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What is Vic Beasley's 2016 ceiling?

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Most expect the second year pass rusher to take a huge step forward, but how huge is the step?

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Vic Beasley battled through a suboptimal supporting cast, a torn labrum, and the curse of being a highly-regarded rookie landing with the Atlanta Falcons last year, and there were still times he looked like the best defender on the field. Those times were few and far between, but it was enough to let us all daydream of what might be coming in 2016 and beyond.

Now that we're looking ahead to 2016 and the possibility that the Falcons will add another pass rusher or two with their limited draft picks, it's a perfect time to consider what lies ahead for Beasley. I think we can all agree that Beasley is unlikely to take a step backwards from his mixed rookie season and four first-year sacks, so long as he's healthy, but what is his ceiling?

I think a 16 game slate with good all-around play from both defensive end and linebacker is a fair expectation for Beasley, but if we're talking upper limit as a pass rusher, I think we're looking at the neighborhood of 12 sacks this season. You have to consider a variety of variables here, including Beasley improving some of the moves in his pass rushing toolkit, complementary rushers stepping up enough to spring him, and of course his health, but there's no reason at all why a player as athletic and talented as Beasley can't hit that number if things break right. For a little dose of perspective, J.J. Watt led the NFL last year with 17.5, so a 12 sack season would be a huge leap and would put Beasley among the 10 or 15 best sack artists in the NFL.

My personal guess is that he'll wind up finishing the year with around eight sacks, which would be quality production for the second year player and will probably easily lead a team that's probably still a year or two away from anything resembling a fearsome pass rush. His ceiling is much higher, however, and we'll hope that whatever he does in his second year doesn't represent the pinnacle of his powers.