Predicting a players progression is like taking a leap of faith. There's an unknown person 30 feet down promising to catch you, but do you really want to put that kind of faith into someone who has never given you a reason to before?
Every year players seemingly skip a year or two in their progression and just seem to look like they are ahead of the curve. And other times a player simply didnt play as well as expected but then the next year lives up to the previous year and then some. Its almost as if the previous year was jacked around on purpose just to add the expected progression from that year, plus the current, to make for the elusion of twice the progression.
People always seem to only envision one player breaking out. I disagree with, as most teams usually have multiple. For example we had both Jo-Lonn Dunbar and Lance Kendricks last year. The 49ers had Dashon Goldson, Michael Crabtree, and Colin Kaepernick. Well I have five in mind.
I don't believe you can call a rookie a breakout candidate. So they are excluded. I have two categories; vitual lock and the if's. Today is all about the virtual lock.
Virtual Lock- I am most comfortable with saying these players can make a significant jump in their level of play.
Isaiah Pead: Mr. Pead is an interesting guy. Mentally he could very well be a wreck. I dont know the man so I can't say for sure. I'm not one to spread rumors. Buuuuuut, the interview he did with his alma mater, Cincinnati, would suggest he is spoiled and has had it easy up until now. Now that he has to work for it and things don't go his way he shuts down. Because of this I compared him mentally to Vince Young.
Theres one big time difference between the two players though. VY is a QB and Isaiah is a RB. This is truly a thinking man's game. You can have all the talent in the world, but if you don't understand the X's and O's, your success is usually short lived.
Its widely believed that the easiest position to transition from college to pro is RB, because you can last longer off pure skill than you can anywhere else. And Pead is certainly not lacking in that regard. He has the skills of a starting NFL back. With Steven Jackson gone down south to do the dirty bird, Pead should receive about a 145-165 touches (rush and rec). With the team trending towards pass happy, defenses focus will be on that, leaving less in the box and more lanes to run through. Pead is at his best in the open field.
Daryl Richardson: I know I know I just listed Isaiah Pead as a breakout back so how can I do another in a backfield that will be a committee? Easy, the last two sentences in the Pead section goes for D Rich as well.
I believe D Rich is a hard enough worker and decisive enough runner, with more than enough acceleration, vision, and toughness to reap the benefits of this new offensive philosophy just as much as anyone.
Everyone keeps talking about how much Sam is going to benefit from the scheme and weapons, but the truth is the scheme and weapons will benefit from Sam. If I had to pick someone to benefit from the changes it would be the RB position as a whole. Lanes are going to be huge and teams are going to be extra focused on Tavon Austin and Cook. And if just one of Chris Givens, Austin Pettis, or Brian Quick, elevates his game even the slightest bit (I am expecting two out of three), there will be zero attention on the backs. I see Pead, D Rich, and Zac Stacy all having at least 100 total touches and at least 600 total yards from scrimmage.
Trumaine Johnson: Here's some infomation that seems to get overlooked. Tru graded out better in completion percentage allowed than Janoris Jenkins. But wait, it gets better, he graded out better than him and Cortland Finnegan in multiple categories. The only thing they had him beat in was interceptions, PBU, and tackles, which never tells the full story. Am I implying he is better? NOOOOOOOOO!!! But he will have a chance to become a better pro than Finnegan. Just not Janoris, and just not this year.
What will happen this year is he will get a lot more playing time with Bradley Fletcher gone. Prior to week eight he played sparingly, being used mostly as the fouth corner. In fact, 72% of his 366 snaps (don't quote me on that, can't remember if that's the correct number but im 90% sure) were played after the bye week (final 8 games).
If one thing is true about Tru, no pun intended, it's that he is a football player. He wont blow you away with his testing, he will appear very average. But when the pads go on he is a different athlete. He is simply a football player. I believe we will see him have a lot of success this year while playing closer to 500 snaps.
Jared Cook: As most of you know, I have shown my fair share of doubt in JC. And rightfully so. Leaving Tennessee he had a problem with drops, couldn't block a toddler, and only ran two routes. And we guaranteed him $19million. Damn skippy, I was skeptical as hell.
But then a certain someone who isn't known for holding his tongue and tells it how it is, vouched for him. Cortland Finnegan said all I needed to hear. And it was after admitting he felt the same way I felt about the signing. "Absolutely — night and day difference," said Finnegan. "I’m going to be the first to say that I was maybe like, `Ahh ...’ (when the Rams signed Cook), but when he got there, he’s been tearing it up like I’ve never seen. He’s comfortable, he’s back where he wants to be and I’m excited to have him."
Having being around this guy and watching him everyday for his first three seasons in the NFL, who better to listen to? Especially when he admits he was skeptical about the addition.
I couldn't just take Sam's word because he gives everyone a good report. He's a nice guy. But Cort has never been known to hold his tongue about anyone. So this made me feel really good, and while I'll admit I'm still a little iffy, I have never denied Cook's talent. It seems as if he is finally motivated to play up to his potential. And word is he is spending his summer with Sam. I like the chemistry reports from off-season workouts and looks like they are working to keep that going into camp. Barring injury to either player, this could be one of the most exciting connections in football next year.
Sam Bradford: You guys didn't honestly think Ol' Sammy Boy would be excluded did you? He is by far the easiest guy to put on this list. He has shown nothing but signs of steady improvement so far in his career. And I expect that to continue now that he has the same staff for consecutive years for the first time. If he can progress with negative changes I expect twice as much progression with positive ones.
Bradford will have the biggest leap of everyone. And when I say that I am completely disregarding stats. His stats will be good, no doubt about that. But its the little (aka big ass deal) things that will show the most improvement. Like vision, timing, pocket presence, comfort level, IQ, consistency, and much much more.
Bradford has been handed the keys to a maserati and I hear he's a good enough driver to chauffeur the president.
Thanks for reading. And stay tuned for part two; "THE IF BOYZ, THE GUYS THAT LEAVE ME IFFY".
Oh and just in case anyone was wondering I strongly considered throwing Michael Brockers in there...but between him and Sam Bradford I didn't see a reason to put two players that are such obvious candidates.