Every season there are players who come out of nowhere and rise to NFL stardom with a surprisingly stellar season. A few examples of this in recent years are 2020 Josh Allen, 2019 Shaquill Barrett, and 2018 Patrick Mahomes just to name a few. These can be players who have been solid for a few years and step up their game or players who simply never got the chance to be dominant prior.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at my top three breakout candidates for the 2021 NFL season.
WR Henry Ruggs III- Las Vegas Raiders
The problem last year was never Ruggs but the lack of attention that Gruden’s offense gave him. He was only targeted 43 times last season which is criminally low considering the number of times he was ten yards from the nearest defender. Is the problem Carr or Gruden? Maybe both but you can bet that with Gruden on the hot seat he is going to give it his best shot to “open up this offense” as he said he would when taking Ruggs III before Jerry Jeudy and CeeDee Lamb in the 2019 NFL Draft. Henry Ruggs III has the field tilting speed and deceitful footwork that every offense wishes their WR1 has and the Raiders just need to get the ball in his hands more. I think we’re in for a treat in 2021.
OLB Rashan Gary- Green Bay Packers
The Packers took on a project with Gary when they drafted him 12th overall in the 2019 NFL Draft. Now after two years of development Rashan Gary looks like he could seriously challenge the declining starter Preston Smith for the chance to play opposite Za’Darius Smith. Rashan Gary looks fluid, strong, and, most importantly, mentally sharp which could ultimately lead to not only a starting job but to a big season.
RB D’Andre Swift- Detroit Lions
Since watching Swift’s film at Georgia, I have always thought that he could be an Alvin Kamara type of player who can slash defenses both through the ground game and through the air. So who better to help him develop into a star than former Saints assistant HC and current Lions HC Dan Campbell. Swift will be used as a premier weapon in this Lions offense and if he can take a big step from last year, we could see a great season from one of the budding superstars in the National Football League.