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Top 10 Break out Seasons for 2nd year players

by Michael Stewart on May. 22, 2019

Introduction: With the 2019 NFL season just around the corner, many teams have already started their rookie mini camps before the veterans report. The 2019 draft class was arguably the deepest class in terms of talent in recent years, however; the 2018 class wasn’t too shabby as there were many top prospects that had solid rookie seasons such as running back Saquon Barkely, quarterback Baker Mayfield, offensive guard Quenton Nelson, linebacker’s Darius Leonard and Bradley Chubb. However; there were a few rookies that didn’t have a rookie season that was expected, but could emerge in their second year and perform at an All Pro level or close to it. Here are my top 10 second year players who could emerge as household names in the 2019 season.

  1. Harold Landry (OLB) Tennessee Titans: Landry was hampered in 2018 with an ankle injury that plagued him all season. Despite this, he finished with 4.5 sacks in limited action. With the retirement of linebacker Brian Orakpo and the decision to not bring back Defensive End Derrick Morgan, Landry will have ample opportunity to showcase his talents. Also, the Titans brought in Defensive End Cam Wake to help provide pass rushing ability on both ends of the defensive line.
  2. Ronnie Harrison (S) Jacksonville Jaguars: Harrison started eight games in 2018 and showcased a glimpse of what many believe could be a string of Pro Bowl appearances. The Jaguars released safety Tashaun Gipson, showing the confidence and commitment with Harrison to take over full-time.  With a solid supporting cast on the defensive side in Jacksonville, Harrison is ready to shine and make his mark among the elite safeties in the NFL.
  3. Derrius Guice (RB) Washington Redskins: Guice 2018 rookie season never had a chance to take off as his suffered an ACL injury that sidelined him for the entire 2018 season. Guice is fully healthy now entering his second season and despite the presence of future Hall of Famer Adrian Peterson in the backfield; the 34 year old will need some help. Guise seems driven and as the season progresses, Guice will produce more and more to the point where he will eventually be the featured back in Washington.
  4. Marcus Davenport (DE) New Orleans Saints: Davenport played in 13 games as a rookie and battled through a toe injury and a thumb injury that eventually sidelined him and required surgery. Despite that, Davenport showcased a glimpse of what many already knew with 4.5 sacks. Davenport is primed to have a breakout season in 2019 and give the Saints a defensive presence they haven’t had in a long time.
  5. Lorenzo Carter (OLB) New York Giants: The Giants drafted Carter in the 3rd round of the 2018 draft and he responded with four sacks and ten quarterback hits while only playing in 40% of the team’s defensive plays. With Olivier Vernon traded away to Cleveland, expect Carter’s rote to increase; along with his playing time and we could see double-digits in sacks in 2019.
  6. Rashaad Penny (RB) Seattle Seahawks: Penny was a standout in college and played sparingly for the Seahawks in 2018 behind Chris Carson and Mike Davis. Davis has moved on in 2019 with the Chicago Bears and Penny will climb up the depth charts and should see more action in 2019.  In limited playing time, Penny averaged 4.9 yards per carry in 2018 and many project his production to soar in 2019.
  7. Sam Darnold (QB) New York Jets: Darnold had a solid rookie season for the Jets after being the 3rd overall pick in the 2018 draft. However; with the addition to running bak Le’Veon Bell, new Head Coach Adam Gase projects Darnold’s production to improve across the board and give the Jets a future Pro Bowler at the quarterback position that they haven’t had in a very long time.
  8. Dante Pettis (WR) San Francisco 49ers: In 2018, Pettis only had 27 receptions, but produced five touchdowns. With a healthy Jimmy Garoppolo returning at quarterback, expect Pettis to see more balls thrown his way and his production to increase immensely. Pettis lethal combination of quickness and speed will give him an edge; especially if 2019 rookie Deebo Samuel is also on the field.
  9. Christian Kirk (WR) Arizona Cardinals: Kirk will benefit with the arrival of QB Kyler Murray and see his production increase in 2019. Kirk is more of a possession wide-out with exceptional route running skills. Rookie quarterback Kyler Murray will learn quickly and look for Kirk as his main safety option when flushed out of the pocket.
  10. Minkah Fitzpatrick (CB/S) Miami Dolphins: Fitzpatrick’s rookie season in 2018 was more of a learning curve and a series of adjustments. Fitzpatrick played multiple positions in the secondary, five starts at safety, three at cornerback and three as the nickel back. I expect his role in 2019 to be more defined and it’s not a reach to see Fitzpatrick transitioning to safety permanently. If so, Fitzpatrick could really raise his game and be one of the best safeties in a few years.

Final Thoughts: Lots of other honorable candidates were left off this list such as: cornerback Jaire Alexander (Green Bay Packers), running back Kerryon Johnson (Detroit Lions), cornerback Tre Flowers (Seattle Seahawks) and defensive end Da’Shawn Hand (Detroit Lions). Any of these players could have easily been included on this list, but I decided that my top 10 players had more opportunity to excel in 2019.