Rob Gronkowski has 18 receiving touchdowns in his last 15 games. Impressive is an understatement

Sensational Sophomores: The 10 Best Second Year Players in the N.F.L.

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,

Dick's Sporting Goods presents "Hell Week":

Tags: Antonio Brown Daryl Washington Jason Pierre-Paul Jimmy Graham Rob Gronkowski Sean Lee Tim Tebow Victor Cruz

  • sayre111589

    Jesse, Tim Tebow didn’t beat the other QBs, he beat the other defenses. Not sure if you noticed that.

  • ReggieMccolgan


    Suh just missing the cut? What is your reasoning? Guy won the Rookie of the Year award last season with 10 sacks as a DT. Also he is having a very good 2nd year minus the suspension. Look at what his absence has done…we are not nearly the defense without him. No way Blount, Brown, Lee, Washington, Cruz, Tebow, or Bryant are near him. Jason Paul Pierre, Jimmy Graham, and Rob Gronkowski are close but still. Suh has to be on this list if not #1. Do not let this suspension drop him down. If the Lions offered him for anyone one of these players the other team would say thankyou and take it in a heart beat. I like the list otherwise. Graham is special.

  • Jesse Bartolis

    I know he beats other defenses, but I want to see what happens when the Broncos have to score points all game. Can he do it then?

    I put him at #5 so it’s not like I”m completely knocking him

  • sayre111589

    @Jesse Bartolis No offense, but who cares? If he is winning ball games, we can’t criticize him for who they play. The Broncos weren’t favored in any of those games except the one against the Bears.

  • sayre111589

    @ReggieMccolgan Reggie–Suh doesn’t deserve to be mentioned with his antics on the field. He is a straight up thug and doesn’t deserve positive recognition whatsoever right now. In any way, shape or form. I personally asked Jesse not to add Suh on the list, not sure if that was why he didn’t include him though.

  • Jesse Bartolis

    I know we can’t criticzie him for who they play and wins are wins. But if You’re asking me would I bet my house (if I owned one) on Tebow being a franchise quarterback moving forward, I’m not yet convinced. And I just need to see more before I”m sure he is a franchise quarterback, but I think he’s done morethan enough to deserve the next 19 games (plus playoffs) to prove that he is

  • ReggieMccolgan

    “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.” That was the criteria. Suh is not a thug, he is the typical dominate defensive tackle. This list is about performance and future success…not personal opinion and feelings which is litered in this article with Tebow and Suh. Jesse made great points with Tebow. Only time the oppisition scored over 20 points on them it was a blow out against the Lions and Tebow. Suh might be the league’s best DT and deserves to be on this list. Not including him based on a 2 game suspension is rediculous. @sayre111589

    • Jesse Bartolis

      Suh had a huge rookie season, but I don’t think he’s been nearly as good this year, he’s averaging less than 3 tackles per game and only had 3 sacks on the season.I haven’t watched every Lions game intimately, but that seems like a down season. Maybe he’s impacting the defense more than his stats indicate..

      Why’d he go from un-blockable to much less productive this year? I don’t know the answer to that, which is why I have him just outside the top 10. The personal fouls and immaturity he’s shown from time to time to help the ranking, but that’s why I have him just outside the top 10

      Because last year I was sure this guy was going to be an All-pro for yaers to come but he seems to be regressing, but again I have to see the Lions more I’ve only seen maybe four or five full games this season