Breakout players to watch for each team in the 2020 NFL season


May 12, 2020

While stuck in quarantine, we only have a few things to keep our mind busy, one of those things is the upcoming NFL season! Through the draft and free agency so many changes have been made and many people are predicting big things for these new additions. However, I’m here to look at those sleeper players, the hidden gems already on the roster looking to make a humongous impact this upcoming season. The following is my 2020 breakout player for every NFL team.

Cincinnati Bengals: wide receiver Auden Tate

We’re gonna start the same place the draft started, good ol’ Cincinnati. With the addition of Joe Burrow and the return of last year’s first round pick Jonah Williams after a year out due to injury, this should be a dynamic passing attack. Auden Tate is a big receiver, standing 6’5”. He has hands of glue; the man catches anything. His highlight reel last year was absolutely breathtaking, and it was simply overlooked because he was on the “Bunguls.” Well, “bungle” no more! With Joe Burrow and company suiting up this year, I see Auden Tate taking the step up and becoming the team’s number one receiver because who can count on AJ Green with his age and injury history?

Pittsburgh Steelers: middle linebacker Vince Williams

Yes, so he is a little old to be called a breakout player, but hear me out, Mark Barron is gone. Williams will be in a spot to play to his strengths thanks to the presence of Devin Bush, and lastly the man wears number 98 as a middle linebacker. How intimidating is that? Williams is a thumper who has always been good, but now due to the departure of an underperforming Mark Barron he will slide into a starting role that plays directly to his strengths.

Cleveland Browns: quarterback Baker Mayfield

Mayfield was a stud his rookie year. Then last year happened. He hit a brick wall last year, and personally I don’t put that on Mayfield. His coaching staff was abysmal with some absolutely terrible play-calling, and his offensive line was cringe worthy. However, all of that’s been changed. With hire of new coach Kevin Stefanski, the new no-nonsense head coach, and the addition of first round pick Jedrick Wills Jr. and former All Pro Jack Conklin, I see nowhere to go but up for this young gunslinger.

Baltimore Ravens: tight end Mark Andrews

OK, so I know this is a bit obvious as Andrews was a Pro Bowler last year and one of the best tight ends in the NFL, but I see him getting even better. The hard part is the Ravens are all established veterans and rookies, so this had to be my pick. I see Andrews, who is a silky route runner and master of body control for a big fella, cracking 1,000 yards and 12+ touchdowns. I think he’s the third most talented tight end in the NFL behind George Kittle and Travis Kelce, and I think everyone is going to see that this upcoming season.

Jacksonville Jaguars: quarterback Gardner Minshew

People who say Jacksonville needed to draft a quarterback are idiots, absolute idiots. Gardner Minshew was doing it entirely himself last year, making Aaron Rodgers-like plays escaping the pocket and whipping the ball downfield. Give this man a year or two and watch him become one of the best in the NFL, hopefully not with such an abysmal organization as the Jaguars, but I digress.

Indianapolis Colts: free safety Malik Hooker

Malik Hooker was just placed on the trade block, and if that isn’t prime motivation I don’t know what is. I see him having a Minkah Fitzpatrick-like impact whether he stays a Colt or moves somewhere else. I believe Hooker is the more talented player who simply has been unlucky with injuries. He is a rangy ballhawk with incredible ball skills and a jaw-dropping highlight reel to boot.

Houston Texans: running back David Johnson

David Johnson has to re-breakout this year or his career is over. I know that’s harsh, but if David Johnson wants to be a starter in the NFL, he has to bounce back this season, especially when he is what the Texans got in return for DeAndre Hopkins. I think Johnson is a bit washed personally, but with this kind of motivation I expect at the very least a 1,000-yard season out of him.

Tennessee Titans: cornerback Adoree Jackson

The departure of Logan Ryan leaves the number one cornerback spot wide open, and I believe former first round pick Adoree Jackson is the guy to fill that hole. Jackson has been good but not great throughout his entire career, and I think this is the year he takes a step up and fills that number one roll. He’s got blazing speed with A+ athleticism, he thrives in press man coverage and has incredible ball skills. He has all the tools needed to be a star corner; he’s just got to put them together.

New England Patriots: running back Sony Michel

A lot of people think I should be putting Jarret Stidham on here, but I can’t. Josh McDaniels knows how to craft a good run scheme. They’re getting their whole offensive line back, and they have a young inexperienced quarterback. To me that equals a heavy workload for third year running back Sony Michel. Michel is a powerful runner with A+ vision and pretty decent top end speed, he reminds me a bit of a more athletic Jay Ajayi. Michel will be given every opportunity this year to make a name for himself as the new era of the New England Patriots begins.

New York Jets: defensive tackle Quinnen Williams

Quinnen Williams is a powerful defensive tackle out of the University of Alabama. A born winner with a high motor, he should be destined for great things in his NFL career. In his rookie season he didn’t make too much of an impact, but with much of his starting defense returning in 2020, I think Williams is primed for some big things solely based on the fact he should be receiving less double teams than he did his rookie season.

Buffalo Bills: tight end Dawson Knox

Dawson is a big fella who produced his rookie year as a late round pick playing in a very inconsistent offense. As a rookie he was one of Josh Allen’s top weapons, often using his size and strength to win jump balls or throw off defenders. I see a big year two jump for Knox as the addition of Stephon Diggs should open up more one-on-one matchups across the middle.

Miami Dolphins: cornerbacks Byron Jones and Xavien Howard

OK. I had to go with both here because if they have two all pros on their defense locking up a side, who are you going to throw to? Their defense is stacked. The linebackers are great. The secondary is otherworldly. And the trenches are OK. Byron and Howard are going to have so many balls thrown at them while in great coverage, or poor throws or jump balls. I expect each player to have north of 4 picks apiece.

Denver Broncos: quarterback Drew Lock

Drew Lock is my favorite quarterback in the NFL, and “Young Jeezy” is going to come out swinging this year. Lock had an incredible end to the season, winning a ton of games and making everyone hopeful for the Broncos’ future. Then Elway and company brought in some big time weapons in during the draft. With a nucleus of Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, K.J. Hamler, Noah Fant, Desean Hamilton, Melvin Gordon and Philip Lindsay? C’mon, this dude’s numbers are going to be insane.

Las Vegas Raiders Running back: Josh Jacobs

In the draft this year the Raiders addressed the passing game in the first round by selecting Alabama’s Henry Ruggs. Drafting this burner will force defenses to play a deep safety to keep Ruggs from opening up the top of the defense, and when that happens that means Jacobs will face fewer 8-man boxes, having faced some of the most in the NFL last season.

Kansas City Chiefs: safety Juan Thornhill

Last season Thornhill finished as a member of the all rookie team and an incredibly impactful member of the Super Bowl winning team. He snagged three interceptions and a defensive touchdown in his rookie season, and I expect much bigger things in his sophomore effort. As a strong-hitting free safety with incredible measurables who gets to play alongside Chris Jones, Bashaud Breeland, and all-decade safety Tyrann Mathieu, there should be plenty of opportunities for Thornhill to make some big, big plays.

Los Angles Chargers: middle linebacker Drue Tranquill

Now I’m aware the Chargers selected linebacker Kenneth Murray in the first round, and I do expect him to be a starter, but due to Tranquill’s playing time his rookie year and all the promise he shows I expect to see him as the other starting middle backer this season. Tranquill is an incredibly smart player dedicated to film. He’s fast, and he can run stuff like the best of him. I personally believe he is going to have an amazing career in the NFL.

Green Bay Packers: wide receiver Allan Lazard

As demonstrated by the draft, apparently the Green Bay front office hates Aaron Rodgers. Having no first round talent and no real standout talent for pass catchers outside of Davante Adams, means someone has to step up. I believe Allan Lazard is the guy to do it. He is an absolutely humongous receiver who went undrafted, came up big last year, and made a big impact. Aaron Rodgers has been quoted many times talking about the amazing chemistry between the two. I think Lazard is the Packers’ number two receiver next year.

Minnesota Vikings: defensive tackle Micheal Pierce

Micheal Pierce was a standout nose tackle for the Baltimore Ravens, and they didn’t have too much star power on that D-line with him. Now moving to Minnesota and teaming up with Danielle Hunter and potentially Everson Griffin, I see Pierce getting all the opportunity he needs to shine.

Chicago Bears: wide receiver Anthony Miller

Anthony Miller has gotten the short end of the stick his whole career. He is a brilliant route runner who is as tough as nails. He played 7 games his rookie season with a dislocated left shoulder and has never once had a good quarterback. This year that is supposed to change. Either Nick Foles wins the job or Trubisky develops and gets it, but either way the quarterback play will be upgraded finally giving Miller the chance he deserves.

Detroit Lions: tight end T.J. Hockenson

As a rookie Hockenson was solid but not spectacular and definitely didn’t resemble such a high pick. However, there is hope. On average, rookie tight ends never do well. Evan Engram is maybe the only exception. Hockenson has all the physical traits scouts dream of in a tight end, and Matt Stafford is coming back. I predict Hockenson will not only break 800 yards but also be the team’s number two receiver this year behind Kenny Golladay.

New Orleans Saints: strong safety Chauncey Gardner Johnson

Chauncey was projected as a first round draft pick. He went late second and blossomed into the high upside starter everyone thought he was going to be. With the departure of Vonn Bell from the Saints, I see Chauncey having to step up and fill the starting strong safety role.

Carolina Panthers: linebacker Shaq Thompson

With Luke Kuechly leaving, there is a giant hole left at linebacker. Shaq has been a 70+ tackles guy since being a first round pick and this year due to the retirement of his running mate I see Shaq topping 120+ tackles. He’s got all the measurables, he’s got experience, and now he’s got a first round behemoth eating up blocks at DT. Shaq’s got it made for him this year.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: running back Ronald Jones

I’m saying this for one reason. Yes, Brady has incredible targets in Tampa but even with the loaded “TOMpa Bay GRONKaneers,” Brady has always relied on a running back as a safety valve. Danny Woodhead and James White are the two most recent examples. Ronald Jones will have 200+ touches and 50+ receptions. Mark me on it.

Atlanta Falcons: wide receiver Calvin Ridley

Matt Ryan is still elite. The offensive line is healthy. Todd Gurley is in the backfield, and Austin Hooper is gone. So that leaves 70+ receptions opening up, and Calvin Ridley is the man for the job. He’s a silky smooth route runner and the #2 option for a Hall of Fame quarterback who is now well protected.

Dallas Cowboys: cornerback Chidobe Awuzie

Maybe he will be switched to safety, but it’s doubtful. No matter where he goes, the Cowboys need help. With Byron Jones gone someone needs to step up and Awuzie is the most proven member ready to step up.

Philadelphia Eagles: running back Miles Sanders

As a rookie, topping 1,200 scrimmage yards is a big deal. Doing that while sharing a backfield with a 700-yard rusher is an even bigger deal. Sanders is a dynamic dual threat that now controls his backfield. All of Jordan Howard’s touches will be given to Sanders, who in my opinion is one of the top dual threat backs in the 2020 season.

Washington Redskins: wide receiver Terry McLaurin

“Scary Terry” was the only weapon on the Redskins. Now with his quarterback entering year two he is set to bump up those numbers. Not much to say here. Outside of McLaurin the redskins are a pretty black-and-white team at the moment.

New York Football Giants: wide receiver Darius Slayton and quarterback Daniel Jones

Yes, I picked two players because those two’s fates are intertwined. Daniel Jones needs his late round receiver Darius Slayton to step up in year two for him to be able to make a solid step in his progression. Slayton on the other hand needs Jones to make better decisions and take care of the ball. If one of them thrives, so will the other.

Seattle Seahawks: defensive end L.J. Collier

After missing his entire rookie season due to injury, this surprise first round pick is eagerly awaiting his NFL debut. Now with Jadeveon Clowney’s potential departure that makes it 100 percent certain he will start. If Clowney does come back, then Collier won’t take many double teams and benefit from it. Any way you slice it he will be coming back with a vengeance.

San Francisco 49ers: running back Raheem Mostert

Matt Breida is gone, Tevin Coleman or Jerrick MicKinnon will be gone soon, and that means 100+ more open carries. If anyone is going to take them, it’s playoff hero Raheem Mostert. Towards the end of the season Mostert lit on fire and was crazy productive. Then he broke the playoff rushing record. Now maybe he’ll be the primary back in this rush-heavy 49ers offense.

Los Angeles Rams: wide receiver Cooper Kupp

A familiar story of this whole article: someone important left, so now someone else is going to step up. In this case, perennial 1,000-yard receiver Brandin Cooks is gone and now premier route runner and slot man Cooper Kupp is going to shine. He’s big, he’s fast, and now he’s the #2 option in a Sean McVay offense.

Arizona Cardinals: quarterback: Kyler Murray

Murray was Offensive Rookie of the Year last year, and boy is this year gonna be good. He got DeAndre Hopkins, who is the best receiver in the NFL, in my opinion. Kenyan Drake will be there all year. Head Coach Kliff Kingsbury will have another year to perfect his offense. Lastly, rookie receivers Hakeem Butler and Andy Isabella will have developed. Murray is going to be a problem this year and put up some eye-popping numbers.

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