The NFL season was full of breakout performances from great young players. Some of them were in contract years and needed a big season. Others needed to prove they weren't a bust in the early part of their careers. Here are seven players that broke out in a big way this season.
7. Perry Riley
Riley was a revelation in Oakland this year. After floundering the past couple of seasons in Washington, he signed a one-year deal with the Raiders. Oakland desperately needed quality inside linebacker play, and Riley had the best season of his career. He'll look to capitalize on his big season with a big money contract in free agency.
6. A.J. Bouye
Bouye had a great 2014, but took a step back last year. He was outstanding this season for Houston with an obnoxious 16 passes defended. He was an integral part of the Texans' lock down secondary and locked down receivers better than any corner in the NFL this season.
5. Eric Kendricks
Kendricks really took a big step forward after a brutal, mistake filled rookie season. The linebacker did an exceptional job in coverage this year, and anchored the Vikings on defense. He still has some room to grow as a run defender, but everything is obviously starting to click.
4. Nick Perry
Perry was in a contract year and it looked like he wasn't going to get paid very well. He only managed 12 sacks in his first four seasons. He completely broke out this year with 12 sacks and has earned a hefty pay day as a result.
3. Melvin Gordon
Gordon looked like a flat out bust last season. He failed to score a touchdown, and looked slow and lost at times. He looked like a brand new man this year. He started putting up multiple touchdown games, and came very close to a 200-yard rushing performance against the Titans. He came up three yards short of 1,000 yards on the year and looks like a promising part of the Chargers future.
2. Landon Collins
Landon Collins was playing out of position all of last season. For whatever reason, the Giants played him at free safety rather than strong safety. Collins looked far more comfortable in his more natural role this season, and it showed. He didn't have to cover slot receivers any more, which made life easier for him and allowed him to thrive. Collins is a candidate for the Defensive Player of the Year award and his chances are pretty high.
1. Vic Beasley
You can't lead the league in sacks seemingly out of nowhere and not be considered a breakout player. Beasley really struggled in his rookie year, but a three-sack game jump started his season. Suddenly, the former Clemson Tiger is one of the most feared pass rushers in the NFL. He was easily the most impressive breakout player of the 2016 season.