There were some outstanding rookie performances around the NFL last year, but some first-year players got their careers off to a slow start. In looking at the latter group, it’s clear that some of these players are going to break out in their second year in the NFL.
Here’s a look at 10 second-year NFL players who have a chance to do just that in 2019.
Christian Kirk, wide receiver, Arizona Cardinals
Whether it’s Josh Rosen or Kyler Murray under center this year for the Cardinals, one thing we can count on is the offense will be more explosive. Kliff Kingsbury is a bright offensive coach who will at the least bring an element of creativity and surprise to the team’s offensive approach. This should benefit Kirk immensely. He’s a quick mover with excellent route-running skills who can get open in the middle of the field and should take off in Year 2.
Isaiah Oliver, cornerback, Atlanta Falcons
Oliver should be a full-time starter for Atlanta this coming season. Last year, he came on late and intercepted his first pass in the team’s second-to-last game. It won’t take as long for him to make an impact this season. A long, physical corner who was outstanding at Colorado, he possesses a coveted combination of size, speed, and raw talent. Playing in Dan Quinn’s defense he’ll continue to develop mechanically sound technique and blossom as a cover man in the NFL.
Derrius Guice, running back, Washington Redskins
Guice’s rookie season ended before it ever began, as an ACL injury took him out before the campaign started. However, his recovery has been going extremely well (as you can see here), and he figures to be ready in time for training camp this summer. A strong, explosive back who can make plays in the run and passing game, Guice figures to get plenty of work this coming season as Washington continues its quarterback carousel.
Dante Pettis, wide receiver, San Francisco 49ers
As a rookie, Pettis showed some incredible flashes of his true potential. He finished the season with five touchdowns on just 27 receptions, wowing fans with his quickness and speed. With Jimmy Garoppolo coming back and set to be a full go for all offseason workouts, we fully expect Pettis to emerge as a go-to receiver in his second year and produce at a much more consistent clip.
Harold Landry, outside linebacker, Tennessee Titans
A player who barely scratched the surface of his potential last year, Landry nevertheless impressed with a few dominant games as a rookie. He finished with just 4.5 sacks, however, as an injury and inconsistency hobbled his production somewhat. Now that he’s in his second year, however, and set to become a full-time starter on the edge for the Titans, we expect his game to soar to new heights.
Tre’Quan Smith, wide receiver, New Orleans Saints
Smith had a pretty solid first year as a pro, catching 28 passes, five of which went for touchdowns, while tallying 427 yards. Drew Brees certainly showed trust in his young receiver at times, and Smith helped him make history in 2018. However, this UCF product is set to become an even more integral playmaker for the Saints in 2019 as the clear No. 2 receiver behind Michael Thomas. Fantasy football owners should take note, because he’ll go off.
Sam Hubbard, defensive end, Cincinnati Bengals
Six sacks is nothing to sneeze at. Hubbard, who showed incredible potential last summer and then had some big games for Cincinnati last year, didn’t exactly stink it up as a rookie. Yet this guy has a lot more to show than what he did in 2018. Hubbard didn’t start a single game. He was used as a situational pass rusher. Once his game develops more consistency and he is in the lineup full time, he’ll become a dynamo.
Ronald Jones, running back, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Of all the players we’ve listed here, Jones had the worst rookie season. In fact, it was downright miserable. So, saying he’s ready to break out is a bold prediction, to be sure. Yet it’s grounded in one simple fact: Bruce Arians’ offense is going to be significantly different than the one Dirk Koetter ran last year, and Jones will have a fresh start. His drop issues must be fixed. If that happens, this dynamic speedster has a chance to make a huge impact for Tampa Bay.
Ronnie Harrison, safety, Jacksonville Jaguars
Harrison has a bright future ahead of him in the NFL. The Jaguars clearly are excited about his potential, having released safety Tashaun Gipson recently. Last year, Harrison started eight games and demonstrated his multi-faceted game with an interception, a sack, and 32 tackles. Now that he’s set to be the full-time starter at strong safety, we see his game rising to a whole new level in 2019.
Josh Allen, quarterback, Buffalo Bills
As a rookie quarterback, Allen showed off his legs more than his rocket arm last year. Though, his arm did some pretty impressive talking at times, too. But the simple truth is that, as a pure passer, his game still leaves plenty to be desired.
Buffalo did everything it could in free agency to help Allen in the passing game, however, bringing in a deep threat and a slot specialist, along with offensive line help. Many are convinced Allen’s accuracy issues will be a problem throughout his career. That may be true. Yet this year’s offensive lineup in Buffalo gives this scribe hope things may improve dramatically, in a hurry.