As ESPN continues to come out with various lists in their partnership with Football Outsiders, the term breakout candidate has come up -- trying to identify the 10 players in the NFL who will move from relatively unknown on the national scene to an emerging force. Wallace Gilberry should be pleased with his name being so prominent on a list like this, especially with some contract issues coming his way.
Specifically, authors Aaron Schatz and Bill Barnwell gave themselves some ground rules. Guys had to be a third round choice or later and have been a rookie in the last three seasons. They must have five or fewer starts in the NFL and still be playing out their rookie contract.
Jared Cook sits at No. 1, the promising tight end for the Titans who started to breakthrough at the end of last season and now will have two new quarterbacks looking for a favorite target. Cowboys RB Tashard Choice and Patriots RB Danny Woodhead also made the list. But sitting at No. 3 is the Kansas City Chiefs Wallace Gilberry:
If you're looking for a good rule of thumb when it comes to evaluating the potential impact of young defensive linemen, there's one simple rule: Sacks trump everything. If you can get to the passer as a young player, you will have a job in the NFL. It's that easy. And although Gilberry was an undrafted free agent who the Giants signed and quickly released, he's exhibited an ability to make plays as a pass rusher since the Chiefs signed him.
After a 4.5-sack season in 2009, Gilberry contributed seven sacks, eight quarterback hits and 10 hurries for the Kansas City defense in 2010. In each category, that was behind only Tamba Hali for the team lead, despite the fact that Gilberry started just two games. The only issue for Gilberry is opportunity: At defensive end, he's playing behind two top-five picks in Glenn Dorsey and Tyson Jackson, and he's probably too big to play outside linebacker in the 3-4. He could be a double-digit sack guy if he moves to a team that plays a 4-3, which could happen in 2012.
It's that last line that's a bit scary. The Chiefs, of course, don't want to lose a guy with such productivity, so here's hoping the contract issues work themselves out. Then again, if Gilberry continues to produce, there's no doubt the Chiefs will compensate him well.