Who are the top second-year players to watch in 2018?
Out with the old, in with the new. Whether returning from injury, coming off of the bench, or improving from a solid rookie season, these five rising NFL sophomores have the potential to be key difference makers for their teams in 2018.
Jabrill Peppers, DB, Cleveland Browns
Cleveland DB Jabrill Peppers was a standout player for the Michigan Wolverines defense. In his rookie season with the Browns, Peppers emerged as a solid return man, returning 30 punts for 180 yards and 14 kicks for 318 yards.
|Jabrill Peppers Stats||Tackles||Solo||Assisted||interceptions||Passes Defended|
Peppers didn’t make many big highlights on defense, but more snaps in his second season will put him in a position to create turnovers.
Mike Williams, WR, Los Angeles Chargers
Mike Williams won a national championship with Clemson in 2016 and was the first wide receiver taken in the 2017 NFL Draft. Expected to be a staple of the Chargers’ passing attack in 2017, Williams missed several games due to back and knee injuries. A healthy Williams in the passing game could be just what the Bolts (9-7 last season) need to get into the AFC playoffs.
|Mike Williams Stats||Receptions||Yards||TDs|
John Ross, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
John Ross, the most disappointing first-round pick of the 2017 NFL Draft, produced no receiving yardage in his rookie year with Cincinnati, only appearing in three games. After winning Pac-12 Player of the Year and being drafted ninth overall, Ross’ first NFL season was plagued by knee and shoulder injuries and disastrous performance.
2018 will be a make-or-break year for Ross. If this season resembles the last, Ross could be forced to make a quick NFL exit. However, a healthy Ross could come back to emerge as an electric downfield option to pull defenses away from A.J. Green.
T.J. Watt, LB, Pittsburgh Steelers
As mentioned in my post last month, T.J. Watt stepped up in a big way as outside linebacker for the Steelers in his rookie season. The first-round pick out of Wisconsin contributed 54 tackles and made the PFWA All-Rookie team. It appears that Pittsburgh is plugging Watt in as the successor to James Harrison.
|T.J. Watt Stats||Tack.||Solo||Asst.||Sacks||FF||Int.||PD|
Patrick Mahomes II, QB, Kansas City Chiefs
Patrick Mahomes entered the NFL as one of college football’s top gunslingers. But after sitting behind quarterback Alex Smith in 2017, Mahomes learned how to protect the ball and move the offense with efficiency. Mahomes enters 2018 in as good a position as a first-year starter can hope for. He inherits a top-five NFL roster with plenty of firepower. Kansas City has made the playoffs in each of the last three seasons.
|Patrick Mahomes II Stats||Comp.||Att.||Pct.||Yds.||TD||Int.||Rate|
Edited by Jeremy Losak.
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