Predicting the Top 5 Offensive Breakout Players of 2012

Whether you’re a casual football follower, a die-hard fan of your city’s team or a fantasy football guru who just got NFL SUNDAY TICKET from for non-stop Sunday NFL action, it’s always good to see new players staking their spots among the league’s best and cashing in on their years of hard work.

Here are 5 breakout players to watch for this year:

1) Eric Decker – Last year, Decker racked up more than 600 yards receiving and 8 TDs in a Tim Tebow-led offense. He looks to follow up his sophomore campaign with a much better year now that Peyton Manning is at the helm. Despite Demaryius Thomas’ coming out party in the playoffs last season, it looks like Decker will be Manning’s primary target this year – especially if the preseason is any indication. Decker received more targets, caught more passes and had more touchdowns than Thomas in the preseason. He is the go-to guy in Denver’s newly revamped offense this season.

Prediction: 100 receptions, 1250 yards, 9 TDs

2) C.J. Spiller – Chan Gailey has repeatedly said he needs to find ways to get C.J. Spiller more touches. He’s right. Spiller has been underutilized at this point in his career, even when you consider Fred Jackson’s effectiveness. Spiller is an excellent open field runner and catches the ball out of the backfield as well as anyone in the league. Fred Jackson comes into this season at 31 years old, so you have to wonder if he can carry the load for another full season. Spiller may not put up Lesean McCoy-like numbers, but expect him to have a similar impact with the Bills as Darren Sproles had with the Saints last year.

Prediction: 650 rushing yards, 5.4 yards per carry; 500 receiving yards; 11 total TDs

3) Julio Jones – You may be wondering what a guy with nearly 1,000 yards receiving and 8 TD’s as a #2 receiver last season is doing on this list. It’s pretty simple – outside of Calvin Johnson, Andre Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald, Jones is simply one of the most physically intriguing WR specimens in the NFL. His big frame, physical play and blazing speed will enable him to take his place among the league’s elite this year. This is especially true when you consider that he now has chemistry with Matt Ryan and has refined his route-running ability.

Prediction: 90 receptions, 1400 yards, 12 TDs

4) Jared Cook – This guy has all the tools to explode as the league’s next premier presence at tight end. Cook can be classified as a late bloomer – he’s had 3 full years in the league and didn’t put up any significant numbers until last season. He possesses the speed to stretch defenses and has the frame necessary to come down with balls in the red zone. While the jury is still out on young starter Jake Locker, you can expect Cook to be an effective safety valve for the 2nd year QB capable of giving opposing defensive coordinators headaches.

Prediction: 65 receptions, 1100 yards, 8 TD

5) Emmanuel Sanders – This Pittsburg WR is this year’s sleeper, at least on this list. Although Pittsburgh came up short in the playoffs last season, Sanders came to play and racked up 6 catches for more than 80 yards. What’s even more impressive is that 20 of Sanders’ 28 receptions last year went for a first down. With Mike Wallace likely not in full football shape to start the season, look for Sanders to play a key role early and to earn a spot as a starter when the Steelers start the game with 3 WR. In 2012, Sanders will have a breakout year. In 2013, the speedster will supplant Mike Wallace once he’s shipped off to another franchise.

Prediction: 45 receptions, 600 yards, 4 TDs

It’s always exciting to watch the storylines unfold, and it makes for feel-good entertainment when an underdog or underachiever starts to turn heads. Who do you think will breakout this year?

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