Year 2: Players Looking To Breakout After Their Rookie Season
by Rick Bouch Scores & Statson
After a season filled with dominant rookie performances, several players are primed to break out in their second season in the National Football League. New Orleans drafted well in 2017 selecting the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year in RB Alvin Kamara and the AP Defensive Rookie of the Year in CB Marshon Lattimore. Kansas City’s Kareem Hunt led the league in rushing in his inaugural season and Jacksonville RB Leonard Fournette helped lead the Jags to the AFC championship game. A number of last season’s other rookies are now on the brink of making their mark in Year 2.
Kansas City’s New Quarterback After the 2017 season, the Chiefs dealt QB Alex Smith, their starter the previous five seasons, to the Washington Redskins to make room for the arrival of Patrick Mahomes, their top pick (and No. 10 overall) in the 2017 draft. With a playoff berth in hand, the Chiefs started Mahomes in Week 17 where he completed 22-of-35 passes for 284 yards in leading Kansas City to a 27-24 win over Denver. Mahomes has a strong arm and the intelligence to learn coach Andy Reid’s offense. He also has a wealth of talent around him including Hunt, the explosive Tyreek Hill, and TE Travis Kelce.
Breakout Wide Receiver in Tampa Bay Yes, the Bucs have Mike Evans and don’t forget about DeSean Jackson who caught 50 balls for 668 yards in his first season in Tampa last year. Tampa Bay’s breakout receiver in 2018 is second-year man Chris Godwin, the Bucs’ third-round pick last year. Godwin only played in 41 percent of Tampa Bay’s snaps last season and still caught 34 passes for 525 yards and a touchdown. Godwin will still have to work to get on the field, but his speed and route running ability should allow him to take snaps away from slot receiver Adam Humphries (61 rec., 631 yds., 1 TD).
Cook Looks to Return to Form If he hadn’t gone down with a knee injury in Week 4, Minnesota’s Dalvin Cook could have challenged Kamara, Hunt, and Fournette as the top rookie running back. He broke Adrian Peterson’s Minnesota debut record when he rushed for 127 yards on 22 carries in Game 1 last season. In four games, Cook rushed for 354 yards and coupled with his 11 receptions averaged 5.22 yards every time he touched the football. Cook is the rare NFL running back that can play all three downs and if he can handle a similar workload as last year – 85 touches in 169 snaps – Cook will compete for a number of NFL awards in 2018.
Dallas Secondary Gets a Boost In the first 11 games of his rookie season, second-round draft pick Chidobe Awuzie played just 57 snaps for the Dallas Cowboys. He had some issues with a hamstring injury, but in the Cowboys’ final five games the former Colorado star played 92 percent of the defensive snaps for Dallas and earned high grades for his play at the boundary corner position. Among corners who faced at least 10 receptions in the final five games, Awuzie ranked fifth in the NFL with 6.9 yards per reception allowed. He should be the Cowboys Day 1 starter in 2018 alongside another second-year player, Jourdan Lewis, who made a name for himself in his first season.
Chargers Offense Heats Up Philip Rivers and Keenan Allen had big years in 2017 with Allen having career highs in catches (102) and yards (1,393) and Rivers eclipsing the 4,000-yard passing mark for the ninth time in the last ten seasons. The Chargers offense is about to get even better with the return of second-year WR Mike Williams. The Clemson product was the No. 7 overall pick in last year’s draft but was sidelined with injuries for most of the 2017 season. Williams wound up with 11 receptions for 95 yards. At 6-foot-4 and 218 pounds, Williams has very good speed and is the prototypical big receiver that will make a nice complement to Allen.