Splash’s May Hot Take-o-Meter: Breakout Players Edition

Welcome to the May edition of the Hot-Take-o-Meter. The main focus of this is potential breakout players.

Check out the April edition here, the March edition here, and the February edition here.

Heading into a new season, each team is looking for the next era of stars. In 2019, some of these “breakout” players broke out in massive ways with Lamar Jackson winning MVP, Minkah Fitzpatrick being named an All-Pro, and countless unforeseen spectacular seasons from the likes of DeVante Parker, Courtland Sutton, and DJ Moore.

Here is an attempt at picking the next round of NFL superstars.

2020 draft picks are excluded from this list.

Stage 1: Players who just need recognition

Fred Warner

It is a testament to the makeup of San Francisco’s roster that Warner is a breakout candidate. He should make his first Pro Bowl in 2020, and he will be in play for an All-Pro designation.

Stage 2: Former top-five picks

Quinnen Williams

Williams had a disappointing season from a pass rush perspective. As helpful as he was against the run, his career will be defined by sack numbers more than any other factor. With his pedigree as a top-three pick, Williams is alone in the second, and he should make a sizable leap in Year 2.

Stage 3: Quarterbacks

Dwayne Haskins and Daniel Jones

Quarterback breakouts are always difficult to choose. In a way, they should always be the pick. Kyler Murray is not included here because many believe he is already a star. Haskins and Jones had their moments in 2019, but both have been stabilized with new coaching and new weapons.

Stage 4: 2018’s high-end

Marcus Davenport, Hayden Hurst, Rashaad Penny, and Carlton Davis

These four players were picked in the first two rounds of the 2018 draft. There has been some productivity for all four, but in general, they are still waiting to breakout. Hurst is the leading candidate of the group to have a Pro Bowl-caliber breakout, but, if given the opportunity, these are four future stars.

Stage 5: 2018’s low-end

Ian Thomas, Josh Sweat, Bilal Nichols, and Tre Herndon

Thomas and Herndon will have larger roles in 2020 due to rampant overhaul of the respective units on their roster. If either proves to be a top option, they could be in line for Pro Bowl nods. Sweat and Nichols are buried behind high-level defensive fronts in Philadelphia and Chicago respectively, but if the opportunity arises, they would be available to wreak havoc.

Stage 6: Injury-consumed 2019

Jonah Williams, Johnathan Abram, Nasir Adderley, and Kahale Warring

These four played a combined five games in 2019 with Adderley accounting for four of them. They have not shown much, but with a full year in the system, they could break out in a way that 2020 rookies may fail to with the compromised off-season. Williams and Warring in particular will be fun to watch as both Cincinnati and Houston’s offenses have high expectations after the off-season.

Stage 7: Opportunities of 2020

Jeffery Simmons, N’Keal Harry, Marquise Brown, and Preston Williams

Simmons, Harry, and Williams missed about half of their rookie seasons with injury. Brown played in 14 of 16 games, but he was hampered with a screw in his foot. Simmons is a game-wrecker on the defensive end, and the three wide receivers bring massive upside to their young (if Tua Tagovailoa plays) quarterbacks. Harry could offer a reliable second target, Brown will be featured as a deep-ball menace, and Williams can be utilized as a big slot.

For more coverage on Preston Williams, visit our analysis here or here.

Stage 8: 2019’s first round

T.J. Hockenson, Ed Oliver, Noah Fant, and Darnell Savage

While their rookie seasons were nothing special, these four could pop in Year 2. Hockenson and Fant, once teammates at Iowa, will be more comfortable in their offenses, and they will have full seasons with Matthew Stafford and Drew Lock respectively. Oliver and Savage feature in defenses that made leaps in 2019, and they will be critical in keeping the defenses of Buffalo and Green Bay operating. Neither defense lacks talent, but if Oliver or Savage can blossom into Pro Bowl or All-Pro talents, the Super Bowl windows for the Bills and Packers open.

Stage 9: 2019’s defensive second round

Byron Murphy, Rock Ya-Sin, Greedy Williams, and Taylor Rapp

Murphy and Ya-Sin were much maligned as rookies. Williams had a better season than either of them, but he and the Browns faced their fair share of outcry. Rapp was lost in the shuffle at times with the Rams. In Year 2, all four should be established members of their respective secondaries.

Stage 10: 2020 fantasy breakouts

Irv Smith, Mecole Hardman, Diontae Johnson, and Tony Pollard

These four are high-upside options in good offenses (assuming Ben Roethlisberger plays near his 2018 form). They are not the best weapons on their team, but if any injuries hamper the Vikings, Chiefs, Steelers, or Cowboys, these four will be productive in their place. As mentioned with Hockenson and Fant, Smith will likely be more comfortable in the offense in Year 2. Hardman and Johnson will not be the main focus of the offense, but they can be productive even as the third pass catcher on either team. Pollard has a murky road to consistent productivity, but he did average 5.3 yards per carry in 2020.

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