With the calendar flipping to August, the NFL regular season is just around the corner, and NFL fans are ready for it to begin. By the time the 2016 regular season ends, there will be multiple players who will have become true forces in the NFL after beginning the season with little recognition. Below is a list of four offensive players, in no particular order, who have the potential to become household names in 2016.
NFL Breakout Players in 2016 on Offense
David Johnson, running back, Arizona Cardinals
Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson finished the 2015 regular season with 125 carries for 581 yards (4.6 yards per carry) and eight rushing touchdowns. The former Northern Iowa Panther also added 36 receptions for 457 yards and four receiving touchdowns last season. He proved is more than capable of producing both carrying the ball and as a receiver out of the backfield.
Johnson was only a rookie last season and he started only five games. But when Chris Johnson was lost to an injury in Week 11, D.J. proved he is capable of being the number one guy in the backfield. Some may say that David Johnson “broke out” last season after he replaced Chris Johnson, but he wasn’t the featured back for an entire season, so he didn’t get to showcase what he is capable of over a 16 game stretch. Now that D.J. is the number one guy in Arizona, and the Cardinals figure to be able to put some points in this season, look for big things out of David Johnson in 2016.
DeVante Parker, wide receiver, Miami Dolphins
Miami Dolphins wide receiver DeVante Parker was targeted 51 times as a rookie in 2015 and he hauled in 26 catches for 494 yards and three touchdowns. The former Louisville Cardinal only started four games in 2015, but towards the end of the season he was one of Ryan Tannehill’s favorite targets. Parker averaged over 74 receiving yards per game in the final six regular season contests of the year, including having five receptions for 106 yards and one touchdown in Week 17 against the New England Patriots.
Yes, Parker will have to battle it out with another talented receiver in Jarvis Landry for targets, but Parker and Landry will undoubtedly be Tannehill’s two favorite receivers in 2016. Plus, at 6-foot-3 and 212 pounds, Parker has prototypical wide receiver size. Tannehill will look for Parker early and often in the red zone. Don’t be surprised if Parker has at least 10 receiving touchdowns in 2016.
Thomas Rawls, running back, Seattle Seahawks
If Seattle Seahawks running back Thomas Rawls can get and stay healthy, look out. In 2015, Rawls’ rookie campaign, he ran the ball 147 times for 830 yards (5.6 yards per carry) and had four rushing touchdowns. The former back for Central Michigan also added a receiving touchdown last season.
The former un-drafted free agent only started seven games last season, but he made the most of his opportunity when he was asked to fill in for Marshawn Lynch. Rawls has had some injury issues in his very young NFL career and he is currently battling an ankle injury, but once he is healthy he will be the guy in Seattle. If he can stay injury free and on the field, don’t be surprised if Rawls rushes for over 1,000 yards and ends up with double digit rushing touchdowns.
Coby Fleener, tight end, New Orleans Saints
New Orleans Saints tight end Coby Fleener is a little different from the three players mentioned above because he was not a rookie last season. Fleener has been in the league since 2012 and spent his first four NFL seasons with the Indianapolis Colts. In 2015, Fleener had 54 receptions for 491 yards and three touchdowns, despite Andrew Luck missing time due to injuries.
Sure, some might say Fleener “broke out” in 2014 when he had 51 catches for 774 yards and eight touchdowns. But the former Stanford Cardinal is not one of the first tight ends NFL fans name when listing top tier tight ends in the league. He also has yet to be named to the Pro Bowl or earn an All-Pro selection. But Sean Payton is the head coach in New Orleans, and under his watch pass catching tight ends put up numbers. The Saints aren’t exactly stacked at wide receiver either. Fleener will have career highs in targets, catches, receiving yards and touchdowns this season.
Only time will tell how these players perform in 2016, but all four certainly have the talent and are in the right situation to truly break out this season.