Arizona Cardinals – John Brown – Wide Receiver
The Cardinals have been really deep at wide receiver in recent years with Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd being the team’s primary receivers. However, Floyd is now gone and that means there will definitely be an increased role for John Brown as the Cardinals new 2nd option in the passing game. Brown has been productive as Arizona’s 3rd receiver, but he has never really had the opportunity to be the number 2 wide receiver for the Cardinals. Expect Brown to have a huge year since he will now have a much bigger role than he has ever had.
Atlanta Falcons – Austin Hooper – Tight End
Atlanta’s passing offense was outstanding last season with wide receivers Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu leading the way. However, the tight end position wasn’t targeted very much last season as the top 2 players at that position only had 31 catches combined. Austin Hooper only had 18 catches for 271 yards, but he was still only a rookie and he was just getting adjusted to the offense. Hooper should have a bigger role in the offense this season as he gets more adjusted to playing at the NFL level and gets to know quarterback Matt Ryan better. Jones and Sanu will still be the focal point of the Falcons offense, although Hooper could prove to be a breakout player as a reliable 3rd option for Atlanta.
Baltimore Ravens – Kamalei Correa – Inside Linebacker
Kamalei Correa was a 2nd round pick of the Ravens last year, but he barely saw the field during his rookie year as he only had 4 tackles and a forced fumble in limited playing time. However, his role should increase tremendously this season as he is expected to win the starting inside linebacker spot for the Ravens especially after the departure of leading tackler and last year’s starting inside linebacker Zach Orr. Correa will see an increased role whether he wins the job or not and get ready to hear his name a lot more often this season.
Buffalo Bills – Zay Jones – Wide Receiver
Zay Jones was one of the most underrated players in this year’s draft and he was just as good as the other receivers in the 2017 class despite only being a 2nd round pick. However, Jones is going to the Bills where he will be relied upon to be a starter right away because they don’t have much depth at the receiver position. Sammy Watkins is going to be the Bills number 1 wide receiver in 2017, but Jones has a chance to have a major role as the Bills 2nd option in the passing game.
Carolina Panthers – Daryl Williams – Right Tackle
Daryl Williams had a very productive college career at Oklahoma and I was kind of surprised that he fell to the 4th round in the 2015 draft. However, he will finally get a chance to prove himself this season as he will likely be the Panthers new starting right tackle. Michael Oher is still dealing with the effects of a concussion from last season and it is unclear if he will even be the starting right tackle when he comes back. That means Williams will finally have his chance to be a breakout player and prove he can be a starting offensive tackle in the NFL.
Chicago Bears – Kevin White – Wide Receiver
Injuries have really hurt Kevin White’s NFL career since he was drafted in the 1st round of the 2015 draft. He missed his entire rookie season with a stress fracture in his shin and he was subsequently was placed on injured reserve. He had a very minimal impact for the Bears when he finally made his NFL debut in 2016 as he had 19 receptions and 187 yards in 4 games. However, White once again found himself on injured reserve as he fractured the fibula in his left leg and that ended his season. Now that he is healthy heading into the 2017 season there are high hopes that he can be the number 1 receiver that they expected of him when he was drafted. The Bears top receiver from last season is gone as Alshon Jeffery signed with the Eagles this offseason. If Kevin White can just stay healthy then there is no reason that he can’t put up huge numbers because he is by far the best wide receiver on their roster.
Cincinnati Bengals – Jake Fisher – Right Tackle
Jake Fisher hasn’t seen much playing time since being drafted in the 2nd round in the 2015 draft as he was basically the understudy to veteran offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth. However, Whitworth is now gone after he departed for the Rams in free agency and now the starting right tackle job is clearly going to be given to Jake Fisher in 2017. Fisher wasn’t great when he started the last 3 games at the position last season, but now he has a full offseason knowing that he will be the starter and he will have a big role to play this season.
Cleveland Browns – Corey Coleman – Wide Receiver
Corey Coleman is a very talented wide receiver, yet he didn’t make much of an impact as injuries held him back during his rookie season. However, he now heads into 2017 with a much better knowledge of the Browns offense and of the NFL in general. I’m not quite sure which quarterback will be throwing him the ball, but Coleman is going to definitely be a starter and he should have a breakthrough season in 2017.
Dallas Cowboys – Chaz Green – Left Guard
Chaz Green has primarily been a backup offensive tackle since he was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2015 draft by the Cowboys. However, Green now will have a much bigger role than he has ever had as he is going to be the starting left guard for Dallas in 2017. Doug Free retired this offseason which meant that the Cowboys had to reorganize their offensive line and that is why Green ended up as the starting left guard. We’ll see how well Green plays in that role, but the rest of the offensive line is probably the best in the NFL and they will certainly help to guide him along the way.
Denver Broncos – Paxton Lynch – Quarterback
Paxton Lynch didn’t look very good last season in the 3 games that he played for the Broncos as a rookie. However, Lynch now has had a full offseason to improve and try and win the starting quarterback job from Trevor Siemian. Lynch is a dynamic player and he certainly won’t be on the bench for much longer since the Broncos traded up to draft him in the 1st round in the 2016 draft. Lynch might be ready to start week 1 and if he is then he has a chance to be a bigtime playmaker for a Broncos offense that really needs one.
Detroit Lions – Ameer Abdullah – Running Back
The Lions running game has been awful for several years and that is why they drafted Ameer Abdullah early in the 2015 draft to try and fix their terrible situation at the running back position. Abdullah showed flashes as a rookie in 2015 that he could be a decent running back in the NFL, but the Lions pass the ball too much and they never really gave him much of an opportunity. Last year he played really well until he was injured during the 2nd game of 2016 and he ended up being out for the season after only 18 carries for 101 yards. Detroit’s running game was really bad without him and if he can stay healthy then he should make a big impact for the Lions in 2017.
Green Bay Packers – Kenny Clark – Defensive End
Kenny Clark didn’t play too much of an immediate role for the Packers last season despite being a 1st round pick in 2016. However, with Julius Peppers now gone it means that Clark will have a much bigger role this season at the defensive end position. Clark isn’t the type of pass rusher that Peppers is, but Clark is effective at stopping the run and he could really make a big impact for the Packers now that he is the full-time starter.
Houston Texans – K.J. Dillon – Strong Safety
If you have never heard of K.J. Dillon then you’re probably not alone as he was a 5th round pick in the 2016 draft and he only had 5 tackles during his rookie season as a backup safety. However, Quintin Demps is now gone and that has left a void at the strong safety position as there wasn’t much depth at the position behind him. That void will be filled by K.J. Dillon who will be tossed into the starting role in all likelihood. We’ll see what kind of impact he makes, but Texans fans will certainly hear his name a lot more next season.
Indianapolis Colts – Le’Raven Clark – Right Tackle
The Colts have struggled to find a good offensive line for a long time and they have especially struggled finding a good starting right tackle. It’s now time to see what 2nd-year right tackle Le’Raven Clark can do as the starting right tackle. Clark was inactive for most of the Colts games last season after getting drafted in the 3rd round in the 2016 draft. Clark played very well when he did get the opportunity to start the final 3 games of the season for the Colts and it was possibly a good sign of things to come for him in 2017.
Jacksonville Jaguars – Myles Jack – Inside Linebacker
Myles Jack could have been a 1st round pick easily in the 2016 draft, but instead he fell to the Jaguars in the 2nd round due to injury concerns. However, Jack failed to live up to the hype as a rotational player at linebacker during his rookie year as he only had 24 tackles. Jack will have to be much better in 2017 as he is already basically guaranteed a starting spot at the inside linebacker position for Jacksonville. Jack has tons of playmaking ability and he could really prove to be a good linebacker now that he is given a full-time opportunity in 2017.
Kansas City Chiefs – Chris Conley – Wide Receiver
Chris Conley hasn’t had a very big role in the Kansas City offense since he was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2015 draft. However, Conley is now the top wide receiver for the Chiefs after they released pro-bowl receiver Jeremy Maclin in June. The Chiefs don’t throw the ball a lot, so don’t expect huge numbers from Conley in 2017. However, he might near 1,000 yards receiving just because there isn’t much depth at receiver for Kansas City.
Los Angeles Chargers – Mike Williams – Wide Receiver
There has been a lot of hype about rookie 1st round picks, but surprisingly Mike Williams has somehow kind of gone under the radar for the Chargers. However, Mike Williams might be the best player that comes out of the entire draft. Williams is a big possession receiver who will be a big redzone threat for the Chargers immediately. Also, he has the size and ability to compete at the NFL level immediately which is why he will probably be a breakout player right away.
Los Angeles Rams – Jared Goff – Quarterback
Jared Goff was the 1st overall pick in the 2016 NFL draft, but he clearly wasn’t ready to make an immediate impact at the NFL level as he went 0-7 as a starter during his rookie season. Goff was absolutely terrible last season, but it wasn’t entirely his fault since the team went through a midseason coaching change and he didn’t have many offensive weapons around him in order to succeed. Goff now has better receivers after the team signed Robert Woods in free agency and they drafted Cooper Kupp early in the draft. Also, star running back Todd Gurley should be much better than he was last season and that would take a lot of pressure off of Goff. Overall, Goff has a lot of improving to do, although he should have a breakthrough season in 2017.
Miami Dolphins – Jordan Phillips – Defensive Tackle
Jordan Phillips has been decent as a rotational defensive tackle since being drafted in the 2nd round of the 2015 draft by the Dolphins. However, Phillips will now see a much larger role for the 2017 season as he is projected to be the full-time starter at one of the defensive tackle positions for Miami. Phillips is continuing to get better each season and he is already a good role player, but he seems ready to breakthrough and take the next step to becoming a good starter. It will help that he has star defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh alongside him in order to guide him. If Phillips can continue to improve then he has the talent already to be a very good NFL defensive tackle.
Minnesota Vikings – Laquon Treadwell – Wide Receiver
Laquon Treadwell was supposed to be an immediate impact receiver for the Vikings after they selected him in the 1st round last year. However, Treadwell was surprisingly barely used as he only had one reception all season. Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs are still the starters for Minnesota at wide receiver, but Treadwell will definitely compete for more playing time at receiver. Treadwell has terrific size and ability to be a number 1 receiver for the Vikings and if he gets the opportunity in 2017 he could put up some very good stats.
New England Patriots – Mike Gillislee – Running Back
Mike Gillislee already kind of had a breakout season with the Buffalo Bills in a limited role as he had 577 yards and 8 rushing touchdowns. However, Gillislee should see an even bigger role with the Patriots in 2017 as he is expected to take over LeGarrette Blount’s role as the early-down running back. Gillislee will be used on first and 2nd downs primarily and in short yardage situations, so expect a lot touchdowns for him this season. Gillislee is already a good player, but he should put up huge numbers in 2017 now that he is the lead running back for the first time in his career.
New Orleans Saints – Marshon Lattimore – Cornerback
Marshon Lattimore could have easily been a top 5 pick in the 2017 draft, but he instead fell to the Saints with the 11th overall pick. Lattimore will be a rookie, so don’t expect him to be a superstar player in 2017, but he will certainly be a starter right away for a Saints defensive that has been terrible in recent years. Lattimore has shutdown corner traits and he will likely make a huge immediate impact for the Saints.
New York Giants – Paul Perkins – Running Back
The Giants had a terrible running game last season as starter Rashad Jennings wasn’t productive at all. However, the Giants decided to stick with the rest of their running back group besides Rashad Jennings who was released earlier in the year. Paul Perkins did the best job of anybody in the Giants running back group last year despite receiving limited playing time. Now, the Giants have enough confidence in him that they are making him a full-time starter at running back and he should put up career numbers in 2017.
New York Jets – Charone Peake – Wide Receiver
Charone Peake had a very small role as a receiver in the Jets offense last season as he only had 19 receptions for 186 yards, but not much was expected of him since he was a rookie 7th round pick. There will certainly be an opportunity for a much bigger role in 2017 after the team released veteran receivers Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker. Those two losses this season left the Jets with virtually nothing at the wide receiver position. That means Peake has a chance to be a starter and prove whether he can be a starter for the team long-term. Peake isn’t a very talented wide receiver, but given the Jets need at receiver he should have the opportunity to be a breakout player in 2017.
Oakland Raiders – Mario Edwards Jr. – Defensive End
Mario Edwards Jr. had a big role during his rookie year and he did a decent job as he had 42 tackles and 2 sacks. He was expected to have a bigger role last season, but he was injured almost all of the season and he only had 2 tackles in 2016. However, Edwards Jr. is going to get another opportunity to be a starting defensive end for the Raiders in 2017. It will certainly help that he will be able to start opposite of all-pro defensive end Khalil Mack since Mack will probably have offenses focus on him instead of Edwards. That will likely give Edwards plenty of opportunities to put up some big numbers and have a breakout season since teams won’t commit to blocking him as much with the threat of Khalil Mack on the other side. If Edwards can just stay healthy all year then there is no reason that he shouldn’t have a career year in 2017.
Philadelphia Eagles – Carson Wentz – Quarterback
Carson Wentz was very inconsistent last season which is to be expected of a rookie quarterback. However, now that he has a full offseason to continue to develop then he should be much better in 2017. Also, Wentz didn’t have very reliable offensive weapons around him last season, but he should have much better receivers to throw to with the additions of Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith in free agency. The team also added running back LeGarrette Blount which should help to take some of the pressure off of Wentz. I don’t think he’ll turn into a pro-bowl caliber quarterback in 2017, although he might be able to breakout and become a quality starting quarterback for the Eagles.
Pittsburgh Steelers – Jesse James – Tight End
Jesse James has been a very productive role player for Pittsburgh when he has gotten an opportunity to play. However, he is going to be the starting tight end for the first time in his NFL career and that means he will likely put up huge stats in 2017. Heath Miller retired prior to last season and the Steelers tried to replace Miller by signing Ladarius Green. However, Green had major injury issues last season and they just ended up moving on from him. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has always loved throwing to a tight end and that means James should have plenty of chances to make a huge impact next season in the passing game.
San Francisco 49ers – Rashard Robinson – Cornerback
Rashard Robinson had a decent impact as a rookie cornerback for the 49ers in 2016 and now with the departure of Tramaine Brock and Jimmie Ward moving to safety it creates a huge opportunity for Robinson to make an impact. Robinson is now the main cornerback for San Francisco and he will surely be thrown at a lot more than he ever has been. We’ll see how he handles being a full-time starter for the first time in his NFL career, but either way he will definitely have a breakout season.
Seattle Seahawks – Paul Richardson – Wide Receiver
Richardson surprisingly hasn’t been very involved in the Seahawks offense ever since being drafted in the 2nd round of the 2014 draft. However, he was given a little bit more an opportunity near the end of last season and he showed flashes of his potential as he made some ridiculous catches especially in the playoffs. The Seahawks still don’t have a very reliable receiver besides Doug Baldwin, but Richardson could be the 2nd receiver that they need. I’m not sure why Richardson hasn’t gotten more of a chance to play in his career, but after his impressive playoff performances I’d be shocked if he isn’t highly involved in the Seahawks offense next season.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Roberto Aguayo – Kicker
Roberto Aguayo was probably the worst kicker in the NFL last season despite the Buccaneers trading up to draft him in the 2nd round. Now, there are no guarantees that he will even keep the kicking job as the team signed former Jets kicker Nick Folk to try and provide some more competition. However, Aguayo did show signs of improvement towards the end of the season at least on easier kicks. Aguayo has more motivation to succeed now that he has more competition and he showed improvement late last season which is why I expect him to be much better in 2017.
Tennessee Titans – LeShaun Sims – Cornerback
LeShaun Sims was impressive in the limited playing time that he received last year and now the Titans don’t have much depth at cornerback. That means Sims will have a much bigger role probably as the team’s 2nd or 3rd starting cornerback. Sims will have to compete with 2017 1st round pick Adoree Jackson for more playing time. However, Sims at least should get an opportunity to show what he can do and he should have his breakout season in 2017.
Washington Redskins – Josh Doctson – Wide Receiver
Josh Doctson was a 1st round pick last year, but he only had 2 receptions for 66 yards as he was buried on the wide receiver depth chart behind DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon, and Jamison Crowder. However, Jackson and Garcon both left in free agency and the team only replaced them with Terrelle Pryor. That means there will definitely be a much bigger role for Doctson with the Redskins in 2017. Doctson has good size for an NFL receiver and he will take over one of the starting receiver positions for Washington this season. We’ll see how big of an impact that Doctson will have this season, but he is surely going to put up much bigger stats than he did as a rookie.