Normally it is after the draft takes place when the major media outlets start bombarding us with various lists to keep us busy the remainder of the offseason. NFL.com, however, has decided to start the process prior to this year’s draft and on Monday they had several of their analysts declare their choices for breakout defensive candidates for the 2016 season.
When it came turn for former Pittsburgh Steelers cormerback Ike Taylor to name his breakout defensive candidate for 2016, he went with Steelers outside linebacker Bud Dupree, the team’s first-round draft pick from last year.
“From the Pittsburgh Steelers’ coaching staff to the players, Bud Dupree is a main topic of conversation,” started Taylor in his explanation for choosing the Steelers linebacker. “He is ahead of the game and doesn’t know how good he can be. A year ago, Bud didn’t know his strengths, but he started to come around toward the end of the 2015 season. He’s watched veteran guys around him like James Harrison for an entire year and learned from them. He saw Harrison’s work ethic in the weight room, on the field and in the film room.”
Most of Dupree’s production last season actually took place during the Steelers first 8 games as he recorded 19 total tackles and 4 sacks during that span. In the Steelers final 8 games of the regular season, however, Dupree registered just 10 total tackles and no sacks. Only one of those 10 tackles resulted in lost yardage. During the Steelers two playoff games, Dupree was able to get his arrow pointed back in the right direction again as he recorded 6 total tackles of which two went for negative yardage.
The Steelers desperately need Dupree to be a more consistent player in his second season and that includes him getting to the opposing quarterback more often. The Kentucky product registered 23.5 total sacks in the 47 college games that he played in.
As for the other breakout candidate choices, Buffalo Bills cornerback Ronald Darby, Minnesota Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks, and Dallas Cowboys defensive back Byron Jones were all suggested.