Third-year NFL breakout candidates for 2023: Khalil Herbert, Kadarius Toney and more

2M7A6K2 Chicago, United States. 08th Jan, 2023. Chicago Bears running back Khalil Herbert (24) runs the ball against the Minnesota Vikings at Soldier Field in Chicago on Sunday, January 8, 2023. The Vikings won 29-13. Photo by Mark Black/UPI Credit: UPI/Alamy Live News

•WR Kadarius Toney: He has a realistic shot at being Patrick Mahomes’ WR1 in 2023 now that JuJu Smith-Schuster is no longer in town.

• G Samuel Cosmi: Cosmi has already produced 70.0-plus PFF grades in both years in the NFL.

• CB Greg Newsome II: He allowed just 41 receptions for 400 yards on 499 coverage snaps in 2022.

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Today, we’re looking at players entering their third year in the NFL to see who is ready to step up and earn Pro Bowl or All-Pro honors for the first time. The criteria for the 10 breakout players on this list is simply that they must be heading into their third season and have yet to make a Pro Bowl or be named to the All-Pro team.

RB Khalil Herbert, Chicago Bears

A sixth-round pick in 2021 out of Virginia Tech, Herbert has posted 70.0-plus PFF grades while playing more than 300 snaps in each of his first two seasons with the Bears. A shifty player with the ball in his hands, he has forced 47 missed tackles on 232 carries and another seven on 23 receptions over the past two seasons. With David Montgomery no longer in Chicago, there’s every reason to think Herbery will see more of the ball in 2023, and he has the talent to be a 1,000-yard back with enough touches.

WR Kadarius Toney, Kansas City Chiefs

Toney saw 25 targets from just 85 snaps as a receiver last season after his midseason trade from the New York Giants, and he has a realistic shot at being Patrick Mahomes’ WR1 now that JuJu Smith-Schuster is no longer in town. Toney has averaged 2.14 yards per route run through his first two seasons in the league and has forced 19 missed tackles from just 62 receptions.

OG Samuel Cosmi, Washington Commanders

Playing more than 450 snaps in each of his first two seasons in the league, Cosmi has produced 70.0-plus PFF grades in both years. Most of his work so far has come at tackle, but there’s nothing that we’ve seen to suggest that he won’t be a success now that he’s kicking inside to guard. He’s graded higher as a run blocker than as a pass blocker in the NFL, so the position move should serve him well.

OG Teven Jenkins, Chicago Bears

Injuries have somewhat held Jenkins back throughout his career so far, but he looked good at guard for the Bears when he was on the field last season. He was the third-highest-graded guard in the NFL in 2022, although there is a small asterisk next to that, given that he was on the field for fewer than 600 snaps. If he can stay healthy for all of 2023, he can be a force up front for the Bears.

OG Alijah Vera-Tucker, New York Jets

Speaking of potential forces on the interior offensive line, that’s exactly what Vera-Tucker has looked capable of, though his career so far has been disrupted by being moved around the offensive line some and a season-ending injury midway through 2022. He started the first three games of the season at right guard, though, producing a PFF grade above 70.0 in all three outings.

WR Rashod Bateman, Baltimore Ravens

Before an injury wrecked his second season in the league, Bateman was on pace for a 1,000-yard, eight-touchdown season and averaged 2.38 yards per route run from 120 receiving snaps in 2022. Quarterback Lamar Jackson has hinted that the 2023 version of the Ravens' offense will feature “less running and more throwing” and that Bateman is his WR1. So, while the additions of Odell Beckham Jr. and Zay Flowers give him more competition, the offense itself should provide him with plenty of opportunities, as long as he can stay on the field.

WR Rondale Moore, Arizona Cardinals

While the focus was on Marquise Brown as the main beneficiary of DeAndre Hopkins release in Arizona, don’t sleep on a potential Rondale Moore breakout in 2023. After missing the first three weeks of the 2022 season, Moore was on a 17-game pace of 99 receptions for 1,005 yards, before his season came to an end in Week 11. The primary issue for him might be quarterback play early in the year with Kyler Murray likely to still be out, but the Cardinals figure to trail often in games, so targets should be available.

CB Greg Newsome II, Cleveland Browns

Newsome was the subject of trade rumors this offseason, but given his play on the field, it would be strange for the Browns to give up on him this early. He has two seasons in the league under his belt, just turned 23 years old and posted PFF coverage grades of 70.0 or better in each of his NFL campaigns. On the field for 499 coverage snaps last year, he allowed just 41 receptions for 400 yards, the seventh fewest among the 65 cornerbacks who were on the field for 400-plus coverage snaps in 2022.

S Andre Cisco, Jacksonville Jaguars

Cisco stepped up into a full-time starting role in his second season in the league after impressing late in his rookie year. His 67.1 PFF grade in 2022 ranked 34th at the position, while his 69.4 PFF coverage grade ranked 28th. He could clean up his tackling a bit, after missing 12.5% of the tackles he attempted last year, but his career looks to be firmly on an upward trajectory heading into year three.

EDGE Greg Rousseau, Buffalo Bills

After a solid rookie campaign in which he earned a 69.3 PFF pass-rush grade, generating 36 total pressures from 309 pass-rushing snaps, Rousseau took another step forward in 2022. He opened the season with five sacks in the first four games but then tallied just four over the course of the rest of the regular season and playoffs. As we know, though, sacks tell only part of the story. Rousseau registered three or more pressures in all of the final seven games he played in.


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