With training camps getting underway this week and next, the 2023 NFL season is pretty much officially here. Because it’s here, we’ve got to start thinking about what will actually happen on the field — not just the theory of what teams can be after their various trades and signings and draft picks.
With that in mind, we’re going through the entire league and identifying the most likely breakout player for each of the 32 teams. Let’s do it.
After three years of playing him out of position at linebacker, the Cardinals are moving Simmons back to his more natural role as a playmaker in the slot. He moved all over the formation when he was at Clemson and was able to wreak havoc on opposing offenses. The Cardinals, unfortunately, have a bit of a history of not getting the best out of versatile playmakers until it’s seemingly too late (like with Haason Reddick); hopefully that’s not what happened with Simmons.
It feels weird to be picking Pitts as a potential breakout player, but after the way last season went, it makes sense. He followed up a 1,026-yard rookie campaign with an injury-plagued sophomore year during which he caught just 28 of 59 passes thrown his way for only 356 yards and two scores. But look a little deeper: Pitts was targeted on 28% of his routes run, the 12th-highest mark among 334 players who ran at least four routes per game. Those targets were just wildly inaccurate because Marcus Mariota ranked second in the NFL behind only Zach Wilson in off-target throw rate (17.7%), according to Tru Media. It would be almost impossible for Desmond Ridder to be similarly inaccurate, so Pitts has a chance to smash if he can stay healthy.
Bateman has managed to play in just 18 of 34 possible games during his two NFL seasons due to injury issues, and he’s totaled 61 receptions for 800 yards and three scores during that time. These are famous last words, but if he can just…