CBS: 20 Breakout Players for 2015

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CBS: 20 Breakout Players for 2015

Postby Tenebrous » Wed May 27, 2015 9:18 am


As NFL teams take part in OTAs and minicamps coming up next month, it's a good time to take a look ahead to the 2015 season with an eye on breakout candidates.

How do you define breakout? For me, it's any player who hasn't been to a Pro Bowl who I think can get there in the next year or so.

The Pro Bowl status eliminates a lot of good, young players, but the list of 20 players below doesn't include anybody who has been selected or played in the game.

Many on this list have battled injuries to earn starting jobs and after a season of flash in 2014 appear to be ready for a lot more.

Redskins ILB Keenan Robinson: After two injury-plagued seasons, including missing all of 2013 with a torn pectoral muscle, Robinson won a starting spot last year and showed well. He was really good against the run, showing off a complete skill set. In the Redskins' new scheme, he should be able to use his speed to make even more plays, especially some flash plays that could get him more notice.

Bengals TE Tyler Eifert: He suffered a torn right labrum last offseason, put off surgery, and then dislocated his elbow in the opener, ending his season. He is expected to be ready for the opener, and should be a big part of the offense. Jermaine Gresham is gone, so the Bengals need a big year from Eifert catching the football.

Packers WR Davante Adams: The Packers always seem to have a young receiver ready to take a big step forward. This season, it will be Adams. He demonstrated big-time ability as a rookie, so I expect even more from him now that he's more comfortable with the offense and Aaron Rodgers.

Jaguars QB Blake Bortles: At times last season, he played with as many as five other rookies on offense. That's tough on any quarterback, let alone one who's a rookie himself. The offensive style didn't help either. But there is a new coordinator and Bortles has spent a ton of time working on his mechanics, which needed fixing. That will lead to more accuracy, but the biggest thing will be his experience, as well as those around him.

Titans G Chance Warmack: He hasn't quite lived up to expectations his first two seasons. But he has his body in great shape, even though he's heavier, so expect a potential Pro Bowl season. He has the power to be a force in the run game and just needs to improve on his pass protection.

Cardinals S Tyrann Mathieu: When he's been on the field, he's been effective. He's smart, tough and tenacious. But he had a major knee injury in 2013 that limited him early last season and then a thumb injury late in the season. He's healthy now and should be a big part of the defense because of his ability to play different spots.

Bengals CB Dre Kirkpatrick: He showed in a Week 16 start last season against the Broncos he has the talent to be a good starting corner, picking off Peyton Manning twice, once for a touchdown. It's taken some time because of injuries and a quality depth chart, but Kirkpatrick is set to open as a starter. It's an important year as his contract is up after the season.

Lions DE Ziggy Ansah: This third-year end is coming off a season that saw him get 7.5 sacks playing on a line with Ndamukong Suh. With Suh gone, Ansah will be asked to do more. This will be the season he gets to double-digit sacks -- maybe as many as 15 -- to earn a Pro Bowl spot.

Chargers OLB Melvin Ingram: Entering his fourth season, injuries have really limited him. He has the talent to be a force off the edge, but he needs to stay on the field -- he's missed 19 games the past two seasons. He dropped 20 pounds and changed his body this spring, so that should help his speed off the edge.

Vikings CB Xavier Rhodes: Often matched against the other team's No. 1 receiver, he more than held his own last season in 16 starts. New coach Mike Zimmer made him his pet project, and it showed. He has the talent to be a top cover corner, but he improved in all other areas, including against the run. Rhodes is a legit No. 1 corner, who could be one of the league's best by the end of 2015.

Chiefs TE Travis Kelce: It's hard to say a player who had 67 catches last season will be a breakout player, but now that Anthony Fasano is gone I think that number could get closer to 100 catches. He has that type of ability. He had five TD catches last season. I would be shocked if that isn't doubled this season.

Saints T Terron Armstead: He settled in nicely as the starting left tackle last season, giving up only three sacks in 14 starts. Entering his third season, and second as a full-time starter, he should be better. He has great athletic ability, which will make him more effective in pass protection. He did miss the final two weeks of the 2014 season (neck injury).

Ravens G Kelechi Osemele: Now firmly settled in at left guard, he is coming off a season where he dominated in the run game. He is athletic and strong and just needs a bit of seasoning in pass blocking. He teams with All-Pro Marshal Yanda to give the Ravens the league's best pair of guards.

Panthers CB Bene' Benwikere: He played early as a slot corner last season, got hurt, missed time, then came back and was outstanding when they played him outside as a starter. This fifth-round pick looks like a big-time steal for the future. Now likely a starter, watch for him to make a big step forward this season.

Browns G Joel Bitonio: He didn't get as much attention a some other rookie guards last season, but this mauler never backed down from anybody. He is a fighter. He made a nice transition from college tackle inside to guard for the Browns.

Raiders G Gabe Jackson: Watching Jackson against J.J. Watt last season as a rookie opened my eyes to this kid's talent. He never backed down and did some good things against Watt. That type of ability is why I think he has a chance to be a dominant guard this season.

Broncos TE Virgil Green: Julius Thomas is gone to Jacksonville, which means Green should now be the starter. He has 23 catches in four seasons, being used mainly as a blocker, but now he should be able to get that closer to 60. He flashed some pass-catching ability in the regular-season finale against Oakland with three catches and a touchdown.

Jaguars LB Telvin Smith: He made a ton of plays as a 220-pound rookie. Now that he's heavier -- and just as fast -- look for more big plays from this speedy linebacker. His ability to cover a lot of ground shows up on tape. With a better understanding of his assignments, he should be able to take it to the next level.

Jets LB Demario Davis: New coach Todd Bowles loves to attack with inside linebackers and Davis has the speed and athletic ability to convert those chances into big plays. He was a solid starter the past two seasons, but could be in store for a lot more under Bowles.

Steelers WR Martavis Bryant: He had 26 catches as a rookie last season, but the number that stands out is 21.1 yards per catch. This kid can fly. He looked like a raw rookie just getting by with athletic ability last season. With a year under his belt, and Antonio Brown on the other side, look out.
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