Second and third-year NFL players ready to break out in 2019
With most teams a little more than a week away from starting training camps, I wanted to look at the second or third-year players, who I think will make the biggest jumps in 2019. Obviously, I did not want to name Pro Bowlers or guys with All-Pro nominations and no Rookie of the Year candidates on either side of the ball.
I also didn’t include players, who already recorded 1000 yards rushing or receiving, double-digit touchdowns, sacks or similar statistics. Moreover, to avoid repeating myself, you won’t find the names of any players that made my list already last year – such as Dalvin Cook, Chris Godwin and Malik Hooker. Neither did I put down anybody that I think already pretty much broke out, even if the numbers don’t quite show that – guys like Corey Davis, O.J. Howard, Carl Lawson and Jaire Alexander come to mind.
My final criteria was that the players needed to have seen the field already, which ruled out guys like Derrius Guice and Isaiah Wynn, who I had rated as first-round prospects but missed their rookie years. So with the criteria set and making clear what is necessary for a player to actually break out, here is my list:
#1 Sam Darnold
Ahead of last year’s draft, I had this USC standout as my number one quarterback and fifth overall prospect available. His numbers as a rookie didn’t like very good, throwing for under 3000 yards in 13 games and completing 57.7 percent of his passes for 17 touchdowns compared to 15 INTs. However, you have to consider the circumstances surrounding him.
Darnold was in a very horizontal passing attack with highly limited weapons. Quincy Enunwa looked like his favorite target early only, but missed five games, Robby Anderson wasn’t as consistent as he was in 2017 and fellow rookie Chris Herndon was actually the only guy he could trust throughout the season.
Outside of two big Isaiah Crowell games, Darnold didn’t have a reliable run game to complement him and the O-line was below-average. The Jets didn’t win any of the three games without their rookie QB and there were definitely some big moments by the third overall pick. Darnold was brilliant in a 48-17 wipeout of the Lions in week one, he put up 42 points against the Colts, almost pulled off an upset over the Texans who were on coming off a nine-game winning streak and he went tit-for-tat with Aaron Rodgers at Lambeau Field.
Gang Green simply didn’t have enough around him to finish some of those game, but after coming back from the foot injury, he looked in command and made big plays downfield. This offseason the Jets front office upgraded at every level of the offense, adding Jamison Crowder in the slot, a superstar dual-threat back in Le’Veon Bell, a former All-Pro guard in Kelechi Osemele and Adam Gase calling the shots.
Moreover, I think the defense will take another step with the acquisitions of linebacker C.J. Mosley and my top-rated prospect in the draft in Alabama D-lineman Quinnen Williams. While I would go with Baker Mayfield after seeing him as a rookie, I still believe Darnold can be an excellent quarterback going forward.