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Predicting Breakout Stars In NFL Off-Season: Rising Players to Watch In Training Camps

Chris Amberley

by Chris Amberley in NFL Football

Updated Jul 27, 2023 · 8:43 AM PDT

Anthony Richardson high-fives teammates at Colts training camp.
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Anthony Richardson (5) gives high-fives after a drill during the first day of training camp practice Wednesday, July 26, 2023, at Grand Park Sports Complex in Westfield, Indiana.
  • All 32 NFL Training Camps are officially open
  • There are plenty of breakout candidates to watch in the preseason, including several rookies
  • Check out our list of the most intriguing rising players to watch during NFL Training Camps

Now that all 32 NFL Training Camps are open, be careful not to buy too much into the hype. Social media managers are working harder than ever to promote their team, but if we believe everything we see on the internet, we’re bound to be disappointed.

That’s not to say there aren’t plenty of players to get excited about for the 2023 season. We’re going to run through our favorite rookie breakout candidates as the preseason ramps up, but first let’s dive in to the key positional battles.


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What to Watch for at NFL Training Camps

No positional battle is more intriguing than what’s going on with the 49ers’ QB room. Brock Purdy has been labelled the starter if healthy, but he’s still working his way back from elbow surgery. He’s recently been cleared for practice, but if he suffers any kind of setback, the door will be open for Trey Lance and Sam Darnold.

Both are former top-three picks that have been major disappointments to date. Darnold has a chance to resurrect his career after a fine showing in his lone season in Carolina, while Lance is hoping to prove San Fran didn’t punt off a ton of draft capital when they moved up to select him two years ago.

Lance has started only four games in two years, but experts are skeptical about his longterm prospects. Darnold meanwhile, seems like an ideal fit for the Kyle Shanahan system. The QB guru will take all the guess work out of the equation, and let Darnold simply focus on getting the 49ers elite playmakers the ball in space.

Two more QB battles are sure to draw plenty of interest. The first involves Colts rookie pivot Anthony Richardson. The high-ceiling, low floor prospect is behind veteran Gardner Minshew at the moment, and it will be fascinating to see how quickly he adjusts to the NFL game. Don’t forget, despite all his physical gifts, Richardson made just 13 collegiate starts, and was just as inconsistent as he was electrifying.

Moving over to Washington now, where sophomore QB Sam Howell is set to battle journeyman Jacoby Brissett. Howell impressed in his lone 2022 start, but Brissett has proven to be a reliable leader. He’s successfully ran offenses for three separate teams over the last three years, and given the talent elsewhere on the Commanders roster, they may choose the more proven starter.

Eagles Running Back Room

Running Back Draft Capital
D’Andre Swift 2nd Round
Rashaad Penny 1st Round
Kenneth Gainwell 5th Round
Boston Scott 6th Round
Trey Sermon 3rd Round

One last positional battle to keep an eye on involves the defending NFC champion Eagles. Five running backs are currently vying for carries, including former high round picks D’Andre Swift and Rashaad Penny. You could make the argument that it doesn’t matter who’s behind Jalen Hurts, as they’re set up for success thanks to Philly’s number one ranked offensive line.

However, fantasy football GMs in particular will be watching this competition closely. The Eagles lead back is a fantasy gold mine, and is sure to receive a bevy of scoring opportunities, making many players viable options in weekly NFL player props.

NFL Rookies to Watch

In addition to Richardson, all eyes will also be on rookie quarterbacks Bryce Young and CJ Stroud during training camp. Young has already been named the Panthers starter, while Stroud will likely get the nod as the Texans’ number one soon.

Bijan Robinson

Falcons RB Bijan Robinson was by far the most talented offensive player in the draft, and it will be interesting to see how Atlanta deploys him. Tyler Allgeier is fresh off a 1,035 yard rookie campaign, and don’t be surprised if eats into the early down work.

Nevertheless, no one will be shocked if Robinson is an immediate star based on his college production. However, there there are several rookies who also have a high breakout potential.

Quentin Johnson

Let’s start at receiver. The Chargers selected Quentin Johnson with the 21st pick, and his path to major volume is clear. He should slot in as the number three option immediately, and given the injury history of Mike Williams and Keenan Allen, Johnson’s target ceiling is enormous.

Rashee Rice

The same can be said for KC’s Rashee Rice. The second round pick has impressed Patrick Mahomes in workouts, and the Chiefs are without a true number one wide receiver. If Rice continues the trajectory he’s on, he could be that guy.

Jordan Addison

With Adam Thielen gone, and Justin Jefferson flanking him, the upside is big for the Vikings Jordan Addison. That’s especially true in the red zone, where all of the attention will be on Jefferson. Addison scored 29 times in three collegiate seasons, and could be a major TD producer right away with Minnesota.

Jaxon Smith-Njigba

One first round pick whose scoring upside isn’t likely as high is Seattle’s Jaxon Smith-Njigba. The Seahawks have never shown the ability to support three productive wideouts in the Pete Carroll era. Their top-two is clear with DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett, so it will be fascinating to see how Smith-Njigba is incorporated into the offense.

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