Each Team's Break Out Stars: AFC Edition
Buffalo Bills - Shaq Lawson DE
- The former first round pick is headed into a 3rd season after a lost rookie year and a disappointing sophomore season. However, maybe another year under Sean McDermott he can finally make it all click. He has the potential and now looks to have the drive to put together a complete season. With a new bulked up interior next to him with Star Lotulelei in the fold he may have more free one on one looks as well. If the Bills want to dethrone the Patriots they need Lawson to become public enemy number one against Brady putting him on his back on a consistent basis.
Miami Dolphins - Xavier Howard CB
- After a shaky rookie year where he looked lost and confused, he put together a terrific sophomore season. He should be the locked in top corner for the Dolphins and should continue to ascend. At the time, when he entered the draft many scouts and pundits thought he made a brash decision going in a year too soon. Well, it looks like they were right since it took a season for him to get his feet under him. At his size and with his terrific ball skills he should continue to flourish. The only drawback now is that team\'s know he is becoming a more aware corner and now they will try to avoid him with his ability to create interceptions.
New England Patriots - Jordan Matthews WR
- Putting down a rookie like Sony Michel or new tackle Isaiah Wynn could have been the pick, but I feel like a rookie needs to play before he can truly be a breakout star. To me a breakout star is a guy who has been around a bit and has a chance to finally turn the corner. The Pats have a few of those candidates at receiver with Cordarrelle Patterson, Phillip Dorsett, and Matthews. I am leaning towards Matthews who not long ago was a favorite target of Carson Wentz\' before being sent to Siberia up in Buffalo with their anemic passing offense. He has the ability to run those short slot patterns they love to run in New England and has a bigger body type to handle the traffic in the middle of the field. I think he has a shot to shine in this offense if he can stay healthy.
New York Jets - Quincy Enunwa WR
- Enunwa was on his way to breaking out after a solid 2016 season putting up good numbers even with suspect quarterback play. Now as he plays his way back to full snaps he has to beat out the likes of Robby Anderson and Jermaine Kearse. I think he is capable of it with his bigger size and reliable hands. Plus, if he builds up a good report with rookie signal caller Sam Darnold he should be on the field more often than not. If that happens he should put up very good numbers and continue that upward trend he showed before his neck injury last year at training camp.
Baltimore Ravens - Matt Judon OLB
- This is a toss up between Judon and last year\'s second rounder Tyus Bowser. At some point the Ravens need to move on from Terrell Suggs who is getting older by the minute and is the last remnant of the old guard. They need to begin a new golden age of defense with some new talent and invigoration. Judon showed flashes of it last season putting up 8 sacks to go along with 51 tackles from the edge rusher spot. Part of that could be from playing across from Suggs. I would rather see Judon break out being the small school start and the lower pick, but I can see them giving Bowser more looks for him to be more successful. Maybe both can break out and continue to prove how good of a drafter Ozzie Newsome was.
Cincinnati Bengals - Carl Lawson OLB
- He is a bit miscast in the Bengals 4-3 front where he is better off on the edge, but he still put up 8 sacks in limited action as a 4th round rookie. Lawson has always been a talented rusher even in his days at Auburn beating guys like Laremy Tunsil on a regular basis. However, his big drawback was his health and it\'s what caused him to slide in the draft. If he continues to stay healthy and see more snaps he should be a difference maker they have been looking for across from Carlos Dunlap. If he played on a more popular team he would be more known, but being in Cincy is close to being on the other side of the planet in NFL terms.
Cleveland Browns - Myles Garrett DE
- This was too easy for me. There is not a top notch offensive guy I can really rely on to make this pick and not many players on this team has the potential Garrett does. Even in a rookie year where he missed many games and then playing less than 80 percent of snaps in most games he still put up 7 sacks. If he can stay on the field more he should be a game wrecker the Browns have been looking for since returning to Cleveland. I still think they should have taken Bradley Chubb to really make this a formidable front, but if Denzel Ward can keep receivers in check it might just cause opposing quarterbacks to hold the ball just a second longer for Garrett to get to them more consistently. I would not be shocked if this team actually wins games more consistently over the next few seasons with Garrett being a big part of the success.
Pittsburgh Steelers - JuJu Smith-Schuster WR.....maybe
- The Steelers really do not have many breakout candidates since so many of their players are established veterans looking to just beat the Patriots and play for the Super Bowl. The one possible break out is Smith-Schuster who exploded last season as a rookie and having the benefit playing behind Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant. Now with Bryant gone he should have more opportunities on the outside where his field stretching speed can be more utilized. I would not be shocked if he takes a step back like many sophomores tend to do in NFL making this one of my more unsure picks in this write up.
Houston Texans - Will Fuller WR
- If both he and Watson stay healthy this season the two of them are going to light up score boards along with Hopkins creating a difficult match up to defend against. Fuller himself in only 10 games score 7 touchdowns. If not for nagging injuries and poor quarterback play down the stretch he was bound to have a truly elite season. I suspect a healthy year between he and Watson should see to it that he puts his hat in the ring as one of the top receivers in the league.
Indianapolis Colts - Quincy Wilson CB
- I would rather be putting Malik Hooker here who I was very high on in last year\'s draft, but his injury woes have seem to come to fruition in the NFL. Instead, I will go with his rookie classmate Quincy Wilson who steadily improved as the season went on. He did miss a few games himself too, but when on the field he looked really good while Hooker still looked a bit slow and unsure. Wilson should have been a first rounder in last year\'s class as well, but he slid due to worries about his technique that needed a lot of work. If he continues to round out that part of his game he could really prove to be a good find for the Colts coming out of the second round.
Jacksonville Jaguars - Cam Robinson OT
- I know it\'s hard to calculate in numbers how good a blocker is, but I really though landing Robinson in the top of the second round was one of the biggest steals of the draft in 2017. He not only had a ton of experience in the SEC, but also came with rare power and strength from a left tackle, which is why people wanted to move him to the right side or to guard. However, he steadily proved his mettle at left tackle and made life very easy in what was easily Bortles\' best season in the pros. With the addition of All-Pro Andrew Norwell next to him, it should only serve to make his job easier allowing him to just worry about what is in front of him. If the Jags want to continue their success they need Robinson to establish himself as one of the top young tackles of the league.
Tennessee Titans - Kevin Byard S
- I know a Pro Bowler here is not much of a break out, but seeing as how he plays in Tennessee a guy like Byard is still going a bit under the radar. After posting a league leading 8 interceptions and a healthy total of 62 tackles he should be more talked about. Especially as a second year guy coming from a small school after being selected in the 3rd round. His future is scalding hot and should only get better as they continue to establish more elite talent around him to help him out.
Denver Broncos - Bradley Roby CB
- I guess, it\'s now or never for the former first rounder to really flourish. After cutting Aqib Talib they had to have the expectations that Roby can hold down the forth if not better than the veteran Talib did. Roby has the potential, but his size is always an issue to me. However, being opposite of Chris Harris is not a walk in the park and Roby better be ready. If he holds his own he should be a very quick spreading name to watch out for.
Kansas City Chiefs - Kendall Fuller CB
- Another corner in the division is also on the cusp of great things and that being Kendall Fuller who recently moved over from Washington in the Alex Smith deal. He much like his brother Kyle are teeming with talent and ability that is just waiting to be untapped. Like his brother who emerged last season, it might be time for his younger brother Kendall to emerge as a top corner. Kansas City has done a very good job developing corners over the years with Brandon Carr, Sean Smith, and Marcus Peters over the years. Granted they all left, but now it\'s Fuller\'s time to put his mark on the defense.
Los Angeles Chargers - Desmond King DB
- King was the splashy Iowa corner before last year\'s Josh Jackson emerged over the course of the season as a ball hawk. Prior to Jackson, King was that guy making plays all over the field for Iowa. Now in Los Angeles he is a moving chess piece for him with his tweener size to couple with his quick twitchiness. He did not see consistent playing time enough to make too many takeaways, but he was an active participant in the passing game knocking passes away. King was also a tackling machine for them in the middle of the field. With more seasoning under him and a more clear path to playing time with Tre Boston gone. Even with Derwin James on the roster the two can create a nice lightning and thunder duo in the defensive backfield.
Oakland Raiders - No one
- This team has a few established stars like Khalil Mack, Derek Carr, and maybe Marshawn Lynch who is a big name. However, I cannot pinpoint one guy who will emerge as a break out start to help them out. This roster is already too old with the additions they have made under Jon Gruden and they really have done a poor job of infusing young talent on the defense this off season. I would not be shocked if they just completely bottom out this season in a competitive AFC West.