Five Surprise Breakout Players From This NFL Season


By Sam Rector, Reporter

The NFL season is in full swing. Week 13 is coming up this weekend after a rare Wednesday afternoon game between the Ravens and the Steelers. It is safe to say this season has been relatively odd, but like any other season, there have been a few surprise standouts among the players. Here are five guys that would fit that category.

1. James Robinson, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars

Robinson is easily the most surprising player to make this list. He went undrafted out of Illinois State and was picked up by the Jaguars following the 2020 NFL Draft. When the Jags released Leonard Fournette, that left a gaping hole at running back that Robinson ended up filling. He’s taken the job and ran with it. On a dismal Jaguars team, he’s been the lone bright spot, as he has racked up a total of 1,170 yards through Week 12. Having gone from unheard-of to rookie stud, Robinson deserves to be on this list.


2. Chase Claypool, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers

Like Robinson, Claypool is a rookie that has greatly surpassed expectations. He has a whopping 10 total touchdowns through the first 11 games of his career. In a crowded Pittsburgh receiver group, Claypool has already carved out a big role that will last for years to come. Something to watch: JuJu Smith-Schuster’s contract expires this offseason, and as good as he is, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Steelers let him go in light of the emergence of Claypool. 


3. Garett Bolles, OT, Denver Broncos

Bolles, a 2017 first-rounder, never lived up to the hype in Denver – that is, until this season. Bolles is Pro Football Focus’s third-highest graded offensive tackle. He’s given up zero sacks this year. Zero. For reference, he gave up 14 sacks over his first three seasons. He earned himself a four-year, $68 million extension that he signed midseason. 


4. Leonard Williams, DT, New York Giants

Williams is similar to Bolles in that he disappointed during the first stage of his career. The Jets drafted him 6th overall in the 2015 NFL Draft, but he never flourished in the Meadowlands. So, the Jets traded him to the other team in the Meadowlands, the Giants. This time, he has flourished. He has 6.0 sacks so far, which is second among defensive tackles league-wide. He’s another candidate for a big contract in 2021. 


5. J.C. Jackson, CB, New England Patriots

While fellow cornerback Stephon Gilmore hasn’t played up to his lofty standards this year, Jackson has become elite. His 6 interceptions are good for second in the NFL. Despite the Patriots’ many weaknesses, they’ve still had a stellar secondary every single season.