Dec 8, 2013; Phoenix, AZ, USA; St. Louis Rams wide receiver Tavon Austin (11) against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

NFL Breakout Candidates By Division: NFC West


The best division in football should feature plenty of NFL breakout possibilities.  Who are the top NFC West choices?

Seattle Seahawks:  Christine Michael

Marshawn Lynch has been and remains the focal point of the Seattle Seahawks offensive attack.  However, it’s becoming clear the team wants to do whatever they can to ease the load on his body, which has taken a lot of hits over the past few seasons.  Part of that plan is getting other running backs involved.  One name that is drawing some buzz is Christine Michael.  He only appeared in four games last season but when he did he showed the power and speed that made him so dangerous at Texas A&M.

San Francisco 49ers:  Eric Reid

Eric Reid was a favorite target of the San Francisco 49ers from the moment the NFL draft started in 2013.  Watching him as a rookie, it was easy to see why.  Reid started every game at free safety, made 77 tackles and snagged four interceptions.  That is mighty good production for a kid who really hasn’t adapted fully to the speed of the pro game.  Entering his second year things should start to slow down, which is a scary though considering how productive he’s been already.

St. Louis Rams:  Tavon Austin

It was somewhat frustrating last season for the St. Louis Rams because they saw glimpses of what 1st round pick Tavon Austin could be.  Unfortunately it was interspersed with periods of maddening inconsistency.  Yet when he found open space Austin was every bit as dangerous as scouts had predicted.  In 49 touches on offense he amassed 560 yards and five touchdowns while also adding over 600 yards and a touchdown in the return game.  With quarterback Sam Bradford due back from ACL surgery, hopes are high that the true potential of Austin can be unlocked in 2014.

Arizona Cardinals:  Andre Ellington

Bruce Arians wasn’t willing to fully explore the possibilities of keeping rookie Andre Ellington on the field for the Arizona Cardinals last year.  However, he is now convinced the running back is ready to properly handle a full NFL slate and that is great news.  Ellington proved one of the most versatile offensive weapons in the league last year, gashing defenses for over 1,000 yards in the air and on the ground.  One can only imagine what he’ll do with starter-level touches, provided he stays healthy of course.

Dick's Sporting Goods presents "Hell Week":

Tags: Arizona Cardinals NFL San Francisco 49ers Seattle Seahawks St. Louis Rams