Jordan Reed Leads List of NFL Players Just Scratching the Surface of Greatness
There is a litany of good players in the NFL, but only a finite amount are truly great.
The following players are on the edge between "good" and "great," sure to spill over into the latter category soon enough.
The NFL is chock full of talent, but some of the younger guys are slowly ascending to elitehood. Jordan Reed of the Washington Redskins is one of those guys. He is ready to have a breakout season in 2014.
He is part of an improved offense with a dominant running game, and he will finally have a quarterback that is 100 percent healthy.
Along with the other players on this list, Reed is close to being considered top-tier player in the NFL, and we could see him seal that moniker this coming season.
Eddie Lacy, RB, Green Bay Packers
Eddie Lacy had a stellar year as a rookie last season, and he is in a good position going forward. The Green Bay Packers have one of the most potent passing games in the league, which greatly opens things up for the running game—more specifically, Lacy.
He racked up 1,178 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2013, and he only played in 15 games. Lacy proved to be a difference-maker on the offensive side of the ball, helping them maintain some level of continuity when Aaron Rodgers was out with injury last season.
He is a true three-down back with tremendous vision. He is also pretty fast for his size.
Lacy outran, ran through and leaped over many defenders last season, and it's hard to see him slowing down at all in 2014.
Jordan Reed, TE, Washington Redskins
Jordan Reed wasn't expected to do much as a rookie at the beginning of last season, but he proved to be one of Washington's most valued players. Reed did miss seven games, but he was a reliable player when he was on the field.
He hauled in 45 passes for 499 yards and three touchdowns. If you extrapolate Reed's numbers through the seven games he missed, he would have ended the season with 80 catches, 887 yards and five touchdowns.
Pretty good stats for a rookie.
With another offseason under his belt and a healthy Robert Griffin III, Reed should have a good year.
Jay Gruden's offense favors tight ends—it used Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert very effectively last year—which will also contribute to Reed's production.
Stephon Gilmore, CB, Buffalo Bills
Stephon Gilmore has been one of the league's brightest young stars since entering the NFL two seasons ago, and he is on his way to becoming a major star. He's been an integral piece of the Buffalo Bills defense during his two years in the league, though he did miss five games last season.
He's a very physical cornerback who can keep up with most receivers and is very good in press man on the outside. Gilmore definitely still has some developing to do, but he's off to a great start as a pro.
He may suffer some growing pains at first as he adjusts to Jim Schwartz's defense, but once he settles into his role, he should put up some good numbers.
Doug Martin, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Doug Martin was putting together a breakout season before suffering a season-crumbling shoulder injury. Now that he's back and healthy, Martin is in a prime position to move into the upper echelon of NFL runners.
Things will be different now that Donald Penn isn't around, but Anthony Collins, who Tampa Bay signed from the Cincinnati Bengals in free agency, should make a worthy replacement. Martin's ability as a well-rounded runner is unquestionable, but it will be interesting to see if there's any rust on him as he returns from shoulder surgery.
If he can knock the dust off his wheels and get off to a hot start, there's definitely a shot that he lands in the top five overall runners of next season.
Martin will also benefit from the boost the Bucs' passing game got when they drafted Mike Evans, which will only open up the passing game more. Martin is the young leader of this offense, and he is arguably the best back they've had since Mike Alstott back in the day.
Vontaze Burfict, LB, Cincinnati Bengals
Vontaze Burfict has quietly become one of the league's most efficient and effective linebackers. Burfict totaled 171 tackles last season to go along with his three sacks and six passes defended, adding up to one of the best performances any linebacker in the league turned in last year.
Burfict performs well in coverage, and he is great at limiting yards after the catch. Where he really excels is against the run, as he is strong enough to shed blockers and bring down the ball-carrier.
He doesn't offer much as a pass-rusher, but he can get the job done in some instances. Even so, he's one of the most ferocious hitters in the NFL, and he does everything else pretty darn well.
There's a whole lot to like about Burfict, and it's hard to argue against the fact that it looks like he's getting better—he improved his tackle total from 127 to 171 between his rookie year and last season.
He's the total package as a defender, and he is on the cusp of becoming labeled one of the best linebackers of the past decade.