Long before the season comes around, the wild speculation about which rookies are going to be the breakout players begins in earnest. Hundreds of thousands of words are dedicated to predicting where and when the huge football stars of tomorrow are going to emerge and start to make their timeless mark on the great game. Speculation is so rife, that if every prediction came true, each team in the NFL would boast a number of breakout players. But, in reality, the pressures of the elite game mean that only a few truly make it.
Going over previous seasons there are plenty of great examples to choose from – players who didn’t just show early promise but who have gone on to prove that they’re the real deal.
Previous breakouts include the under-rated Jamaal Charles whose big year came a decade ago in 2009 when he put in some incredible performances for the Kansas City Chiefs. Even though he only started in 10 games over the season, he still rushed 190 times for a total of 1,120 yards and to this day he’s still the all-time leader in yards per carry among players with at least 1000 carries at 5.38 yards each.
Moving on to last season, for the Chiefs their undoubted breakout star was quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Despite having very few starts in the 2017 campaign, he played a major role in 2018 leading the league with no less than 37 touchdown passes. He was also responsible for 10 interceptions – all of which led to him being a very strong candidate for the title of breakout star of the season.
But we’re not here to look into the past. We need to make five picks of players to watch for in 2019. So here, in no particular order, are the players who may well make their mark.
If you’re looking for a player who could be a real boon to your fantasy football team, then look no further than Aaron Jones. This will be his third season for the Green Bay Packers after coming from the University of Texas at El Paso where he finished his final collegiate season with very impressive stats: 1,773 rushing yards, 17 rushing touchdowns, 28 receptions, 233 receiving yards, three receiving touchdowns, and one passing touchdown.
In his first two seasons with the Packers he’s performed well with a yards per carry average of 5.5 and a total of 214 carries. It’s expected that he will become the team’s lead back in the coming season with some predicting that he’s going to hit 1,000 rushing yards and pick up at least 50 catches – meaning he’d collect over 200 points for your fantasy football team. If he manages this, you’ll be on to a winner and there’s no telling where his career could head off to next.
There is no doubt that Williams, the 24-year-old wide receiver, has exceptional promise and skill. Last season saw him achieve ten touchdowns on 43 catches. But now that he’s been elevated to The Los Angeles Chargers’ number 2, playing opposite the hugely talented Keenan Allen, we can expect even more great things from him.
Last season his best game came in Week 15 against the Kansas City Chiefs catching 7 passes for 76 yards and two touchdowns. It all added up to him being awarded the AFC Offensive Player of the Week, not to mention being instrumental in edging a victory at 29-28, despite being 14-28 down just five minutes from the end. So as long as coach Philip Rivers continues to keep faith in his abilities, we could well be looking at another 1,000 yard player in Williams.
Indianapolis Colts’ linebacker, Walker, was drafted in the fifth round in 2017 and has been steadily building a solid reputation for himself in the team. Even though he’s been a consistent tackler averaging over 100 a season, until now he’s been playing a little in the shadow of fellow linebacker Darius Leonard.
But it seems likely that defensive coach Matt Eberflus will be pushing him to the forefront more in the 2019 season and building on the rock solid defense that the Colts demonstrated so well in 2018. With a 40-yard dash average of 4.65 seconds, he also seems to have the speed to be able to close down the opposition.
Cook has a growing list of records to his name already. For example, he holds the all-time rushing record for his college team at Florida State – an incredible 4,462 yards which comfortably beat the previous record of 3,959 held by Warwick Dunn.
Then, in his first ever game for the Minnesota Vikings which came in the 2017 season, he broke the rookie debut rushing record at 127 yards on 22 carries. However, this promising start was cut short when he suffered a cruciate ligament injury so only played a total of four games. Thankfully, he bounced back following surgery and in the 2018 season managed 615 rushing yards, two rushing touchdowns, 40 receptions, 305 receiving yards, and two receiving touchdowns.
But now, with his return to full fitness and the drive it takes to be outstanding, 2019 really could be his season.
Our final pick for the breakout players of 2019 is the Detroit Lions’ running back Kerryon Johnson. He’ll be entering what will only be his second season playing for the Lions but he certainly did plenty to impress before a knee sprain put him on the reserve list after just 11 games in December 2018.
For example, in week three of the season he had already started to show his abilities when he rushed for 101 yards, becoming the first Lions’ player to achieve this since Reggie Bush managed it back in 2013. The Lions signed up CJ Anderson for the forthcoming season and there are questions being asked whether this will help or hinder Johnson. But providing that it leads to more explosive plays, expect to see him hitting the headlines once more.