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Top 10 Breakout Players for 2021 NFL Season
Teams are finishing up their OTAs and will now have one final period of calm before the real training camp begins in July. When that happens, you’ll be sure to hear predictions about who around the league is due for a breakout campaign.
However, there are 10 players who already stand out as possible breakout players ahead of the 2021 NFL season, in no particular order:
1. QB Kyler Murray - Arizona Cardinals
Over the last three years, we have seen young quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson, and Josh Allen elevate from pretty good to superstars. Murray is the best pick to be the next in line, as he is paired with an elite receiver in DeAndre Hopkins and improved across the board from his first year to the second year.
2. QB Jalen Hurts - Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles made the decision to keep Hurts and trade former second overall pick, Carson Wentz. So you can expect that Philly has a lot of faith in their quarterback, who has shown a great ability to run and now has a potential number one receiver in Devonta Smith, his former teammate from Alabama.
3. RB Cam Akers - Los Angeles Rams
While new quarterback Matthew Stafford might be the biggest story for the Rams, Akers appears to be in a great position to break out. The running back averaged close to 22 touches in his final seven games, and former starter Malcolm Brown is no longer on the team. With Stafford keeping defenses on their toes, Akers should be able to put up some big numbers.
4. WR Ja’Marr Chase - Cincinnati Bengals
Although he has yet to play an NFL down, Chase is in an enviable spot. The rookie receiver is reuniting with this college QB Joe Burrow, who was on pace to throw the ball close to 650 times last season before his injury. If there is someone who could be the next Justin Jefferson (another LSU receiver), it’s Chase.
5. TE Irv Smith Jr. - Minnesota Vikings
Although he has to share touches with Dalvin Cook, Adam Thielen, and Justin Jefferson, Smith Jr. should be in a great position for a breakout. He was one of the best tight ends in the league over the final month of the season and now has the tight end job all to himself after longtime vet Kyle Rudolph left in free agency.
6. DT Jeffery Simmons - Tennessee Titans
The popular site Pro Football Focus handed out grades at the end of the year for every single defensive player in his second year. Sitting there at the top of the list was Simmons, who had three sacks and three fumble recoveries along with a forced fumble. 2021 could present an opportunity for him to continue to progress even further.
7. LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Cleveland Browns
Our second rookie on the list, Cleveland’s second-round pick, is one of the more hyped prospects outside of the very top group of draft picks. Owusu-Koramoah has a ton of speed in coverage and is a tackling machine, and offers a ton of versatility to an improved Browns defense.
8. CB Trevon Diggs, Dallas Cowboys
Much like the Cowboys' defense as a whole, Diggs got much better as the season went on. From about Week 7 on, Diggs did not earn a Pro Football Focus grade lower than 62.9, eventually finishing the year with three interceptions. With a full offseason and in a decision of mediocre quarterbacks, Diggs could be a breakthrough in the secondary.
9. CB Cameron Dantzler, Minnesota Vikings
For a Vikings team that totally reworked their secondary going into last season, Dantzler was perhaps the most pleasant surprise. He finished his rookie year with a pair of performances where he allowed five or fewer receiving yards, showing that he has the potential to become one of the best cover cornerbacks in the NFL.
10. S Xavier McKinney, New York Giants
McKinney was the only player on this list who spent most of last season injured, only appearing in six games for the Giants. However, there is a great opportunity in 2021 for McKinney to deliver on his high expectations from last year, slotting in the middle of an elite secondary that should help him progress quickly.
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