Every year the expectations for rookies coming into the NFL are high. Unfortunately, not every rookie can meet those expectations whether due to injury, usage, or just learning the ropes. There always seem to be Year 2 (or 3) breakouts that occur after disappointing rookie seasons and this rookie class is sure to have a few. Here are my Top 5 who haven’t met expectations but will blow up in Year 2
Terrace Marshall, WR, Carolina Panthers
Marshall was my #2 WR in the class and his skillset screams high end NFL WR. Outside of his medical issues, he looked like a steal reuniting with former Offensive Coordinator Joe Brady. Now, Brady is gone, Marshall has been hurt, and his impact was rarely seen when he was on the field. So far, 14 catches for 116 yards just hasn’t cut it.
Marshall’s versatility as a slot or outside WR should have provided an opportunity to be utilized in many ways for the Panthers. Instead, the QB play and lackluster offense halted his development. Marshall could face the Davante Adams path to needing his skillset and the offense around him to develop to fully unlock his potential.
Alex Leatherwood, OL, Las Vegas Raiders
Leatherwood was a run blocking monster at Alabama, but when he was drafted to be a RT, it was disastrous. Training camp was so bad that the Raiders moved Leatherwood to RG very quickly (which is where many of us draftniks thought his ideal fit was in the first place). He continued to have some struggles early in the season, especially in pass protection, but Leatherwood has seen distinct improvement over the past few weeks.
As the Raiders get a new coach and possibly new systems in place, hopefully there is some thought to how Leatherwood is used. As a run blocking guard with size and athletic ability, he can still develop into a solid player worth his first round price tag.
Kelvin Joseph, CB, Dallas Cowboys
Joseph was a monster in the SEC with good size and playmaking ability to boot. He looked like a shoe-in to start opposite Trevon Diggs, but a preseason groin injury landed Joseph on IR. He is back now, but still integrating slowly into the Cowboys defense. With a big need for secondary help, the Cowboys were relying on Joseph to be a big help as a rookie.
Being such a perfect for this defense, Joseph should make a good jump (if healthy) during Year 2. He has good length and will add another dangerous playmaker on the other side of Diggs. If injuries start to become constant for any player, it can hurt their outlook, but Joseph’s talent should win out.
Payton Turner, EDGE, New Orleans Saints
Turner was a surprised first round pick by the Saints, but the athletic pass rusher out of Houston brought some high end physical traits. Turner’s first game was Week 2 against the Panthers and he flashed his true ability. With 3 Tackles For Losses, it seemed the rookie would have a great season. Unfortunately, Turner bounced from ineffective to a shoulder injury landing him on IR.
Turner’s pass rush potential is needed on the Saints and his length and electric first step have NFL potential. Next year, expect to see Turner in that starting lineup with some big sack games to go along with it as a bounce back after this disappointing rookie season.
Zach Wilson, QB, New York Jets
Wilson was drafted much higher than the general consensus rating after coming out of nowhere for BYU last season. His downfield passing and ability to traverse the pocket made him an attractive QB candidate for the Jets who were looking for the next Patrick Mahomes. Unfortunately, Wilson’s season has been pretty rough.
Not only has it been bad play (behind an offensive line that has been wildly inconsistent) but a knee injury sidelined Wilson for a portion of the season. He has shown some promise from clean pockets and might be able to turn the corner a bit in his second year. If the Jets personnel can improve, Wilson will too. Though he may never be the true stud, look for Wilson to rebound.
Trevor Lawrence, QB, Jacksonville Jaguars
Jaycee Horn, CB, Carolina Panthers
Dillon Radunz, OT, Tennessee Titans
Walker Little, OT, Jacksonville Jaguars