Breakout NFL candidates for the upcoming NFL season

Seven players poised to have good seasons


Porter Nicoll

1. Ceedee Lamb, WR, Dallas Cowboys

Lamb was already an amazing receiver last year. However, his production has the potential to increase monstrously this season. With the loss of Amari Cooper and Cedrick Wilson, the Cowboys have an undeniable WR1 in Ceedee Lamb. Michael Gallup, the WR2 in the offense, is out with a torn ACL. Dak Prescott loves to throw to his best receiver in the offense, like with Cooper and Dez Bryant. In addition to this, the Cowboys had the highest-scoring offense last year. I believe Lamb will cement himself as a top 10 wide receiver this season. 

2. Justin Jefferson, WR, Minnesota Vikings

Despite only going into his third season, Jefferson has cemented himself as one of the best receivers in the league. His age and some changes in the Vikings’s offense give Jefferson ridiculous room for improvement. The Vikings are shifting to a pass-heavy offense going into the new season. The team brought Kevin O’Connell in from the Rams as offensive coordinator,  who should know exactly how to use Jefferson. O’Connell utilized a historic season from receiver Cooper Kupp last year to give the Rams their first Super Bowl in over two decades. It’s a copycat league, and tthe Vikings have said that they want to use Jefferson as a slot receiver, in an effort to replicate Kupp’s dominance. Jefferson is also more physically talented than Kupp, being much more of a dynamic player, so we can comfortably expect a season at least on par with Kupp’s 2021 season. 

3. Rashod Bateman, WR, Baltimore Ravens

Last year, Bateman did little to impress. 515 yards on 46 receptions is far from a historic performance. As if things couldn’t get any worse, his former MVP Quarterback, Lamar Jackson, was injured at the tail end of the season. . However, we shouldn’t count Bateman out yet. He is the WR1 of the most electrifying offenses in the league. Although the Ravens are a very run-heavy team, resulting in fewer passing attempts, defenses have to account for Jackson’s inhuman scrambling ability. This will create big-play opportunities down the field for Batemen. Jackson himself has said he is working diligently to improve the passing aspect of his game. This is exciting news for Bateman, who already has almost no competition for targets in the Ravens’s offense.

4. Travis Etienne, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars

Travis Etienne is an interesting case. The Jaguars drafted late in the first round of last years’ draft, but he did not play at all last season. With James Robinson looking like he will suit up for the team in week 1, Etienne will likely continue to struggle to cement himself as a fixture of the team. Etienne might not be the best rusher in terms of high numbers but he excels as a pass-catching back. He is electric with the ball in his hands in the open field. Playing as the secondary back behind an improved offensive line will make him much more efficient. Etienne has a college connection with Quarterback Trevor Lawrence, which may not seem important, but we saw how Joe Burrow and Jamarr Chase absolutely flipped the Bengals’s offense around. I don’t expect something as generational as that offense, but Etienne will surprise people. 

5. Saquon Barkely, RB, New York Giants

Saquon Barkley has already proven that he can play at an elite level. His amazing rookie season has been written off because of his injury-riddled journey since. When he tore his ACL 2 years ago, many thought it would be the end for the young back. These past two seasons, in the limited time he has played, Barkley has looked like a shell of his former self. However, an ACL injury takes 2 full years to fully recover from. In addition, with Brian Daboll, the new head coach, coming into the Giants’ offense, he has assured us that Saquon will be used much more as a pass catcher and has the full workload and no competition for carries. Saquon is set to be the heart of this offense in New York. 

6. Juju Smith Schuster, WR, Kansas City Chiefs

Juju has been one of the most polarizing players in the NFL with his social media presence. We know he can be an elite wide receiver, considering that his 2018 season was one of the best in the league at that time. Now, he is the clear-cut wide receiver one in training camp and has the best quarterback in the league in Patrick Mahomes. He will also be operating out of the slot. We saw Cooper Kupp dominate from the slot. Andy Reid is one of the smartest and most creative head coaches in the league. Reid will put Schuster in a position to succeed. I predict that he will skyrocket and cement himself as a top 15 receiver in the league.

7.Joey Bosa, EDGE, Los Angeles Chargers

It is apparent that Bosa is already an all-pro caliber player, but I believe that this season, he will become a top 3 edge rusher. The Charger’s addition of Khalil Mack and Sebastian Joseph-Day will take pressure off Bosa, creating more opportunities for pressures and sacks because the offensive line can not send more people to block him because of the threats on the other side of the line. He already had 10 sacks last year, and with the offensive focus being shifted off of him, I expect a 16-sack season.