It’s kind of hard to gauge just how great a player will be after one season. There’s no doubt that being drafted to the NFL is a great honor and means that a team thinks you’re worth the effort. The trick after that however is to be able to go out every day and prove it. While some rookie prospects are considered to be breakout stars, others prove to be kind of a bust during their first year. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they aren’t worth the money, only that the transition from college to the NFL is at times a rough and extremely demanding jump that a lot of rookies can’t seem to make in their first year.
Here are a few sophomore prospects that are expected to have a breakout season in 2017.
5. DeForest Buckner – San Francisco 49ers
It’s fair to say that his season got a little bit overlooked largely because the 49ers only won two of their games this last season. What does need to be observed is that Buckner not only did his job on the line, which is to create a chaotic jumble that forces the QB to panic and possibly misfire, but he also recorded six sacks in his first season, which is pretty impressive really. If he keeps this kind of work ethic up there’s no telling just how far he’ll go in the coming season.
4. Leonard Floyd – Chicago Bears
It’s not hard to shine when you’re stuck with a team that’s more akin to a raging dumpster fire than anything resembling a squad of professional athletes. What’s really impressive about this guy is that despite missing about a quarter of his rookie season due to injury he still managed to record a whopping seven sacks while he was on the field. Just imagine what he’ll be able to do if he manages to stay healthy.
3. Hunter Henry – LA Chargers
There’s no doubt that it’s hard to get playing time when you have contend with some of the best in the league. While Antonio Gates is still around and very much active, Henry will still be looking for whatever time on the field he can get. Despite that however he put up some impressive numbers in his rookie year and should be primed and ready to do even more in the 2017 season.
2. Michael Thomas – New Orleans Saints
Explosive is about the only way to really describe Thomas’s performance in 2016, and despite that his skill is still growing along with his experience. He might be a natural at the game, but there’s always more to learn, and now that Brandin Cooks, one of Drew Brees’ favorite targets, has been traded to the New England Patriots, its easy to assume that more of his throws will be headed to Thomas.
1. Jalen Ramsey – Jacksonville Jaguars
Age in the NFL usually isn’t an issue unless you’re talking about experience or retirement, but Ramsey is only 22 and already putting up record numbers. The fact that he puts up a passer rating of 77.6 and can seal off nearly half the field on a whim are more than impressive, they’re a sign that this young man will have the potential to be one of the greats in the coming years.
Some say that no matter whether a player has a stellar or mediocre first year that the sophomore slump gets just about everybody. One can only hope it doesn’t happen to those listed, but with the numbers they’ve been putting up there’s a good chance it won’t happen.