Football Outsiders has compiled a list of 25 likely breakout candidates. These players were not highly touted guys coming out of college, so the list includes guys who might not have been expected to come in and "rip the league up."
Here are the stipulations for a player to make the list:
• Be in the second, third, or fourth year of their pro career
• Have been drafted in Rounds 3-7 or signed as an undrafted free agent
• Have started fewer than five career games in the NFL
• Still be on their rookie contract
Football Outsiders considers Charles Johnson and Geoff Schwartz as likely candidates to have a breakout season in 2010. Let's see where they rank, and what they have to say about the 4th year DE and 3rd year Tackle:
"23. Charles Johnson, DE, Carolina Panthers
He finally has his chance. Johnson spent the first three years of his career serving as a part-time player behind Julius Peppers and a menagerie of veteran ends. Peppers' occupation of double teams helped matters, but Johnson was arguably the best pass rusher the team had aside from its star. He's accrued 10 sacks over the past two years despite starting a total of two games over that stretch. With Peppers gone, Johnson will compete with Everette Brown for the starting gig, a contest he should win."
So in their opinion, he is competing with Everette Brown for presumably the RDE spot. It will be interesting to see how the snaps are divided between the team's top three DEs, (Brayton, Johnson, and Brown). Fox has always liked to have a quality third DE (think Al Wallace) to rotate in in order to keep his pass-rushers fresh.
"15. Geoff Schwartz, OT/G, Carolina Panthers
When the Panthers' offensive line was beset by injuries during the 2009 season, Schwartz stepped in at right tackle and served admirably in the service of Jonathan Stewart down the stretch. His reward is a shot at right guard, where he'll compete with fellow 2008 seventh-rounder Mackenzy Bernadeau for the starting job. Schwartz is likely to win, and he should be an effective all-around blocker for what is quietly one of the league's better lines."
They may have meant "in the service of" Jeffery Otah, or they were pointing out Schwartz' ability to pave the way for J-Stew...not sure. Either way, they are correct in their assessment. He does have a chance to start this year at guard, and he would be an effective all-around blocker, with a nasty streak. I think we have three solid options at RG, being Schwartz, Bernadeau and Robinson.
In case you are interested, here is the rest of the list (25-11)...the top 10 spots are coming out tomorrow:
"25. Chase Daniel, QB, New Orleans Saints
The departure of Mark Brunell says that the Saints -- who, you may remember, won the Super Bowl last year -- are willing to hand the reins over to Daniel in the case that Drew Brees gets hurt. That's brave of them, but it also suggests that they think Daniel's worth holding onto. The former Missouri star wouldn't work in many of the league's systems, but his accuracy is more important for the Saints than his relative lack of arm strength or height. He's yet to take an NFL snap, but he could be a fun test of what it's like to have a replacement-level quarterback surrounded by elite talent. One thing's for sure: He can't be much worse on fake field goals than Brunell was last year.
24. Marquez Branson, TE, Denver Broncos
A deep fantasy sleeper, Branson has an advantage over incumbent tight ends Daniel Graham and Richard Quinn: He can run and catch the ball. That makes him a unique fit in Denver, especially considering the way the team used Tony Scheffler a year ago. As a second-year, undrafted free agent from FCS-level Central Arkansas, Branson is well off most radar screens, but he could move forward as a pass-catching tight end very quickly.
23. Charles Johnson, DE, Carolina Panthers
He finally has his chance. Johnson spent the first three years of his career serving as a part-time player behind Julius Peppers and a menagerie of veteran ends. Peppers' occupation of double teams helped matters, but Johnson was arguably the best pass rusher the team had aside from its star. He's accrued 10 sacks over the past two years despite starting a total of two games over that stretch. With Peppers gone, Johnson will compete with Everette Brown for the starting gig, a contest he should win.
22. T.J. Lang, OT, Green Bay Packers
There were two versions of T.J. Lang last year. One was the guy who was eviscerated by Jared Allen. Fair enough; that happens to a lot of offensive linemen in the NFL. The other was a developing rookie who showed signs of promise as a run-blocker to go along with his history as a college tackle, where pass-blocking is key. Lang can play anywhere on the line, but with the addition of Bryan Bulaga in the draft, his most obvious landing point might be right tackle, where he could replace the aging Mark Tauscher.
21. Legedu Naanee, WR, San Diego Chargers
Naanee's amazing 2009 advanced metrics are a product of playing in the Chargers' offense, but there's no shame in having a ridiculous 83 percent catch rate (24 receptions on 29 targets, yielding a rate that led the league for receivers with 25 targets or more) and 103 DYAR (our advanced metric measuring total value) in very limited time. The catch rate won't stay that high, but there's evidence that he has very good hands; even if the catch rate falls to 70 percent, that's still really good. If Vincent Jackson does actually hold out until October, Naanee's the starter, and the Chargers might miss V-Jax less than they think.
20. Leroy Harris, G, Tennessee Titans
Nothing exciting to see here -- just an offensive lineman replacing a Hall of Famer on one of the league's best run-blocking lines. No big deal. Though Eugene Amano will shift over from left guard to center to take over for the departed Kevin Mawae, Harris will take over Mawae's spot in the starting lineup as the new left guard. A 2007 fourth-round pick, Harris should be an effective run blocker from Week 1. As if Chris Johnson needed more help.
19. Arian Foster, RB, Houston Texans
The last guy standing at halfback for Houston in 2009, Foster averaged 4.8 yards on 54 carries over the final four weeks of the season. He would have produced even more if he hadn't been benched after fumbling early in Week 15. Foster will have to compete with Steve Slaton and rookie Ben Tate for playing time, but he has the potential to be the team's leading rusher -- and to have that actually mean something for fantasy owners.
18. Jared Cook, TE, Tennessee Titans
Cook struggled during his rookie campaign, as many first-year tight ends do. He dropped too many passes in games to justify taking his great practice work seriously, and a sprained ankle prevented him from exhibiting his excellent athleticism. Cook is 6-foot-5 and 246 pounds, which is a virtually identical build to a similarly athletic tight end -- Jermichael Finley. Finley was hopeless as a rookie before breaking out as a sophomore; we're not saying Cook will have that sort of explosion, but it's possible. He's certainly the long-term replacement for Bo Scaife at tight end.
17. Antoine Caldwell, G, Houston Texans
The Texans' third-round pick a year ago, Caldwell took over as the starting right guard for three games at the end of the season. He should retain that position for the full 2010 season over a gimpy Mike Brisiel. Caldwell is a former center at Alabama, but his athleticism would be wasted there, so he's going to play guard in the Texans' zone-blocking scheme. Houston ranked 25th on runs to left end and 28th on runs to left tackle last year, so a pulling Caldwell could help those figures improve.
16. Kroy Biermann, DE, Atlanta Falcons
Biermann spent most of last season playing behind Jamaal Anderson. Anderson, who was the Falcons' first-round pick in the 2007 NFL Draft, has 2.5 sacks through 44 starts. Biermann started two games last year; he had five sacks. He had more Stops, Defeats, run tackles, and nearly twice as many hurries as Anderson did, all with fewer snaps and a much smaller paycheck. To their credit, the Falcons have recognized this; Biermann will start across from John Abraham this year. Ten sacks would not be out of the question.
15. Geoff Schwartz, OT/G, Carolina Panthers
When the Panthers' offensive line was beset by injuries during the 2009 season, Schwartz stepped in at right tackle and served admirably in the service of Jonathan Stewart down the stretch. His reward is a shot at right guard, where he'll compete with fellow 2008 seventh-rounder Mackenzy Bernadeau for the starting job. Schwartz is likely to win, and he should be an effective all-around blocker for what is quietly one of the league's better lines.
14. Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, New York Giants
Bradshaw started the year with 375 rushing yards through his first five games, all Giants wins; unfortunately, as the season went south for the Giants, Bradshaw's performance began to decline. He's best in the "closer" role for the team, where he can use his ability to break tackles against tired defenses in the fourth quarter. If he can mature as a receiver and pass blocker, he could carve out an even bigger role in 2010.
13. Jacoby Jones, WR, Houston Texans
For some guys, it takes years for the lightbulb to go on. Robert Meachem was a joke until 2009, when he was suddenly one of the most valuable wideouts in the league. James Farrior didn't develop until he left New York and went to Pittsburgh, where he suddenly became an elite inside linebacker. Jones was pretty bad as a rookie and barely got into the offense during his second year, but faced with the possibility of being strictly a return man, Jones suddenly turned into an incredibly valuable part-time player in his third season. Part of that was a fluky touchdown rate -- he won't catch a TD pass every seven targets again -- but he was a legitimate go-to guy when teams were tripling Andre Johnson and daring Matt Schaub to throw somewhere else. Schaub threw Jones 13 passes on third down; Jones caught 10 of them, gaining 125 yards and seven first downs. The team re-signed Kevin Walter, which could limit Jones to a slot role, but he should get the chance to show whether his remarkable under-the-radar season was all fluke or a sign of things to come.
12. Matt Shaughnessy, DE, Oakland Raiders
It's hard for a young player to make any sort of noise in the caverns of Oakland. When guys do get attention, it's usually because the Raiders have given them a ridiculous contract or tendered them at a totally inappropriate level. Believe it or not, though, the Raiders have two players whom they can build the 2012 front seven around: 2008 sixth-round pick Trevor Scott would be on this list if he hadn't started six games already, while Shaughnessy will end up being Oakland's best pick in what was a downright putrid 2009 draft. He barely got any playing time during the first half of the season, but once Greg Ellis went down with a knee injury in Week 8, Shaughnessy had four sacks and showed bursts of being a potentially dominant defensive end. He struggles for consistency, but you could put together a 90-second YouTube clip of Shaughnessy just ragdolling opposing offensive linemen and making them look silly (especially those whose last names rhyme with "Columbus"). The acquisition of John Henderson could keep Richard Seymour at end more frequently, limiting Shaughnessy's reps, but talent like this has a way of making it into the lineup.
11. Lardarius Webb, CB, Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens don't often make space for young players in their lineup. Sure, first-round picks like Haloti Ngata head directly to the top of the depth chart, but most guys -- even future stars like Bart Scott and Terrell Suggs -- had to serve an apprenticeship as part-time players before becoming regulars. That makes Webb's ascension into the starting lineup even more impressive. The Ravens had enough faith in Webb to push him ahead of Fabian Washington during the year, and while both players ended up tearing their ACLs, Webb had an extremely promising season (albeit with a small sample size). His 5.1 adjusted yards per attempt were better than any other Ravens corner, and he had 21 Stops in the running game (explained here), an impressive figure for an undersized corner playing limited duty. He also brings extra value to the return game. Webb may need part of this year to heal, but if everything goes well, he should be a starter by the second half of this season, and he won't let go of his spot for a number of years."
As I stated above, the top 10 players are coming out tomorrow, here is the link, which you should be able to access if you are an "ESPN Insider.":