Second-year breakout candidates

21 NFL rookies who didn't star in 2012, but could emerge in 2013

Updated: January 7, 2013, 11:34 AM ET
By Mel Kiper Jr. | ESPN Insider
Ballard & Jones & BoykinUSA Today SportsVick Ballard, Marvin Jones and Brandon Boykin are poised for breakout seasons in 2013.

Last week, I put together my 2012 NFL All-Rookie Team, in which I essentially picked an entire lineup on offense and defense. A couple of years ago, after Bengals DE Carlos Dunlap had a huge second half once he got first-team reps, I was asked to peg guys who might get off to great starts as second-year players after playing well late in their rookie seasons.

After all, many rookies who will likely become very good players in the NFL simply don't get reps early. That's mainly because for most rookies it's a battle to work their way up the depth chart. They get their chance through attrition, not merely good play.

So let's take a look at 21 players -- 11 on offense, 10 on defense -- who could figure more prominently as second-year players in 2013. (As for the order? Don't read into it -- it's alphabetical.)



Vick Ballard, RB, Indianapolis Colts

Like Alfred Morris, Ballard was hurt by a subpar 40-yard dash time (4.65 at the combine) but has shown why running style can count for a lot as well. Ballard is patient and sets up blocks well, and while he didn't have more than 25 yards on the ground in any of his first five games, he finished with 814 rushing yards. He could get No. 1 reps to start 2013.

Mel Kiper Jr.

Football analyst
Mel Kiper has served as an NFL draft analyst for ESPN since 1984. He is a regular contributor on SportsCenter and ESPN Radio and writes weekly for ESPN Insider.