Six NFL Stars Who Are Bound For Breakout Seasons in 2017

-John Knast

In this article I will discuss six NFL superstars who I feel will have a breakout campaign this coming season. I will name three offensive players as well as three defensive stars. One or two of them might just be a little biased because after all I am a Philadelphia Eagles fan with all my heart, but I also enjoy the NFL as a whole. So sit back and enjoy. (Again remember this is my own opinion and I am sure everyone will disagree with my choices but maybe some of you will agree. And if not, too bad 😉) Without further ado, let’s get started with my three offensive choices.

Quarterback Jameis Winston – Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Image credit: CBS Sports

I am picking Jameis Winston to have a breakout year for a few reasons, but first and foremost, I feel he has matured as a quarterback over the first two seasons in the NFL. Winston was a question mark coming out of Florida State mostly because of his off the field issues, from his sexual assault allegations or his numerous thefts including the stealing of crab legs from a Publix in Tallahassee (still a major LOL). I feel Winston has adjusted to the NFL life style and has demonstrated leadership qualities that the Tampa Bay organization has both noticed and truly needed. Next, I feel Winston is prone for a break out season because of the offensive talent that now surrounds him. He has one of the most underrated running backs in the league in Doug Martin (when he’s actually healthy), who showed flashes of greatness in 2015. To go along with Martin they also have six year back Jacquizz Rodgers in the backfield. But the most important component for Winston’s success will fall on his top two WRs in Mike Evans and newcomer DeSean Jackson – who this offseason signed a three year, $35 million deal. Also in the fold at WR is Josh Huff, who showed blazing speed in Philadelphia but was released after an off the field incident in the middle of last year. As if that’s not enough, Tampa Bay added a future all-pro Tight End when they drafted OJ Howard – 19th overall in this year’s draft. Howard was quite frankly a steal in my eyes as well as other analysts throughout the NFL community. Although the Buccaneers play the AFC East and NFC North this upcoming season, if all of the pieces stay healthy I could see Winston leading the Bucs to a 10-6 record and possibly sneaking into the playoffs as the second wildcard in the NFC.

Running Back Derrick Henry – Tennessee Titans

Image Credit: Associated Press via Titans Website

I know, I know, people will think I am crazy to think Henry is going to have a breakout season in Tennessee, especially with DeMarco Murray still on board as the feature back. However, I think that will change by the end of this season. Murray showed no signs of slowing down last year and many have him as a top five fantasy running back for this upcoming season. I just think Murray’s durability is going to take a hit because he will be turning 30 soon. Enter Derrick Henry, a 2nd round pick in 2016. Henry was drafted 45th overall by the Titans following his Heisman trophy winning season at Alabama. A lot of people were confused by this pick considering the Titans had just acquired Murray via trade from the Eagles. I think you all will notice a shift at the running back position. I think Henry finishes this year as the number one running back in Tennessee finishing the season with about 650 yards rushing and eight rushing touchdowns leaving the Titans with a tough decision going forward in 2018.

Wide Receiver Terrelle Pryor – Washington Redskins

Image Credit: ESPN

Coming off a 1,000-yard receiving season with the Cleveland Browns many thought Pryor would cash in and get a big pay day…well, those people were wrong. Washington signed Pryor to a one year, eight-million dollar deal. Pryor has come a long way ever since he was selected in the 3rd round of the 2011 NFL Supplemental Draft by the Oakland Raiders, as a Quarterback nonetheless. Pryor didn’t have much success as a Quarterback in his stints with Oakland, Seattle or Cincinnati. He was released by all three teams. He latched on with the Cleveland Browns who bought in the former Quarterback for a tryout at WR. Well that moved turned out to be a great one as last season, even with all the turmoil at the Quarterback position in Cleveland. Pryor managed 77 receptions, 1,007 yards and four TDs with the Brownies. I expect those numbers to rise in Washington solely because he now has a solid quarterback who is also playing for a big payday in Kirk Cousins. I think Pryor finishes this season with 90 receptions, 1,300 yards and eight or nine TDs. And, I believe next offseason he will be paid what he deserves (barring injury of course). Only question left to be asked is will it be with Washington or will he look to go elsewhere after just one season (preferably outside of the NFC East, please?).

Okay, enough with the offensive side of the ball, let’s move over to the defensive side of the ball. Two of the three players will look familiar because they are proud members of our hometown Philadelphia Eagles!

Defensive Tackle Timmy Jernigan – Philadelphia Eagles

Image credit: Baltimore Sun

Jernigan is a newcomer to the powerful front four of the Eagles; however, I feel he will dominate here in Philadelphia. Chosen in the 2nd round of the 2014 NFL draft by the Baltimore Ravens, many scouts had him projected as a first round talent coming out of Florida State. In his first two seasons in Baltimore he managed 91 tackles, 13 sacks and 1 interception. Leading up to the 2017 NFL Draft Jernigan was dealt to the Eagles along with 99th overall pick so the Ravens could move up to number 74 overall. I think Timmy is going to have a breakout year because the Eagles already have a stud defensive tackle in Fletcher Cox who has already put up great numbers and is entering the prime of his career. Many think with Jernigan on board now the Eagles front four is going to be even scarier. I couldn’t agree more and I think Jernigan can put up 45 tackles, seven sacks and numerous quarterback hits. He will show everyone this year why he was a projected first round pick for sure. Welcome to Philly Timmy!

Outside Linebacker Reuben Foster – San Francisco 49ers

Image Credit: Roll Bama Roll

I chose Foster as a breakout player because everyone already knows the household names at linebacker such as Luke Kuechly, Von Miller, Sean Lee, and Bobby Wagner. Why not go off the charts a little bit and pick one of the highest rated rookies from this year’s draft. Foster was projected to be a top ten pick by many, but with a positive drug test and a history of shoulder injuries in the past, Foster fell to number 31 overall where San Fran moved up to grab him to go along with Solomon Thomas, the number three overall pick. Rueben will have a tough time getting on the field as a rookie for the 49ers but that’s only because of the depth they have at the position. With LBs such as former Super Bowl MVP LB Malcolm Smith, NaVarro Bowman, and Ahmad Brooks already in the fold Foster might have to wait to show what he can do. But, I think Foster will be on the field by the end of the year; after all he finished his senior season at Alabama with 115 total tackles – thirteen of which were tackles for loss, not to mention five sacks. Foster can learn a lot from the veterans in San Francisco and who knows; he could end up pushing one of them out of the job sooner rather than later.

Cornerback Jalen Mills – Philadelphia Eagles

Image credit: Eagles Wire

Jalen is my pick for defensive back breakout player of the year based off what I have seen so far in practice highlights as well as the two preseason games. Mills was a seventh-round pick for the Eagles in the 2016 NFL Draft out of LSU. Although he only started two games during his rookie season, Mills did appear in all sixteen games last year. In total Mills recorded 62 total tackles, mostly on special teams, but he had seven pass break-ups. In 2017 Mills looks to take over the starting cornerback position. I believe Mills has a bright future and has the potential to be a shutdown cornerback in this league for many years to come. Starting on the opposite side of the field this year will be recent Eagles newcomer Ronald Darby. Mills is a piece of the young defensive back core that the Eagles have formed this season (FINALLY). Having a veteran dime cornerback in Patrick Robinson should help the young Eagles fly high. Though I don’t expect his tackle total to rise, I do think Mills pass break-ups will increase into double digits. I also believe he will have 4-5 interceptions by the time this season is up. He may be a pro bowl snub this year but he will definitely be an all-pro by the time his career is over.


Well there you have it, 3 offensive players and 3 defensive players who have the potential to ‘break out’ this upcoming season. Let us know your thoughts, and if you agree/disagree with these picks. And, as the great Hank Williams Jr would say “Are you ready for some football?”


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