Every year without fail there are always players that have shown growth and development, and become stars (and if not stars just above average players) as their career progresses. While these players might not be noticed before they have that jump, it is possible to see sparks in their play, and that is what I will try to pick out for you today. Here are 15 players that I believe will make the jump in 2021.
- Rashan Gary, DE, Green Bay Packers
Now I get that Gary’s rookie year did not live up to the first round pick that was used on him, but he started to make a bit of a jump in his second year. Gary more than doubled his sack total, and was a disruptive force on what was proven to be a formidable defensive line. Unfortunately his play was hidden behind the Smith Wall (Preston and ZaDarius), so we did not get a chance to see how good Gary really is, but do not be surprised to see a breakout year sneaking around the corner.
- Jacob Eason, QB, Indianapolis Colts
Wait, I thought Wentz was going to be the starter? Yes readers you are correct, but let us not forget that Wentz struggles to play all the way through a 16 game season without injury, and the Colts have made it quite clear what they think of Jacoby Brissett. That leaves 2019 late round pick Jacob Eason. While I do think it is unlikely that Eason will get to see much of the field, if he does I have big hopes for him. Eason has a massive arm and showed late in his college career that he can in fact be accurate. While it is somewhat of a long shot, I believe Eason could be a stud waiting to come out.
- Foye Oluokun, LB, Atlanta Falcons
I admit that this is kind of cheating considering he already had a small breakout year last year, but his good season was lost to the fact that the Falcons had a horrific defense accompanied by an offense that struggled to keep a lead. If the Falcons manage to build a good team we could be looking down the barrel of a great season for Foye.
- Denzel Mims, WR, New York Jets
Mims suffered an injury that marred part of his season, and suffered Sam Darnold which marred the other part of his season. Mims’s potential is through the roof, and in all fairness he was even good when Darnold was throwing to him. When Mims has a healthy year with either an improved Darnold, or a better QB altogether, I believe Mims can grow into a number one receiver role.
- L’Jarius Sneed, CB, Kansas City Chiefs
While it is glaringly apparent that the Chiefs defense is not the best unit ever, Sneed is certainly a bright spot. Sneed was already one of the better defensive players on the Chiefs, and certainly one of the better defensive rookies. Sneed will have the opportunity to prove himself in a time where all eyes will be on the Chiefs defense following the meltdown they had in the Super Bowl.
- D’Andre Swift, RB, Detroit Lions
While Swift was not terrible by any stretch, his rookie year was a bit of a downer. As a fierce opposer of the Stafford-Goff deal, I believe the Lions will be forced to utilize the running game quite a bit, and if Swift is able to replicate the good parts of his rookie year it should result in a breakout season. Swift will continue to emerge as Kerryon Johnson continues to fade into the background.
- Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Miami Dolphins
I have put Tua on this list to fire back at everybody who says that Tua needs to be traded or cut from the Dolphins. Was it not a little over a year ago that we were touting Tua as a first overall pick? There are bound to be some career bumps when your NFL career begins with an injury and a league with a virus, especially when it affects the talent available at wide receiver. I believe Tua is due to bounce back hard, and will soon be seen as an above average starter.
- Van Jefferson, WR, Los Angeles Rams
Stafford will need a third receiver to turn to with this new offense in LA, and I believe Jefferson can be that player. Jefferson showed effectiveness in spots last year with LA, and can be a great complement to the greatness of Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods.
- Tyler Conklin, TE, Minnesota Vikings
While Conklin’s emergence does somewhat depend on the absence of either Kyle Rudolph or Irv Smith, Conklin was still able to flash in spots and has a good amount of speed for a tight end. I am cautiously optimistic about Conklin, but I would not be surprised if he remains a third string tight end for his whole career.
- Jordan Dangerfield, ST, Pittsburgh Steelers
Technically Dangerfield is actually a safety but he effectively only takes snaps at special teams so I am going to call him a special teamer. Dangerfield could become a lesser version of Cory Littleton in that respect, and while he might not be a huge star he could at least make the jump to being somebody that analysts and hardcore fans are paying attention to.
- Andy Isabella, WR, Arizona Cardinals
If Isabella disappoints me for a third straight year I might have to abandon the bandwagon, but for now I am still holding out hope that former UMass WR Andy Isabella will emerge as a suitable and trustable option for young quarterback Kyler Murray. While Isabella did not have a bad season, I was expecting a 750+ yards receiving campaign, and was sorely disappointed when I saw 224 yards this year.
- Josh Rosen, QB, San Francisco 49ers
Why not? Why the hell not?! Josh Rosen’s first year was marred by the worst offense in the NFL, but nobody seems to want to call attention to that. Additionally, Rosen looked like one of the best quarterbacks coming out of college, and deserves way more consideration for a starting role than he is getting right now. With Rosen paired with a head coach as good as Kyle Shanahan, I see no reason to not give the kid a chance, especially with Garoppolo’s future being so in doubt.
- Chase Edmonds, RB, Arizona Cardinals
I have tooted the Chase Edmonds horn ever since I saw him explode in a 2019 game, and I am going to continue to toot the horn until bad play proves me wrong. Chase Edmonds has looked amazing in small stretches, but inconsistent play is making it hard for him to ascend to a higher role. So for now, Edmonds will have to get used to the number two role, or will he? Kenyan Drake will likely be lost in free agency, and Arizona might decide to role with Edmonds as the replacement. Chase Edmonds has a chance to be one of the most surprising breakout candidates of 2021, and maybe even work his way up to a Pro Bowl level.
- Jordan Whitehead, S, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
I will admit that I missed the majority of Whitehead’s career until a particular game (against the Packers) where he looked absolutely incredible. After that game I began to always keep my eye on Whitehead, and I am not thoroughly convinced that he is not only the best player in their secondary, but is one of the best players on their entire defense. Expect a massive season from Whitehead, and from the Buccaneers defense in general.
- Tyus Bowser, DE, Baltimore Ravens
There is no need to re-sign Matt Judon if you are the Baltimore Ravens, because you already have somebody far better. Tyus Bowser is already one of the most unsung heroes of the Baltimore defense, and is still plenty young coming into his fifth season. Bowser is a hard hitting, speedy defensive end and I am so high on this guy I am ready to say he has defensive player of the year potential. I am not kidding. Look for Bowser to be an All-Pro selection in 2021, and to be the driving force of Baltimore’s defense.
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