Every year, we see NFL players across the league come into their own despite not having much of a track record. They can be all types; many are second- or third-year players who have matured and overcome injury or adapted to the NFL. There are others who were never highly-touted but find themselves in the right situation.
Each NFL team has breakout candidates. Here is a leading candidate from all of them.
Arizona Cardinals — Haason Reddick, LB
The 13th overall pick in last year’s draft flashed potential and appeared in all 16 games, but only started three of them. He still made an impact, with 2.5 sacks and two forced fumbles on the season. The Cardinals plan to move him to inside linebacker, where he’s been studying tape of Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis. That bodes well for a big year two breakout.
Atlanta Falcons — Austin Hooper, TE
Year three could be the one that sees Hooper mature into a big target at tight end. His numbers improved last season, as he caught 49 passes and scored three touchdowns. A more prominent role and regular playing time could await him in 2018 and make him a Matt Ryan favorite. He’ll just have to compete with Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, and Atlanta’s talented running backs for touches.
How a player does in the weeks and months before the NFL Draft can have a big impact on where they’re picked. A good Combine or Pro Day can be enough to turn a day two prospect into a first rounder, or grow some buzz around potential later-round players who weren’t really on anyone’s radar beforehand.
Here’s a look at ten players whose stock rose ahead of the draft.
1) Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech
It’s not that Edmunds was ever poorly-regarded as a prospect, but his workouts have only bolstered the view of him as one of the elite athletes in the draft class. He ran a 4.54 40 at the NFL Combine, and his combination of size and speed is tantalizing. Edmunds was a likely first-round pick all along, but the hype around him is such that he’s almost certainly going in the top 15. The top ten may be a realistic proposition at this point.
2) Mike Gesicki, TE, Penn State
Gesicki was a solid player at Penn State, but this year’s tight end class has never been particularly highly-regarded. It looked for a long while as if there would be no first round tight end, but Gesicki’s excellent combine may change that. Gesicki displayed an outstanding combination of size, speed, and athleticism, and could become a quality pass-catcher with time. That should appeal to several teams late in the first round.
Louisville sophomore cornerback Jaire Alexander broke out one of the most disrespectful troll moves we’ve seen.
During the third quarter of Saturday’s game against Wake Forest, Louisville got a stop when the Demon Deacons went for it on a 4th and 9 play from the Louisville 37. After John Wolford’s pass attempt to Scotty Washington went incomplete, Alexander pulled out that taunting move:
Alexander was not penalized for the taunt. Two plays later, Louisville went 55 yards for a touchdown to make it 12-10, Wake.