In continuing to look ahead to the 2020 season, I wanted to focus on second-year players set to shine. But all of these stars have already arrived on the scene so it is hard to quantify how much of a leap they will make in their second seasons.
So, to simplify things, these are my top 10 players and where I think they will rank in NFL circles as they move through their sophomore campaigns.
1. Kyler Murray - QB - Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals expect big things from Murray and he has taken charge of this team – at least virtually – during the offseason. Murray had a good rookie year and can explode in his second season as a starter, much like Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahomes did. This dual-threat star will shine.
2. Nick Bosa - DE - San Francisco 49ers
Joey's little brother was outstanding as a rookie, recording nine sacks and then taking his game to another level with four sacks in the playoffs. Bosa benefited greatly from Dee Ford being on the field and creating pressure on the other side and that pairing should be excellent in 2020.
3. Josh Jacobs - RB - Las Vegas Raiders
Jacobs has all the skills required to become one of the league's elite rushers. He forced a league-high 69 missed tackles from defenders despite being banged up in the second half of the year. Jacobs can run over, around and away from would-be tacklers and is the offensive heartbeat of the Raiders.
4. Josh Allen - DE - Jacksonville Jaguars
Exploding off the edge, Allen recorded 10 ½ sacks as a rookie and offenses won't be able to solely focus on stopping him in 2020. Yannick Ngakoue is set to return even though he is not happy in Jacksonville and the Jags added edge rusher K'Lavon Chaisson in the draft. That is good news for Allen.
5. Terry McLaurin - WR - Washington Redskins
It took just one season for McLaurin to establish himself as the most important player on Washington's offense. McLaurin was consistent but also very explosive, catching 58 passes for 919 yards (15.8 average) with seven touchdowns. He produced 15 catches that covered 20 yards or more.
6. Jeffery Simmons - DT - Tennessee Titans
Simmons was considered a top five pick before suffering torn knee ligaments at the end of his college career and he played that way in the second half of 2019. Simmons was a dominant force in the middle and gave the Titans the confidence to move on from veteran Jurrell Casey in the offseason.
7. Brian Burns - DE - Carolina Panthers
After recording 7 ½ sacks as a rookie, explosive edge rusher Burns could double that total in his second pro season. Burns finished strong with a sack in each of the final two games. There is room for growth but with Burns taking on an every-down role in 2020, his numbers and status should rise considerably.
8. Drew Lock - QB - Denver Broncos
There is an excitement around Denver's offense that was not there in the middle of 2019 and that is down to Lock. In limited playing time, Lock displayed a cannon for an arm, good ball placement, pocket poise and an ability to scramble. With improved weapons around him, Lock poised to explode in 2020.
9. Elgton Jenkins - G - Green Bay Packers
Jenkins is not a household name, but his physical style of play was welcomed in Green Bay. And how about this statistic in the pass-happy NFL? Jenkins played 694 pass-blocking snaps during the 2019 season and gave up zero sacks. He will be asked to maintain that standard in 2020.
10. Diontae Johnson - WR - Pittsburgh Steelers
I could have included another receiver here in Darius Slayton, of the New York Giants, but I liked what Johnson brought on offense and on special teams. Johnson caught 59 passes for 680 yards and five scores with Mason Rudolph and Duck Hodges at quarterback. What will he do when Big Ben returns?