This is my second year doing the breakout players for each team, and I have to admit it hasn't gotten any easier.
Some guys looked promising on film from last year but then not so great on tape this preseason and vice versa. Then there's always the injury X factor that can derail a guy's season even when he looks to be in the best shape of his life. It's nerve-wracking and frustrating, but ... also fun as hell!
I am sure that I won't get them all right, nobody does, but it will be great to track each of these guys all season to see how many of them actually do push their games to another level and take a big step forward in their careers.
Now, I want to remind everyone of my criteria when selecting a breakout player before the comments section and my mentions get filled with disgruntled fans who think I have overlooked someone (not that I really think this will stop that from happening).
First of all, I pick only those guys who are at least two years removed from playing in college. There just isn't much sense in picking a rookie before I've seen him play a single regular season snap. There have been too many one-year wonders in the history of the league for me to feel comfortable selecting a guy who has been out for only a year. The flip side of that is sometimes guys start slow in their rookie seasons and then blossom or at least start to blossom in their second seasons.
As I mentioned last year, the third season is generally the dividing line between players from most teams' perspectives anyway. That's the year when a guy usually shows he can hack it or shows he can't. So if I didn't pick the guy for your team that you thought I should, double check and make sure he is going into at least his third season in the league before you come for me.
And then, regardless of whether they are, don't come for me.
Second, it's also important to note that me picking a guy to have a breakout season does not necessarily mean he will have a Pro Bowl type of year. The baseline for each player is different. For some guys who have already had some early success in their careers, making it to the next level would be going to the Pro Bowl or being named on an All Pro team. For other guys, going from being on the bench to being a regular contributor can be just as dramatic a jump.
What I've tried to do is identify the guys who will have the most dramatic positive jump in their play from what they have done previously on each team and most importantly explain why I think they will have that jump. Even if you disagree with my choices my hope is that you at least find my explanations for why I picked them reasonable.
At the end of the day I can't see the future and neither can you. There will be some luck involved, good or bad, in determining which of these guys break out, regardless.
After watching film on all these guys and monitoring them this preseason, I feel good about every single guy I picked, and I wish each and every one of them well this season.