By Tyler McMullen @Direct_Snap on August 1, 2014
The 2013 rookie class produced some household names last season, but the class as a whole underwhelmed during much of their rookie campaign. Many believe that it takes a player three seasons to become acclimated to the speed of the professional level, but the elite players can make such a transition in less that two full seasons.
Here are ten players who will break out in 2014 to become elite level talents.
Hopkins put together a solid rookie campaign, collecting 52 receptions for 802 yards (15.4 avg) and two touchdowns in 16 starts. The former Clemson receiver will look to make the leap in 2014 for Houston playing opposite future Hall of Fame receiver Andre Johnson. If Houston can find themselves a decent quarterback, this team may have quite a nasty one-two punch at the receiver position in Johnson and Hopkins.
After being a staple for the Alabama Crimson Tide as the team's enforcer, Lester went undrafted in 2013 but signed with Carolina after the draft concluded. He played a significant role last season for Carolina on one of the NFL's top overall defenses, collecting 21 total tackles (16 solo), three interceptions and four passes defensed in 12 games (four starts). Lester is now one of the team's top options and could end up starting this season.
Austin was one of the top prospects available in the 2013 draft and was selected by the St. Louis Rams with one of the their two first-round selections. Austin underwhelmed during his rookie season collecting 40 receptions for 418 yards (10.5 avg) and 4 touchdowns in 13 games (three starts). He also received 9 carries for 151 yards (16,8 avg) and 1 touchdown but fumbled 4 times. Look for Austin to use his speed in an aggressive manner in 2014.
Milliner, who is certainly not the best CB in the game despite what he may think, had an inconsistent rookie season with 56 tackles (45 solo), three interceptions and 17 passes defensed in 13 games (12 starts). Milliner is now the team's top corner option after Antonio Cromartie opted to sign a deal with the Arizona Cardinals this offseason. Milliner could become a top-15 CB in the league, but he is certainly not better than Patrick Peterson.
After collecting 118 carries for 652 yards (5.5 avg) and three touchdowns on the ground and 39 receptions for 371 yards (9.5 avg) and touchdown through the air during his rookie season, Ellington will now be the feature back for Arizona in 2014. Ellington has a similar skill set to Kansas City RB Jamaal Charles and certainly could become a similar player to Charles if Arizona gives him enough touches. Look for Ellington to completely break out.
Ansah plays along a defensive line with two stud defensive tackles and another long and lanky defensive end in Devin Taylor. Ansah had a stellar rookie season, collecting 32 tackles (19 solo), one pass defense, two forced fumbles and eight sacks in 14 games (12 starts). Ansah will now be asked to become the team's top pass rusher with former DE Willie Young out of the picture. He should respond in a big way by breaking the 10-sack barrier.
Ertz had a good rookie season in 2013 serving as Philadelphia's No. 2 tight end. The former Stanford target collected 36 receptions for 469 yards (13.0 avg) and four touchdowns in 16 games (three starts), but look for those numbers to increase quite a bit in 2014. Ertz will not only be featured a bit more heavily this season, but he will also likely become the team's top tight end over longtime starter Brent Celek.
Ogletree had a phenomenal season on paper, collecting 117 tackles (94 solo), 1.5 sacks, one interception, one touchdown, 10 passes defensed and an astounding six forced fumbles in 2013, but he was quite inconsistent during much of his rookie season. The former Georgia Bulldog must become a more consistent player and tackler to take his game to the next level. With a stout defensive line in front of him, I think he does just that in 2014.
Trufant quietly was one of the better corners in 2013 and will look to become one of the NFL's elite shutdown corners in 2014. He collected 70 tackles (55 solo), two interceptions, one forced fumble and 17 passes defensed in 16 starts last season and will look to build upon his success. Trufant surely has the ability to become one of the NFL's top corners, so keep an eye on him in 2014.
Williams was overlooked during the draft process for some reason, but he shouldn't have been and proved why during his rookie season with 44 receptions for 736 yards (16.7 avg) and five touchdowns in 16 games (eight starts). Williams will serve as Dallas' No. 2 receiver in 2014 and will become a vital player to the success of the offense with Miles Austin now out of town. Williams is a legitimate 1,000-yard receiver, even with Dez Bryant.
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