Predicting Every NFL Team's Biggest Breakout Player of 2020
In Week 1 of the 2020 NFL season, fans got an early look at who might be in line for a breakout year.
While some potential breakout stars were held out because of injuries, a handful of lesser-known players stood out with big-time performances.
While one week won't tell us everything we need to know about the NFL season, there are breakout candidates on every team. These players are typically younger, and while some have previously posted solid seasons in the league, 2020 is the perfect opportunity to take a bigger step in their development.
There's still plenty of hope left for all 32 teams, so let's take a look at the player on each roster who could have a breakout year.
Arizona Cardinals: Andy Isabella
Arizona Cardinals fans were intrigued when the franchise selected Andy Isabella out of Massachusetts in the second round of the 2019 NFL draft. While he was largely a non-factor as a rookie, Cardinals fans should expect a much bigger season from the wide receiver in 2020.
Isabella played in 15 games last year but caught just nine passes for 189 yards and a touchdown. A crowded depth chart at wide receiver made it hard for Isabella to get significant touches, and he struggled to see the field consistently behind guys like Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk. Now, he must compete with DeAndre Hopkins as well.
Fortunately for Isabella, head coach Kliff Kingsbury appears to be a fan of the 5'9" receiver. Both Kingsbury and quarterback Kyler Murray praised Isabella for his work ethic and playmaking ability during training camp.
Bringing in Hopkins will make it even harder for Isabella to carve out a role in the Cardinals offense. However, the team was willing to part ways with another promising young receiver in Hakeem Butler this offseason, indicating it has long-term plans for the former UMass receiver.
Isabella didn't register a target in Week 1 against the San Francisco 49ers, but don't let that deter you, Cardinals fans. He may not put up 1,000 yards in 2020, but with the right role in a pass-heavy offense, Isabella could become a bigger playmaker for the Cardinals.
Atlanta Falcons: Isaiah Oliver
It has been a couple of years of growing pains for Atlanta Falcons cornerback Isaiah Oliver. The good news is he has a lot going for him that could help him develop into a formidable outside corner for Atlanta.
After starting just twice as a rookie, Oliver started all 16 games in 2019. Despite starting for a full season, he wasn't able to snag an interception, although he did break up 11 passes and register a forced fumble.
Oliver will have more help in the secondary. The team spent its first-round pick on Clemson cornerback A.J. Terrell, while dynamic safety Keanu Neal has entered the season healthy after an injury-plagued past two seasons.
The Falcons have also brought in a new secondary coach, Joe Whitt Jr., who has been working with defensive backs in the NFL since 2007. Oliver has gotten along well with his new coach, calling him the smartest DB coach he's worked with.
Bigger receivers can give Oliver some trouble as we saw in Week 1 against the Seattle Seahawks and DK Metcalf. However, with a new position coach and a revitalized secondary around him, he has everything he needs to thrive in Dan Quinn's Cover 3 scheme.
Baltimore Ravens: J.K. Dobbins
The Baltimore Ravens have a ton of weapons and a reigning MVP on offense. While they have an established starting running back, rookie J.K. Dobbins looks like someone who can also make plays in Baltimore.
Dobbins was a second-round pick in this year's NFL draft after an impressive career with the Ohio State Buckeyes. His compact 5'10", 212-pound frame is ideal for a running back capable of getting plenty of touches, but with Mark Ingram II on the roster, fans weren't expecting much from Dobbins early on.
Despite only carrying the ball seven times in the 38-6 win over the Cleveland Browns, Dobbins was a go-to option for the Ravens near the goal line. He picked up just 22 yards on those seven carries but scored a pair of touchdowns.
The Ravens love a heavy dose of the run game, even as Lamar Jackson does some of the work himself. Ingram will still be the primary running back, but given Dobbins' solid first outing against Cleveland, look for Baltimore to continue to get the former Buckeyes star involved in the offense.
Buffalo Bills: Zack Moss
The Buffalo Bills found a talented running back in the third round of the 2019 NFL draft, and they might have done that for the second straight year by bringing in former Utah Utes star Zack Moss.
After the departure of the ageless Frank Gore this offseason, the Bills needed to find another running back to complement Devin Singletary, who had a promising rookie season with 775 rushing yards, averaging 5.1 yards per carry. When Moss, who holds multiple school records at Utah, was still available with the 86th overall pick this spring, the Bills pulled the trigger to add another promising player to their backfield.
Moss got on the field frequently in Week 1 against the New York Jets. He only picked up 11 yards on nine rushing attempts, but he cashed in a four-yard reception from quarterback Josh Allen for a touchdown.
Securing 12 touches in his first NFL game is a promising sign that he'll continue to get looks as the season continues. He'll still split carries with Singletary, but don't be surprised if Moss takes a larger share of the carries as he gets more comfortable in the offense.
Carolina Panthers: Teddy Bridgewater
It has been a long, winding path for Carolina Panthers quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to get back to being the established starter for an NFL team. The former Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints quarterback has the opportunity to reestablish himself as a reliable starter.
The Panthers signed Bridgewater to a three-year contract worth $63 million after proved himself in limited action with the Saints while Drew Brees was out with an injury. Quarterback play was a serious problem for the Panthers in 2019, but the team invested heavily in the position and took a chance on Bridgewater, who has recovered after a devastating knee injury back in 2016.
Although the Panthers lost 34-30 to the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 1, Bridgewater had a strong debut. He completed 22 of his 34 pass attempts for 270 yards and a touchdown, adding 26 yards on the ground. His touchdown came on a big 75-yard play to Robby Anderson, a fellow free-agent acquisition this offseason.
Bridgewater will have the benefit of a ton of weapons around him. Anderson is a vertical threat, while DJ Moore and Curtis Samuel are established starters who can make plays on short and intermediate routes. Of course, Bridgewater also has one of the best running backs in the NFL in Christian McCaffrey behind him.
It's hard to not be impressed with the incredible comeback Bridgewater has made since his knee injury. If Week 1 was any indication, he looks like a legitimate starter in the league, and he has the opportunity to have a big first season with his new team.
Cincinnati Bengals: Joe Burrow
The Cincinnati Bengals almost forced overtime in Joe Burrow's NFL debut. While a missed game-tying field goal sealed an 0-1 start, Burrow deserves credit for how he played in his first professional game.
Statistically, his first NFL game may not stand out. He completed 23 of 36 passes for 193 yards and an interception, adding 46 yards and a touchdown on the ground. However, the No. 1 overall pick's poise late in the game was impressive.
Burrow shook off a brutal interception in the fourth quarter and executed an impressive two-minute drill. The Heisman Trophy winner led the Bengals on a 14-play, 69-yard drive that set up a 31-yard field-goal attempt with seven seconds remaining. Unfortunately, Bengals kicker Randy Bullock injured himself on the attempt, which went wide right.
Still, the debut performance showed a lot of encouraging signs for someone still so new to head coach Zac Taylor's offensive scheme. He wasn't afraid to utilize his mobility either, even taking off for a 23-yard touchdown on a designed quarterback draw.
With all of the weapons Burrow has at his disposal, he will keep getting better with more on-field experience, and that should terrify the rest of the NFL. Once he has gotten acclimated to the NFL game, it could be a dangerous breakout season for the rookie.
Chicago Bears: Anthony Miller
The Chicago Bears' quarterback situation is all anyone in the Windy City wants to talk about. However, the wide receiver position should give fans hope, especially because of rising star Anthony Miller.
Miller has had a respectable first two seasons with the Bears after being selected in the second round of the 2018 NFL draft. Heading into 2020, he had caught 85 passes for 1,079 yards and nine touchdowns, establishing himself as the team's go-to slot receiver.
Week 1 might have been Miller's coming-out party this season. Despite a rough first half from Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, the team rallied in the second half. Miller made a couple of big plays for the Bears during their comeback win, catching four passes for 76 yards and a game-winning touchdown with less than two minutes left to play.
Trubisky's confidence seemed to return in the second half, and he played a whole lot better to take down the Detroit Lions. The 2017 first-round pick has had troubles with consistency entering his fourth season, but he's always been willing to target Miller early and often.
As long as the quarterback play is good, Miller should be in line for a breakout season that will take a lot of pressure off No. 1 receiver Allen Robinson II.
Cleveland Browns: Larry Ogunjobi
Cleveland Browns fans are well aware of what defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi can bring to the table. However, the 26-year-old has the potential to make himself known nationally with a big season in 2020.
Cleveland drafted Ogunjobi in the third round in 2017, and he has been with the Browns through numerous head coach and front-office shake-ups. Despite all the chaos within the organization, he has been a reliable player in the middle of the defenses, posting 5.5 sacks in each of the last two seasons. The coaching staff expects big things from him this year.
"From the day I met him, I could just tell how hungry he is, how eager he is and that he wants to be great," new defensive line coach Chris Kiffin told reporters during training camp. "He is chasing greatness."
A 38-6 blowout loss to the Baltimore Ravens put a damper on the Browns' return to the field, but Ogunjobi did pick up a tackle for loss. If he can continue working on his technique with his new coach, he may start getting the national attention he deserves.
Dallas Cowboys: CeeDee Lamb
Of all of the wide receivers selected in this year's NFL draft, CeeDee Lamb may have landed in the best situation, getting picked up in the first round by the Dallas Cowboys.
Lamb was an explosive and exciting college player at Oklahoma and was named a consensus All-American in his final season with the Sooners. He averaged a ridiculous 21.4 yards per catch in 2019, going for 1,327 yards and 14 touchdowns.
In Dallas, Lamb has the benefit of not having to play against the opposing defense's top cornerback. The Cowboys have a lot of talent at receiver already with Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup.
Mike McCarthy's new offense looked to get Lamb involved early Sunday against the Los Angeles Rams. He was targeted six times, catching five passes for 59 yards, and added a nice punt return.
As both a slot receiver and return man, Lamb gives the Cowboys an explosive new weapon to work with. The ability to hide him behind a strong running game with Ezekiel Elliott and a ton of other weapons in the passing game could make him a dangerous mismatch for defenses in 2020.
Denver Broncos: Drew Lock
Denver Broncos fans saw flashes of potential with quarterback Drew Lock last year. If those flashes were any indication, Lock could be in line for a successful sophomore campaign.
After being taken in the second round of the 2019 NFL draft, the former Missouri Tigers quarterback started his rookie season on injured reserve because of a thumb injury. He wasn't able to make his NFL debut until Dec. 1 against the Los Angeles Chargers.
Lock played just five games, but the Broncos went 4-1. His numbers were modest but fairly efficient, as he completed 64.1 percent of his passes for 1,020 yards, seven touchdowns and three interceptions. He had easily his best game against the Houston Texans in a convincing 38-24 win, going for 309 yards, three touchdowns and an interception.
At just 23 years old, there's plenty of room for Lock to grow into his role. The team has made an effort to surround the young quarterback with weapons, adding Melvin Gordon III, Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler to the offense this offseason.
In a low-scoring affair on Monday Night Football, Lock showcased solid efficiency in the 16-14 loss to Tennessee. He completed 22 of his 33 pass attempts for 216 yards and a touchdown, posting a 95.0 passer rating.
It's only one game, but Lock has 15 more to show the rest of the league he's ready to be in the conversation as one of the better young quarterbacks.
Detroit Lions: T.J. Hockenson
It was a heartbreaking loss for the Detroit Lions on Sunday, but there were some bright spots in the 27-23 defeat to the Chicago Bears. One of those felt a bit overdue in tight end T.J. Hockenson.
Detroit drafted Hockenson with the eighth overall pick in 2019, surprisingly high for a tight end. However, the Lions loved his ability as both a blocker and a passer at Iowa. Injuries derailed his rookie season, though, as he played just 12 games and caught only 32 passes for 367 yards and two touchdowns.
Sunday's performance against Chicago indicates Hockenson should be trending back in the right direction. The Lions runs game averaged 4.8 yards per carry with some solid blocking, while the second-year tight end made five catches for 56 yards and a touchdown.
There are a lot of games left to be played, but Hockenson's dominance in college was bound to start showing up in the NFL. If he can build upon a strong Week 1, then the former Hawkeyes star should have a great second season with Detroit.
Green Bay Packers: Jaire Alexander
The Green Bay Packers defense is far from perfect, but the D-Train doesn't lack talented players. While the pass rush took over in 2019 thanks to free agents Za'Darius Smith and Preston Smith, the secondary could be next in line, and cornerback Jaire Alexander could be a big reason.
Alexander has had an up-and-down first couple of seasons with the Packers, but when playing at his best, he's looked like an elite defensive back. While he only had three interceptions in his first two seasons, he racked up an impressive 28 pass deflections.
Week 1 might have been Alexander's coming-out party to start building a Pro Bowl resume in 2020. Along with a sack on a perfectly timed blitz to record a safety, he snagged an interception with just one hand while Minnesota Vikings receiver Adam Thielen was draped all over him.
Even though Alexander gave up a touchdown to Thielen in the second half, he looked confident and comfortable in defensive coordinator Mike Pettine's game plan. Confidence has never been an issue for Alexander, so if he can combine that swagger with more game-changing plays like he had Sunday, he could be in line for his first Pro Bowl season.
Houston Texans: Jordan Akins
Heading into the season, tight end looked like a weak point for the Houston Texans. Despite a tough loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday night, they might have found a bright spot on offense with Jordan Akins.
Akins is a former minor league baseball player who is in his third NFL season at 28 years old. While his numbers have been modest, he had two nice catches for 39 yards and a touchdown in the 34-20 loss to Kansas City.
The catch that wasn't for a touchdown showcased impressive elusiveness from Akins, who ducked under a defender before bowling over a few more for a solid gain.
Akins is competing for snaps against fellow tight end Darren Fells. However, Akins was on the field for 48 snaps last Thursday, compared to 25 for Fells, so that's a promising sign that he may be establishing himself as the team's starter.
The Texans face an uphill battle for the playoffs, but a player like Akins might be what the offense needs to make some noise.
Indianapolis Colts: Parris Campbell
Injuries kept Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Parris Campbell from having the impact he wanted his rookie year. However, if Week 1 was any indication, the 23-year-old should be in line for a breakout sophomore campaign.
Campbell was only able to play in seven games last season, starting the year with a nagging hamstring injury before having to shut it down with a broken foot in Week 14. He was limited in those seven games as well, catching just 18 passes for 127 yards and a touchdown.
Those numbers will look a lot different in 2020, provided Campbell stays healthy. His Week 1 performance in the 27-20 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars was impressive, catching six passes for 71 yards on nine targets from new Colts quarterback Philip Rivers.
As the Colts look to the future with T.Y. Hilton getting older, Campbell and rookie receiver Michael Pittman Jr. look to be part of the franchise's long-term plans. However, Campbell has the more versatile skill set given his elite speed, allowing him to be used in more creative ways.
Rivers showed his faith in Campbell in Week 1. As long as the former Ohio State star is in the quarterback's good graces, this could be a huge season for him.
Jacksonville Jaguars: CJ Henderson
The Jacksonville Jaguars appeared to be tanking heading into the 2020 season, shipping off players like Leonard Fournette and Ronnie Harrison to prepare for another rebuild. However, a few players, including quarterback Gardner Minshew II and rookie cornerback CJ Henderson, had other plans in Week 1.
Henderson was the second cornerback taken in the 2020 NFL draft, going No. 9 overall. The team loved the in-state prospect, who possesses great speed and a natural feel for the game. The former Florida Gator is looking to live up to that description.
Indianapolis felt Henderson's presence throughout the Week 1 loss to the Jaguars. The 21-year-old was all over the field, racking up five tackles, three pass breakups and an interception. Although Henderson had been criticized for his tackling going into the draft, he showed a much more physical demeanor in his NFL debut against the Colts.
An opening weekend like that from Henderson was the perfect debut. If the Jaguars hope to keep making noise this year, they'll need more performances like that out of their top rookie.
Kansas City Chiefs: Clyde Edwards-Helaire
Calling Kansas City Chiefs running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire a breakout candidate after just one week is less of a prediction and more of a certainty.
The former LSU star was expected to have a big role in Kansas City's offense this season, but even the most optimistic fans likely didn't expect a debut like Edwards-Helaire had in Week 1. The rookie carried the ball 25 times, running for 138 yards and a touchdown.
Edwards-Helaire's presence gives the Chiefs something their offense lacked in the past: the ability to run the ball down defenses' throats while running down the clock and maintaining possession. Combine that with an electric passing game led by Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes, and you're looking at one of the most dangerous NFL offenses in recent memory.
Although there will likely be some bumps along the way for Edwards-Helaire this season, Week 1 showed fans just how talented the rookie is. While he has a smaller stature at 5'8", he has great vision, elusiveness and strength to bully defenders when he's unable to make them miss.
Overreacting after one week of football isn't always wise, but in the case of Edwards-Helaire, the hype is warranted.
Las Vegas Raiders: Henry Ruggs III
The Las Vegas Raiders made a draft pick that would have made Al Davis proud this offseason, taking speedy wide receiver Henry Ruggs III out of Alabama in the first round. The former Crimson Tide playmaker has the chance to have a serious impact with his new team.
Thanks to his breakaway speed, Ruggs burned defenses consistently under head coach Nick Saban. Over three years with the Crimson Tide, Ruggs caught 98 passes for 1,716 yards, averaging an impressive 17.5 yards per reception, to go along with 24 touchdowns.
Ruggs didn't take over in his NFL debut against the Carolina Panthers, but he had an impact with three receptions for 55 yards that included an explosive 45-yard reception deep down the field.
Las Vegas is still thin at wide receiver, but Ruggs and fellow rookie Bryan Edwards are hoping to change that. Quarterback Derek Carr will also need to take a big step forward as a passer, especially with new backup Marcus Mariota behind him if he starts to struggle.
It's a long season, but Ruggs' big-play potential showed itself in Week 1, and it won't be the last time he makes a big play deep downfield this season.
Los Angeles Chargers: Justin Herbert
Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert, the team's first-round pick in 2020, may not have started Week 1, but don't let that fool you. The former Oregon Ducks quarterback has the potential to be the franchise QB for a long time.
Herbert was a hometown kid out of Eugene, Oregon, who decided to attend the school he grew up next to. After deciding to stay for his senior season with the Ducks, Herbert passed for 3,471 yards, 32 touchdowns and just six interceptions, leading his school to a Rose Bowl title.
Herbert is sitting behind journeyman quarterback Tyrod Taylor, but don't expect that to be the case for long. Chargers offensive coordinator Shane Steichen liked what he saw from Herbert in training camp.
"It's been exciting to finally get him on the grass," Steichen told reporters. "You know we talked about it when we drafted him, his athletic ability is rare for his size. But to see it in person and the type of throws he’s been making in practice has been very impressive."
Taylor played well enough to help the Chargers squeak out a win over the Cincinnati Bengals, but the veteran's performance wasn't anything to write home about. It's only a matter of time before Herbert is comfortable enough with the offense to be the starting quarterback. Once that happens, he could be in line for a great rookie season.
Los Angeles Rams: Cam Akers
The Todd Gurley era in Los Angeles came to a close this offseason. While the Rams are taking a by-committee approach to the running back position in 2020, rookie Cam Akers should still be in good position to have a strong first year.
Despite playing behind a shaky offensive line at Florida State in college, Akers ran for 1,144 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2019 while averaging 5.0 yards per carry. His vision and burst made him an exciting draft prospect, as did his willingness to lower his head and fight through contact.
That skill set is likely what the Rams were looking for when they took him in the second round. With Malcolm Brown and Darrell Henderson already on the roster, Akers presented himself as someone who could carry a solid workload and break off big plays.
Sunday night's performance against the Dallas Cowboys wasn't the flashiest debut for Akers. He got 14 carries but picked up just 39 yards while adding a four-yard reception. However, he forced a couple of missed tackles.
Akers will have to get more comfortable in Sean McVay's system, but once he does, he will quickly become a much more productive back.
Miami Dolphins: Christian Wilkins
The Miami Dolphins are likely going to be a work in progress again while they wait on rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa to get 100 percent healthy. However, this season will still allow players like defensive lineman Christian Wilkins to develop into long-term playmakers.
Wilkins played in all 16 games as a rookie last season but didn't stand out as a first-round pick. He finished with 56 total tackles and a pair of sacks, adding a couple of pass deflections to the stat sheet.
But Wilkins definitely made some noise in Week 1 against the New England Patriots. He collected six total tackles, a sack and two pass deflections, forcing the Patriots offensive line to deal with him throughout the game. Prior to the season, Wilkins expected more than a few games like this one.
"I feel like I can definitely take a step from a leadership standpoint this year," Wilkins said, according to Safid Deen of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. "Just lead by example, vocal when I can. So that's big as well. It all starts from preparation and doing what I need to do on the field."
At 6'4" and 310 pounds, Wilkins is a big body who can be a disruptive force. Even if the Dolphins don't have a great season, it should be a productive breakout year for the former Clemson star.
Minnesota Vikings: Irv Smith Jr.
At 30 years old, Minnesota Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph started to show signs of slowing down last season. Fortunately for the Vikings, they have his eventual replacement in second-year tight end Irv Smith Jr., who could have a big year in 2020.
Smith was a second-round pick in 2019 out of Alabama after a strong college career that included a national championship and second-team All-SEC honors. He found his footing with the Vikings quickly as a rookie despite playing behind an established veteran in Rudolph. The rookie appeared in all 16 games, catching 36 passes for 311 yards and two touchdowns, but the coaching staff expects bigger things from him in his second season.
"Irv's taken a big step as a second-year player, and we've got to do a good job as coaches to make sure that progress continues in the right direction," offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak said heading into Week 1.
Although Smith only caught one pass for 11 yards in the loss to the Green Bay Packers, his ability to play all over the field as either a tight end or split out wide gives him a lot of versatility. Being that versatile will help get him more snaps and touches, which could lead to a big second season with the team.
New England Patriots: Sony Michel
If we learned anything in Week 1, it's that New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick plans on running the ball as much as possible in 2020. That's great news for second-year running back Sony Michel, who could be in line for a ton of touches.
With Cam Newton under center, the Patriots passed the ball just 19 times in the 21-11 win over the Miami Dolphins. Meanwhile, Newton ran the ball 15 times for 75 yards and two touchdowns. As a team, the Patriots ran the ball an impressive 42 times for 217 yards and three scores, averaging 5.2 yards per carry.
Outside of Newton, Michel was the lead back in total carries. He had just 10 rushes for 37 yards but added a touchdown in the process. The Patriots have other running backs they like to use as well in James White and Rex Burkhead, but the fact that they leaned more heavily on Michel in Week 1 is a positive sign for the season as a whole.
Michel was the team's first-round pick back in 2018. Although he hasn't broken out as a premier back, he has had a pair of solid seasons. He ran for over 900 yards in both 2018 and 2019 and scored 13 touchdowns.
However, that was before Newton was the quarterback, and it seems the Patriots' offensive identity has changed significantly. If the Patriots continue to have a run-heavy approach, that could be just what Michel needs to post his first 1,000-yard season in the NFL.
New Orleans Saints: Trey Hendrickson
The New Orleans Saints made a statement Sunday with a big win over Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The defense put up a handful of big plays, including a few from defensive end Trey Hendrickson.
New Orleans drafted Hendrickson with the 103rd overall pick in 2017, and he has steadily developed into a reliable player. Playing in 13 games last season, he registered a career-high 4.5 sacks to go along with 19 total tackles and a forced fumble.
Sunday's game against Tampa Bay was something of a statement win for Hendrickson. He finished with four tackles and a big sack on Brady in the 34-23 win, but his presence was felt beyond the stat sheet. He consistently found his way into the backfield to put pressure on Brady, making things much more difficult for the future Hall of Fame quarterback.
While he may not be the star of the New Orleans defense, he's a big body at 6'4" and 270 pounds. If he continues to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks as the season continues, this could be a huge season for the 25-year-old.
New York Giants: Jabrill Peppers
The New York Giants could use more playmakers on both sides of the ball. Luckily, they have someone who could theoretically play offense, defense and special teams in Jabrill Peppers.
Peppers was one of the most versatile college football players of the modern era with the Michigan Wolverines. Primarily a defensive back, Peppers also spent time as a linebacker, edge-rusher, running back, quarterback and return man for Jim Harbaugh's program because of his athleticism.
Although Peppers' NFL career hasn't featured nearly that much versatility, that might not be the case for long. Giants head coach Joe Judge has praised his ability to do whatever is asked of him, and Peppers has said he's open to a role on offense.
Even if he stays on defense and special teams, the Giants expect big things. He was named a team captain, which speaks volumes about the work he's put in.
Peppers shined in Week 1 with a couple of nice punt returns, so we may see the Giants try to get the ball in his hands more as the season progresses.
New York Jets: Marcus Maye
The New York Jets made the difficult decision to trade Jamal Adams to the Seattle Seahawks this offseason. That created a huge hole in the defensive secondary, but it looks like Marcus Maye will do just fine taking over that role.
Despite a calf/ankle injury heading into Week 1, Maye played against the Buffalo Bills. Although the Jets lost, he was all over the place and had a massive impact. He finished with 10 total tackles, two sacks, two pass deflections and a forced fumble.
Considering Maye had been a decent contributor for three seasons in New York heading into 2020, that is an eye-opening performance. He had just half a sack for his career, so a two-sack day was unthinkable for the 27-year-old.
If Week 1 was any indication, a lot of the players and coaching staff will be working for their jobs this season. It may not be the prettiest year for Jets fans, but players like Maye should give them hope for the long term as the franchise continues to look for new pieces.
Philadelphia Eagles: Jalen Reagor
The Philadelphia Eagles were decimated by injuries at wide receiver last season, and even when healthy, the unit was far from perfect. Now, the Eagles will hope rookie Jalen Reagor can add another wrinkle to Doug Pederson's offensive game plan.
Reagor was the team's first-round pick this year after Nelson Agholor left to play for the Las Vegas Raiders. Although his final season at TCU wasn't nearly as impressive as earlier in his college career, Reagor had to deal with less-than-stellar play at quarterback. Pairing with Carson Wentz could allow him to find his groove again.
Dealing with a shoulder injury heading into Week 1, Reagor still played against the Washington Football Team. He only had one catch on four targets, but it was an impressive 55-yard haul on a deep pass play.
The first-round pick was a deep threat with the Horned Frogs, and he's in the perfect situation to keep developing that skill set by working with veteran DeSean Jackson, who knows a thing or two about making big plays deep downfield.
If Reagor can pick up some nuances from Jackson, it could be an exciting first season in the NFL for him.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Chase Claypool
The Pittsburgh Steelers have a lot of talented wide receivers who are looking to have breakout seasons. However, rookie Chase Claypool may end up having the best season of any Steelers receiver not named JuJu Smith-Schuster.
Claypool was a big-body receiver with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, using his physicality and athleticism to make plenty of contested catches downfield. He was all over the field in his final college season, catching 66 passes for 1,037 yards and 13 touchdowns.
A crowded depth chart at receiver might have kept Claypool from seeing the field in Week 1, but the second-round pick shined enough in training camp to get an opportunity to prove himself. He earned some bonus points with Ben Roethlisberger early in the first half of Monday night's game against the New York Giants, making an impressive toe-tapping catch on the sideline for a 28-yard gain.
The Steelers will need Claypool to keep making those kinds of plays as Roethlisberger shakes off the rust. If he can continue to secure contested catches and draw some attention away Smith-Schuster, then the Steelers passing attack should be a lot more dangerous than it was in 2019.
San Francisco 49ers: Brandon Aiyuk
The San Francisco 49ers suffered a big upset to the Arizona Cardinals in Week 1 as quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo struggled in a late-game situation. Moving forward, an option like rookie wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk could help with that.
Aiyuk was one of the team's two first-round picks this year, coming out of Arizona State. While he wasn't known for being the fastest or strongest receiver in the class, his route running and playmaking after the catch made him an exciting player for the 49ers to scoop up.
Once Aiyuk is healthy enough to play, he should see plenty of targets come his way. The 49ers have placed Deebo Samuel on injured reserve, and with Emmanuel Sanders' departure to New Orleans, there aren't a ton of great options for Garoppolo at wide receiver.
If the rookie receiver is as good as advertised, then he should be able to hit the ground running and gain the support of the 49ers faithful.
Seattle Seahawks: Quandre Diggs
As a two-time Pro Bowl alternate, Seattle Seahawks defensive back Quandre Diggs has had a respectable NFL career. Playing with Pete Carroll for a full season, however, might be what he needs to elevate his game.
The Detroit Lions drafted Diggs in the sixth round in 2015, and he played there until the Seahawks made a trade for the 27-year-old last October. He only played in 10 games in 2019 between the two teams but finished the year with three interceptions, three passes defended and a touchdown.
A full offseason of getting comfortable with the defense looked to do Diggs a lot of good. He was a solid part of the defense in the 38-25 win over the Atlanta Falcons, picking up two pass breakups and an interception on essentially a Hail Mary attempt.
Diggs didn't have a perfect game and did have some lapses in coverage. However, if he can work on consistency and keep playing at a high level, he could finally be selected as a Pro Bowler in 2020.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Antoine Winfield Jr.
Genetics can play a big part in the success of a football player. We've seen it with families like the Watts and the Mannings, and now we might get to see it with Tampa Bay Buccaneers rookie safety Antoine Winfield Jr.
The son of 14-year NFL veteran Antoine Winfield, a three-time Pro Bowler, the 22-year-old was selected in the second round by Tampa Bay this year out of the University of Minnesota. He was a unanimous All-American his final season with the Golden Gophers, picking up 83 total tackles and seven interceptions.
Winfield is already an established starter in Tampa Bay's secondary, playing every snap of the Week 1 loss to New Orleans. His versatile skill set was on display as he picked up six total tackles, one pass deflection and a quarterback hit on Drew Brees.
Head coach Bruce Arians and the rest of the coaching staff have a lot of confidence in Winfield. The team is having him learn multiple positions, making him an even more valuable piece of the Tampa Bay defense.
With his athleticism, versatility and NFL pedigree, it's no wonder the Buccaneers expect big things from Winfield.
Tennessee Titans: Jeffery Simmons
A game away from the Super Bowl last year, the Tennessee Titans had an unbelievable season for a team that wasn't expected to have that much success. While the Titans are now on plenty of coaches' radars, the development of young players like Jeffery Simmons could ensure they're the formidable contenders that head coach Mike Vrabel wants them to be.
Simmons tore his ACL while training for the 2019 NFL draft, but the Titans were still high enough on him that they selected him with the 19th overall pick. They eased him into the defensive line rotation once he was activated off the non-football injury list in October, and he finished the season with 32 combined tackles, two sacks and a fumble recovery in the divisional round against the Baltimore Ravens.
Now that Jurrell Casey is with the Denver Broncos, Simmons will be an even larger part of the Titans defense. He'll have help to take some attention away thanks to the talented Harold Landry and newly acquired Jadeveon Clowney, both playing at outside linebacker.
Simmons is a disruptive player who can disengage from blockers and make his way into the backfield. As long as he's healthy, 2020 could be the year he proves to the rest of the league why the Titans were so excited about taking an injured defensive lineman in the first round last year.
Washington Football Team: Antonio Gibson
A lot looks different about the Washington Football Team this year. From the strange new placeholder team name to the roster itself, a lot has changed in a few short months.
One of the biggest changes to the team's on-field identity in 2020 came at the running back position. During training camp, Washington surprisingly released Adrian Peterson, who signed with the Detroit Lions, and let go of Derrius Guice after his arrest on domestic violence charges.
All the shuffling in the backfield has given rookie Antonio Gibson a huge opportunity to establish himself as the team's workhorse running back. Gibson was originally a wide receiver in college, but the Memphis Tigers ran some plays with him in the backfield that paid off. On just 33 carries in 2019, Gibson ran for an incredible 369 yards and four touchdowns, averaging 11.2 yards per carry.
Gibson got off to a solid start in his first NFL game. He carried the ball nine times for 36 yards while adding two catches for eight yards in the 27-17 comeback victory over the Philadelphia Eagles. Peyton Barber got a significantly larger workload with 17 carries, but that could change when Gibson gets acclimated to the pro game.
Given the depth chart at running back, there's no reason Gibson can't take over for Washington and have a huge rookie season.