5 Breakout Candidates For The 2016 Season


Brandon Graham, Defensive End, Philadelphia Eagles

If you read this feature last year, you would see Brandon Graham’s name. He has been a common candidate to become a breakout player, but he just hasn’t put it together for a full season. last year, there were glimpses of the type of talent he could be. Just take a look at his performance against Tyron Smith last November where he recorded two sacks against the All-Pro left tackle.

Nevertheless, this is the first year where Philadelphia’s scheme will line up with Graham’s skill set. In previous years, Graham overcame the Eagles’ scheme to become one of the most efficient pass-rushers in the NFL. This year, Graham will be set up to succeed in defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz wide-nine 4-3 defense, which has allowed for countless players to become productive pass rushers.

With his wide alignment, Graham will be able to utilize his immense speed and powerful core to mix up his speed and power rushes effectively. Look for Graham to put up double digit sacks if he has a healthy year under Schwartz.

Quinten Rollins, Cornerback, Green Bay Packers

Quinten Rollins only played one year of football in college, which led many to believe that he would have a steep learning curve once he got to the NFL. While that may be the case, Rollins was a quick study and got acclimated to the NFL game extremely quickly. Outside of Marcus Peters, Rollins may have been the best rookie cornerback in all of football.

With Casey Hayward leaving Green Bay, Rollins should see a lot of time on the field, which will give him ample opportunities to showcase his talent. In limited opportunities last year, Rollins intercepted two passes and gave up no touchdowns, per Pro Football Focus, which is truly incredible for a rookie cornerback.

Rollins has the ability to become a top-ten or even a top-five cornerback in this league. He has the intelligence, technique, footwork and flexibility to be a real star in the secondary for the Packers.

Jadeveon Clowney, Edge Defender, Houston Texans

Jadeveon Clowney entered the NFL with incredible expectations, but numerous lower body injuries robbed him of his ability to play to his potential. This year, Clowney looks to finally be healthy and it will be his best opportunity to show that he isn’t a bust.

Last year, Clowney was a dominant run defender who was still trying to figure it out as a pass-rusher. Clowney routinely set the edge with aggression and teams had a ton of trouble running to his side. However, Clowney struggled with his hand usage and pass-rush techniques to get to the quarterback. Frankly, Clowney looked rusty, which is easy to understand since he was coming off microfracture knee surgery. Luckily for Clowney, he is still very young at 23 years old, which means that he can still develop and get the most out of his considerable abilities.

If Clowney gets more comfortable rushing the passer, the sky is the limit to how good of a player he can be. With the way he is playing the run, Clowney would be an All-Pro type of player if he can out up double-digit sacks.

Teddy Bridgewater, Quarterback, Minnesota Vikings

Teddy Bridgewater has been solid since entering the NFL, but it is time he takes the next step. Up to this point, Bridgewater has had to battle through awful offensive line player and an offense devoid of weapons outside of Adrian Peterson.

This year, Bridgwater should have the requisite pieces next to him on offense to have a breakout season. They signed Andre Smith and Alex Boone to the offensive line, and they drafted Laquon Treadwell to give Bridgewater another weapon. Bridgewater has shown that he is a tough and accurate quarterback, but he needs to push the ball down the field and take pressure off Peterson and the run game.

Bridgewater has all the tools to become a great quarterback in the NFL. This year should be the year that he finally makes his way into that echelon of quarterbacks,

Thomas Rawls, Running Back, Seattle Seahawks

While he was playing for an injured Marshawn Lynch, Thomas Rawls proved to be one of the rookie sensations of the 2015 season. He was a powerful runner who played with aggression. This year, Rawls should transition from rookie sensation to breakout star.

With the growing threat of the Seahawks passing game, Rawls should see a lightened box, which should make life easier on him. As he continues to get more comfortable in Seattle’s offense, Rawls should only get better and more dependable for the Seahawks.

If he can stay healthy, don’t be surprised if Rawls is a surprise player vying for the NFL rushing title. The Seahawks were at their best when Lynch could be their bruising runner who got chunks of yards each time he touched the ball. While Rawls isn’t as talented as Lycnh, he could have a similar impact on their offense in 2016.

About John Owning

John Owning

John Owning is a NFL columnist for Football Insiders. He has years of experience covering the NFL, NFL draft and NCAA football. John's work has been featured on the Bleacher Report and