The Indianapolis Colts provided a much needed return to expected form with their play last year managing a playoff run, and spectacular play from breakout players such as rookie Jonathan Taylor, Grover Stewart and Braden Smith.
This year there is going to be similar growth, development and spectacular play which will lead to potential breakout seasons for up and coming stars. Here are 5 players who could break out in the 2021 season:
Michael Pittman Jr.
Pittman is going into his second year after a strong end to his rookie season. He started off his rookie season steady but a leg injury disrupted all the momentum he had gained. Pittman ended his rookie year with over 500 yards receiving and 1 touchdown in just 13 games. His sophomore year is set up perfectly to have a breakout year. Pittman will have the offense firmly under his belt, a clean bill of health and a quarterback more suited to his skill set. The addition of Carson Wentz to the Colts offense will open up the downfield passing attack a lot more which will be a huge positive for Pittman who made downfield receiving his bread and butter in college.
Tyquan Lewis was challenged last year by the Colts coaches to step up or face losing his spot on the roster. He answered that challenge. Lewis stepped up big time for the Colts last year, in his rotational role along the defensive line he produced 4 sacks, 25 tackles and 8 tackles for loss, all of which were career highs. Lewis played the most snaps of his career in 2020 and the production matched the increase in snaps. He is now due to take the next step in his development and have a breakout year. Lewis will be playing his more natural position of defensive end, instead of moving around the defensive line, which should only help him further. He will be lining up next to Colts All Pro defensive tackle DeForest Buckner which will help him face more favourable matchups. Look for Lewis to build on a good 2020 and have a great 2021 campaign.
One word sticks out when you look at Parris Campbell’s NFL career to date, injuries. Campbell has been hit with the injury bug in each of his two years in the league, and has only managed to participate in 9 games out 32 so in his career. Campbell has shown the flashes of talent that the Colts saw when they drafted him in the second round out of Ohio State in 2018. He has less than 200 career receiving yards and just one touchdown to his name to date. Campbell has a fresh year in 2021 with a clean bill of health and a new quarterback leading the offense. Campbell should be able to add the big playmaking spark the offense lacked from the wide receivers in 2020. Expect him to break out and show off his big potential in 2021.
Marvell Tell III
Tell is one of the Colts players I’m most looking forward to watching in 2021. Tell was drafted in 2019 and his rookie year showed lots of promise especially after a position change from his college position of safety to cornerback. Tell was featured in 13 games as a rookie, starting just one, but managed 26 tackles, 5 pass deflections and a forced fumble. Tell opted out last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic but is back ready to play. He has all the physical tools the Colts love and want in a defensive back and now he can take the next step forward with his on the field play. Tell also has the perfect opportunity to come in and compete for a starting spot with there being so much uncertainty at the boundary cornerback position opposite to Xavier Rhodes. After the flashes Tell showed towards the end of his rookie season, he now has a platform to build off of, to turn 2021 into a breakout year for him.
Franklin has had to work up from the bottom to get to where he is now. He was a 7th round pick by the Colts in 2018. Franklin plays special teams and is a big contributor in that phase. However, with Anthony Walker leaving for the Browns and Bobby Okereke set to slide over to MIKE linebacker it leaves a void to fill at the SAM linebacker position. Franklin appears to be the most likely to step up into the SAM starting role. He has only 4 career starts under his belt but has never missed game in his career and played well in spots when asked to fill in for injuries. Franklin last year started 2 games, against Cleveland and against Tennessee, and he played admirably grading out very well for both games. Franklin will only see about 20-30% of the overall defensive snaps due to the limited use of the SAM linebacker in the Colts scheme but if he can carry on his play in a bigger sample size he should become a valuable piece at the SAM position for the Colts in 2021.