15 NFL Sophomores Who Will Be Even Better In 2013
15 Second-Year NFL Players Who Will Be Better In 2013
The 2012 NFL draft class may go down as the best of all-time. We had two franchise quarterbacks selected with the first two picks in Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III. Another franchise quarterback in Russell Wilson was taken in the third round. Linebacker Luke Kuechly led the entire NFL in tackles. Trent Richardson and Doug Martin were fantastic in their rookie years as first round running backs, and Alfred Morris was just as good being taken in the sixth. There are many more who had solid rookie seasons, but these guys alone make for a fantastic draft class.
Between Luck, Griffin and Wilson, I do not think we have seen this much talent at the quarterback position in one draft class since 1983. In that draft John Elway, Jim Kelly and Dan Marino were all taken in the first round. Now, all three of those guys are in the Hall of Fame. That is a lot to live up to for Luck, Griffin and Wilson, but I think their talent is very impressive and all three are going to have great careers.
Besides the guys that I have already mentioned, there are some very talented players who for whatever reason were not as impressive in their rookie seasons. Maybe they simply did not get the playing time or maybe they were not quite ready for the NFL. Whatever the case, I think we will see better production out of some of those players this season. Here are 15 second year NFL players who will improve in 2013.
Ryan Broyles, WR, Detroit Lions
Ryan Broyles had 22 receptions for 310 yards and two touchdowns in 10 games last season before going down with a knee injury. Broyles tore his ACL late last season, but he seems to have rehabbed quickly and many think at worst he will only miss a couple of games. The Detroit Lions sorely need a competent receiver opposite of Calvin Johnson. Broyles is a very talented guy, and if he can just stay on the field I think he could put up some huge numbers in this pass-happy offense.
David DeCastro, OL, Pittsburgh Steelers
David DeCastro suffered a knee injury in the preseason of his rookie year in 2012. He was able to return for the last four games of the season and proved that he was worth the 24th overall pick. He played very well in those games helping protect quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and opening up holes in the run game. DeCastro was taken with the 24th pick last year and was thought of by many to be one of the best offensive guard prospects in recent memory. He is a very talented player, and if he stays healthy this season I think he becomes one of the best interior lineman in the NFL.
Michael Floyd, WR, Arizona Cardinals
As we all know, the Arizona Cardinals had the worst quarterback situation in the NFL in 2012. Between Kevin Kolb, John Skelton, Ryan Lindley and one game of Brian Hoyer, the Arizona offense never stood a chance. Carson Palmer takes over the job this season. Palmer may not be an elite guy he used to be, but he is a massive upgrade over the mess at the position in 2012.
Michael Floyd will be a huge beneficiary to having a competent guy under center. Floyd played in all 16 games last season but only made three starts. He racked up 45 catches for 562 yards and two scores. Floyd is a very talented receiver and most of the defensive attention will be put on All-Pro Larry Fitzgerald. I think Floyd is in for a monster sophomore season.
Stephon Gilmore, CB, Buffalo Bills
Stephon Gilmore was very good for the Buffalo Bills last season. He had 16 passes defended but only one interception. Gilmore is an extremely talented corner, and I think he has the potential to be an elite player at the position. I expect his interceptions to rise this season as he takes the next step to being a lock-down corner.
Chris Givens, WR, St. Louis Rams
Chris Givens was one of Sam Bradford's favorite targets as a rookie in 2012. Givens had 42 receptions for 698 yards and three scores. He has fantastic speed that gives him elite big-play potential. It appears that the St. Louis Rams are going to throw the ball much more this season, and I think Givens will be a huge beneficiary to that.
Josh Gordon, WR, Cleveland Browns
Josh Gordon showed elite big-play ability in 2012. He had 50 receptions for 805 yards and five touchdowns. He got behind opposing secondaries for long plays many different times. In the preseason games, Gordon looks to be a key part of the Cleveland Browns offense. He is suspended for the first two games of the 2013 season due to violating the league's substance abuse policy, but I think Gordon comes back in Week 3 and builds on his good rookie season.
Alshon Jeffery, WR, Chicago Bears
Alshon Jeffery showed signs of having legitimate NFL receiver talent in 2012. He had 24 catches for 367 yards and three touchdowns in only 10 games played. In 2012, quarterback Jay Cutler looked for number one target Brandon Marshall almost exclusively. Marshall was among the league leaders in targets as Cutler forced him the ball over and over again. New Chicago Bears head coach Marc Trestman is known for spreading the ball around the field, and I think Cutler will buy in and look to his other options this season. This should mean more opportunity for Jeffery, who is supremely talented and appears to be the starter opposite of Marshall.
Chandler Jones, DE, New England Patriots
Chandler Jones had a solid rookie season for the New England Patriots. He had six sacks, 24 tackles and three forced fumbles in 14 games in 2012. Jones showed elite pass rushing potential, and I think he takes a big step this season. Jones is probably the best pass rusher that the Patriots have, and I am very interested to see how he grows this season.
Lamar Miller, RB, Miami Dolphins
Lamar Miller showed flashes in very limited playing time in 2012. Reggie Bush is now gone, and I think Miller will be the main running back for the Miami Dolphins. He is a quick back with better power than you would expect from guy his size. The Dolphins are saying that Daniel Thomas will get some work as well, but when it comes down to it, Miller is the much better player and will get by far the most carries when it is all said and done.
Rueben Randle, WR, New York Giants
Rueben Randle did not get much opportunity in his rookie season. Playing behind Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz, Randle racked up 19 receptions for 298 yards and three scores. In preseason games it looks like Randle will get an expanded role this season. I think he has a solid year regardless, but Nicks is a very injury prone player and if he goes down for a significant period of time, the sky is the limit for Randle.
Riley Reiff, OL, Detroit Lions
Riley Reiff is taking over at left tackle for the Lions this season. As we all know, left tackle is the most important position on the offensive line as they have to protect the quarterback's blindside. Matt Stafford set the NFL record for pass attempts in 2012. The Lions simply love to throw the ball, and that makes Reiff's job even more important. I think Reiff will perform adequately for the Lions as they will throw the ball a ton once again in 2013.
Trent Richardson, RB, Cleveland Browns
Richardson put up very good numbers in the Cleveland offense in 2012. He had 267 rushes for 950 yards and 11 touchdowns. He also caught 51 passes for 567 yards and added another score through the air. Richardson is the focal point of the Browns' offense as you can tell by the amount of work he received in 2012. While the overall numbers are great, Richardson only had a 3.6 yards per carry average. He is a much more talented back than that YPC average indicates. I think Richardson continues to put up good numbers this season and that YPC climbs to at least 4.
Courtney Upshaw, LB, Baltimore Ravens
Courtney Upshaw was solid for the Baltimore Ravens in very limited playing time in 2012. The Ravens lost a lot on the defensive side of the ball this offseason, and this creates opportunity for young players. Upshaw will be the starter at an outside linebacker position, probably filling the role left by Paul Kruger. Upshaw is a talented player that will put up numbers in this defense.
Brandon Weeden, QB, Cleveland Browns
Brandon Weeden looks to be the most improved player in the NFL this preseason. In his rookie year, Weeden had a 57.4 completion percentage, threw for 3,385 yards, 14 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. Not terrible numbers for a rookie but he must improve this season if he is going to be the quarterback of the future for Cleveland. The Browns have a new head coach in Rob Chudzinski and new offensive coordinator in Norv Turner. Both of these guys, especially Turner, have had success with quarterbacks in the past. Weeden looks much more comfortable in the offense this season, and I think he takes a big step forward in his sophomore year.
David Wilson, RB, New York Giants
David Wilson burst onto the scene late last season. He spent most of the year in Tom Coughlin's dog house because of an early season fumble. Wilson got his opportunity late last season and did not disappoint. He is a supremely talented back that could put up huge numbers if he gets enough opportunity. Andre Brown will surely get some of the carries as well, but Wilson should get the majority and he will break out in a big way this season.