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article imageOp-Ed: Five NFL players poised to shatter expectations in 2014

By Mike Rossi     Aug 28, 2014 in Sports
Every year, a handful of NFL players — be they rookies or seasoned veterans — break the mold of pundit's predictions by having utterly fantastic seasons.
For examples, please see:
Adrian Peterson in 2012.
Kurt Warner in 1999 and 2008.
Tom Brady in 2001.
Devin Hester in 2006.
2014 will be no different than seasons past.
A number of veritable "sleepers" have the chance to do something special by punishing those who've chosen to overlook their impressive ability heading into this season.
Without any further adieu, here are the five NFL players poised to shatter expectations in 2014.
1) Colin Kaepernick
I can already hear the groans now: Colin Kaepernick?!
Yes, Colin Kaepernick.
Kap, as he's more affectionately known, blew people away in 2012 when he seized the starting quarterback job from a concussed Alex Smith in mid-season and led the San Francisco 49ers to within four yards of a Super Bowl victory.
Thanks to his immediate success in the league, most football fans — this writer included — set unrealistic expectations for the young quarterback in 2013, his first full season under center.
While Kaepernick did not have the elite passing numbers fans and critics foolishly anticipated, 2013 was by no means had a bad year. The man ended the season with 3,197 passing yards and 21 touchdowns against 8 interceptions.
Oh yeah, he also ran for 524 yards and 4 rushing TD's as well.
Need we also mention he carried San Francisco to the NFC Championship?
2014 will be just the second season the 26 year-old QB has been the starter going into Week 1 and, despite his struggles during the pre-season, logic suggests Kaepernick will improve on his 2012 and 2013 numbers in a big way. Not only will he be more experienced his year, but the 49ers are deep and healthy across the board on offense.
Watch out.
2) Andrew Luck
Like Kaepernick, Luck's 2013 was somewhat of a letdown from 2012 — the football world set the bar far too high for someone only in their second season as a starting NFL quarterback.
During his rookie campaign, Luck led the Indianapolis Colts to 11 wins and a playoff birth, throwing for 4,374 yards and 23 touchdowns along the way.
In 2013, Luck guided his team to the same number of wins (11) and another playoff birth, but only threw for 3,822 yards and another 23 touchdowns.
But here are the two key notes:
1) The 24 year-old QB cut his interception number in half between years one and two (18 INTs in '12 and 9 INTs in '13)
2) Mr, Luck got the Colts to the playoffs in both seasons.
A graduate of Stanford University, Andrew Luck is no dummy and the costly mistakes (interceptions) responsible for killing drives in his first two seasons will become even less frequent as his already above-average football IQ continues to develop.
As long as Luck can stay on his feet and avoid injury — which shouldn't be too difficult given his 6'4" 240-pound frame — he should really find his statistical stride this season.
3) Michael Floyd
Sometimes great success in the college game doesn't translate to the NFL and following his 2012 rookie campaign, many began to wonder if Mr. Michael Floyd would become just another first-round bust.
Those voiceless thoughts turned to audible grumblings when start of the 2013 season didn't bring the big, statistical-breakout fans and analysts wanted to see from a wide receiver that, on paper anyway, belonged in the upper echelons of the NFL.
But then something happened.
All of a sudden in Week 11, Floyd finally put it all together and posted a game reflective of his talent: 6 catches for 193 yards and a touchdown.
He followed it up in Weeks 12 and 13 with a combined 12 catches for 203 yards and a TD.
With veteran QB and former Heisman Trophy winner, Carson Palmer, returning to the Cardinals, Floyd can look forward to building on last season's late-blooming chemistry with the proven quarterback.
Floyd may even supplant future Hall of Fame wide-out Larry Fitzgerald as Arizona's number one target on the outside and that's not meant to take anything away from Fitzgerald who's still an elite pass-catcher...it's just Michael Floyd is that good.
4) Blake Bortles
On to the rookies and enter Blake Bortles, the beast of Central Florida.
At 6'5" and 232 pounds, Bortles has the size to play in the National Football League right away, but the Jacksonville Jaguars have no intention — at least no public intention — of letting their prize rookie start the season, opting to let seasoned veteran Chad Henne take the snaps.
The Jaguars stated their plans in March and, to their credit, have not wavered since,
The only problem is, Bortles has been good in the preseason.
I mean really good.
As in, Hey, coach! Look at me! Shouldn't I be your starting quarterback? good.
Given Henne's history with injuries and overall spotty play, it's not out of the question to think Big Blake could find himself holding the reins to this team within the first month of the regular season.
And if he does end up becoming the starting QB early on — watch out — this kid is in for a rookie year reflective of his frame:
Big.
5) Bishop Sankey
Bishop who?
Bishop Sankey, ladies and gentlemen, Bishop Sankey.
The former University of Washington stud was arguably the best running back for the past two seasons in arguably the best conference in college football, the Pac-12.
For those lucky enough to watch him run, the kid was an absolute machine.
In his final year up in Seattle, Sankey pounded out nearly 1,900 yards on the ground — averaging 5.7 yards a carry — on his way to 20 touchdowns. He also caught a modest, but respectable, 28 passes out of the backfield for 304 yards and a score.
Yes, running backs have lost clout in the NFL — the game is no longer a ground battle won in the trenches at the line of scrimmage — but the Titans got a steal when they selected Sankey, a first-round talent, in the second round of the 2014 Draft. (It bears mentioning Sankey was actually the first running back selected in the 2014 NFL Draft.)
With the loss of Chris Johnson, Bishop Sankey enters the season as the default starting running back for the Tennessee Titans. Given his speed and vision, the former Husky should have no trouble adjusting to the professional game.
If he can avoid injury, there's no reason to think a 1,000 yard season is beyond his reach.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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