The key to making a great prediction in any field is understanding which pieces of data are most telling of the future, and which should be ignored. This is typically easier said than done. For edge-rushers in the NFL, for example, you’d think past sacks would be a good predictor of future ones, but past pressure rate is actually far more predictive. That’s one reason I chose Anthony Spencer as a breakout candidate before the 2012 season. Today, I’ll take a look forward, predicting three players who will have breakout years in 2013.
3. TE James Hanna
In a preseason article on Jason Witten’s reign, I wrote “As a receiver, 900 yards and five touchdowns is a reasonable expectation (in 2012), assuming he doesn’t experience any setbacks with his lacerated spleen. In 2013 and beyond, however, Witten’s fall might be a swift one.” I based that idea on historic tight end receiving totals. While I don’t think Witten will be phased out of the offense by any means, I do think Hanna showed enough to be incorporated more often in 2013. He was efficient as both a receiver and blocker in limited action, catching all eight of the on-target passes his way.
2. C Phil Costa
Costa struggled in 2011 and played just 126 snaps in 2012, but the jump in his level of strength was noticeable. The primary knock on Costa has been that he can’t hold up at the point, but this season he used his 126 snaps to prove that he’ll be fine in the middle in the future. Costa allowed only one pressure and no sacks in the three games he played, and the Cowboys were a completely different team running the football with Costa playing center.
1. S Barry Church
Church was a favorite of mine heading into 2012; I really thought he’d show well this year, but unfortunately he played in only three games before tearing his Achilles. Church may have been on his way to a solid season, though, after allowing just three completions on seven targets in his 108 total snaps.
It’s worth noting that the Cowboys made a shrewd move in signing Church to a four-year extension after his injury. That might seem silly, but the organization saw enough to believe Church would be able to handle starting at safety and they locked up him up while his perceived value (and thus the total value of his contract) was at its lowest point.
DE Tyrone Crawford
Crawford was decent as a pass-rusher in his rookie season, racking up a pressure on 3.1 percent of his snaps. Crawford actually had the second-most pressures of any defensive end on the team, although that’s more telling of the state of the Cowboys’ defensive line than anything else. As a run defender, though, Crawford’s 19 tackles in only 140 run snaps is outstanding. That rate exceeded every defensive lineman other than Jay Ratliff.