Year in, year out we get overly hyped for the new crop of rookies coming into the league. We completely immerse ourselves in the process that is the NFL Draft. There is just something about an incoming rookie class that gets our juices flowing. We get so intoxicated by the newness, the boundless potential, and the unknown that rookies bring. Dynasty owners do countless hours of researching prospects, eagerly waiting for the opportunity to draft them in our rookie drafts each offseason.
The issue that arises every year is that we undervalue players that were rookie picks less than a year ago, simply because they didn’t immediately produce. The underlying issue is that, as dynasty owners, we are simply not patient enough to hold on to them and see if they develop as players, or if they develop an opportunity to move up the depth chart. We need to take a step back and stop writing off some of these players without giving some them time to prove themselves in the NFL. Here are some second-year players that I believe could develop their game this year, or just might get an opportunity for more playing time than they had in their rookie season.
Patrick Mahomes – This one seems obvious, but it doesn’t mean he isn’t deserving of being on this list. By trading Alex Smith to Washington, Andy Reid and the Chiefs have placed their full confidence in the 2nd year pro, Mahomes. With a great running game with Kareem Hunt, as well as the weapons on the outside with Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins paired with one of the best tight ends in the league in Travis Kelce, Mahomes couldn’t be in a better situation for a first-time starting quarterback.
We saw a glimpse of what to expect from him last season. Getting the start in Week 17 at Denver, Mahomes completed almost 63% of his passes while throwing for 284 yards. In that game, he also led the Chiefs to a 4th quarter game-winning field goal drive that started with just over 2 minutes remaining. Patrick Mahomes will be given every opportunity to show that he was worthy of a top-10 pick in the 2017 draft. The upside of his talent paired with his remarkable situation makes Mahomes an obvious breakout candidate in 2018.
Mitchell Trubisky – At times last year, it seemed as if Trubisky was throwing to a group of receivers that would have been lucky to be backups on other teams. In the 12 games he started last season, there was a lot of inconsistent play from Trubisky. Much of the inconsistency he showed was due to the lack of weapons he had around him. His leading wide receiver Kendall Wright had only 59 catches for 614 yards all season. Not a single wide receiver had more than 1 receiving touchdown throughout all of 2017.
The good news is that the Bears have been very active in getting all the help they can for their 2nd-year quarterback. They have been aggressive in doing so by signing wide receivers Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel, while also adding a good receiving threat at tight end in Trey Burton. These new weapons paired with a strong running back duo in Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen should provide a good opportunity for Mitchell Trubisky to take a big leap forward in his 2nd season as the Bears starting quarterback.
Joe Mixon – It’s no secret that Joe Mixon carries a significant amount of dynasty value for a second-year player who had a less than impressive rookie season. Many had high hopes for the former 2nd round pick last season. Mixon had a disappointing 3.5 yards per carry last year for the Bengals on 178 attempts. The good news is former Cincinnati running back Jeremy Hill has left the team and signed with New England. Also helping his 2018 season outlook is the addition of offensive tackle Cordy Glenn to help open up better running lanes for Mixon. All things are pointing towards Mixon rebounding for his sophomore season; look for him to take the lead back role and produce in Cincinnati in 2018.
D’Onta Foreman – The soon to be 22 year-old running back was starting to show some real promise late last season for the Texans before an Achilles injury ended his rookie campaign. Foreman was a very productive player at the University of Texas, ending his last season for the Longhorns in 2016 with over 2,000 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns.
Foreman’s backfield teammate Lamar Miller, who averaged a career-low 3.7 yards per carry last season, still has two years remaining on his contract but could be cut this offseason or next, due to cap reasons. This possible move could open up the door for the 2017 3rd round pick to take the lead back role in the up and coming Houston offense. If Foreman can be healthy for the start of the 2018 season, look for him to be an integral part of the Texans offense.
Chris Carson – Carson is another player that was off to a good start to his rookie season before it ended in injury. The 2017 7th-round pick looked to have taken the lead back role in Seattle before an ankle injury landed him on injured reserve. In only 4 games last season, Chris Carson gained 267 total yards and 1 touchdown, while averaging an impressive 4.2 yards per carry.
Thomas Rawls was released from the team, giving Carson one less running back to compete with for touches in 2018. Often injured C.J. Prosise could provide competition for Carson if he can ever stay healthy, but that is a big if. If the Seahawks decide to wait until the later rounds of the NFL draft to select a running back, look for Carson to take the opportunity to be the lead back in Seattle for 2018.
Marlon Mack – The 2017 4th round pick out of South Florida spent most of his rookie season in a timeshare with veteran Frank Gore. The Colts offense was hard to watch at times last season due in large part to the season-long absence of Andrew Luck. This created little opportunity for Marlon Mack to showcase his dynamic ability on a consistent basis. Mack finished his rookie season with 583 total yards and adding 4 total touchdowns. With Andrew Luck expected to return for the 2018 season, along with Frank Gore’s departure via Free Agency, look for Marlon Mack to get an extended look out of the backfield for the Colts this season.
Honorable Mention: Wayne Gallman and Samaje Perine
Corey Davis – Davis is another player that still carries a significant amount of dynasty value after a disappointing rookie season, due in large part to the fact that he was taken with the 5th overall pick in the NFL draft in 2017. Davis underperformed due to a nagging injury that kept him in and out of the line-up all year long as well as the inconsistency from the entire Tennessee offense. Davis was able to end his rookie season with a bang in his first ever playoff game. He finished the divisional round matchup against New England with an impressive 5 catches for 63 yards and 2 touchdowns, one of which was an amazing one-handed grab in the corner of the end zone over Malcolm Butler.
Another positive is that 2017 Rams offensive coordinator Matt Lafleur has taken over as the offensive coordinator in Tennessee. This change should help the efficiency of the offense and specifically the development and improvement of Corey Davis. The departure of Eric Decker in free agency leaves one less mouth to feed at the receiver position for Tennessee, so look for Corey Davis to become Marcus Mariota’s go-to target in 2018.
Amara Darboh – Darboh seemed to be buried on the receiver depth chart all of his rookie season. He never seemed to get an opportunity from Pete Carroll and the Seahawks to showcase his talent. A 3rd round pick out of Michigan in 2017, he only had 8 catches his entire rookie year. Darboh possesses good size and athleticism that gives him a chance to turn around his disappointing rookie year.
Two of the three most targeted players from last season, Jimmy Graham (95) and Paul Richardson (80), are no longer with the team. That is 175 targets between those two players that will be up for grabs this season; this will be a perfect opportunity for Amara Darboh to take a key role in the Seattle passing game in 2018.
John Ross – John Ross’ rookie season couldn’t have started off any worse. The 2017 9th overall pick out of Washington came into the league with huge upside after posting a 4.22s 40-yard dash at the NFL combine. He failed to catch a single pass all of last season for the Bengals. Due in large part to being questionable with injuries most of the year as well as reportedly being on head coach Marvin Lewis’ bad side, he remained inactive most weeks.
The good news is, Ross possesses a speed quality that very few players in the league can match. It’s likely he will get an extended opportunity due to his high draft position only a season ago. If Ross can stay healthy this season, he is sure to significantly rebound in his sophomore campaign.
Chad Williams – The 2017 3rd round pick did little to assert himself as a key receiver last season for the Cardinals. Williams only caught 3 passes while only appearing in 6 games last year, due in large part to being on a below average offense that seemed to only have room for Larry Fitzgerald to receive any consistent targets last season. He was behind John Brown and Jaron Brown in the receiver pecking order, both who have left the Cardinals this offseason. With both of them gone, I would expect the Cardinals to give Chad Williams an opportunity this season to earn more consistent targets in the offense.
Honorable Mention: Kenny Golladay, Trent Taylor, and Ardarius Stewart.
David Njoku – Few tight ends in the league possess the athletic ability that David Njoku does. He is a rare size and speed athlete that has very good receiving ability. The 2017 first round pick had a good first season that he should be able to build on. The Cleveland offense has gotten aggressively better this offseason and should be more explosive and efficient next year. Newly acquired quarterback Tyrod Taylor has historically favored targeting tight ends, which bodes well for Njoku breaking out this season. Look for David to become more of a consistent weapon in his 2nd year and especially in the red zone, where he showed positive signs in 2017 with 4 touchdown receptions.
Gerald Everett – Historically, tight ends need more time to develop before becoming a consistent role player in an offense. With Gerald Everett, I believe he has a chance to drastically improve his statistics from his rookie season. Last season the Rams had one of the best offenses in the league without a consistent threat at the tight end position.
With a year of experience under his belt, Everett should get the opportunity to become the Rams go to target at tight end. Los Angeles spent a high second round pick on Everett in 2017, and at times he showed his above-average athleticism and receiving ability last season. Look for the Rams to get Gerald Everett more involved this season and add one more threat to an already explosive offense.
Jake Butt – Jake Butt was one of the more intriguing prospects at tight end entering the 2017 NFL draft before he tore his ACL in his final game at Michigan. The injury forced him to miss his entire rookie season. It pushed the 2016 John Mackey Award winner back to the 5th round. Jake Butt should be recovered enough to take part in offseason activities this year and compete for the starting tight end spot for the Broncos.
Former starting tight end Virgil Green, has left the Broncos to join the Chargers, creating an opportunity for Jake Butt to get significant playing time this year. Look for him to earn the starting role and become a weapon for newly-acquired quarterback Case Keenum.
Honorable Mention: Jonnu Smith