Each season brings some unexpected surprises. Sometimes it comes in the form of injury, failure to live up to expectations or sometimes it comes in the form of a breakout performance, where a player exceeds expectations or a unknown putting the league on notice. In Breakout Alert: Offensive Edition, 10 players are selected from the pool of rookies, second, third and even fourth year players, because you can’t discriminate against those late bloomers.
1. Brandon Weeden-QB- Cleveland Browns: The arrival of offensive guru, Rob Chudzinski and his longtime pal, Norv Turner marks the turnaround of the second year quarterback. Possessing all the physical tools of a franchise QB, Weeden failed to match the performances of his fellow first rounders, Luck, Wilson and RGIII. As a rookie Weeden completed 57% of his passes for 3,385 yards, 14 touchdowns, along with 17 interceptions, too high for a franchise quarterback. Chudzinski has worked with the likes of Phillip Rivers, Derek Anderson, and Cam Newton during his tenure as a NFL assistant. During the preseason, Weeden is completing 72% of his passes for 229 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions. If his exhibition success is a indicator of his growth in year two, the Browns could challenge for a wildcard spot in the playoffs. The Browns improved the supporting cast by adding the sure handed Davone Bess to man the slot. Jordan Cameron looks poised for a breakout in 2013, his development would give Weeden a big, athletic target down the seam and red zone, not to mention Josh Gordon, Greg Little and Travis Benjamin. Surrounded by a strong supporting cast, franchise runner, and solid offensive line, look for Weeden to pass for close if not more than 4,000 yards, 20 plus touchdowns, while drastically reducing his interception totals in 2013.
2. Leonard Hankerson-WR- Washington Redskins: Headed into his third NFL season, the former Miami Hurricane is expected to contend for the Redskins leading receiver in 2013. Between 2011-12, Hankerson nearly tripled his production, hauling in 38 receptions for 543 yards and three touchdowns. If Pierre Garcon continues to battle injuries like in 2012, Hankerson’s competition would include a aging, but productive Santana Moss and Josh Morgan whose is better suited in a possession, slot type role, and Hankerson possess the size and speed (6-2 209, 4.4 ) to create separation and connect with RGIII for the big play. If Hankerson continues his to progress from 2012, look for the receiver to breakout with 60 plus receptions, 800-900 yards and 5+ touchdowns in 2013.
3. Ryan Tannehill- QB- Miami Dolphins: As a rookie, the former Aggies QB/WR has drawn mixed reviews based on his rookie production. Even with better numbers than his Browns counterpart, Brandon Weeden, Tannehill’s 58 % completion, 3,294 yards passing, 12 touchdowns, with a even higher 13 interceptions was no match to the numbers and success enjoyed by Luck, RGIII and Russell Wilson. As a runner Tannehill showcased his athleticism, rushing 49 times for 211 yards and two touchdowns. As the season progressed, coaches allowed #17 to use his legs and even rush on a direct snap. In 2013, the Dolphins did everything to help their young quarterback, adding WRs; Mike Wallace and Brandon Gibson, in addition to tight ends, Dustin Keller and rookie Dion Sims. Despite the recent injury to Keller, Miami still features a solid group of receivers. Look for Tannehill to build on the chemistry shared with Brian Hartline, while enjoying big play success with the addition of Wallace. As long as the running game improves on its 2012 campaign and the offensive line corrects its issues in pass protection, likely aided by the return of John Jerry at right guard and progression of Jonathan Martin at left tackle, the passing game will enjoy more success in 2013. In his second season, its safe to assume Tannehill completes over 60% of his passes for over 3,700 yards, 20 plus touchdowns while throwing for no more than 10-11 interceptions, keeping his team in contention for a wildcard spot in 2013.
4. Travis Kelce- TE- Kansas City Chiefs: Even when taking into consideration the jump from Big East competition to the NFL, rookie tight end, Travis Kelce will enjoy a breakout campaign in his first season. With the reason departure of first round bust, receiver Jonathan Baldwin, Kansas lacks depth at receiver outside of the inconsistent, yet productive, Dwayne Bowe, Donnie Avery, and Dexter McCluster. Alex Smith is known to lean on his tight ends in the passing game, relying heavily on Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker in San Fran. With Anthony Fasano lacking the athleticism to stretch the seam, Kelce brings versatility with his blocking and receiving ability. Comparing favorably to former Andy Reid protege, Brent Celek, Kelce’s brother Jason plays center for his head coach’s former team. Standing at 6-5, 260 with 4.6 speed, this rookie has the skill set to contend as one of the Chiefs’ primary targets in the passing game. In 2013, look for the former Cincinnati Bearcat is capable of producing 50 receptions, 650 plus yards and over five touchdowns as a rookie.
5. Jordan Cameron- TE- Cleveland Browns: Going into his third NFL season, the former USC Trojan is expected to play a big role in Chudzinski’s offense. As a offensive coordinator, Chud utilized the tight end as one of the preferred targets in the passing game, especially the red zone, players like Antonio Gates, Kellen Winslow, and Greg Olsen have all enjoyed productive careers, with Cameron poised to be the next name on the list of past success stories. At 6-5 , 245, the former basketball player has the size, speed (4.59 40yd) , hands, and 37″ inch vertical to make plays inline, or as a receiver. Working hard to improve his blocking technique, Cameron is poised for a breakout season in 2013. During the preseason Cameron has four receptions for 72 yards and a pair of touchdowns, with two games to go, Cameron is looking better each and every week. In 2013, look for #84 to haul in 50 plus receptions for over 650 yards and five plus touchdowns in year three.
6.) Mark Ingram- RB- New Orleans Saints: The former Heisman trophy winner has failed to live up to expectation in his first two NFL seasons. As a rookie, injuries plagued his season, carrying over into the first half of 2012. During the second half of the season, Ingram enjoyed better production, improving with a increased workload. During the first 8 weeks, Ingram rushed for 178 yards on 53 carries for 3.3 yards per carry average and a touchdown. Once recovered from his lingering injuries, Ingram carried the ball 102 times for 424 yards and four touchdowns for a 4.2 y.p.c average. With head coach, Sean Payton looking to utilize more of the running game, Chris Ivory traded to the Jets, Pierre Thomas is still in the running, but has failed to hold onto the job, and Darren Sproles is a utility back serves a third down specialist and receiver, earning a share of the carries, but lacking the size to handle full time duties. If healthy in 2013, Ingram should become the Saints lead back, being the first option in goal line situations. In his third season, look for the former Crimson Tide star to get over 200 carries, rushing for 1,000 yards and notching 10 touchdowns. Ingram’s breakout would take some of the pressure off Drew Brees while allowing the offense to generate those time consuming drives.
7.) David Wilson- RB- New York Giants: Despite the presence of Andre Brown, the New York Giants will lean primarily on David Wilson to jumpstart the ground game. Entering the draft, Wilson was a highly productive running back out of Connecticut, seen as a big play threat that could factor into the running, passing or return game. Possessing 4.4 speed and 41″ inch vertical, he has the ability to outrun defenders, line up in the slot, even run between the tackles. But, with a 5-9 205 pound frame, Wilson lacks the size to bulldoze opponents like Brown, his versatility as a runner and receiver, not to mention game breaking speed still give the 2012 1st rounder the edge to start. As a rookie Wilson gained 358 yards on 71 carries while scoring four touchdowns. In training camp, he has received positive reviews from his coaches, including his improvement a blocker. Despite the likelihood that he splits carries with Brown, Wilson should still rush for over a 1,000 this season while being utilized more in the passing game. While Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz nurse injuries, the Giants are likely to lean more on the ground game in 2013, attempting to balance out their offensive approach.
8.) Rob Housler-TE- Arizona Cardinals: Entering his third NFL season, tight end, Rob Housler stands ready to breakout in 2013. Last year Housler’s role in the offense increased, with the running game virtually nonexistent and the offensive line having protection issues, the former FAU Owl become a safety valve for the swinging door at quarterback. Now that Carson Palmer is aboard, a quarterback who favors his tight end, especially with his limited mobility in the pocket. Head coach, Bruce Arians is a offensive guru, in addition to using a offensive approach that heavily uses the tight end. Look for Housler to reel in 60 plus receptions for upwards of 800 yards,including 5-7 touchdowns, putting the league on breakout alert in 2013.
9.) Mohamed Sanu- WR- Cincinnati Bengals: In desperate need of a number two receiver opposite of AJ Green, Mohamed Sanu looks like the frontrunner to win the job. After a 16 reception, 154 yard, 4 touchdown rookie campaign, Sanu could have factored more but a foot injury kept the former Rutgers receiver on the sidelines. Despite lacking the big play speed of his competition, Marvin Jones, Sanu’s 6-2 210 frame, along with strong hands and ability in both the slot and red zone. The former Scarlet Knight is more than capable of making the tough grab or catching the endzone fade, like in the Bengals most recent matchup against the Tennessee Titans. Now in his second season, look for Sanu to bring relief to teammate AJ Green while holding onto the job of #2. In 2013, Sanu should be able to record over 50 receptions and 7 touchdowns, offering the most value as a possession receiver who excels in the red zone. The Bengals offensive attack should feature plenty of three wide sets, where Green and Jones lineup outside and Sanu in the slot, where his ability to get open and play the middle will have Andy Dalton looking often in his direction.
10.) Lamar Miller- RB- Miami Dolphins: Reports during the offseason and training camp have been more than positive for running back, Lamar Miller. In his second season, the former 4th rounder out of UM is ready to takeover for the departed Reggie Bush. Playing a limited role in 2012, Miller nearly five yards a carry, carrying the ball 51 times for 250 yards and a touchdown. Seen as the frontrunner to start, dating back to OTAs, Miller worked hard to improve his pass protection and skill set, spending the summer training with 49er and former Cane, Frank Gore. Now listed at 5-10, 216lbs, Miller is reminiscent of Clinton Portis, possessing big play ability (4.3 speed), the added muscle and offseason work will more than payoff in 2013. Look for Miller to rush for over 1,000 yards, yielding mostly goal line duties to Daniel Thomas, but managing to score at least 5 touchdowns. In the passing game, Miller’s ability as a receiver could see him playing a Reggie Bush like role in the passing game, possibly lining up in the slot on some passing downs, while being able to take backfield passes the distance on any given play.