ESPN must be a little late to the off season parade of NFL lists; either that, or they just wanted the listfest attention all to themselves. Yesterday in my NFL Thoughts post we touched on their Top 100 players on offense and defense series that they are running through right now.
Today they revealed a special "Insider" list of their Top 50 breakout players for 2014. Since it's behind a pay wall, we can't bring you all the details, but we will touch on the Chicago Bears' player that is listed.
40. Kyle Long, G, Chicago Bears. The second-year guard did finish last season as a Pro Bowl replacement, but he ranked 43rd among guards in cumulative Pro Football Focus grading. I'm betting on his bloodline.
I can already hear the argument, 'How can a Pro Bowl player be predicted to break-out when he already broke out when he was elected to the Pro Bowl!"
I see that point, but I also think Long was aided by his draft status and famous last name when being named to the Pro Bowl last year. Don't get me wrong, I thought he played very well for a guy with limited experience at offensive guard. I also think the best is yet to come from Kyle Long, so I understand his placement on this list.
Last year there were plenty of plays that Long got by on strength and athleticism alone. He's reportedly stronger this year and the experience gained will make him a better player overall. Once his technique catches up to his other attributes, the sky's the limit for his play.
Who are some other Chicago Bears that you expect to break out in 2014?
To keep us all on the same page, here are the guidelines that ESPN used for their list. Try and use these when thinking about other potential breakout Bears.
• No rookies, because we don't have much to go on
• No players ranked in the #NFLRank Top 100, because those players presumably have broken out to some degree already
• Older players generally aren't featured, on the theory they are what they are
• Finally, if a player has already signed a lucrative second contract, he probably isn't a good candidate