Football is a game of opportunity, and every season of the NFL reminds us of that. Take last season, for example: Who envisioned Atlanta running back Devonta Freeman amassing 14 touchdowns on over 1,600 total yards, while earning All-Pro honors? Better yet, who predicted Doug Baldwin ― an undrafted free agent in 2011 ― catching 14 touchdown passes for the Seahawks? And who can forget about the sensational rookie campaigns by running backs David Johnson and Thomas Rawls, of Arizona and Seattle respectively?
However, it is worth noting that this column has yielded some quality results in years past. Top sleeper predictions from last preseason included Derek Carr, Allen Robinson, Brandin Cooks, DeAndre Hopkins, Doug Martin and Tyler Eifert.
My top sleeper from a rather inaccurate 2014 was Jordan Reed.
2013 included Eddie Lacy, T.Y. Hilton, Jamaal Charles, Greg Olsen, Emmanuel Sanders and ― yikes ― Montee Ball!
And 2012 was a stellar series of predictions, including Russell Wilson, Julio Jones, Antonio Brown, A.J. Green, Demaryius Thomas, Doug Martin and ― oh no ― Isaiah Pead.
With that in mind, here are the top breakout candidates of 2016. For more NFL, click here to read my five bold predictions.
Email me at jordan.schultz@huffingtonpo
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post misidentified the team John Brown plays for. It is the Arizona Cardinals, not the San Francisco 49ers. This post also said that Jameis Winston is the third quarterback ever to pass for 4,000 yards. In fact, he is the third rookie quarterback to do it.