Bowl berth, complementing the already explosive aerial attack of Peyton Manning and Reggie Wayne.
Garcon has gotten better every year he's played in the NFL, developing a great pair of hands and utilizing his speed to become a deep threat down the field.
He'll have his best season in Indianapolis after a disappointing exit in the playoffs at the hands of the Jets. He'll crack 1000 yards and will become the third installment in a great line of wide receivers for the Colts, from Marvin Harrison to Reggie Wayne.
This one's a reach, but I really hope Blaine Gabbert sees some playing time in Florida. If he does, he could be the player to help the Jaguars fill the seats and possibly snag the playoff spot they were so close to clinching last season.
Gabbert was the best quarterback in the draft and surprised NFL fans everywhere when he slipped to the 10th pick, going behind Washington prospect Jake Locker. Jacksonville traded up in order to draft Gabbert, and lucky for them that they did.
The Jaguars have arguably one of the best running backs in Maurice Jones-Drew, but no passing attack to compliment the rushing game. David Garrard has played well for a number of years now and will serve as Gabbert's mentor, but he's not the answer for the Jaguars.
Gabbert is the future of the franchise, and the future starts now. At 6'5", he's big and has a strong arm and the ability to throw into tight spots. Look for the Jags to pepper him into a few games, so as to not rush him into any kind of pressure, and the development of the former Missouri Tiger shouldn't disappoint.
We all remember what happened in the second match-up between division rivals Tennessee and Houston last year. Both Finnegan and superstar Andre Johnson were kicked out of the game for an altercation that more resembled Fight Club than it did football.
That's the beauty and the shame of Finnegan's play. He possesses great speed and cover skills while also having the ability to get inside his opponent's head, but at the risk of taking a penalty or being ejected.
Under the reign of new coach Mike Munchak in Tennessee, Finnegan's antics won't be tolerated for long. After a 2010 season full of rule violations and fines, Finnegan will be forced to shape up and play better defense, as the referees will be watching closely every game.
It'll be a scary thing for opposing receivers if he does, as the one time Pro Bowler has the potential to be an elite cornerback in the league and just might be in 2011.
After a brilliant 2009 season, Texans linebacker Brian Cushing was awarded Defensive Player of the Year, only be to suspended the following season for four games due to an excessive level of hCg, a hormone linked to performance enhancing drugs, in his system.
His 2010 season was nothing compared to his rookie campaign, recording 2.5 less sacks, 33 less tackles and dropping his interception total from four to zero. Some say it was due to the four game absence; others say it was because he was no longer on the juice.
Whatever the reason may be, I'm still not throwing the book out on Cushing. Being accused of cheating and falling from the spotlight like he had can take a lot out of a player both mentally and physically, especially one as young as Cushing.
Next year will tell the story of whether the former USC Trojan can rebound and prove which one of his seasons was a fluke. I'm betting it was 2010 and that he rebounds to a great defensive performance.
The Kansas City Chiefs surprised the NFL with a number of stories last year, from the division title to the sudden emergence of superstars Jamaal Charles and Eric Berry.
One thing can be certain in 2011, and that'll be that the Chiefs will possess a great offense, both on the ground and through the air. Matt Cassel finally seemed to fall into place last year, Dwayne Bowe caught for over 1,000 yards and 17 touchdowns, and Jamaal Charles is proving to be one of the best backs in the NFL.
With Chris Chambers not getting any younger, the team will need a legitimate second option at wide receiver. Rookie Dexter McCluster only caught 21 passes and one touchdown, but has the speed and potential to develop into a deep threat.
As Bowe faces stiffer coverage after a great season, look for Cassel to target McCluster down the field more often. Also, his talent as a special teams weapon give the Chiefs the option to involve McCluster in the running game.
Either way, he'll be an offensive weapon come September.
The first season without Ladanian Tomlinson proved to be a struggle for the San Diego Chargers, as they missed the playoffs for the first time in five seasons despite posting a winning record of 9-7.
But with LT's move to New York came the opportunity for the franchise to re-establish its running game, and that all began with drafting Ryan Matthews with the 12th overall pick in 2010.
A California native, Matthews attended Fresno State, and every Chargers fan awaited his debut at Qualcomm Stadium. His rookie season was respectable, putting up 678 yards and seven touchdowns.
After finding his legs and getting a feel for life in the NFL, watch for Matthews to come out at warp speed in 2011. He has the potential and the raw athletic ability to become a force in the Chargers organization, and I expect him to do so, starting next year.
The Raiders franchise has lacked a dominant linebacker for years now, but they may have found the answer in Rolando McClain.
Drafted eighth overall in 2010, McClain won a BCS National Championship for the undefeated Alabama Crimson Tide.
In his rookie season with the Raiders, his 85 tackles were perhaps overshadowed by an incident that took place in Week 2, when McClain body slammed St. Louis Rams receiver Danny Amendola, which resulted in an "unnecessary roughness call" and a $5,000 fine by the league.
His commitment to playing a physical game is unmatched, and at 6'3" and 255 lbs., McClain is no stranger to the big hit. He'll see his success grow next season, where he'll continue to aid a struggling defense regain their status as tackling machines.
We all know that Kyle Orton is not the Broncos answer at the quarterback position, so the decision to take linebacker Von Miller in the draft with second overall pick must mean that management is ready to ride the Tebow Express.
One of the best quarterbacks to ever play college football, Tebow came into the league with superstar written all over him. He's won the Heisman, two national championships and now sets his sights on helping the Broncos win football games.
Tebow played in nine games last years, starting three of them and throwing for 654 yards and five touchdowns. However, his play on the field may be more impressive than his stats, as he throws like a quarterback, runs like a halfback and looks like a linebacker.
Watch for Tebow skeptics everywhere to be shocked next season when he comes out at Mile High and helps the Broncos compete in a struggling AFC West.
With no reason to believe that Michael Vick's offensive production will slow down next season, Jeremy Maclin's value simply has to skyrocket.
He had a great season in 2010, compiling nearly 1,000 yards receiving and nabbing 10 touchdown passes. Along with Desean Jackson and Brent Celek, the Eagles should sport one of the best passing attacks again next year.
Maclin enters his third year in the league and has the potential to become a Pro Bowl player in 2011.
After entering the league in 2008, Terrell Thomas came into the Giants organization and played behind starting corners Corey Webster and Aaron Ross.
It wasn't until 2010, his third year in the league, that Thomas got a chance to crack the starting lineup, taking the spot of injured teammate Ross, who was out with a hamstring injury.
Thomas made the most of the opportunity, totaling a team high 81 tackles, forcing four fumbles and grabbing five picks on the season. His performance should have solidified his spot as a starter on the roster for the 2011 season.
Watch for him to lead the Giants secondary and have his best year yet.
In a quote by Felix Jones himself in an ESPN article in 2010, he said,
"Patience is a virtue. You need it. You need to have patience. Just wait, your time is coming."
Well, Jones has waited three years for the starting position in Dallas, and his patience is about to pay off. After Marion Barber posted the worst season of his career, the number one running back for the Cowboys seems to be Jones.
He had a decent 2010 season, rushing for 800 yards but only one touchdown. It'll be up to Jones in 2011 to prove that he can deal with the amount of carries that a starting back receives.
He should have a career year in Dallas and solidify himself as the go-to-guy for the Cowboys.
Ryan Torrain was drafted in 2008 by the Denver Broncos. At that time, Mike Shanahan was the coach of the Broncos and helped draft Torrain. With Shanahan head coaching the Redskins in 2010, Torain was given the perfect destination after being released by Denver in September, 2010.
With Clinton Portis aging quickly, Torain became the primary back in Washington. In only 10 games, he was able to rush for 742 yards and four touchdowns.
Teamed up with Shanahan yet again in 2011, watch for Torain to take the majority of the carries out of the back field and have a great year.
Johnny Knox has already made a Pro Bowl appearance in his two year career as a kick returner. This year, he'll make one as a wide receiver.
Knox possesses speed and agility that belong more in games like Tecmo Bowl than on a real life football field. He lines up on Sunday next to a quarterback who is blessed with one of the best arms in sports, and the chemistry between Knox and Jay Cutler will continue to blossom, along with their stats.
He'll now be playing for a Chicago team that enters the season as division champs with a quarterback who has something to prove and a chip on his shoulder. Watch for Cutler to come out like a passing machine, with his main target being Knox.
Knox will break 1,000 yards receiving this year and double his touchdown total (five) of 2010.
The 2010 Green Bay Packers were loaded with defensive power, from perennial superstar Charles Woodson to the golden locks of Clay Matthews.
Perhaps one of the more underrated players on that squad, a sixth rounder by the name of Desmond Bishop who filled the shoes of linebacker Nick Barnett after a season-ending wrist injury in Week 4.
Bishop's first three seasons combined compiled totals of 41 games played, one sack, 35 tackles and zero interceptions. In 2010, he played in 15 games, recorded three sacks, one interception, one defensive touchdown, 71 tackles and recovered the momentum shifting fumble in the Super Bowl.
This man holds some scary potential on the football field and will have a gigantic year in 2011, adding to a linebacking core consisting of Clay Matthews and A.J Hawk.
When Matthew Stafford is healthy, he's a constant threat to score on the field and help the struggling Lions franchise continue their journey to a winning record. When he's hurt, Lions fans bow their heads in silence and sigh at what could've been "the year" they've seemingly been waiting an eternity for.
Well, that year has come. Matthew Stafford played absolutely phenomenal in 2010...for about half a game. Then a Julius Peppers blindside took him out and the rest is history.
I truly believe this will be the year the number one overall pick in 2009 will stay healthy and help Detroit win football games. All of the weapons are there. Even if they weren't, Calvin Johnson is there. Having him is like bringing a gun to a knife fight.
We've seen moments of sheer genius from this young gun, and now it's time to see it over the span of an entire season. Is predicting a wild card berth for Detroit too wild? Not if Stafford proves he can stay off the bench.
Much like division rival Johnny Knox of the Chicago Bears, Percy Harvin is probably better known for his returning skills than his job of catching the football.
Though that may be true, Harvin is an excellent receiver and will prove why in 2011. He continues to raise his totals of receptions and receiving yards, is a fan favorite and is beginning to make Sidney Rice look like the second best player down the field.
Harvin's speed is unmatched on the Vikings roster, and he'll soon surpass Rice as the number one receiver, if Rice even continues to play football in Minnesota. The test for the two will come this year, when Brett Favre is no longer making headlines and they'll be forced to adjust to whoever the new QB may be.
Harvin will be targeted more often down the field and will continue to play football in purple and gold for a long time. Watch for a big season in 2011.
Matt Ryan has already established himself as one of the better quarterbacks in professional football today, making his first Pro Bowl appearance last season and continually guiding the Falcons into playoff contention in a competitive NFC South.
Say what you will about the ridiculous trade at the draft for Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones, all it means is that Ryan got his Christmas gift early and Santa brought him with yet another weapon downfield.
With Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez, Michael Jenkins and now Jones, the Falcons receiving core is outstanding and makes Ryan the proverbial kid in a candy shop, making him debate just which receiver he wants to see celebrate in the end zone this time.
Ryan is becoming more mature with every passing season, and we saw that last year, as he had his best season from a statistical standpoint. He will throw for more yards, more touchdowns and fewer interceptions come 2011.
The Reggie Bush experiment in New Orleans is coming to an end, as everyone in Who Dat Nation seems to have given up on the second overall pick in the 2006 draft.
With an injury to Pierre Thomas in 2010, undrafted rookie Chris Ivory filled the slot in the back field, wowing everyone as he went on to rush for 716 yards and five touchdowns in 15 games. He was injured at the end of the year and was unable to play in the post-season, leaving good 'ol Reggie to rush for a whopping 12 yards on five carries.
Ivory has looked more like Reggie Bush than Reggie Bush ever has in a Saints uniform, sparking rumors that he could be the next great Saints running back, joining the list with players like Ricky Williams and Deuce McAllister.
Time will tell on that one, but one thing remains true. Ivory will receive a heavy work load in 2011 and will bring it every Sunday.
Yet another undrafted running back in the NFC South, LeGarrette Blount came out of nowhere and seems to be the answer for the Bucs in the backfield.
He rushed for over 1,000 yards and six touchdowns in only 13 games in 2010, finally giving Tampa Bay a legitimate running game after Cadillac Williams has failed to reproduce his dazzling rookie season for years now.
Blount will team up with rising stars Josh Freeman and Mike Williams to give the Bucs a very young, very talented offense that will compete in the NFC South.
He's been known for off-field incidents and will have to keep a level head in 2011, but there's no reason to believe he won't continue his success and add to his stat totals next year.
When a discussion begins about the cornerback position on the Carolina Panthers, Chris Gamble is usually the first name to be brought up. He's a constant threat to turn the ball over, and opposing quarterbacks do their absolute best to avoid throwing the ball in his direction.
Little did they know on the other side of the field stands Richard Marshall, a second round pick out of Fresno State in 2006, who possesses an equal threat to defend the ball and whose hits remind offensive players of a brick wall.
Marshall is one of the more underrated corners in the league and had a bigger year than Gamble in 2010. He'll perform big in 2011, though rumors have surfaced that he's seeking a big contract and will leave Carolina if not rewarded with one.
Regardless of where he plays, Marshall will be a top 10 cornerback in the league next year.
Mark my words. Earl Thomas will be the next dominant safety in the NFL, a spot that will need to be filled when the great Ed Reed hangs up his cleats in Baltimore.
Thomas was drafted by Seattle in the first round in 2010, going 14th overall. In his rookie season, he caught five interceptions, forced one fumble and made 60 tackles. Along with Lawyer Milloy and Marcus Trufant, the Seahawks have a fearsome secondary on the field.
Thomas will come to lead that secondary for years to come and will continue to produce turnovers and big hits next season.
The St.Louis Rams played terrific football in 2010. A lot of that praise went to rookie quarterback Sam Bradford, drafted first overall in 2010, who quickly adapted to the fast pace of the NFL and almost led the Rams to a division title.
Bradford will continue to grow and put points up on the board, and Danny Amendola will be the man with the ball in his hands when he does.
Undrafted out of Texas Tech, Amendola spent the first two seasons of his career in Philadelphia and then in Dallas...on the practice squad! He signed with the Rams in 2010, made his way onto the team and finished first in on the team in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns.
Depsite his small frame, Amendola is gifted with tremendous speed, as he also returns punts and kickoffs. He'll be Bradford's number one guy in 2011, and the duo will produce and put up big numbers through the air.
Quick fact: In 2010, Amendola led the league in all purpose yards and was second in third-down receptions. He can play big when he's needed and finds a way to move the chains, regardless of how he does it.
The 2010 season for the San Francisco 49ers was rather disappointing, as a lot of preseason critics picked the team to win the division and make the playoffs for the first time since 2002.
Instead, they finished 6-10, continued to have problems at the quarterback position and saw their franchise player, Frank Gore, sit a good part of the season on the bench again.
Since the 49ers can't seem to pass the ball, Frank Gore is expected to produce big every single year. He seems to answer the call for the most part, but can't seem to stay healthy for an entire season.
Something tells me he will in 2011, and when he does, watch out. Preliminary reports indicate that Gore's recovery from hip surgery is going well and that he'll be in top form come September.
When healthy, he's a lock for 1000 yards rushing. Watch for Gore to bounce back after one of his worst seasons and regain his status as a top back in 2011.
In 2010, defensive end Darnell Dockett earned himself a Pro Bowl appearance despite not even being the best pass rusher on the team.
Calais Campbell, the third year defensive end out of Miami, recorded more sacks and tackles in the same amount of games. The two will continue to make a great tandem on the D-line and help get the Cardinals defense back on track.
At 6'8" and over 300 lbs., Campbell is an unquestionable beast, towering over most players on the field and wreaking havoc on his way to the quarterback. Watch for another high sack total and as many tackles in 2011.