Sophomore Stars: Second-Year Players Who Could Have A Big Impact
Players such as Percy Harvin, Brian Cushing, Clay Matthews, and Michael Oher had big impacts in their rookie seasons, garnering attention from fans and media alike.
But there are many second-year players who simply needed some time to develop or just a better opportunity.
Here's a look at some of the players who had less spectacular and maybe quieter rookie campaigns, but look poised for a breakout sophomore year.
Michael Crabtree - WR - San Francisco 49ers 2009 First Round
Last season Michael Crabtree showed the talent that made him one of the top receivers in the draft and the attitude that made him slide to the 10th overall pick.
Due to a contract dispute, Crabtree missed all of training camp and did not play the first five games of the season.
This year Crabtree should have a better understanding of the offense with a full offseason under his belt, and he should develop some chemistry with former No. 1 overall pick Alex Smith, who looks to have grabbed the starting job.
Matthew Stafford - QB - Detroit Lions 2009 First Round
The Lions gave Stafford quite a bit of help this offseason. They signed free agent wide receiver Nate Burleson, traded for pass catching tight end Tony Scheffler, and drafted running back Jahvid Best.
If wide receiver Calvin Johnson can stay healthy and tight end Brandon Pettigrew, also a second-year player, continues to improve his game, the Lions could have a dangerous offense.
At times last year Stafford showed glimpses why the Lions picked the strong-armed QB first overall in the 2009 draft, but he missed a good portion of last year with injuries. Much of what Stafford will be able to accomplish this year will depend on his health and the ability of the offensive line to keep him upright.
LeSean McCoy - RB - Philadelphia Eagles 2009 Second Round
The Eagles backfield will look a Little different this year as the often concussed Brian Westbrook continues to look for work, leaving the door open for LeSean McCoy.
Westbrook was one of the cornerstones of the Eagles offense since 2003, so McCoy undoubtedly has big shoes to fill, but his speed and skill at catching the ball on screens should make the transition easier.
New addition Mike Bell will mostly be used as a short-yardage back which means McCoy will receive the majority of the workload. Although Andy Reid's offense tends to be pass first, run second, McCoy will be used in a similar fashion to Westbrook, splitting time carrying the ball and catching it out of the backfield.
Johnny Knox - WR - Chicago Bears 2009 Fifth Round
Knox wasn't the first receiver taken by the Bears in last year's draft, that honor goes to Juaquin Iglesias, who was taken in the third round, but it appears that fifth rounder Knox will be the starting wide receiver for the Bears opposite Devin Hester.
In Mike Martz's offense Knox will be the "X" receiver which is the same position Torry Holt had success with when he was with the Rams. Whether or not Knox has that same type of playmaking skill has yet to be seen, but he should have ample opportunity in Martz's pass happy offense.
Aaron Maybin - OLB - Buffalo Bills 2009 First Round
There were a lot of doubts on draft day about Maybin. Draft experts were divided, some seeing a young pass rusher with huge upside, others a potential first round bust. And while his rookie season was underwhelming there are reasons to be optimistic about his sophomore season.
The Bills are switching to a 3-4 defense which will mean a position switch for Maybin, from defensive end to outside linebacker. This move should maximize his skill set and allow him to more freely rush the passer and not be tied up by offensive linemen.
With a fresh start in a new system, Maybin will need to show something this year to avoid being labeled a bust.
Mike Wallace - WR - Pittsburgh Steelers 2009 Third Round
Despite the fact that starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will start the year serving a four-to-six game suspension and the Steelers have stated they want to put a greater emphasis on the running game, Wallace could have a huge impact this season.
The Speedy Wallace quickly surpassed 2008 second round pick Limas Sweed on the depth chart last year and this year Sweed has already been placed on season-ending injured reserve.
With the trade of Santonio Holmes to the New York Jets, Mike Wallace looks to have claimed the starting wide receiver spot opposite of Hines Ward.
Brad Jones - OLB - Green Bay Packers 2009 Seventh Round
Brad Jones is not exactly a household name outside of Green Bay, but the Packers are banking on him being able to fill the shoes of the departed Aaron Kampman.
In eight starts for the Packers last year the seventh round pick had four sacks and showed enough ability that the Packers didn't feel it necessary to draft an outside linebacker to play opposite of Pro Bowler Clay Matthews.
With opposing offenses likely keying on Matthews, Jones should have opportunities to make plays this season.
Shonn Greene - RB - New York Jets 2009 Third Round
By letting Thomas Jones go and trading Leon Washington to the Seahawks, the Jets are putting a lot of faith in second-year running back Shonn Greene.
Greene had two breakout games in the playoffs last year, accumulating over 250 yards in wins over the Bengals and Chargers. The Jets felt so comfortable with Greene that they decided to let the 31-year-old Jones go rather than pay him $5.8 million, even after coming off his most productive season.
In Jones' place the Jets signed LaDainian Tomlinson who has not looked like the same player he was a few short years ago.
With the Jets relying heavily on the running game for their offensive production look for Greene to get a lot of opportunities this year.