By: Nick Galle
The NFL season is fast approaching and many teams around the league made significant changes to bolster their roster. Many players found new homes in new cities and could be on the verge of a breakout season. Some stayed with the same team and look to improve upon last season. Here are 10 players you should watch out for this upcoming NFL season:
David Njoku (TE), Cleveland Browns
David Njoku showed improvement last year with the Browns hauling in 56 receptions for 639 yards. The second-year man started 14 games and was targeted 88 times. In the latter half of the season, he was one of the top targets for quarterback Baker Mayfield. With Odell Beckham Jr. and Kareem Hunt joining Cleveland alongside Jarvis Landry, look for defenses to disregard accounting for the tight end out of Miami.
Projections: 64 receptions/722 yards/7 touchdowns
Evan Engram (TE), New York Giants
Evan Engram had a great year back in 2017 before being plagued by injury this past season. With the departure of Odell Beckham Jr., Engram could become a top target on this Giants offense. The tight end only started eight games last season, so if he can stay healthy, look for his numbers to significantly increase. While Saquon Barkley will likely carry the offense once again this year, Engram could possibly lead the team in receptions and touchdowns among receivers.
Projections: 79 receptions/839 yards/11 touchdowns
Sony Michel (RB) New England Patriots
During the reign of glory for New England, they have often went with the running back by committee approach. That seemed to change a bit last season with the backfield being led heavily by rookie Sony Michel. Michel carried the ball nearly 46% of the time last year for the Patriots, and that number will likely go up this season. James White might be a bigger factor in the pass game, but Michel will once again be the leading rusher for this New England offense.
Projections: 223 carries/986 yards/8 touchdowns
Calvin Ridley (WR) Atlanta Falcons
Calvin Ridley exceeded expectations his rookie season, catching 64 passes, 10 of which were for touchdowns. The rookie wide receiver was targeted 92 times and was able to appear in all 16 games of the season. Defenses are going to have continue to focus on Julio Jones, which will open up Ridley’s game even more this season.
Projections: 77 receptions/963 yards/11 touchdowns
Mitchell Trubisky (QB) Chicago Bears
Mitchell Trubisky made a huge jump last season, throwing for over 3,000 yards in just 14 games with 24 touchdowns. The Chicago Bears quarterback was selected to his first Pro Bowl and had an 11-3 record as a starter after a rookie a season where he went just 4-8. With a young receiving core and rebuilding running game, the Bears will likely be a pass-oriented offense. Trubisky could realistically become a top-10 quarterback this season if his receivers step up and if he plays in all 16 games.
Projections: 3,648 yards/31 touchdowns/101.3 quarterback rating
James Washington (WR) Pittsburgh Steelers
With Antonio Brown in Oakland, Juju Smith-Schuster has taken over as the top target for the Pittsburgh Steelers, leaving the second spot wide open. Look for James Washington to potentially take that role. The 2nd-round draft pick in the 2018 draft will look to find an increase in production this season with the departure of offensive weapons such as Brown and running back Le’Veon Bell. Washington had three 1,000+ yard seasons at Oklahoma State and could prove to be a weapon in the pass game this season for Pittsburgh.
Projections: 61 receptions/631 yards/6 touchdowns
Mark Ingram (RB) Baltimore Ravens
Mark Ingram has been a productive piece of the New Orleans Saints over the past few years, even with the arrival of Alvin Kamara. Now that Mark Ingram will be the centerpiece of the run game in Baltimore, we could very well see him rush for over 1,000 yards for the third time in the past four seasons. Ingram’s numbers were down last season, likely due to Kamara’s presence and the fact that he only started six games. Look for Ingram to be an ideal fit in Baltimore, a team that will be ground oriented due to the scrambling abilities of quarterback Lamar Jackson and developing receiving personnel.
Projections: 212 carries/1,079 yards/13 touchdowns
Jimmy Garoppolo (QB) San Francisco 49ers
Coming off of a season where he tore his ACL, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo will be looking to make a successful comeback this season. Garoppolo started his career in San Francisco with a 5-0 record in 2017, followed by a 1-2 start last season. We didn’t get to see enough of the fifth-year man out of Eastern Illinois University last year to gauge his development, so it will be interesting to see if Garoppolo can make a full recovery. If so, the former New England Patriot has a lot of potential and could produce some quality numbers.
Projections: 2,789 yards/21 touchdowns/83.4 quarterback rating
Amari Cooper (WR) Dallas Cowboys
With the addition of Randall Cobb and guys like Michael Gallup showing more promise, wide receiver Amari Cooper could see some favorable defensive match-ups this season. Cooper never really found a groove last season due to the fact that he spent time with two teams, but this year Cooper has the ability to post his fourth 1,000 yard season of his career. Cooper’s production will likely depend on Dak Prescott. If Prescott can perform like he did in his rookie season, Cooper might just see the best production of his career.
Projections: 88 receptions/1,096 yards/13 touchdowns
Dede Westbrook (WR) Jacksonville Jaguars
With a new quarterback in Nick Foles, Dede Westbrook has a high chance of having a breakout season in Jacksonville. Westbrook will be entering his third year and was targeted 101 times last season. With Marqise Lee recovering from an ACL tear, Westbrook will likely assume the top receiver spot on the depth chart for the Jaguars. Westbrook collected 717 yards last season, and there is good reason to believe he will hit the 1,000 yard mark this season with a more talented passer at the helm of the offense.
Projections: 91 receptions/1,101 yards/12 touchdowns
Cover photo via: Ron Chenoy/USA Today Sports
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