The 2020 NFL season will (hopefully) get going here in about two months. In less than two weeks, training camps are slated to start.
It’s that fun time of the year when prognosticators predict how the season might look like. Some players are in line for bounce back campaigns after a number of different factors led to a decline in production a season ago.
This includes stud young running backs in New Jersey and New Orleans. It also includes a quarterback in the AFC North coming off a disastrous season.
It’s in this that I look at five star NFL players set to bounce back in a big way during the 2020 season.
T.Y. Hilton, wide receiver, Indianapolis Colts
This four-time Pro Bowler was victimized by both injuries and lackluster quarterback play in Indianapolis during a career-worst performance in 2019. Hilton, 30, recorded just 45 receptions for 501 yards while catching a solid 66% of the passes thrown in his direction.
We have to expect bigger things from one of the most underrated receivers in the game now that Philip Rivers will be tossing him the rock in 2020. As we saw with Rivers in Southern California, he is best buds with No. 1 receiving options. Keenan Allen succeeded big time with the veteran tossing him the rock. Expect a 1,000-plus yard performance from Hilton this season.
Alvin Kamara, running back, New Orleans Saints
More than anything, the lack of touches last season impacted Kamara big time. Kamara also notes that he was dealing with ankle and knee injuries throughout the 2019 campaign. That obviously played a role in the former NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year averaging a mere 12.2 rush attempts per game.
The expectation here is that Kamara will be closer to 20 attempts and around 24-25 touches per game in 2020. Given his body of work, this will equate to well over 2,000 total yards. Remember, this dude is averaging north of six yards per touch throughout his three-year career. He’s too good to be held back once again.
JuJu Smith-Schuster, wide receiver, Pittsburgh Steelers
Much like Hilton in Indianapolis, Smith-Schuster was held back due to both injuries and lackluster quarterback play in 2019. The likes of Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges were tossing him the rock in Pittsburgh after Ben Roethlisberger went down to a season-ending injury in Week 2. That’s most certainly not a recipe for success.
All said, Smith-Schuster recorded recorded just 42 receptions for 552 yards in 12 games. Now that Big Ben is healthy and Pittsburgh has some more help at receiver, I am fully expecting the USC product to double those numbers in 2020. Remember, he went for 111 receptions and north of 1,400 yards as a sophomore back in 2018. That skill set just didn’t disappear overnight.
Saquon Barkley, running back, New York Giants
It’s not that Barkley struggled as a sophomore in 2019. He still went for nearly 1,450 total yards at a clip of 5.4 yards per touch in 13 games. Rather, he did not perform at the level we saw during an initial campaign that saw the Penn State product earn NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year honors. That season included Barkley putting up north of 2,000 total yards.
Now completely healthy and with young quarterback Daniel Jones looking every bit the part of a stud signal caller, Barkley is set up for major success in 2020. Defenses are going to have to worry about Jones’ strong arm and ability to throw deep. That’s going to make things much easier for Mr. Barkley. Look for a potential NFL Offensive Player of the Year performance from the young Barkley this coming season.
Baker Mayfield, quarterback, Cleveland Browns
Everything that could go wrong, went wrong for Mayfield as a sophomore. One-and-done head coach Freddie Kitchens was in way over his head. Odell Beckham Jr. struggled finding a connection with Mayfield in his first season with the Browns. All of this added up to Mayfield taking a major step back after putting up an historical rookie season back in 2018.
Former Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski is now the Browns’ head coach. We’ve seen him work wonders with quarterbacks in the past. Beckham is now 100% after dealing with injuries last season. Cleveland boasts a stud young back in that of Nick Chubb to team up with Kareem Hunt. Everything seems to be aligning for Mayfield to put up a Pro Bowl performance as a third-year player in 2020.