They say it takes three years to start to really evaluate how a draft is turning out, but that doesn’t mean we can’t highlight some players that are turning out huge seasons.
I’m going to rank the 10 best second-year players in the N.F.L. based on how they have played through their first two years and how likely I think the success could continue. I did not include offensive linemen, I haven’t watched enough of each offensive lines performance to intimately know if they are among the best players.
(only Colt McCoy and Sam Bradford have snaps this year)
#10 LeGarette Blount, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
In 24 games, Blount is averaging 4.7 yards per carry with 11 touchdowns in two seasons. Not great numbers, but he’s shown to be a reliable player who can really pound the football. This year he has improved as a receiver catching 12 balls for a 143 yards. I considered many other players here for #10 and I see (very good) arguments for all of them, but perhaps I just wanted to get in a running back and in his two seasons Blount has shown he’ll be a force to be recokned with moving forward.
#9 Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
Brown has emerged as one of the best third down receivers in the entire league (one of the others on this list has probably been a little better), who can also make plays in the return game. Brown was a 6th round pick and has been an absolute steal. He has a 925 yards receiving, but only two touchdowns. Brown is averaging 16.8 yards per reception, but he seems to make at least one big play per game. Very quality young player.
#8 Sean Lee
I love me the play of Sean lee. He’s so instinctual and just a good player. He’s been playing with an injured hand/wrist much this season, but is still producing. He has 87 tackles, but most impressively four interceptions. He’s excellent in pass coverage, and just looks like a S-T-U-D.
#7 Daryl Washington, LB, Arizona Cardinals
Daryl Washington has been a one man wrecking crew for the Arizona Cardinals this year. He’s made plays all over the field. He has 78 tackles 4 sacks 2 forced fumbles 6 pass defensed two interceptions. Last year he also had 78 tackles. He’s quietly making plays out in the West coast but no one is paying attention. Nice looking young player.
#6 Victor Cruz, WR, New York Giants
Or as Giants fans call them Cruuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz!!!
Victor Cruz had 2 receptions for 17 yards in his first two games. Since week three (that’s 11 games) Cruz has 1133 yards receiving and 7 touchdowns. That’s a 103 yards per game. This is really Cruz’s first season as he went on IR early in 2010 (3 games played). How impressive has he been? Whew. The thing I’m still wondering about Cruz is will he ever be able to beat double teams? Right now Hakeem Nicks gets the double teams from the Giants and Cruz is clearly benefiting from that, but he’s been so good and looks to have a real bright future as long as Eli Manning his throwing him the ball.
#5 Tim Tebow, QB, Denver Broncos
Tebow has been better than I thought he would be this and I have him at #5. Well what are some things to be concerned about? I’m not convinced yet that he can be a franchise quarterback. The Broncos are running a non-traditional offense, which has been effective, but I’ve seen too many times where a non-conventional offense has good success until defenses get an off-season to prepare for it (the Wildcat comes to mind). During the off-seasopn teams will study the Broncos offense and come up with ways to stop it, if the Broncos and Tebow success continues next year I’ll be a true believer.
The other reason is quite frankly who have the Broncos beat in their long winning streak?
Since Tebow has been starting they have beat the Dolphins (Matt Moore), Oakland (Palmer in his first or 2nd start), Kansas City (Cassel? Palko?), The Jets (Mark Sanchez), Chargers (rivers), Minnesota (Christain Ponder), Chicago Bears (Caleb Hanie)
All those teams minus the Jets are worse than they are good, and the Jets aren’t that good either. Tebow has been great in the waning moments, but what happens if they play a team that can hang 35 points up? Right now, to me, the Vikings game is an aberration.
#4 Jimmy Graham, TE, New Orleans Saints
Jimmy Graham is second in the league in receptions with 80. He has 1,101 yards and 8 touchdowns. Just a Stud. What a gem the Saints have in Graham, one of the toughest covers in the league. This was clearly the year of the Tight End, I haven’t even included Aaron Hernandez in this list.
#3 Dez Bryant, WR, Dallas Cowboys
I know he doesn’t have the numbers that Cruz has, but I have a ton of faith in him being able to sustain this kind of success where I have more questions about Cruz. Bryant is just a physical marvel who makes plays all over the field. What a talented, talented player the Cowboys have for the future.
#2 Jason Pierre Paul, DE, New York Giants
This man’s ceiling is sky high. He is coming off the game of his life, but that’s just part of the story. He has 10.5 sacks on the season, at least 6 passes defensed, countless hurries, 61 tackles and everyone on the Giants is saying that he still has a lot of room for improvement. Room for improvement? This season would be at the top of most players career years. I couldn’t have been wrong more about Pierre Paul.
#1 Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots
I think Gronkowski is better than Graham because he’s a more complete tight end. Now Graham might be a more dangerous threat between the twenties, but Gronkowski is a monster in the red-zone. Gronkowski has 25 touchdowns in his young career. Even more impressive is that in his last 15 games (13 this year the last two last year) he has 18 touchdowns. That’s remarkable, which would be tied for third most (if it was all one season) all times behind Jerry Rice and Randy Moss.
Just missed the cut
Ndamunkong Suh, Kam Chancellor, Eric Berry, Kam Chancellor, NaVorro Bowman,