Vontaze Burfict tops Making the Leap list for Week 14


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 graduates are Arizona Cardinals defensive back Tyrann Mathieu and Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon. Both are among the best at their respective positions.

Our first seven graduates are Harrison Smith, Jordan Cameron, Cameron Jordan, Jurrell Casey, Damon Harrison, Sheldon Richardson and Alshon Jeffery, 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, Week 12, Week 13.

Without further ado, here is the list of players making the leap in Week 14:

1. Vontaze Burfict, Cincinnati Bengals linebacker

2. Star Lotulelei, Carolina Panthers defensive tackle

Burfict has gone from undrafted free agent starter as a rookie to defensive leader and NFL leading tackler. He's played his best football since defensive tackle Geno Atkins went down, fashioning a case for Defensive Player of the Year. Take that, draftniks. ... If you haven't seen the clown suit administered by Lotulelei to Buccaneers tackle Demar Dotson, you can view it right here.

3. Kendall Wright, Tennessee Titans wide receiver

4. Michael Floyd, Arizona Cardinals wide receiver

5. Keenan Allen, San Diego Chargers wide receiver

6. Julian Edelman, New England Patriots wide receiver

Wright has been a picture of consistency no matter which Titans quarterback is throwing the ball. The last time he was held under 55 yards in a game, Eddie Royal was leading the NFL in touchdowns. ... Over the past three weeks, Floyd's 396 receiving yards are second only to Josh Gordon's 623. That's right. Gordon has 227 more yards than the next closest receiver.

On pace for 77 receptions and 1,124 yards as Philip Rivers' go-to receiver, Allen is in the driver's seat for Offensive Rookie of the Year. ... Dubbed "Minitron" by Tom Brady this week, Edelman has shown why he's one of the best athletes in the NFL. After back-to-back nine-catch, 100-yard games, his numbers are nearly identical to Wes Welker's.

7. Nick Foles, Philadelphia Eagles quarterback

8. Zach Ertz, Philadelphia Eagles tight end

We can acknowledge that Foles is not a legitimate MVP candidate and still give him proper credit for turning the Eagles seasons around with the No. 1 offense in the NFL from Weeks 9-13, according to Football Outsiders' metrics. ... It's time to put all criticism of Chip Kelly to rest. His tight end-heavy game plan -- featuring rookie Ertz -- was the perfect attack against coordinator Todd Bowles' Cardinals defense.

9. Xavier Rhodes, Minnesota Vikings cornerback

10. Montee Ball, Denver Broncos running back

A pair of rookies coming on strong over the past few weeks. Rhodes is an athletic, physical press corner who will be charged with covering the likes of Calvin Johnson, Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery over the next few years. ... Emerging as yet another weapon for the talent-rich Broncos, Ball is carving out a role as a big-play complement to Knowshon Moreno. After averaging 9.0 yards per rush last week, the rookie is going to be hard to keep off the field as the playoffs approach.

Cold list: Geno Smith, Case Keenum, Christian Ponder, Terrelle Pryor, Manti Te'o, Trent Richardson, Stephen Hill, Chris Givens, Vincent Brown, Rob Housler, Dee Milliner, Marcus Cooper, Chris Conte, Peter Konz, Brian Winters

Watch list: Mike Glennon, Matt McGloin, Le'Veon Bell, Eddie Lacy, Andre Brown, Giovani Bernard, Cordarrelle Patterson, Harry Douglas, T.Y. Hilton, Justin Hunter, Ace Sanders, Ladarius Green, Charles Clay, Justin Pugh, Cordy Glenn, Larry Warford, LaAdrian Waddle, Chandler Jones, Dontari Poe, Kawann Short, Fletcher Cox, Cedric Thornton, Mike Daniels, Vinny Curry, Sen'Derrick Marks, Jerry Hughes, Jon Bostic, Mychal Kendricks, Danny Trevathan, Junior Galette, Alterraun Verner, Eric Reid, Kenny Vaccaro, John Cyprien

Trainer's room: Jake Locker, David Wilson, Mike James, Dwayne Allen, Ryan Broyles, Daniel Thomas, Kenbrell Thompkins, Aaron Dobson, Julius Thomas, Jordan Reed

The latest "Around The League Podcast" debates the Seahawks' Super Bowl chances and asks "Who do you trust?" as the playoffs approach.