Second Year Players Who Will Surprise Us All
Every season, we see players enter their second year coming off of hot rookie seasons and absolutely bomb. This is often referred to as a “sophomore slump.” In this article, let’s discuss something we will call a “sophomore surge.” Second year players who didn’t excel in their first year, but “surge” into fame through a standout season. Here are six players I believe are going to have a big year and avoid the dreaded early-career slump.
Projections will be based off of three things:
- Rookie season: The players must have shown promise within their rookie season, but hasn’t yet popped.
- Overall team: A bad team can often make it hard for rookies to find early success. Improvement on a team can help a rookie feel comfortable and bounce back.
- Positional competition: Some rookies will have found themselves in tough spots early on with a lot of competition at their positions. This could give second-year players the motivation to work harder in order to receive more field time.
Josh Rosen, QB, Dolphins
2018 stats: 55.2% completion percentage, 5.8 yards/attempt, 2,278 yards, 11 touchdowns, 14 interceptions
Josh Rosen had a very forgetful rookie season. One can’t help but assume that this lead Arizona to trade him to the Miami for the 48th pick in the Draft. Rosen’s rookie-season tragedy can’t all be chalked up to him though, the Cards’ were a terrible team. He was sacked 45 times, had no support from the run game, and had only one viable receiver. Now, Rosen finds himself playing for the Fins’, which is a big upgrade from his previous team.
While veteran presence Ryan Fitzpatrick will likely prevent Rosen from starting Week One, expect Fitz-tragic to provide Rosen with a full-time starting gig this season. It’s possible to see Rosen playing about 12-15 games, barring injury. The receiving core alone gives Rosen a better chance to bounce back. Kenny Stills, Devante Parker and Albert Wilson are great players who could offer Rosen a tremendous chance to rebound this year. The run game isn’t horrible and the offensive live, while not amazing, will protect Rosen enough to get decent throws off. Expect Rosen to prove his worth this upcoming season and take us by surprise in his second year.
Rashaad Penny, RB, Seahawks
2018 stats: 85 carries, 419 yards, 2 touchdowns, 4.9 yards per carry
Penny was a surprise choice at the 2018 NFL draft when the Seahawks picked him 27th overall. However, if you asked Penny, he wouldn’t have been shocked. He was electric in his senior season at San Diego State University, rushing for 2,248 yards on 289 carries or 7.8 yards per carry with 23 touchdowns to boot. Yet, Penny had a rocky rookie year. Despite his standout game against the Los Angeles Rams on November 11th, 2018, where he rushed for 108 yards on 12 carries (9.0 yards per carry) and one touchdown. He was limited to only 12 games, 10 of which he had under 10 carries. In turn, Chris Carson had a big role for Seattle and is going into 2019 as their lead back.
Penny is going into 2019 slimmed down, grown up and completely healthy. He has an added challenge this year, now he has to earn not only the top running back spot but almost all of his carries. I believe Penny is a special player and he was a first round pick for a very good reason. I fully expect Penny to be one of the big breakouts of this season.
Courtland Sutton, WR, Broncos
2018 stats: 42 receptions, 702 yards, 4 touchdowns, 16.8 yards per reception
Sutton is in the best position out of any second year player to have a breakout season. I considered putting his teammate Daesean Hamilton instead because of how good Sutton already showed he was, however there isn’t anyone talking about this guy. His yards per reception were ridiculous (in only 9 games started!) AND his quarterback play is greatly improved! However, the pressure of becoming the top target on his team could cause him to deter.
Sutton started 2018 as the third string wide receiver, behind Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas. He became the second string wide receiver after Thomas was sent to the Houston Texans at the trade deadline and thus became a full time starter. Sutton became the top target in week 13 after Sanders lost his season to an Achilles tear and he performed pretty good in those 4 weeks. It’ll be very exciting to see what he can do this year and if he can fight off the other great weapons on his team for targets.
Marcus Davenport, DE, Saints
2018 stats: 1 forced fumble, 4.5 sacks, 22 tackles, 6 tackles for loss
Davenport was a highly touted prospect last year. Yet, he didn’t start a single game during the season. He had to sit behind Cameron Jordan and Alex Okafor which gave Davenport lots of time to hone his skills. The UTSA product gave New Orleans Saints fans a glance at what to expect from him throughout the season but didn’t really prove anything. However, don’t fret. Having a year to sit back and watch the pros work their magic, especially an all-pro caliber player like Jordan, is going to really aid Davenport in his sophomore season. Now that Alex Okafor has departed for Kansas City, a starting spot has opened up for Davenport to take advantage of.
Coming into his second year, Davenport will get to prove he’s worth two first round picks. With Jordan on the other side, Davenport will get lots of one on one with opposing offensive linemen. Since he won’t be the number one attraction, Davenport will get a chance to show off what he learned and become one of the most feared edge rushers in the league. If so, him and Cam Jordan could truly become one of the scariest duos in the NFL.
Shaun Dion Hamilton, LB, Redskins
2018 stats: 1 forced fumble, 1.5 sacks, 28 tackles
Hamilton was the 197th overall selection in the 2018 NFL draft, this year he looks to captain the Washington Redskins defense. With the Redskins recent release of middle linebacker Mason Foster, the starting MLB spot has opened up. Hamilton, despite only recording 4 tackles in his first 12 games, became the starter for the final four games of the season, where he was incredibly efficient. Recording 22 tackles and 1.5 sacks along with a forced fumble. It appears that Hamilton will be the number one guy come week one and he could be very explosive and help hold down a very young defense. He may have relatively no experience, but this guy was a machine at Alabama. Look at his junior year; 64 tackles, 9 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 2 interceptions and a forced fumble.
Hamilton’s NFL career is just starting. Despite him not having too much on paper, he’s an Alabama product who can stuff the stat sheet and give you lots of snaps. I expect him to be one of the biggest surprises next year, considering where he was drafted. If he can stay healthy and consistent, there’s absolutely no way he will be losing the starting spot in Washington. Hamilton is going to very exciting to watch and a lot of people will know his name by the end of the season.
Isaiah Oliver, DB, Falcons
2018 stats: 23 tackles, 7 passes defensed, 1 interceptions
The Atlanta Falcons lost both Robert Alford and Brian Poole, who were two of the three starting cornerbacks for the Falcons last year. Enter Isaiah Oliver. The Colorado product didn’t get a chance to start until the final two games of the season. Where he notably made an insane one handed interception against the Carolina Panthers. Oliver was touted as a late first round, early second round pick but fell right into the Falcons laps at 58th overall. Oliver will be playing opposite of Desmond Trufant, who is one of the better coverage corners in the league.
This year will be difficult for Oliver. He will be forced into a starting role despite only having started two games. However his long wingspan will add to his already proven coverage skills. If Oliver can show good consistency, the already stacked Falcons’ secondary will greatly improve. Oliver could be a key piece to this Falcons’ defense so a lot of pressure falls on him this year, which makes him a very exciting player to watch.
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