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Malik Hooker, Derek Barnett, other breakout candidates
This is the year.

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The best breakout candidate for all 32 NFL teams in 2019

All week, retired NFL defensive end Stephen White is rolling out his fifth annual “breakout players” series.

Hello again, fellow NFL fans!

It’s almost time for the new season, which means it’s also time for my annual “breakout players” series. This is the fifth year I’ve picked a breakout player for each team, and I can’t thank you enough for reading them.

I also want to remind you of a couple things. I have certain criteria I use when deciding which player to choose for all 32 teams, and I have a specific goal for what I want you, the reader, to take away from these columns. I outlined it all here last year, but as a refresher:

1) I do not pick rookies or second-year players, unless it’s a special case. If it’s been more than two years since a player was in college but he hasn’t amassed two seasons in the NFL yet, then I’d consider him.

Two years of film, at minimum, gives me a good idea of a player’s breakout potential, and I usually feel more comfortable when he has more tape. NFL teams also generally consider a player’s third season as the point in his career when he can make a big jump, and that’s mostly true from what I’ve seen.

2) The definition of “breakout” may vary. To me, what matters most is if a guy takes that leap in his development, both in his technique and his production. Breaking out doesn’t have to mean a player will be an All-Pro or make the Pro Bowl.

3) I won’t always be right. I pick a guy for all 32 teams, but not every team will end up having a breakout player who fits my criteria. I go with who I think has the best chance to do so. I can’t predict the future, though. No one can.

4) You don’t have to agree with me. But I hope you come away with a good understanding of why I picked each player. My main concern when I write this series is that I’m making a convincing argument every time.

Every offseason, I start doing all the film study, all the research, and all the writing knowing I’m going to be wrong about a few players, and maybe more than that. But I put a lot of work into it anyway, and I try to be as clear-cut as possible without exaggerating anyone’s case.

If I’m right, great. If I’m wrong, that’s OK. I just want you know where I’m coming from, even if you disagree with me.

5) I include a confidence level for each pick. I added it last year and that worked out well, so I’m going to keep doing it this year.

If I think a player will break out, my confidence level will be high. If I think a player has a good chance to break out, but I’m uncertain about his situation for some reason, my confidence level will be moderate. If I think a player has potential to break out, but he has a lot of questions, due to something like an injury or his place on the depth chart, then my confidence level will be low.

Hopefully that will help people adjust their internet outrage level accordingly.

So thanks again for reading them, and enjoy!

Stephen White’s breakout player series will roll out all week long. Here’s a look at when your favorite team’s breakout player will be revealed:

AFC East

New England Patriots: Matt LaCosse isn’t Gronk, but he can be a Gronk-ish tight end

Buffalo Bills: Matt Milano plays with no fear, but he’ll make opponents fear him this season

New York Jets: Tarell Basham can get after the quarterback, if he gets on the field this year

Miami Dolphins: No one will be calling Charles Harris a ‘bust’ much longer

AFC North

Pittsburgh Steelers: Cameron Sutton will eventually make plays — and ‘eventually’ is now

Cleveland Browns: Jermaine Whitehead, at long last, has found his place in the NFL

Cincinnati Bengals: Alex Erickson is ready for a bigger WR role, if he gets the chance

Baltimore Ravens: Willie Henry can be a big sack guy. He just HAS to stay healthy

AFC South

Indianapolis Colts: Just imagine what a healthy Malik Hooker can do

Jacksonville Jaguars: Dawuane Smoot is too good to be the odd man out on the DL

Houston Texans: Carlos Watkins is a big ol’ dump truck on the field — when he plays

Tennessee Titans: Mycole Pruitt is no Delanie Walker, but he can go OFF this year

AFC West

Kansas City Chiefs: Now is the perfect time for Tanoh Kpassagnon to become who he was drafted him to be

Denver Broncos: DeMarcus Walker looks ready to prove he belongs with the Broncos — and in the NFL

Oakland Raiders: Darren Waller is a cheat code, if he can stay on the field

Los Angeles Chargers: There’s no reason Rayshawn Jenkins can’t handle a full-time safety role

NFC East

Philadelphia Eagles: Derek Barnett hasn’t had his breakout year yet, and that’s scary

Dallas Cowboys: Noah Brown can be a unique weapon for the Cowboys. But will he?

New York Giants: Elijhaa Penny is more than just Saquon Barkley’s lead blocker

Washington: Montae Nicholson is in the right position to redeem himself this season

NFC North

Green Bay Packers: Don’t let Montravius Adams fool you into thinking he’s JUST a big, strong dude

Chicago Bears: Roy Robertson-Harris will make you learn his name this season

Minnesota Vikings: Jaleel Johnson almost looks like another Linval Joseph

Detroit Lions: Teez Tabor needs to learn to trust himself again to get his career back on track

NFC South

New Orleans Saints: Dan Arnold is only beginning to tap into his potential as a weapon for Drew Brees

Atlanta Falcons: Put the ball in Brian Hill’s hand, and something good will happen

Carolina Panthers: Curtis Samuel has a whole other level we should finally get to see this year

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Bucs’ new defense will let Noah Spence show he’s a QB’s worst nightmare

NFC West

San Francisco 49ers: D.J. Jones will make other teams regret trying to run on the 49ers

Seattle Seahawks: The Seahawks still need David Moore, even if he lacks DK Metcalf-type hype

Los Angeles Rams: Tanzel Smart can prove he belongs without Ndamukong Suh around anymore

Arizona Cardinals: Chad Williams can be a deep threat for Kyler Murray, if the Cardinals give him a real shot

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