Now that we are in our down time of the off-season, I decided to back track and cover the possible breakout players of 2015. As promised - when I wrote The Rams Next Breakout Player? You Tell Me... - "you decide on the three players you think is most likely to break out this season, and I will whip up an article outlining why they may - as well as why they may not - break out."
Here were the final results;
Opinions - As expected, the pol varied a lot. This was easily one of the tighter polls that I've ever posted. Every couple of hours, first through fourth place changed, for two consecutive days. Considering how close the race was we will cover two groups. Group A will be the final top three vote get-ers (Tre Mason, Brian Quick, and Stedman Bailey). And Group B will be (Alec Ogletree, Tavon Austin, ?????) the next top two, plus a wild card from the comment section that received a lot of hype.
Today we will cover Group A...
Why this will happen - Stedman Bailey is arguably the Rams best pure and natural receiver. He easily runs the best routes and has the best/most consistent hands. Above all else, he is a tough/high effort player, that leaves it all on the field every snap. He's the common day slot receiver that can lineup outside as well, and will get you 90-1,100-7. Stedman Bailey would likely be a borderline pro bowl regular in the right system (i.e. Denver, New England, Green Bay, Indianapolis, etc...).
Why this won't happen - Simply put, he plays for the Rams. Bailey happens to play for a team that heavily favors Brian Quick, Jared Cook, and his old college counter part, Tavon Austin. Throw in the fact Kenny Britt is the second best receiver on the team and also appears to be favored. With a head coach who prefers to run 35 times a game, you have a guy that is likely no higher than third on the depth chart, and likely fighting for about 35-45 rec a year. He will need to catch a break of some kind to really show the player that he is. But make no mistake about it: If the opportunity presents itself - as a Ram or somewhere else - he's likely to seize control.
Why this will happen - Quick is heavily favored by Jeff Fisher. We don't really have any confirmation or strong quotes to tell how new offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti feels about him, but we do know that Fisher and Snead love him. That alone puts him above the other targets on the team. The start of last season was proof, as he was force-fed pass after pass. He responded well in the beginning and really looked to be coming into his own. Quick has the size, athleticism, and backing of the coaching staff to really breakout and make a name for himself that can be known around the league.
Why this won't happen - Quick is coming off of major shoulder surgery, and the rehab is said to be a long and grueling process. No one really knows how his shoulder injury will affect him upon his return, nor does anyone know when he will return. Also, Quick's performance badly decreased, long before the injury. After the fourth game - which saw him go for 5-87-2 - teams put an emphasis on stopping him, and they did. The next 3 games he was completely eliminated going 4-43-0. He has yet to show he can handle the attention, which will make it hard to really breakout. This kind of player is usually best suited in a number two role, where they are not relied upon as heavily.
Why this will happen - Mason proved to be a possible game changer. Not only is he explosive, but he also runs extremely hard, always fighting for extra yards. The Rams have every intention on running the ball somewhere in the neighborhood of 35 times a game. They have made some necessary upgrades on the offensive line. While the pass blocking doesn't look like there's anything to brag about right now, the run blocking should be excellent. The line is full of maulers with exceptional size. Mason should find holes far more frequently than he did last season. Also, he will not begin this season on the bench, which will be a tremendous help; not to mention, the drafting of Gurley could fuel him to play even harder so that he will not lose too many snaps.
Why this won't happen - Two words, Todd Gurley... Jeff Fisher made it very clear that Gurley is the future. I predicted something in the neighborhood of 35 runs a game? Well, I also believe 20-25 of those will go to Gurley. While Mason shouldn't have to worry about riding the pine like he did to start last season, but a change could happen in 2015 around the same time he took over as the starter in 2014. There's a legitimate chance that Gurley will be fully ready to roll after the first month. During this time, Tre may very well see his carry total per game drop from about 22, to about 7-10 a game. He's going to have to really ball out before Gurley's return, and drastically improve his blocking and receiving to maintain a steady role.
There you have it folks. Three very good choices for breakout players. We'll have to wait to see who will overcome the odds, and make his name known. However, for this list, I would put my money on Tre Mason. Sounds crazy with Gurley in the building, but if he makes a heavy enough impact while Gurley is still rehabbing, there's a good chance that he and Gurley split carries a little more evenly. Keep your eyes peeled for a Mason vs Gurley article coming soon.