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NFL Denver Broncos

Denver Broncos 2013 Breakout Candidate: Wesley Woodyard

Wesley Woodyard Denver Broncos

Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

There isn’t much that provides better motivation in life than money. For Denver Broncos linebacker Wesley Woodyard, a new contract will certainly be on his mind when he hits the field in the upcoming season.

In his first season as a full-time starter a year ago, Woodyard was thrust into an unfamiliar role with lofty expectations given Denver’s acquisition of Peyton Manning in the offseason and the solid play of the player he was replacing in D.J. Williams. Now the troubled veteran in Williams is gone and Woodyard is fully entrenched as a starter for the Broncos.

After 117 tackles last season, one could certainly argue that Woodyard has already broken out on the national stage. He is a very unique player at just 6-foot-1 217-pounds and doesn’t really look the part of a starting NFL linebacker. Perhaps that’s why his rags to riches story is so interesting from an undrafted free agent out of the University of Kentucky in 2008 to a now Pro Bowl caliber defender for the Broncos.

There is nothing about Woodyard’s game that is going to blow you away on film, but he is very effective and simply just gets the job done. That’s why his nickname is the “Lumberjack”, not because it pairs well with a name referencing wood (although that’s a good reason, too).

Woodyard is terrific in coverage due to his light build and really excels when it comes to closing the gap to help out in gang tackles. His skill set really looks more like a safety than a linebacker, but in the smaller, faster NFL of today as opposed to the bigger, stronger league of yesteryear, Woodyard really comes in handy.

Expecting an even more productive campaign than 2012 this time around might be a bit ambitious, but the Broncos certainly look for Woodyard to back up his stats from a year ago with a similar performance this season. One time is a fluke and twice is a trend. If he can put up another 100-plus tackle season with more outstanding plays in coverage and improve his instincts out on the field, Woodyard should be in line to get that raise he has been looking for next offseason.

Anthony Blake is a Senior Writer/Copy Editor for Rant Sports. You Can Follow Him on Twitter, on Facebook, or add him to your network on Google.