NFL sophomore breakouts: Five receivers and a Saints tight end among those poised for strong second season

The 2021 NFL season was sturdy with standout rookie performers however others develop at their very own tempo. Some might need been held again by a scarcity of alternative, teaching selections or accidents. CBS Sports activities examines among the potential breakout sophomore stars with the qualifier that every participant was not current on the regular-season finale rookie rankings

Earlier than getting began, I’ve to debate Cowboys extensive receiver CeeDee Lamb. He is likely one of the exclusions as a result of he was part of the ultimate rankings however he has the potential to turn into a celebrity this season. Lamb, my private high receiver prospect a 12 months in the past, averaged 5.8 receptions for 86.6 yards per recreation previous to the Dak Prescott harm. Following the harm, he averaged simply 4.1 receptions for 45.6 yards per recreation. If he had continued on a wholesome tempo with Prescott, he was projected for 1,386 yards. Vikings rookie extensive receiver Justin Jefferson completed the marketing campaign with 1,400 yards by comparability, which not solely reveals Lamb’s potential but additionally the importance of Jefferson’s rookie season.

With a private agenda scratched off my guidelines, I can transfer on to the checklist:

Aiyuk or Steelers receiver Chase Claypool’s inclusion on this checklist feels a bit like a cop-out contemplating the seasons that they had a 12 months in the past. Claypool was left off as a result of I included just a few different Steelers and there’s a cheap case to be made that he already had his breakout season. With Aiyuk, there is a bit more meat on the bone. The second-year receiver with Pterodactyl arms tallied 60 receptions for 748 yards and 5 touchdowns regardless of lacking 4 video games. Head coach Kyle Shanahan was scheming alternatives for Deebo Samuel and Aiyuk to get the ball in house. With one other 12 months collectively beneath their belts, I count on much more wrinkles to that San Francisco offense.

The hope is that the group returns to optimum well being and stays there this season, which might theoretically result in improved manufacturing for all concerned. Aiyuk is considered as a unanimous high 25 extensive receiver by CBS Sports’ panel of fantasy football experts.

Diggs struggled early final 12 months however followers have to grasp the scenario. He was strolling right into a defensive room the place nobody was having success and, extra particularly, he was the group’s solely hope on the surface. Cornerback is a place the place success doesn’t at all times occur instantaneously; simply take a look at Jeff Okudah and Jaire Alexander for examples. There was a variety of buzz round Okudah this offseason as effectively however it will likely be harder for him to search out particular person success on that group. 

For the reason that 2020-2021 season concluded, Dallas introduced in Dan Quinn to exchange Mike Nolan as defensive coordinator. Additionally they named longtime Packers assistant Joe Whitt Jr. secondary coach/defensive passing recreation coordinator. Whitt is ready to present a wealth of expertise. Mix the teaching shift with the return of a wholesome DeMarcus Lawrence and Leighton Vander Esch, plus an infusion of recent expertise similar to Micah Parsons, and among the duty is being unfold round that beginning unit quite than laid on the toes of Diggs, who lately admitted that the game has slowed down for him in Year 2. The Alabama product completed the season with three interceptions in his ultimate 5 video games.

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Dotson was actually spectacular in his position because the spot harm alternative final season to the purpose that he appeared within the weekly rookie energy rankings on a number of events. Nevertheless, he was at all times relegated to the bench when the starters returned from harm. Final 12 months’s complete Week 1 beginning offensive line is gone for the Steelers in order that naturally created a possibility for Dotson to slip right into a beginning position. The Louisiana product was the supply of some dialogue on social media this week when Steelers beat writers quoted head coach Mike Tomlin as saying: “He has finished nothing to earn first-team reps. What are we speaking about? He is a second-year man who hasn’t labored.” To which Dotson responded by saying that Tomlin actually meant that he has not been training as a result of he’s coping with an harm.

If Dotson doesn’t begin for a group in determined want of stability alongside the offensive line, then I might clearly really feel a lot much less assured on this addition. I’m banking on Dotson being named a starter as soon as he returns from harm and begins training.

The Rams secondary will look vastly completely different than it did a 12 months in the past beneath the path of then defensive coordinator Brandon Staley. John Johnson III and Troy Hill signed with Cleveland leaving the way forward for the franchise’s secondary within the succesful arms of Jalen Ramsey, Darious Williams and Fuller amongst others. New defensive coordinator Raheem Morris is entrusting the second-year participant to put on the coveted inexperienced dot on his helmet signaling that he’s in control of speaking performs and obligations to his teammates on the sector. The inexperienced dot has typically been reserved for linebackers however an increasing number of groups are recognizing the worth in empowering one of many few gamers able to watching a whole play unfold in entrance of them. 

Fuller, a sixth-round select of Ohio State, was fifth on the group in whole tackles final season.

In a few of these explanations, I’m able to defend my scouting report of gamers as they enter the draft. Sadly, Highsmith shouldn’t be a kind of gamers. Pittsburgh took him sooner than anticipated and early returns recommend I used to be improper (no shock, I used to be additionally improper about Claypool). Understandably, Highsmith was primarily a reserve final season taking part in behind Bud Dupree. His play in these spot probabilities might need been sufficient to persuade the Steelers to look at Dupree exit in free company. 

Highsmith completed his rookie season with an inexpensive two sacks however, in these moments, he was in a position to showcase velocity across the edge and a few strikes to get off blocks. T.J. Watt would be the focus of opposing recreation plans and that ought to take among the stress off of Highsmith’s early growth. There may be a variety of work to be finished however his play up to now means that he might assist followers overlook about Dupree this season.

Madubuike had some moments of brilliance in school however consistency was a part of the problem. He landed in the very best scenario for him to learn to compete and be knowledgeable each day. Surrounded by a company of continuity and construction, in addition to veterans similar to Derek Wolfe, Brandon Williams and Calais Campbell, Madubuike is poised to interrupt out this season. Nate Tice lately posted a clip of the Texas A&M product getting one of the best of Browns offensive guard Wyatt Teller, who had his personal breakout marketing campaign in 2020.

Oh yeah, and all he has finished this offseason is practice with three-time NFL Defensive Participant of the 12 months Aaron Donald

McKinney could possibly be one other instance of clinging to pre-draft optimism however he made some large performs down the stretch after he returned from harm. McKinney was my highest-rated security due to his consistency and well-rounded type of play. He’s not probably the most flashy however needs to be a dependable piece for Giants defensive coordinator Patrick Graham, who’s considered among the finest defensive minds within the recreation. There are sufficient different proficient items on that protection — Leonard Williams, Dexter Lawrence, James Bradberry, Adoree’ Jackson, Jabrill Peppers, and so forth… — to permit the second-year defensive again to play freely.

Mooney begins a run of extensive receivers. The 2020 NFL Draft was famend for its manufacturing of competent go catchers so it ought to come as no shock to see a handful on this checklist. Mooney was labeled a deep-threat specialist final season regardless of averaging simply 10.3 yards per reception. The quarterback play was hardly constant and but Mooney discovered a approach to be. He completed his rookie season with 61 receptions for 631 yards and 4 touchdowns. Allen Robinson II would be the bell cow in that offense however there can be extra alternatives for Mooney and others following the commerce of the group’s third-leading receiver from 2020 — Anthony Miller. The inevitable insertion of rookie quarterback Justin Fields into the starter’s position might result in some large performs down the sector for the previous fifth-round choose.

He’s a unanimous high 50 extensive receiver, according to CBS Sports’ fantasy football experts.

The inclusion of Pittman could possibly be blind religion within the participant. Regardless of lacking three video games, he compiled 40 receptions for 503 yards and one landing. Because the season progressed, he felt extra like a go-to choice for that Colts passing recreation, which was to be anticipated when his major competitors was 31-year-old T.Y. Hilton and former undrafted free agent Zach Pascal. Pittman ended the season on a excessive observe within the wild card spherical the place he caught 9 passes for 90 yards.

The well being, or lack thereof, of Carson Wentz might have some sweating the way forward for Pittman, however the USC product ought to nonetheless be a key contributor.

Shenault concluded the 2020 marketing campaign with 58 receptions for 600 yards and 5 touchdowns, which is respectable contemplating he missed two video games and was restricted for just a few others. Jacksonville all of a sudden has a wealth of playmaking choices and Shenault could possibly be Trevor Lawrence’s security valve in the best way that he at all times appeared to search out Amari Rodgers as performs broke down final fall. The Colorado product is considered in an identical vary as Mooney from a fantasy perspective. The one concern is how City Meyer will adapt to the skilled recreation. 

New Orleans parted methods with veteran tight finish Jared Cook this offseason, which organically creates extra alternatives for Trautman, who’s a quite giant, athletic tight finish previously of Dayton. As a rookie, he completed with 15 receptions for 171 yards and one landing. The Saints lack true vertical urgent choices within the go recreation so one would count on there to be rather a lot taking place close to the road of scrimmage no matter whether or not or not Jameis Winston or Taysom Hill is beginning. 

Trautman is a high 10 tight finish, on common, according to CBS Sports’ fantasy football experts | NFL sophomore breakouts: 5 receivers and a Saints tight finish amongst these poised for sturdy second season


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