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IDP Bets For Breakout

Dave Larkin profiles a handful of up-and-coming defenders poised to become household names.

Pinpointing ascendant players can prove to be the extra jolt you need to get your team over the top in the grind of a fantasy season. Getting in on the ground floor of a player’s value is the key, but who are some examples of potential breakout candidates in 2016?

Note: ‘Breakout’ doesn’t necessarily mean a player who comes out of nowhere to produce. It can also be a player who has shown flashes of brilliance and finally puts it all together on the field.

* All player totals are sourced from Footballguys.com

DEFENSIVE LINE

Kony Ealy, Carolina Panthers

Career to date statistics
Games played: 31
Tackles: 23
Assists: 21
Sacks: 9
Snaps played (2015): 649

Why he could break out: The retirement of Jared Allen, combined with a dearth of legitimate starting options among the backups, paves the way for a huge opportunity for Kony Ealy. The 24-year-old defensive end has consistently teased his potential, only to snatch it away at the last moment. There is a feeling that Ron Rivera and his coaching staff didn’t quite trust Ealy to assume a full-time role, with the Allen signing a prime example. However, 2016 represents his third season, traditionally earmarked by analysts and players alike as the breakout season for edge rushers. Ealy’s one-man wrecking crew performance in Super Bowl 50 provided a glimpse into his ceiling; the issue with him will be making sure he doesn’t deviate too far from that level. Rivera has entrusted him with the right end position, so he will be up against the best pass protectors each week. It is hard to argue he lacks the talent to succeed; rather, it will be his ability to consistently integrate his techniques and use all his experience accrued to this point to take the next step.