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Top 5 breakout candidates

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Nov 13, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Cardinals outside linebacker Alex Okafor (57) sacks San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) during the second half at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Cardinals won 23-20. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 13, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Cardinals outside linebacker Alex Okafor (57) sacks San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) during the second half at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Cardinals won 23-20. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports /
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Nov 13, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Cardinals outside linebacker Alex Okafor (57) sacks San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) during the second half at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Cardinals won 23-20. Okafor now plays for the New Orleans Saints. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 13, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Cardinals outside linebacker Alex Okafor (57) sacks San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) during the second half at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Cardinals won 23-20. Okafor now plays for the New Orleans Saints. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports /

If the New Orleans Saints want to fight for relevancy, they need their “potential” stars to shred the label.

The New Orleans Saints have talent on their roster. At nearly every position, there’s reason for optimism. In some cases a great deal. But in each case that optimism comes with the caveat: these players have the potential to emerge as stars, but have yet to show consistency as the players the Saints hope they can be.

This is true for just about every position group, barring quarterback. In some cases, the Saints expect rookies to take up major roles — namely at RB, CB and S. In others, the team made room for aging veterans to revive their careers (Adrian Peterson). But in most cases the question of “potential” comes to bear on players in their peak ages looking to finally emerge on the national scene.

Five names stand out from within the Saints roster as players primed for breakout seasons. Each of these players has the potential for Pro-Bowl consideration. If all goes the Saints way, a few of them might reach Orlando (the site of the 2018 Pro-Bowl). But it’s just as likely that none of them make it. The most important thing to player recognition in the national media is winning games. If the Saints make a playoff run, expect to see some Black and Gold in Orlando.

Dec 18, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; New Orleans Saints offensive tackle Andrus Peat (75) against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Saints defeated the Cardinals 48-41. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 18, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; New Orleans Saints offensive tackle Andrus Peat (75) against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Saints defeated the Cardinals 48-41. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

Andrus Peat

NOLA recently published an article in which Peat prophesized this would be his breakout year. And while I hope every player on the Saints roster not named Drew Brees or Cam Jordan expects the same of themselves, there’s pulp in the juice for Peat. Peat’s spent years moving around the OL, with stints at both OT and G spots. And while he struggled early in his career — particularly at RT — he also flashed some real talent. He’s a huge body and moves exceptionally well for a player of his size. And while that sort of body projects first as a tackle, it also has value as a guard in the Saints’ pull-heavy offense.

Now that Peat’s has a set position at LG and has a full season under his belt at the spot, he and the Saints brass expect big things. And if he delivers on that promise — and if the rest of the Saints OL can stay healthy — they have a real shot at being the best OL group in the league. To truly emerge, Peat needs to clean up some of his pass-blocking. He is generally stout and clearly has all the tools. But when he misses, he misses big. With a 38 year old quarterback, you want to give up as few hits as possible, and Peat has been on the losing end of more than a few rushes that have left Brees in the dirt. Those need to stop. But he’s a ferocious run blocker with the strength to pancake a defensive lineman and the speed and coordination to get to the second level and seal.

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