Brian Sullivan (@MadManScouting)
Every year, the NFL shocks us with new stars. Sometimes, they immediately burst onto the scene like Marshon Lattimore or Deshaun Watson. But sometimes, they need another year to get into their groove.
My criteria for this list include the following:
– I tried to not include players who had above average rookie seasons, but a few teams left me with no choice.
– These are mostly players that I liked coming out of college; some of them either barely saw the field or stunk it up last year, that’s fine.
So here’s the list.
Arizona Cardinals – LB Haason Reddick
I thought about using Budda Baker, but I feel like Cardinal’s fans already understand how talented he is. The rest of the world will too. Haason Reddick is on another level athletically, and he should be utilized a lot more now that he’s had his first full offseason. Speed is important nowadays. Al Holcomb will have a blast finding ways to incorporate Reddick into different packages this season.
Seattle Seahawks – WR Amara Darboh
With the departure of Paul Richardson, it’s time for the Seahawks to find a new #2 option. Brandon Marshall feels like the obvious choice, but I have a different idea. There’s a reason Seattle drafted Amara Darboh in the 3rd round last year; I expect some big things from him this season. Apparently he’s already making some noise in training camp as well.
San Francisco 49ers – DL Solomon Thomas
The 49ers are tough, because they have a ton of different options here. George Kittle will almost certainly improve with a full year of Jimmy G throwing him the ball. CB Ahkello Witherspoon could also make a huge leap this season. Reuben Foster could be an absolute stud if he stays out of trouble. But I’ll go with Thomas, who should have an easier time this season performing, especially since this defensive line is already loaded with young talent. I expect him to make a huge leap; this defense could wreak havoc this season.
Los Angeles Rams – S John Johnson
I tried to stick with players who didn’t already break out their rookie year, but the Rams made that difficult. I was going to pick either John Johnson or Cooper Kupp, but both had very impressive rookie seasons. I’ll go with Johnson because he’s less of a household name. He could be borderline elite this year. Everybody is talking about Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib, but keep an eye out for Johnson.
Chicago Bears – TE Adam Shaheen
I have to eat some crow on this one. I expected him to bust, but as the season progressed, him and Trubisky displayed some impressive synergy. I expect him to be a huge threat in the red zone this season. He’s been turning heads during training camp as well. I was wrong. Allow me to confess and jump on the bandwagon before it’s too late.
Green Bay Packers – DT Montravius Adams
The Packers have an exciting young defense. Kevin King, along with rookies Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson, could all explode onto the scene. So I’ll avoid the secondary since there’s so many options and pick one of my favorite sleepers from a year ago. Adams reminded me a ton of Grady Jarrett; a bit undersized, but incredibly dynamic and explosive. He can line up all over the defensive line. I can see him improving immensely this season.
Detroit Lions – CB Teez Tabor
Teez Tabor was one of my top 5 prospects a season ago. In a stacked cornerback class, he stood out to me (along with Lattimore, who I had ranked higher). He was incredibly physical in college, and his coverage skills were superb. It takes some time for certain CBs to adjust to the speed of the NFL; this is his chance to prove me right.
Minnesota Vikings – C Pat Elfein
This one is a bit risky, because apparently he’s still dealing with a nagging injury. But he was so gifted in college. If he does get a chance to see the field this season, this offensive line could really shine. Many are expecting a regressive season for the Vikings, but if the offensive line can play at a high level, I don’t see why they can’t have another fantastic year.
Philadelphia Eagles – CB Rasul Douglas
Sidney Jones felt too obvious here, so I’ll go with the other sophomore corner on this roster. Douglas is getting some reps with the first unit despite being inconsistent in training camp. I really liked what I saw from his college tape, I think he can make some plays this season.
Dallas Cowboys – CB Chidobe Awuzie
Awuzie was impressive during his rookie year, but he’s not somebody who’s name comes up when you discuss top corners in the league. This year could be different, especially if the Cowboy’s improve in the front 7. More pressure will lead to more interceptions, which will lead to more name recognition. Awuzie could be a household name by the end of this season.
New York Giants – TE Evan Engram
This is a cop out; I really didn’t want to pick Engram because we all know he’s due to break out. But… there wasn’t really anybody else I could pick. I didn’t like the Giants draft class last year. So I guess I’ll take the easy W and act like I’m the only one predicting it.
Washington Redskins – LB Ryan Anderson
Ryan Anderson could end up being another Alabama football player who fizzles out in the NFL. But I’m choosing to believe he can still be special. His pass rushing skills jumped off the screen to me last season. He’s looking like a new and improved player in Redskins camp this season; let’s see if it translates to the field.
New Orleans Saints – DE Trey Hendrickson
This one was hard because the Saints all blew up last year. What am I going to do, pick Marshon Lattimore? Alvin Kamara? Ryan Ramczyk? They all established themselves. But Trey Hendrickson could be the next member of the 2017 class to make his name known for the Saints. He produced 2 sacks last season; I expect a few more this one.
Atlanta Falcons – S Damontae Kazee
I was a big fan of Kazee’s film in college. I really feel like he fits the Falcons system as well; he’s a feisty player with a ton of speed. This secondary is already loaded, but he could end up making some plays this season.
Carolina Panthers – WR Curtis Samuel
I thought that Samuel could be as good as Christian McCaffrey last season. That dream never came true, partially because of an injury that Samuel suffered. He’s back now, and I expect Norv Turner to use him and Christian together to manipulate defenses in some unique ways. Samuel provides a versatile skill-set, I can not wait to watch him during the preseason.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – WR Chris Godwin
Chris Godwin had a solid rookie campaign, putting up 525 yards on 34 receptions. He’s a perfect complement to Desean Jackson and Mike Evans. He was a crisp route runner in college, and I only expect him to build on his rookie season. This could be a prolific offense, I didn’t forget about OJ Howard, I just felt that he was too easy of a choice.
Los Angeles Chargers – OG Forrest Lamp
Simply put, Forrest Lamp is a beast. Watch his tape against Alabama, it is absurd how much he stood out against that defensive front. I’m concerned that he is still on the PUP list, but I assume the team is just being extra cautious with him. If he plays, he could instantly be a pro bowl level talent.
Denver Broncos – OT Garett Bolles
Speaking of beasts, Garett Bolles could really shine this upcoming season. Any time a players biggest weakness is their size, I know they’re being overlooked. Nasty is the word I would use to describe his play style. Practicing against Von Miller and Bradley Chubb must be working wonders for him as well.
Oakland Raiders – S Obi Melifonwu
Obi’s play style is electrifying. He was all over the field at Uconn. He was a raw prospect coming out, which explains why he wasn’t great during his rookie year. But he should improve this season. He may not be a star, but I expect him to at least make some plays. Plus, he has a name that’s tough to forget.
Kansas City Chiefs – QB Patrick Mahomes
Another easy one, but he’s so good. All you “but his mechanics are bad” people are going to learn that this season. That is all.
Pittsburgh Steelers – RB James Conner
Yes, I am aware of the existence of Le’veon Bell. But his time in Pittsburgh could be coming to an end. He’ll be the bell cow this year, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Conner gets some more reps this season. He’s also impressing his teammates during training camp. This could be his big audition for next season.
Cleveland Browns – TE David Njoku
What happens when you take an uber talented rookie tight end, add some weapons around him so that there’s less pressure on him, and actually, gee, I don’t know, give him a real QB? His production skyrockets. Njoku could be a star this season if things go right.
Baltimore Ravens – LB Tim Williams
Williams fell in the draft due to some conduct issues. Baltimore didn’t have a problem with it, and I don’t blame them. He’s a very talented player, and with another year under his belt, he could shine on this defense.
Cincinnati Bengals – DE Carl Lawson
Lawson was solid during his rookie year, as was Jordan Willis. But I liked Lawson more coming out of college, so I’m going to pick him. Also, Joe Mixon is very good, but I refuse to give him the honor of being on this list that my 4 readers will see. Suck it Mixon.
New York Jets – SS Jamal Adams
The Jets made this difficult. I wanted to pick Ararius Stewart, and then I found out he was suspended. So then I thought, “Jordan Leggett could be a sneaky pick”. Then he suffered an injury in camp. So, I guess I have to go with the obvious choice. We all know this though, I’m not exactly teaching you anything new here.
Buffalo Bills – WR Zay Jones
Zay Jones was a nice player at East Carolina. He’s dealing with an injury of his own, but I’m confident he’ll be ready to go by the time the season starts. Somebody has to catch balls from whoever the Bill’s QB is right? Kelvin Benjamin can only do so much.
Miami Dolphins – OG Isaac Asiata
This is a risky choice on my part. He might not even make the roster. But I thought he was a special talent coming out of college, so I’ll put my name on this one, fully accepting that I could be proven wrong before the season even starts.
New England Patriots – DE Deatrich Wise Jr.
Deatrich Wise was impressive last season, amassing 5 sacks in his debut season. With the additions of Danny Shelton and Adrian Clayborn, Wise could have an even easier time producing some big numbers.
Indianapolis Colts – DE Tarell Basham
With a last name like Basham, how can you not expect big things? This man was born to dominate. He’s apparently lost 20 pounds, which will no doubt improve his agility and quickness. The Colts defense will likely be more rested this season, which could lead to bigger numbers for him. Obviously, Malik Hooker should improve too, but that was an easy one.
Jacksonville Jaguars – LB Blair Brown
I thought about Cam Robinson, but I have some concerns about him. Blair Brown was a solid player coming out of college, and he could see more opportunities this year as a nice rotational linebacker. I don’t expect anything special from him, but he has the speed and talent to make some plays.
Houston Texans – RB D’Onta Foreman
Lamar Miller is getting up there in age, so it’s time for a younger back to come in and reduce his workload. Foreman made some nice plays last season, I expect him to play a bigger role this season. He could be a fantasy TD vulture as well.
Tennessee Titans – WR Corey Davis
Another obvious one, but I feel strongly about this. Davis reminded me of a thicker Keenan Allen. With Matt Lafleur calling the shots, I see this Titans offense being more prolific in general. Davis will have his days; this is his chance to live up to the #5 overall slot he was selected at.
Photo Credit – https://www.bucsnation.com/2018/5/27/17398236/buccaneers-tampa-bay-chris-godwin-2018