Nick Foles tops Making the Leap list for Week 12


The goal of our weekly Making the Leap watch is to highlight part-time players making the leap to difference-makers or unproven young talents ascending to key contributors. Once players have truly made the leap, they will graduate from this running list.

This week's graduate is Chicago Bears wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, one half of the NFL's best wide receiver duo.

Our first five graduates are Harrison Smith, Jordan Cameron, Cameron Jordan, Jurrell Casey and Damon Harrison, all of whom have established themselves as Pro Bowl-caliber players. They've made the leap.

Previous lists: Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4, Week 5, Week 6, Week 7, Week 8, Midseason Team, Week 10, Week 11.

Without further ado, here is the list of players making the leap in Week 12:

1. Nick Foles, Philadelphia Eagles quarterback

Guiding the Eagles to the pole position in the NFC East, Foles is averaging nearly 13 yards per attempt since returning from his Week 7 concussion. He's been so productive that his 104.3 passer rating against the Washington Redskins was his second-lowest of the season.

2. Mike Glennon, Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback

NFL Films senior producer Greg Cosell stated this week that Glennon is "so far more advanced" as an NFL quarterback than Robert Griffin III that "they shouldn't even be in the same discussion." If the 2013 NFL Draft were held today, Glennon likely would be the first quarterback off the board after outplaying EJ Manuel and Geno Smith.

3. Vontaze Burfict, Cincinnati Bengals linebacker

Already the NFL's leading tackler before Geno Atkins' season-ending knee injury, Burfict has raised the level of his game over the past two weeks. It's not just that Burfict is a beast in stuffing the run, but he's also been among the league's best in pass coverage over the past month. He's become the heart and soul of Mike Zimmer's defense.

4. Kiko Alonso, Buffalo Bills linebacker

I can't kill Geno Smith for his disastrous Week 11 performance. He was playing against 11 maniacs in Buffalo. Every time the Bills take the field, they have an advantage with two of the most freakish athletes in Alonso and Mario Williams.

5. Tyrann Mathieu, Arizona Cardinals defensive back

Mathieu is listed as the starting free safety, but he plays 70 percent of his snaps at cornerback. Among all cornerbacks, the rookie is first in quarterback pressures and third in run stops. If you appreciate quality sports writing, do yourself a favor and read Charles P. Pierce's recent feature article on Mathieu.

6. Sheldon Richardson, New York Jets defensive end

The Jets are allowing 60 fewer rushing yards per game this year than last, in large part due to the emergence of "Snacks" Harrison and the drafting of Richardson. "He's a beast," one scout said of Richardson to the New York Daily News. "There's no question that if he improves his work habits, he'll be a special player. Football means something to him. He loves it."

7. Mike Daniels, Green Bay Packers defensive end

A fourth-round draft pick in 2012, Daniels has emerged as the Packers' most effective pass rusher this season. He's averaging one pressure (hurry, knockdown or sack) every 15 snaps, which is the same rate as Cullen Jenkins' best season in Green Bay. "I'll tell you what: Daniels is having a heck of a year," a personnel executive told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel last week. "He is a premier player."

8. Chandler Jones, New England Patriots defensive end

Jones is on pace to become the first Patriots player with 15-plus sacks in a season since Andre Tippett notched 16.5 on the 1985 Super Bowl team.

9. Matt McGloin, Oakland Raiders quarterback

The Raiders' "poor man's Jeff Garcia" description sold McGloin short. The former Penn State walk-on didn't give the coaching staff a choice at quarterback, throwing darts all over the field and showing better pocket presence and command of the offense than one would expect from an undrafted rookie.

The upgrade from Terrelle Pryor to McGloin in the passing attack allowed promising rookie tight end Mychal Rivera to finally break out with his best game of the season.

10. Mychal Rivera, Oakland Raiders tight end

Cold list: Geno Smith, Trent Richardson, Lamar Miller, Bernard Pierce, DeAndre Hopkins, Vincent Brown, Robert Woods, Corey Liuget, Zach Brown, Dee Milliner, Darius Slay, Chris Conte, Peter Konz

Watch list: Julius Thomas, Eddie Lacy, Zac Stacy, Giovani Bernard, Le'Veon Bell, Andre Ellington, Bobby Rainey, Chris Ivory, Dontari Poe, Michael Floyd, Jarrett Boykin, Josh Gordon, Tavon Austin, Kendall Wright, T.Y. Hilton, Ladarius Green, Charles Clay, Fletcher Cox, Cedric Thornton, Cameron Heyward, Junior Galette, DeMario Davis, Jon Bostic, Alterraun Verner, Brandon Boykin, Eric Reid, Johnathan Cyprien, Lane Johnson, Larry Warford, Kyle Long, D.J. Fluker

Trainer's room: Jake Locker, David Wilson, Mike James, Dwayne Allen, T.J. McDonald, Ryan Broyles, Jordan Reed

We previewed every Week 12 game in the latest "Around the League Podcast."