10 Series: 10 breakout candidates for 2020

by Rob Grimwood – @FFBritBaller

This is my favourite time of year. Not only is it draft season and the free agency period where teams can look vastly different to how they looked at the end of 2019, it’s a chance to get away from the madness that’s happening around the world right now. It’s nice, if only for a moment, to also escape into watching tape from 2019 and sift through depth charts to try and glimpse who might catch fire over the coming season.

Obviously the draft is a few weeks away, and teams are going to continue to add in key piece as they look to strengthen their weaknesses, but, as things stand, here are five defensive and five offensive players that have a great opportunity to break out and become household names in 2020.


Defence


Raiders' Maurice Hurst Is Gaining Momentum – NBC Bay Area

Jack Thomas – Getty

Maurice Hurst – DT, Las Vegas Raiders

You remember this guy – he was the player that dropped from a potential day 1 pick all the way to the 5th round in the 2018 draft because of a heart condition. Well, it’s since transpired that in 2 years of football, that condition hasn’t affected him yet as he has played in 29 of a possible 32 games.

He came into the league as a top prospect out of Michigan with high pass and rush grades. But being a piece on a below average defense has hindered his opportunity to breakout and really show what he is capable of. However, the new-look Vegas team has made major moves on defense this year bringing in players such as Cory Littleton and Nick Kwiatkoski at linebacker, Carl Nassib on the edge, Damarious Randall, Lamarcus Joyner and Jeff Heath at safety and of course a running partner for Hurst at DT in Maliek Collins.

This new look defense is going to look a lot different in 2020 compared to last year, and the uptick in quality will see players like Hurst come into his own and perform to a scintillating level.


Shaun Dion Hamilton – LB, Washington Redskins

Another defense that looks significantly better with some key off season acquisitions is in Washington. They already have a stout cast on the defensive line with the likes of Montez Sweat, Jonathan Allen, Da’Ron Payne and Matt Ioannidis, and adding to the secondary in the free agency only strengthens the whole unit. This is without mentioning the prospect of a certain Buckeye edge rusher who could be a Redskin soon too.

Shaun Dion Hamilton was better than you think in 2019
Icon Sportswire (Getty)

At linebacker, however, there is room for an emerging talent. Hamilton has been a bit part player since being drafted by the Skins in the 6th round of the 2018 draft, but last year was graded between Lavonte David and Luke Kuechly when it came to coverage marks. He will, of course have a returning Reuben Foster to compete with, but SDH has a shot of fitting in very nicely with this star studded cast and flying completely under the radar to breakout in 2020.


Rock Ya-Sin – CB, Indianapolis Colts

Ya-Sin was drafted last year early in the second round by the Colts to help add to the up and coming young defense that is improving year after year at Lucas Oil Stadium. Although he had a quiet year and didn’t produce any magic, he would have certainly learned a lot from veterans Pierre Desir and Kenny Moore.

The Colts added another veteran this off season in the shape of Xavier Rhodes, but again, the experience to gain for Ya-Sin learning the trade from a former pro-bowler will do him the world of good in his journey of progression. With Rhodes turning 30 before the season kicks off and Desir out during the free agency, Rock Ya-Sin has a chance to become a key piece in that growing defense and is a perfect candidate for a 2020 breakout.


Ed Oliver getting anxious for first-career sack with Buffalo Bills

Adrian Kraus – AP

Ed Oliver – DT, Buffalo Bills

Ok, so Ed Oliver is pretty much a household name already, especially after being drafted as a top-10 prospect just 12 months ago. But, i truly believe 2020 is the year that Ed Oliver takes the step onto the “elite players” plinth. He finished 2019 with 43 tackles, 5 sacks and 2 passes defended, incredibly strong numbers for a rookie interior defensive lineman.

With inferior offensive lines in Miami and New York (Jets), and no more TB12 in New England, Buffalo’s defensive line could all be beneficiaries of 6 ‘weak’ games on the calendar in 2020. Look for Ed Oliver to improve on those impressive rookie numbers and potentially escalate himself into the Aaron Donald/Fletcher Cox realm of conversation this time next year.


Brian Burns – EDGE, Carolina Panthers

Another first round pick in the 2019 draft was the former Florida State edge rusher. He, like Oliver, had a blistering start to his NFL career where he notched 25 tackles and 7.5 sacks with a forced fumbled added in for good measure.

For me, Carolina are a team that will likely be the wrong end of the win/loss column in 2020, but it is apparent that new HC Matt Rhule wants to start rebuilding this defense first. That starts with Burns and he could find himself the centre of the rebuild alongside whoever Rhule selects in this upcoming draft – i’m sure Panthers’ fans would love to see Isaiah Simmons help rebuild the defensive in Carolina if he falls to them with the 7th pick. Look for Burns to quickly become a fan favourite at Bank of America Stadium in 2020 thanks to a breakout season.

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Offence


Nyheim Hines – RB, Indianapolis Colts

Since entering the league as a Colt from the 4th round of the 2018 draft, Hines has quietly sat as the RB2 on the Indy depth chart but made the most of his role as a scat back. His rookie year was impressive as he ticked over 740 all purpose yards (425 through the air) and combined for 4 TD’s. Although the stats weren’t as good in 2019, a significant down tick in quarterback could be to blame as Jacoby Brissett filled in after the shock retirement of Andrew Luck in the preseason.

How Indianapolis Colts can make Nyheim Hines their Austin Ekeler
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

As we head into 2020, the Colts’ offense will be rebuffed by the signing of Philip Rivers, who knows how to get the best out of his weapons. None more so than a pass-catching running back. He is fresh off a 2019 season which saw Austin Ekeler thrust into relevance (especially in fantasy teams) as he notched 92 receptions for 993 yards including 557 rushing yards and 11 total touchdowns; all whilst Melvin Gordon was the “main back” in town.

Even though Marlon Mack is competent in the passing game, Rivers loves a reliable dump off man out of the backfield. Hines is just that and is poised for a big breakout in 2020. Fantasy dynasty owners, now is your chance to get him on the cheap…


Mike Gesicki – TE, Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins rebuild should be well and truly underway in 2020 after their 685-odd upcoming draft picks! Joking aside, there’s likely going to be a new QB in town whether it be Tua Tagovailoa or Justin Herbert as the most likely candidates.

Gesicki was a a high draft pick (44th overall) in 2018 but didn’t see much of the ball in his rookie season. It was last year when the former Penn State man started to step up and saw 570 receiving yards and 5 TDs. So already Gesicki has had a mini breakout year, because those stats alone for the 2019 Miami Dolphins has to be viewed as impressive given their miserable start.

Gesicki should be a key target and redzone threat for whoever is throwing the rock in Miami next year and could be in for a much larger work load and hopefully productivity too.

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N’Keal Harry – WR, New England Patriots

If you have listened to a Full 10 Yard podcast with me on it over the last year then you probably know I am not a N’keal Harry fan. I just don’t think he’s as good as what people think he is. However, one thing is for sure, he is now one of the better offensive weapons in New England, which says a lot about the off-season transactions for Belichick and co.

Patriots vs. Titans: Pats still see time for N'Keal Harry to ...
Nancy Lane – BH

Edelman will be 34 come week 1 and in his 11th season with the Pats, Gronk is winning WWE titles, Phillip Dorsett has left and Mohamed Sanu is the wrong side of 30 and has only eclipsed 520 receiving yards 4 times in his career. As things stand, Harry is the only player in this offense that can breakout! Providing whoever is throwing the ball in Foxborough wants to utilise the high draft stock the Pats outlaid for Harry, you’d think he’d be a candidate for a 1,000 yards season. I still don’t like him, but he is a breakout candidate, can’t deny that.


Diontae Johnson – WR, Pittsburgh Steelers

Johnson had a great campaign in his 2019 rookie season with 680 yards and 5 TDs. Not bad for a player supposedly battling for the WR3 role at the beginning of the season. And even better when it came off the back of a Big Ben injury which meant he was receiving throws from Devlin Hodges and Mason Rudolph.

Last year Diontae Johnson was everything we were expecting to see from teammate James Washington, and although Washington had more air yards to his name, Johnson looked the most complete receiver out of the the pack if you take out Juju.

Now Big Ben is back under centre, Diontae Johnson could find himself becoming the downfield target for a more accurate and stronger passer of the ball. Juju will likely remain the target hog, and Washington will still likely be viewed as the second option meaning Johnson will see less and less of the main coverage down field. He has a chance to breakout and be apart of re-igniting that electric Steelers’ offense of years past.


Denver Broncos news: Noah Fant sets team record for rookie TE catches

Justin Edmonds – Getty

Noah Fant – TE, Denver Broncos

Fant had a slow start to his NFL career and didn’t find himself with over 38 receiving yards in a game until week 9. Although it’s not widely expected that rookie tight ends are to be productive in year 1, with a 1st round price tag, you’d have expected a bit more from him I dare say. Fingers could point to shoddy quarterback play though, after all, it was Joe ‘Noodle Arm’ Flacco and 6th round rookie Brandon Allen attempting to throw the ball around in Denver for the first two thirds of the season.

The last 5 games of the season where Drew Lock took over as signal caller for the Broncos, Fant’s numbers went up to average 45 yards per game and a touchdown every other game. As things stand, Fant along with Courtland Sutton are the only real receiving threats on the team. Now, one would assume Denver will be selecting a wide receiver to join them in day 1, if not certainly day 2 of the draft; but Fant will still have the potential to break out this year providing he can claim all of the redzone traffic and continues to capitalise on his big play ability trait.

Where Do They Go From Here; Denver Broncos

After our divisional season review podcasts, we are now looking to the future and asking where each franchise goes from here. We put ourselves in the chair of being GM or the owner and going over what moves we would make in order to win a Superbowl, make the playoffs or just regain some pride…

Today we take a look at the Denver Broncos.

Don’t forget to check out the AFC West podcast where we talked to Sam Lane and Stocks from 5yardrush and got their thoughts on them!

How Did Last Season Go?

The Case Keenum experiment didn’t bear all the fruits for John Elway and Broncos Country.

They put themselves in a position for a wildcard berth at 6-6 but 4 straight (humiliating) defeats to 2 teams picking in the top 4 of the 2019 draft and 2 divisional rivals cost them. What else cost them was a 3-6 start before their bye week giving them too much to do in hindsight.

Bottom half in the league in terms of yards and points on offence tells you how well Case Keenum’s Broncos did. Only scoring more than 25 points twice all season against an out of sorts week 1 Seattle Seahawks at home and the Cardinals –  a team who were the worst in football. Keenum himself has a season QB rating just pushing over 80…not the Minnesota Case Keenum, that’s for sure.

A bright spot on offence was the running backs, where Philip Lindsay burdst on to the NFL scene as an undrafted rookie. Bumping out draft pick Royce Freeman and dust collector Devantae Booker to surge to the top of the depth chart. Anyone taking a punt on him in the early weeks of fantasy football waiver wires were beaming.

Emmanuel Sanders had a good season despite his age nearing the number where father time comes calling. Injury curtailing his career so I guess in a way, father time caught up. It remains to be seen whether he will be the same again in 2019. Draft picks Courtland Sutton and DeSean Hamilton showed flashes at times to the point where the Broncos were happy enough to send Demaryius Thomas to the Texans for a bag of dust.

The defence looks a shadow of it’s former Super Bowl winning self and home field advantage is ever present at mile high. That said their first round draft pick Bradley chubb had himself a good season (I guess you should being picked at no.5 overall) and allowed Von Miller to continue doing his thang. The pair combined for 26.5 sacks in 2018, breaking Broncos records all over the shop.

Housekeeping

The Broncos own pick 10 in the draft but it’ll be decent odds they pick from that spot come the end of April. Elway loves a case of the itchies.

The Broncos also own picks 41, 71, 125, 148, 156, 182 and 237.

Cap wise, the Broncos have around $11m available at this moment.

Outgoings

As mentioned, Demaryius Thomas was let go for that bag of dust which has now flown away to New England via the Texans (and a trip to the hospital).

The Case Keenum project was shut down after 1 year and other names that have left Mile High include Center Matt Paradis, corner Bradley Roby and TE Matt LaCosse

Incomings

If you ask Elway, Joe Flacco is entering his prime so is a massive upgrade on Keenum in that respect (ooook). Kareem Jackson comes over from Houston along with CB Bryce Callahan and RT Ja’Wuan James

Outlook for Next Year

The young pieces on offence will be hoping Joe Flacco is that upgrade on Case Keenum ad many will look to Sutton and Hamilton to come to the fore in the passing game and for Lindsay not to be hampered by his serious arm injury that curtailed his impressive 2018 rookie year.

Surely though, the pairing of Miller and Chubb on the edges of the defence will be the cornerstone to the Broncos winning games. A tough division, a tough schedule too with the AFC South and NFC North not making things too easy in their quest for a wildcard berth (nor does their 3rd place finish giving them the Browns and Bills (away) as their other fixtures outside their division). Sorry fans.

Prediction

For me personally, I am not sure how the Broncos will be contenders again under Elway whilst he keeps whiffing at the GM position.

For 2019, this division is going to be too hot for Denver with KC and LAC in prime position for an assault on the Lombardi Tophy. With Oakland being a wildcard and making some positive moves, don’t be surprised to see the Broncos bottom of this division and picking top 10 again in 2020. Once again, sorry fans.

That being said, their home field is decent enough advantage for a few wins a season and whilst the Broncos may not be on primetime much this season, we see them first up in the HOF game vs Atlanta.

I think they max out at 7 wins, and that’s generous of me. Be thankful.

Fantasy Football

Joe Flacco – Joe Flacc-no

Philip Lindsay – likely to be overdrafted but unsure what round – injury dependant.

Royce Freeman – potential hold in dynasty if Lindsay struggles to return.

Emmanuel Sanders – mid to late rounds (injury dependant) – WR 2 ceiling

Courtland Sutton – Later rounds – WR3

DeSean Hamilton – shallower league perhaps undrafted – WR4 with upside.

 

 

Where Do They Go From Here; Redskins

After our divisional season review podcasts, we are now looking to the future and asking where each franchise goes from here. We put ourselves in the chair of being GM or the owner and going over what moves we would make in order to win a Superbowl, make the playoffs or just regain some pride…

Today we take a look at the Washington Redskins.

Don’t forget to check out the NFC East podcast where we talked to Scott Mackay and got their thoughts on them!

How Did Last Season Go?

The season was going swimmingly well but as was the case the season before, injuries decimated their playoff chances.

Even before the season started, their new shiny toy in the backfield Derrius Guice went down for the season with a torn ACL. This led to the signing of Adrian Peterson who, at the ripe old age of 33, stepped in with another 1000 yard season when many thought that he didn’t have the legs anymore.

The most important nail in the coffin for Washington though was week 11; The Redskins were 6-3 before a horrific injury to Alex Smith against the Texans at home changed the whole landscape of the Redskins aspirations.

More injuries to the offensive line which is commonplace for the Redskins (again had one of the highest adjusted wins for injuries for a 2nd year in a row) meant that the defence just had to cover over too many cracks to keep the team up and winning games.

It is a testament to the defence that they still had an outside shot at even winning the division or a wildcard berth in week 16 when they lost to the Titans.

Redskins fans got to see the whole depth chart at QB with Colt McCoy and Josh Johnson – the guy with the most American name ever, getting some playing time at FedEx field.

As mentioned, no January football for the Redskins which seems very harsh considering they were the pacemakers for the majority of the way but I don’t think it’s a coincidence that these injuries keep happening. The training regime or the way these players recuperate must be looked at.

Housekeeping

Washington have the 15th pick of the 1st round along with picks 46 (2), 76 (3), 96 (3), 153 (5), 173 (5) inside the top 200. Washington were awarded 4 compensatory picks for this year’s draft.

The Redskins have $12m in cap space at this precise moment.

Outgoings

A couple of key players have exited for pastures new.

They include tackle Ty Nsekhe and WR Jamison Crowder on offence, with safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and linebacker Preston Smith on defence.

Incomings

The Redskins went la la with Ha Ha’s replacement, signing division rival’s safety Landon Collins from the Giants to a huge deal. 6 years, $84m contract is quite the investment.

Desperation around the Alex Smith quandary saw them go get Quarterback Case Keenum, who is surely a 1 year bridge gap to either a 2020 draft QB.

Washington have re-signed Adrian Peterson to a deal, which intimates that Derrius Guice may not be ready to go full blast in week 1.

They’ve also signed the flag collector Ereck Flowers from the Giants and oldie Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to 1 year deals.

Outlook for Next Year

The bucket load of draft picks are a godsend for the franchise due to Alex Smith’s cap investment and the Redskins could be teetering on purgatory for a while.

It’s fortunate that the Giants are a god-awful team too (we’ll get to them tomorrow) because otherwise, this franchise would be rooted to the bottom of this division. Case Keenum isn’t a quarterback that is going to lead this team to January football.

Look for the redskins to add primarily on offence in the draft, needing some WR help and possibly a Tight End at 15 should TJ Hockenson fall there.

Prediction

When September comes around, I’m not sure there will be many excited Redskins fans about the season. I can’t see any scenario where the Redskins make the playoffs and will probably be challenging for the top 5 or top 10 in the 2020 1st round picks.

I think the backfield will be interesting and you’ll probably find that as the weeks progress, Adrian Peterson’s role will diminish and Derrius Guice’s will increase as they ease him back in.

Defence will need to keep playing to it’s high level and if Case Keenum is able to find any of his 2017 form with the Vikings and Jordan Reed is able to play at least 3 quarters of the team’s games, then they may get to 8-8.

But like other teams always lingering in the 8-8 nightclub, you need to get chucked out and visit the top 5 draft pick pub before you can get access into the double digit win club (please drink responsibly).

Fantasy Football

Case Keenum – undrafted – low QB2/QB3

Adrian Peterson – Later rounds – RB3

Derrius Guice – mid to late round – RB3

Josh Doctson – just….no

Jordan Reed – later rounds – TE1 upside

 

 

Where Do They Go From Here; Titans

After our divisional season review podcasts, we are now looking to the future and asking where each franchise goes from here. We put ourselves in the chair of being GM or the owner and going over what moves we would make in order to win a Superbowl, make the playoffs or just regain some pride…

Today we take a look at the Tennessee Titans.

Don’t forget to check out the AFC South podcast where we talked to Adam Foxcroft from the Long Snappers Pod and get their thoughts on them!

How Did Last Season Go?

Last season has to go down as a disappointment considering a new OC in Matt LeFleur was brought in to steer the ship with Mike Vrabel to a new exciting offence, separate from the “exotic smash-mouth” stuff that was rammed down our throats. That said, another winning record and the third straight season of 9 wins (which was good enough for a playoff birth in 2017). The signing of Dion Lewis probably didn’t work out how Tennessee wanted it to and neither did the progression of Marcus Mariota. Mr Wet Wet Wet as we call him on the podcast, had multiple injuries lingering throughout the season, leading to Blaine Gabbert getting some playing time.

It’s fair to say that the defence carried the Titans this season in most games and have the rare accolade of being a team to post a shut out (vs Giants) but also be shut out too (vs Ravens). 3rd best in terms of defensive points allowed and 6th worst in terms of points scored tells it’s own story about the Titans season (shoutout to Kevin Byard for the 66yard special teams trick play touchdown!).

Housekeeping

At the time of the article, the Titans have a healthy $23m in cap space and own the 19th overall pick in the first round of the 2019 Draft (coupled with pick 51 in round 2 and pick 83 in the 3rd).

Outgoings

Some of the time I wonder if Titans HQ is like the film get out where once you’re in, you can’t escape (suitable film title when you think about it).

That’s the short way of putting that nothing is troubling the exit door.

Incomings

The saviour is here! Ryan Tannehill is going to fix all of the problems at QB.

No, but seriously, Tannehill as a backup is not bad insurance for when Mariota struggle with injury again this season. May actually be a smart move if they wish to dump Mariota who is on his final leg of his Rookie contract.

A few signings on both sides of the ball include slot receiver Adam Humphries coming over from Tampa who apparently preferred them to New England despite them offering more money. Rodger Saffold agreed to a 4year, $44m deal to help with the offensive line, one of the best graded units coming in to the 2018 season.

Cameron Wake joins on the defensive side of the ball from Miami with a 3yr $23m deal and a player they’ve managed to keep in free agency saw Kenny Vaccaro re-sign too to the tune of 4yrs $26m (also want to shout out that they have a player called Dee Liner on the defensive line, I kid you not).

Outlook for Next Year

This year hinges all on Marcus Mariota.

Yes he has another new OC to listen to, but this year it’s Arthur Smith. He has already been at the Titans previously as the Tight End’s coach so hopefully the transition will not be as painful as Mariota’s arm injuries suffered in 2018. It’s going to be interesting to hear the vibes coming out of camp about him because whilst he could easily be extended in terms of contract, it’s not too farfetched to imagine a world where Mariota is a free agent in 2020.

The defence is here to stay and should be the main reason why Titans win the games they do in 2019, I am not sure the offence will be able to put them in a position to eke out 1 or 2 more wins that would put them in serious consideration for a division title.

That said, don;’t be surprised if the Titans tinker with the prospect of drafting a WR or even a Tight End to go along with Davis and Humphries to try and ensure opposing defences respect balance on their offence.

Prediction

As said above, whilst the Titans D will put them in consideration as a wildcard team, I’m not sure the offence is going to hold up their end of the bargain.

Henry is in a contract year so it will be interesting to see how much they use him (haven’t we been here before?) and whether they can finally get some consistency going on offence in terms of production and stability at the HC position. Arthur Smith shouldn’t have too many problems implementing what he wants and knows the personnel well so bedding in period shouldn’t cause too much concern for Titans fans.

Surely we couldn’t have another 9-7 season could we?

I reckon we will.

Fantasy Football

Marcus Mariota – No, thank you.

Derrick Henry – RB2 ceiling – 4th rnd pick

Dion Lewis – RB3 – 6th rnd pick

Corey Davis – WR 3 – 5th rnd pick *Potential BUST alert*

Adam Humphries – WR 3 – 7th rnd pick

Delanie Walker – TE1 (aren’t they all!?) – double digit rounds

 

Exit Interviews – NFC North

Time to go North once more for the NFC side.

Bears leapfrogged the Vikings and the Packers to take the throne, but can they stay there?
And what do the Vikings and Packers fans have to say about that?
And then there are the Lions who haven’t had much to roar about recently.
Many thanks to Martin, Paul, Charlie and Rob for their help putting this podcast together.
Tomorrow sees the last in the series with the NFC West.
Enjoy!

Exit Interviews – AFC West

We made it to Friday folks! AFC West time and we have a great pod today which sees us take a look at the Chiefs, Chargers, Broncos and Raiders.

Plenty of talking points so we grab fans for each of those teams to take a look and break it all down.

Our thanks go to all those that contributed!

*Denver segment recorded prior to the Flacco trade…

Exit Interviews – AFC South

Podcast 2 of the Exit Interviews Series sees us tackle the AFC South.

We look at how Houston can keep the other teams at bay, where the Colts need to strengthen to make a Super Bowl run, the reasons behind the Titans funny season and what exactly is needed in Jacksonville to revert to their 2017 form?

Can’t do it on our own though so we enlist the help of some of our friends!

Houston – Ben Rolfe (@BenRolfe15)

Indianapolis – Rob Grimwood (@FFBritballer)

Tennessee – Adam Foxcroft (@ADFoxcroft)

Jacksonville – James Fotheringham (@FFThinker)

If you enjoy these podcasts or enjoyed a certain guest, please let us know – @full10yards on the social.

Tomorrow sees the AFC North under the microscope. We hope you can join us for that!

Enjoy!

 

Masters of their Kraft – Free Agency & Combine

A deep look in to team needs and whether or not the crop of free agents fit the bill.

Shaun from ALL32 joins Tim and Lee to see which players will calling somewhere else their home in 2019 and also, what his favourite GIFs are.

First though, a bit of news to get through including Robert Kraft, Andrew Whitworth and John Ross.

The Collapsing Pocket Podcast tackle the NFL Quiz and we finish off with a bit of talk about Lee’s eye-catchers to look out for at the combine.