Each NFL team’s potential breakout player

The start of each NFL season brings new hope that a teams promising player will emerge as a breakout star. Last year Josh Allen, Calvin Ridley, and Justin Herbert were just a few players to take the big leap. Here’s a look at potential breakout players in 2021 for all 32 NFL teams.

 

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The departure of Kenyan Drake could give Edmonds an opportunity to be Arizona’s No. 1 running back in 2021. He had a career-high 150 touches last season, and is a great fit for Kliff Kingsbury’s offense with plus receiving skills augmenting his rushing ability.

 

Atlanta Falcons: Kyle Pitts, TE

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Pitts was selected fourth overall in the draft and is considered a generational tight end prospect. With a Julio Jones trade now completed, he has a chance to step up as Atlanta’s No. 2 receiving option behind Calvin Ridley in an explosive offense with Matt Ryan still playing at a high level.

 

Baltimore Ravens: J.K. Dobbins, RB

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Dobbins had a strong rookie season with 805 yards rushing, nine scores, and 6.0 yards per carry. After the Ravens allowed Mark Ingram to walk, it’s clear Dobbins is the future at the running back position. He could put up elite numbers in a run-first offense.

 

Buffalo Bills: Gabriel Davis, WR

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Davis really impressed as a deep threat in his rookie season, averaging over 17 yards per catch with seven touchdowns. The departure of John Brown should give Davis a bigger role, and Josh Allen has the arm to make Davis a threat from anywhere on the field.

 

Carolina Panthers: Sam Darnold, QB

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Darnold floundered in three seasons with the Jets, but a change of scenery could be what gets his career going. He’s just entering his age 24 season and has highly capable weapons with Christian McCaffrey, D.J. Moore, and former Jets teammate Robby Anderson.

 

Chicago Bears: Cole Kmet, TE

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A second-round pick out of Notre Dame last year, Kmet showed nice flashes as a receiver. He has a chance to unseat Jimmy Graham as Chicago’s primary tight end this season and become a great outlet receiving for presumed started Andy Dalton and eventually for rookie quarterback Justin Fields.

 

Cincinnati Bengals: Joe Burrow, QB

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Burrow was en route to a great rookie campaign until he tore his ACL in the 10th game of the season. Cincinnati’s offensive line remains shaky, but the receiving weapons are elite with his former LSU teammate Ja’Marr Chase added to Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd.

 

Cleveland Browns: Grant Delpit, S

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Delpit was a strong second-round pick last year, but a torn Achilles suffered in training camp ended his rookie season before it began. He should still step in as a starter in the Browns young, talented secondary this season, a situation where he’s setup for success.

 

Dallas Cowboys: Micah Parsons, LB

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Parsons has elite athleticism, and should play an important role in a Dallas defense that has nowhere to go but up after last season. Fans should expect the rookie first-round pick to make plays all over the field.

 

Denver Broncos: Jerry Jeudy, WR

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Jeudy had some rookie hiccups last season, but the first-round pick still had 856 yards receiving. He’s looking to build on that performance this year and especially needs to improve his poor 46% catch rate. Jeudy shows elite route running ability and could see his numbers skyrocket if the Broncos quarterbacks can consistently get him the ball.

 

Detroit Lions: D'Andre Swift, RB

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Injuries made Swift’s rookie season more difficult, but he still flashed well as a runner and receiver. Detroit has improved their offensive line in the offseason, and will be leaning on a running game after losing Matthew Stafford and their top three wideouts from last year’s rosters. Swift should be ready to answer the call.

 

Green Bay Packers: Marquez Valdes-Scantling, WR

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Valdes-Scantling has produced some highlight plays in his first three seasons in Green Bay, and led the league with 20.9 yards per catch last year. He still only had 33 catches, but has a chance to build on that production in his fourth season if Aaron Rodgers sticks around.

 

Houston Texans: Nico Collins, WR

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It’s setup to be a long year for the Texans, but they do have some promising young talent like Collins. The Michigan alum has elite tools at 6-foor-4 with great deep speed, and could become a great longball threat for a team that will likely need to pass the ball late in games.

 

Indianapolis Colts: Michael Pittman Jr., WR

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Pittman’s rookie season was a work in progress, finishing with 503 yards in 13 games. He has a chance to take a leap in his second season, especially if Carson Wentz can turn around his career in Indianapolis.

 

Jacksonville Jaguars: Laviska Shenault, WR

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Shenault proved to be a playmaker when he had the ball in his hands during his rookie season, and he could see improved quarterback play in his second season after the Jaguars drafted Trevor Lawrence. The Colorado alum has a real shot to emerge as Jacksonville’s No. 1 receiver in 2021.

 

Kansas City Chiefs: Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB

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Edwards-Helaire had a strong rookie season with 1,100 yards from scrimmage, but his workload was somewhat limited by the Chiefs. Kansas City should remain a pass-heavy offense with Patrick Mahomes at quarterback, but Edwards-Helaire should see bigger holes in the running game after the team revamped their offensive line.

 

Las Vegas Raiders: Henry Ruggs, WR

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The Raiders drafted Ruggs in the first round last year due to his elite deep speed, but his skills as a receiver were lagging behind. With a season under his belt, Ruggs should show improvement and is being relied on for a bigger role after the team lost Nelson Agholor.

 

Los Angeles Chargers: Austin Ekeler, RB

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Ekeler stepped up as the Chargers primary running back after the team lost Melvin Gordon in free agency, but he struggled to stay on the field, playing only 10 games. The versatile back is capable of huge numbers if he can stay on the field more regularly, as he showed in 2019 with over 1,500 yards from scrimmage.

 

Los Angeles Rams: Cam Akers, RB

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The Rams had a running back committee last year until Akers emerged late in the season, seeing at least 15 carries in his final six games. LA’s offense could be more explosive this season with Matthew Stafford at quarterback, but Akers showed last season he’s very capable as a bell cow back.

 

Miami Dolphins: Tua Tagovailoa, QB

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After Ryan Fitzpatrick filled in nicely last year, the Dolphins have turned over the quarterback reins full-time to Tagovailoa in 2021. The team has also given him some help, drafting speedy wideout and former Alabama teammate Jaylen Waddle and signing Will Fuller. Tagovailoa has the weapons and arm to be a highly productive quarterback.

 

Minnesota Vikings: Irv Smith Jr., TE

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Long-time tight end Kyle Rudolph was let loose by the Vikings in the offseason, opening up the role to Smith. The former second-round pick had five touchdowns last season, and should see a huge uptick in targets in his third season.

 

New England Patriots: Damien Harris, RB

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Harris saw 10 starts for the Patriots last season, averaging an impressive 5.0 yards per carry. Teams won’t be able to load the box against the Patriots this year after they added significant receiving weapons, which could allow Harris to be even more productive as the team’s starter.

 

New Orleans Saints: Marcus Davenport, DE

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Saints fans have been frustrated by Davenport’s development after the team spent so much draft capital to select him in 2018, and he’s coming off a disappointing 2020 season due to injury. With the departure of Trey Hendrickson, the Saints are counting on Davenport to perform more than ever in his fourth season, and he’s entering a situation where he’s setup to succeed.

 

New York Giants: Daniel Jones, QB

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It’s time for Jones to sink or swim in his third NFL season after an erratic first two years. The Giants have given Jones an enviable set of weapons with the additions of Kenny Golladay and rookie Kadarius Toney, along with tight end Kyle Rudolph. Add in the return of Saquon Barkley from injury, and everything is there for Jones to produce big numbers.

 

New York Jets: Quinnen Williams, DT

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Williams took a nice step forward in his second season with seven sacks. He has a chance to do even more after the Jets signed Carl Lawson and Sheldon Rankins in the offseason, which should limit opposing teams’ ability to double team Williams.

 

Philadelphia Eagles: Dallas Goedert, TE

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Zach Ertz seems to be falling out of favor in Philly, and that’s partly due to Goedert’s rise. He’s been a productive players as the Eagles No. 2 tight end during his first three seasons, and could be a huge part of the offense in his fourth season with Jalen Hurts at quarterback.

 

Pittsburgh Steelers: Najee Harris, RB

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Pittsburgh has struggled to run the ball since Le’Veon Bell departed, but that could change this year after the team selected Harris in the first round of the draft. The Steelers could be looking to develop a more conservative offense with Ben Roethlisberger’s late-career decline, and Harris certainly seems capable as a bell cow.

 

San Francisco 49ers: Javon Kinlaw, DT

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Kinlaw had huge shoes to fill in his rookie season, replacing star DeForest Buckner. His play picked up late in the year, and the 49ers will be counting on Kinlaw even more this season after losing Solomon Thomas and Dee Ford.

 

Seattle Seahawks: Jordyn Brooks, LB

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Brooks was a surprise first-round pick last year, and he’s looking at a big uptick in snaps in his sophomore season after Seattle moved on from long-time linebacker K.J. Wright. The young linebacker did perform well when he was on the field more regularly last year, and has a chance to pile up huge tackle numbers this season.

 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: O.J. Howard, TE

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Tom Brady seemed to fall in love with Howard’s ability before the former first-round pick suffered a torn Achilles early in the year. He still produced strong numbers in four game with 146 yards and two touchdowns, especially considering he had more competition with Rob Gronkowski around. While Howard’s snaps could be limited early in the year, he’s capable of being another major receiving threat for the Bucs.

 

Tennessee Titans: Josh Reynolds, WR

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While the Julio Jones trade was the high water mark of the Tennessee offseason, don’t sleep on the underrated Reynolds being a valuable third wide out. He was an inconsistent player during his career with the Rams, but should draw plenty of single coverage with A.J. Brown and Jones garnering all the attention. Reynolds will have every opportunity to succeed with his new team.

 

Washington Football Team: Antonio Gibson, RB

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Gibson was a surprise starter for Washington at running back last season, showing dynamic ability with 36 catches and over 200 touches. He’s set to see an even bigger role this year in an offense that should open things up more often with Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback.

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