Breakouts can come from many different sources. Jackson won MVP for the Baltimore Ravens, Barrett came out of nowhere to lead the NFL in sacks and Waller had a 1,000-yard season at tight end for the Raiders. Those are just three of many big seasons from players who were not highly thought of (or thought about at all) last August.
We have no idea where the breakouts will come from, but it’s fun to guess. Here is the top breakout candidate for each team in the AFC (we’ll look at the NFC on Thursday):
Baltimore Ravens: RB J.K. Dobbins
The team that set the NFL record for rushing yards in a season drafted a running back in the second round. That should get your attention. Dobbins was a highly productive back at Ohio State, rushing for 2,003 yards and 21 touchdowns with a 6.7-yard average last season. Mark Ingram is the starter, but if Ingram slips or gets hurt, Dobbins is going to do very well in an offense that is perfect for a running back to pile up yards.
Maybe this is a year early on Knox. He was a great athlete who needed a lot of work at tight end. But in 2019 the Bills did trade up to draft him in the third round, and are happy with the improvements he has made on his game in year two. Offensive coordinator Brian Daboll praised Knox’s progress, saying “Dawson has done a really good job."
“He's a young player still, really young,” Daboll said. “Hopefully we get more out of him this year. I know he's working hard to do that."
Knox put up a reasonable 28-388-2 line as a rookie and could go way beyond that this season.
Assuming Williams is healthy, it’s like the Bengals add an extra first-round pick this year. Williams, the 11th pick of the 2019 draft, missed his rookie season due to a torn labrum in his shoulder. There’s a reason he was picked that high, and he’ll help Joe Burrow’s transition to the NFL.
The Browns have a lot riding on Takitaki. They let Christian Kirksey and Joe Schobert leave in free agency. Then promising second-year linebacker Mack Wilson suffered an injury in training camp this week. Takitaki played just 105 defensive snaps last season, but he was a third-round pick and will have all the opportunity he can handle.
Denver Broncos: WR K.J. Hamler
The Broncos have Courtland Sutton and 2019 and 2020 first-round picks Noah Fant and Jerry Jeudy to catch passes from Drew Lock. But don’t forget about Hamler. He can be a big-play threat down the field, unlike most slot receivers. Cooper Kupp of the Los Angeles Rams, a good all-around receiver who works out of the slot, might be a good comparison. With other targets to take defensive attention away, Hamler should have a lot of room to run.
The Texans took some shots on former first-round picks at cornerback, and may have hit on Conley. He never played up to his first-round status with the Raiders, but finished last season well after being traded to Houston. Conley just turned 25 years old and could establish his career this season.
There are no shortage of positive stories out of NFL camps in August, but Campbell is getting praise and it seems legit. Campbell was a second-round pick last season who struggled with injuries, but better health could unlock a nice second season.
“He really looks good,” Colts coach Frank Reich said. “You know, we've got a long way to go until the season, but right now, I mean, he looks fast, he looks strong and he's poised and a very smart player.”
Jacksonville Jaguars: WR Laviska Shenault Jr.
If you want an idea what the Jaguars think they have with Shenault, check out what receivers coach Keenan McCardell had to say about him.
“I see a lot of power — strong runner after the catch. You know, he reminds me a little bit of Anquan Boldin after the catch, the way he gets in and out, the way he breaks his tackles, on film I saw that,” McCardell said. “Now, being up close with him, he has that power of Andre Johnson.”
Talent wasn’t the problem for Shenault at Colorado. Health was. If he can stay healthy, he could be a breakout for a Jaguars team that needs an infusion of young talent.
Kansas City Chiefs: RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire
Honestly, there wasn’t a great pick because the Chiefs are loaded and bring just about everyone back. It will be no surprise if Edwards-Helaire, the team’s first-round pick, has a big year, but most of this roster is established stars or solid starters.
Las Vegas Raiders: DE Clelin Ferrell
Ferrell was a controversial selection as the third pick of last year’s draft. Most thought the Raiders reached. Ferrell didn’t prove critics wrong in a quiet rookie season, though he played through a stomach illness that caused him to lose 15 pounds. Ferrell did have a 2.5-sack game against the Chargers, and he might be in line for more big games in year two.
Los Angeles Chargers: LB Drue Tranquill
Tranquill might have to split time to start the season, but he showed a lot as a rookie. The fourth-round pick had 61 solo tackles despite starting just three games and playing just 39.1 percent of the defensive snaps. If he finds a full-time role, he can emerge.
Miami Dolphins: RB Matt Breida
I will not give up on the dream of Breida being a 1,000-yard back before he’s done. Jordan Howard is in Miami too but he’s limited. We have seen flashes of brilliance from Breida, who might be the NFL’s fastest back. The Dolphins traded a fifth-round pick to the San Francisco 49ers to get him. He’ll have to stay healthy, and that’s been his biggest problem, but he has the talent to break out.
New England Patriots: WR N’Keal Harry
All you have to do is look at fantasy football average draft position to know everyone has given up on Harry. But he’s the only outside receiver on the Patriots who has the ceiling as a true No. 1. Harry was a first-round pick last year and injuries held him back. It’s also tough to master the Patriots’ offense. There’s no reason he won’t get a ton of playing time and targets this year.
New York Jets: TE Chris Herndon
Herndon was a popular sleeper pick last year. Then there was a suspension and an injury, and he played just one game all last season. But he’s just 24 and the same talented player who put up 502 yards as a rookie. The Jets don’t have a ton at receiver to hog targets, so Herndon’s breakout could come a year late.
Pittsburgh Steelers: WR Diontae Johnson
If you’ve had a fantasy football draft already you know this breakout is being predicted by everyone. Matt Harmon’s Reception Perception metrics say Johnson was better than you think as a rookie, and he was still pretty good. Johnson posted 59-680-5 as a rookie despite gruesome quarterback play. The Antonio Brown clone could be in for a big season with Ben Roethlisberger.
Tennessee Titans: OLB Harold Landry
It could be argued that Landry had his breakout last season with nine sacks. But it seems there’s more coming in his third season. Landry didn’t get a sack in the Titans’ final four games. Had he finished strong, he might have made his first Pro Bowl. Last season was Landry’s first as a full-time starter and he might have worn down late. If he can avoid that this season, he should get double-digit sacks.
More from Yahoo Sports: