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Tank Carradine makes ESPN list of potential breakout players

San Francisco 49ers defensive end Tank Carradine could be poised for a big year.

Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

I think one of the biggest reasons I watch the preseason -- other than being totally starved for football after the offseason -- is to identify potential up-and-comers. I don't care about seeing the offense at work with Colin Kaepernick and the group of receivers given the total lack of actual gameplanning and the state of the playbook. But as I've said multiple times, I like to watch for the strong individual performances from second- and third-year players.

There's been some encouraging things thus far on that front. Players like Quinton Dial and Tank Carradine have had very strong individual performances. Carradine in particular is a guy that a lot of 49ers fans are watching closely given his high draft spot and what was essentially a redshirt year with the 49ers. With Justin Smith getting up there in years and injuries at the nose tackle position, the development of someone like Carradine could be essential to San Francisco's defense going forward.

I think Carradine is a player who could be poised for a big year in 2014, provided he can find his way onto the field. The folks over at ESPN tend to agree with me, putting Carradine on their list of Top 50 potential breakout candidates for the 2014-15 season. Carradine comes in at No. 28 on the list, near guys like Jason Worilds and Walter Thurmond III, solid company to be in already:

28. Tank Carradine, DE, San Francisco 49ers. San Francisco has stockpiled draft choices and used some of them for injured players expected to contribute down the line. Carradine is one of them. He has had a good training camp in general despite some preseason struggles. Of course, he isn't the only 49ers player to have some shaky moments in the fake games.

I'm not too sure what they're getting at when it comes to his struggles, personally. I don't recall much of that at all, at least not enough to make it a caveat in a post like this. Still, it's good to see him get the recognition, even if it does amount to them just trying to make sure all teams get some recognition.

I wonder what other players could break out this year, at least when it comes to the 49ers. I was thinking tight end Vance McDonald would be a good candidate, especially if we're disqualifying rookies. Chris Culliver might still qualify at this point, coming off his injury and all of that. Tramaine Brock has already broken out, I think. What do you guys think?