Who will be a breakout star in the 2020 NFL season?

By Kieran Patterson (@DCCYTFootball)

Every year the NFL sees players breakout and become stars and fan favorites, either due to being on a new team or just getting the right playing time. With that in mind I’m going to give you my list of player who I see becoming big stars this year and having a breakout year. So if you play fantasy, maybe take a give these guys a look when picking your team.


Drew Lock – QB, Denver Broncos


It seems that Denver may have finally found their guy in Drew Lock, the former Missouri signal caller was taken in the second round of the 2019 draft by the Broncos but unfortunately suffered a broken thumb in the pre-season and was placed in injured reserve in September.

Broncos quarterback Drew Lock 'invested 100 percent' as prepares for second  season
Jack Dempsey/AP

He was cleared for practice mid November and activated to the full roster on November 30th and named as the starter for the game the next day against the Chargers. Throwing for 134 yards, 2 touchdowns and 1 interception wasn’t what people focused on though. In the last 15 seconds of the game Lock lead the Broncos down the field and set up a Brandon McManus field goal leading the Broncos to a 23-20 win in his first NFL start. Lock continued to show his skills and went 4-1 in 5 starts.

Equaling franchise legend and current Broncos GM John Elway for most franchise wins by a rookie quarterback. What makes this more impressive is that it took him 5 games to accomplish this feat. It took Elway 10. This is what makes Lock so exciting, especially if you’re a Broncos fan.

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With impressive play and decent stats and provided he stays healthy Lock is going to have a great year with the full 16 games to ply his trade. Oh…and Jerry Jeudy is going to be lining up next to him. Look out for Lock this season…he’s going to be fun to watch.


N’Keal Harry – WR, New England Patriots


After what can only be described as a disappointing rookie year on a struggling Patriots offence N’Keal Harry is going to look to breakout as a legit number 1 target in his sophomore season in New England.

NFL analyst doesn't think N'Keal Harry will be elite or No. 1 receiver
Image Credit: Elsa/Getty

The Canadian born receiver injured his ankle during training in September and was placed on injured reserve until November 2nd when he finally got activated to the full roster. As a rookie Harry played in 7 games for 12 catches, 105 yards and 2 touchdowns. Safe to say this was not even close to what harry is capable of.

Going into second year he will be catching passes from fellow sophomore in quarterback Jarrett Stidham, a man who it is reported he has some serious chemistry with…well if reports from Patriots training camp is to believed.

I see Harry putting up double digit touchdowns and close to 1000 yards as he looks to be the number 1 wide out on this new look patriots offence.


Derrius Guice – RB, Washington Redskins


When I say the name Derrius Guice the first word that comes to mind is injury. Not many players have had luck this bad with injuries in recent years which is a shame because Guice is easily capable of being a top running back in the league.

When healthy, Redskins' Derrius Guice was No. 1 most elusive RB in NFL
 Patrick McDermott/Getty

Drafted in 2018 Guice, tore his ACL in his first ever pre-season game causing him to miss his whole rookie season, in 2019 he was once again injured against the Eagles in week 1 of the regular season…and later again when he made his return in November.

So it’s been a tough road for Guice. I watched him play while he was at LSU and believe me when I tell you this bad luck has lit a fire under Guice going into the 2020 season. He’s going to be a serious threat on this offence as sophomore quarterback Dwayne Haskins needs serious help in the backfield.

Look for Guice to put up double digit touchdowns and 1000+ yards if he manages to stay on the field for the full 16 games.


Teddy Bridgewater – QB, Carolina Panthers


After going 5-0 as a starter while future Hall of Famer Drew Bree’s was injured in the 2019 season Teddy Bridgewater earned his way back to a starting job taking over from a declining Cam Newton.

Teddy has had a somewhat tumultuous path to get to where he is now. Drafted in 2014, 32nd overall Bridgewater struggled to perform at the level he did at college and ended up bouncing to the New York Jets in 2018 and the New Orleans Saints in 2019. He really shined and showed how much he’s grown as a player while filling in for Drew Brees.

Carolina swooped in and picked him up in free agency with and gave him a 3 year $63 million contract. With a full 16 games at the head of this Carolina offence it’s pretty easy to see Bridgewater taking this team to the playoffs.


Ed Oliver – DT, Buffalo Bills


Seeing as Bills quarterback Josh Allen had a massive breakout year last year I figured I’d shout out another great Bills player due to blow up and that’s Defensive Tackle Ed Oliver.

Buffalo Bills' Ed Oliver still looking for first 'real' sack
Lynne Sladky/AP

Selected 9th overall in the 2019 draft, Ed Oliver was a highly sort after draft prospect that in my eyes didn’t even get close to touching his potential in his first year in Buffalo with only 5 sacks and 43 tackles.

So look for Ed Oliver to go hard this year and rack up double digit sacks and at least 70 tackles. Also given the way this team is playing look for Oliver to be a difference maker when it comes to the playoffs and his work rate will give a lot of offensive lines headaches.

Season in Review – Buffalo Bills

By Sean Tyler (@SeanTylerUK)

Today it’s time to turn our attention to the AFC East. More specifically, the Buffalo Bills. After coming close to winning a playoff game for the first time in what seems like centuries, we assess why they fell short yet again, but will come back even stronger in 2020.


ENTERING THE SEASON


Languishing in the postseason wilderness since 1999, the Bills finally returned to the playoffs in 2017, only to revert to type with a 6-10 campaign in 2018. So, coming into last season, which scenario could Bills fans expect? Was 2017 a rare high in an otherwise bleak landscape, or could their team compete for the AFC East title again in their third year under HC Sean McDermott and GM Brandon Beane?

The offseason was largely shaped by Buffalo’s numerous free trade acquisitions, including centre Mitch Morse, wideouts Cole Beasley and John Brown, and TJ Yeldon joined in the backfield by the ageless Frank Gore. Not one but two Cincinnati tight ends (Tyler Kroft and Jake Fisher) added to the influx, contradicting the common narrative that “players don’t want to move to Buffalo”.

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These recruits were complemented by a decent draft haul. Ed Oliver (No.9 overall) was picked to beef up the defensive line, guard Cody Ford was added to protect QB Josh Allen (no longer a wet-behind-the-ears rookie), while RB Devin Singletary and TE Dawson Knox were decent Round 3 and 4 catches.

Armed with this new talent, Buffalo beat the Colts, Panthers, Lions and Vikings in their first-ever undefeated preseason. Former Wasps and England rugby star Christian Wade, who joined as an exempt international player, nailed a 65-yard TD on his first carry as a running back against Indy. But for all that promise, Wade still needed time to learn the game and was shipped out to the practice squad.

Adrian Kraus/AP

DURING THE SEASON


Maintaining their preseason form, the Bills shot out of the gate. They started with back-to-back wins at New York’s MetLife Stadium over the Jets (a squeaky 17-16, having trailed by 16 in the third quarter) and the Giants (a more comfortable 28-14). The subsequent four-point win over the Bengals was notable for the aforementioned Dawson Knox rumbling over the Cincy secondary like a Chieftain tank, as well as two interceptions by CB Tre’Davius White.

Frustratingly, the Bills’ first loss came in a defensive battle with their AFC rivals from Boston. They lost 16-10 to the Patriots but in their defence, Allen did have to leave the field after a helmet-to-helmet hit. Buffalo hit back by seeing off the Titans and, after their bye week, the Dolphins, improving to 5-1 for the first time in a decade. Wedged between losses to the Eagles and the Browns (in which Stephen Hauschka missing a game-tying kick), a commanding 24-9 win against the Redskins saw the Bills equal their 2018 record of six wins with half a season to spare.

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Things were going well, as the Bills ploughed on to an impressive 9-3. A three-game hot streak began in Week 11 against Miami, in which ‘Fitzmagic’ was sacked seven times and the ‘Fins were held to just 23 rushing yards. In shutting down the Broncos 20-3, Singletary recorded his first 100-yard rushing game and Gore went third on the NFL’s all-time rushing list. Then, on Thanksgiving Day, the Bills’ 26-15 win over Dallas – featuring a trick TD pass from Brown to Singletary – secured only their fourth winning season in two decades.

Unfortunately, reaching such heady heights seemed to trigger a bout of vertigo and the Bills began to wobble. Their only win on the home stretch was a 17-10 primetime victory at Pittsburgh in Week 15, with four interceptions helping to seal Buffalo’s first 10-win season this century. In their other three regular season games, however, they fell to the all-conquering Ravens, the dear ol’ Patriots again (handing them the divisional title in the process) and, more surprisingly, the Jets – although a number of first-choice guys were rested before the playoffs.

James P. McCoy/Buffalo News

Did someone mention the playoffs? Yes, the 10-6 Bills had locked up the AFC’s No. 5 seed and made the promised land again. But alas, they came up short at the first time of asking, losing 22-19 to the Texans in the Wild Card round. Buffalo ran up a 16-0 lead (with Brown throwing another trick TD, this time to his quarterback Allen) only for the wheels to fall off, leaving Deshaun Watson to mastermind a final-quarter comeback for Houston. The Bills managed to force overtime but Ka’imi Fairbairn’s game-winning FG extended the Bills’ playoff drought to 25 years…


OFFSEASON OUTLOOK


From the outside, the Bills’ 60th season seemed a pretty decent one but for the Bills Mafia, I suspect the way it fizzled out was disappointing. Nonetheless, a second playoff run in three years is not to be sneezed at, and Josh Allen showed wholesale improvements in his second season. But can Buffalo take the next step from playoff pretender to legit contender? Well, they have $90 million in cap space and nine selections in the 2020 NFL Draft, which can only help, right?

The general consensus is that offensively, they’ll prioritise a physical wide receiver this offseason, despite decent production from Brown and Beasley. Buffalo needs an injection of youth and size at WR so when the Bills are on the clock at #22, expect someone like Tee Higgins from Clemson (a few mock drafts really like this pairing already) or Colorado’s Laviska Shenault Jr to be selected. Knowing the Bills’ affinity for free agency, a deep threat such as the Cowboys’ Amari Cooper might also fit the bill.

With Frank Gore’s one-year deal at an end, Christian Wade also gives the coaching staff additional food for thought at RB, especially if they can’t snare someone like LSU’s Clyde Edwards-Helaire with a mid-round pick.

On the other side of the ball, the defence is a decent, disciplined unit. Nonetheless, a pass rusher like K’Lavon Chaisson (another of LSU’s stars) should be high on their shopping list, especially with linebacker Lorenzo Alexander retiring and two defensive tackles hitting free agency. A second corner alongside the impressive Tre’ White would make sense too.

Getty Images

So there you have it. The Buffalo Bills are a well-run outfit that looks set to use college drafts, trades and free agents to build around a blossoming young quarterback. Since Coach McDermott came to Orchard Park, things have been on an upward trend and, with a decent war chest at their disposal, fans should expect more of the same in the year ahead.