5 Talents to Watch in the NFL in 2019
With each new NFL season comes the tantalising prospect of seeing which young players will first start to reveal themselves as the superstars of the future. Sometimes they can come out of the blue,while other times their college records and rookie performances mark them out for greatness from the start.
Sometimes it might even be in the genes. Take one of last season’s breakout stars, Patrick Mahomes II, quarterback for the Kansas City Chiefs. His father, Pat Mahomes, was a very successful pitcher for the Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs and several other MLB teams. This golden arm seems to have been passed on to his son.
Last season Patrick Mahomes II’s stats were incredible. Even early in the Chiefs’ campaign he was averaging 9.76 air yards per throw, the fourth highest in the league, and he threw 18 touchdowns in six games with just four interceptions. So, it was little surprise when he was named the NFL MVP – the first ever for the Chiefs.
2018 season was also one to remember for Marcus Peters of the Los Angeles Rams. The 26-year-old cornerback arrived from the Kansas City Chiefs with high expectations and he didn’t disappoint, though his celebration style did get him into a little trouble. Over the season, he recorded 43 combined tackles, eight pass deflections, three interceptions and one touchdown. In his appearance in Super Bowl LII he recorded seven tackles and one pass defended. It was just a shame that the team didn’t win because that would have been the perfect conclusion to his season.
So, who are going to be the standout stars of the 2019 season?
Leighton Vander Esch, Linebacker, Dallas Cowboys
The 23-year-old from Illinois was quick to justify being picked in the first round of the 2018 draft. He came from Boise State University, where he’d been named as Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year. He played in all 16 games, being in the starting line-up of 11 of them, and racked up no less than 140 tackles along the way. This represented a franchise-rookie record and he was placed third in the whole league. He was also ranked fourth behind all qualifying linebackers. With a 4.65 seconds 40 yard dash speed, he’s exceptionally quick and athletic considering he’s 6ft 4 and weighs 256 pounds. Barring injury, 2019 looks like this could be a sensational season for him, particularly if he works on his mental toughness alongside his physical abilities.
Derwin James, Safety, Los Angeles Chargers
James made an equally impressive debut, almost instantly being catapulted into being one of the league’s leading young safeties. So, his decision to forego his remaining two years of eligibility at Florida State in order to go into the draft paid off almost immediately. He was picked up by the Chargers in the first round and over the season managed to notch up 105 tackles, 3.5 sacks and three interceptions. It’s widely anticipated that the coming season we will really see him come into his own as he’ll be partnered by Nasir Adderley, fresh out of Delaware, alongside Jerry Tillery. It’s a fearsome combination that is predicted to make one of the NFL’s best defenses an even more challenging prospect for any opposition.
Lamar Jackson, quarterback, Baltimore Ravens
The signs were always there that Jackson was going to become a truly electrifying performer on the national stage. While he was at Louisville he’d already started to fill up the display cabinet with the Heisman Trophy and the Maxwell andWalter Camp Awards. Jackson was also an unanimous All-American in his sophomore year of 2016. So, he was picked up understandably quickly by the Ravens in the first round of the 2018 draft.
Misfortune, in the form of a hip injury, for Joe Flacco spelt a lucky break for Jackson, enabling him to secure a place on the team. He was a cheap option for players of NFL fantasy football, but once established he had the chance to show that he was a good passer as well as an exceptional runner achieving 1,201 passing yards for the season. With the team destined to remodel the defense around his formidable strengths in 2019, we can’t wait to see what he’ll achieve.
Nick Bosa, Defensive end, San Francisco 49ers
Another example of great talent being in the genes, Bosa goes into his first season with the 49ers, no doubt with advice from both his brother Joey who plays for the Los Angeles Chargers and father John who had a distinguished career with the Miami Dolphins.
One of the reasons that there’s so much expectation riding on his shoulders is that he’ll be part of a starting line-up that also includes DeForest Buckner and Dee Ford. Taken individually all three are quite daunting defense opponents but put them all together and it could create a wall that’s all but impossible to penetrate - with multiple sacks and countless forced turnovers on the cards.
Tre’Quan Smith, Wide Receiver, New Orleans Saints
In his first season with the Saints, Smith quickly proved how well he could play alongside Drew Brees and helped in make football history when he was on the receiving end of the latter’s record-breaking 62-yard touchdown pass in October against the Washington Redskins.
With a tally of 28 passes in total for 427 yards and five touchdowns, he was consistently high performing for the Saints. As he moves into his second season for the team, he’s undoubtedly still the Number 2 receiver after Michael Thomas but his promising start means that other players like Brees should be seeking him out even more often. So don’t be too surprised if we see him leading the way with touchdowns for the team.