Trevor Lawrence tops the top 10 breakout candidates

Last season, Jonathan Taylor was coming off a solid rookie season, but he was not yet a known star. Cooper Cup was coming off a season with 974 yards and three touchdowns. Deebo Samuel had yet to make his mark either.

By the end of the season, these three and others had become superstars. Every season we see a group of players make an incredible leap. Here we try to identify the 10 players who could become stars by the end of this season:

New York Giants WR Kadarius Toney

Toney was a first-round pick last season and really showed off in a 189-yard game against the Dallas Cowboys. There are many questions surrounding Tony, the most important of which is his ability to stay healthy. But if he can stay on the field, he has the potential to break out. He has fantastic talent, and who else in the Giants’ receiving corps will take targets away from him?

Jacksonville Jaguars QB Trevor Lawrence

Uber-prospects don’t fail often. There’s a difference between questionable first picks and a player like Lawrence, who was almost unanimously considered a future star. Now that the Jacksonville Jaguars have an aging head coach, Lawrence should be much better. We saw the first signs of that in last season’s great Week 18 win over the Indianapolis Colts. These draft analysts and evaluators can do no wrong.

Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence is coming off a trying rookie season. (AP Photo/Gary McCullough)

Denver Broncos CB Patrick Certain II

Surtain already had a solid rookie season, but the Denver Broncos’ 2021 first-round pick is on his way to becoming a Pro Bowler, just as his father was three times for the Miami Dolphins. Surtain is a smooth athlete who can compete with bigger receivers and has everyone in Broncos camp raving about his play. By the end of the season, he will be recognized as one of the best defensive backs in the NFL.

Cleveland Browns TE David Njoku

Njoku teases his ability, but still has just 1,754 yards over five seasons. He’s also only played over 64 percent of the Cleveland Browns’ offensive snaps once (he played 80 percent in his sophomore season and had a career-best 639 yards). Njoku has a new contract worth more than $54 million over four years, which tells you how the Browns view him. He will get a full-time job this season, and without much competition for targets among the receivers, he could approach 1,000 yards.

Houston Texas EDGE Jonathan Greenard

Greenard was a third-round pick in 2020 and had one sack for the Texans. Then last season he came up with eight sacks in 12 games. The Texans need players to build around, and Greenard is someone who could be a foundational piece. He should get to double-digit sacks this season and maybe a Pro Bowl.

Baltimore Ravens WR Rashod Bateman

The Baltimore Ravens receiving corps is weak. They won’t even surpass him, but when they do, Bateman will dominate receiver targets. Tight end Mark Andrews is still the center of the passing game, but Bateman, a 2021 first-round pick, will have every chance to catch a ton of passes from Lamar Jackson this season.

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Los Angeles Rams OT Joseph Noteboom

The Los Angeles Rams don’t seem too worried about losing left tackle Andrew Whitworth to retirement after a stellar career, and that’s thanks to Noteboom. He has 17 career starts over four seasons, but the Rams still signed him to a three-year, $40 million extension. They know what they have in it. As long as Noteboom is healthy, he will make a name for himself this season.

Cleveland Browns LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoa

Owusu-Koramoah fell to the second round in the 2021 draft, and most analysts praised the Browns for grabbing him at value. Owusu-Koramoah is an explosive athlete, and he talks about a more comfortable second season, especially with the mental aspect of the game. JOK was good last season, with 76 tackles in his 14 games (10 starts), and he could really break out in his second season.

San Francisco 49ers QB Trey Lance

Lance didn’t have the best preseason, and Jimmy Garoppolo remains but will be fine. He has Kyle Shanahan, one of the best offensive minds in football, on his payroll. He will throw to Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk and George Kittle, one of the best trios any quarterback has. The running game will help him. And he still has the same immense talent that made him the third pick in last year’s draft. Lance is going to have a great season.

Dallas Cowboys RB Tony Pollard

The only thing missing from Pollard’s profile is opportunity. The Dallas Cowboys are running hard with Ezekiel Elliott, but Jerry Jones hinted at a more creative role for Pollard to get him on the field. We’ll see, because teams rarely hire two tailbacks at the same time, no matter how much they tease him. At some point, Pollard should get a shot at a full-time job. And he could find himself back in the top 10 when that happens.

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