In this series, NFL Network analysts will examine Year 2 players who are poised for a breakout campaign in 2020. Today, Nate Burleson identifies wide receivers.
A.J. Brown surprised as a dominant force for the Tennessee Titans down the stretch last season. He couldn't be stopped late in the season -- I suppose you could say the same for the Titans offense as a whole -- putting up four 100-yard receiving games over the final six weeks of the regular season. Brown ended up leading all rookies with nine total touchdowns and 1,051 receiving yards, including eight catches of 40-plus yards.
Brown made a national name for himself last season. Which receiver from the 2019 NFL Draft class will break out this season? Here are five candidates:
Year 1: 7 games | 24 targets | 12 rec. | 105 yds | 2 TDs
As the first wide receiver selected by New England in the first round during the Bill Belichick era, Harry didn't have the rookie campaign Pats fans were hoping for. But it's a new season and there's a new quarterback in town. The athletic ability Harry and Cam Newton bring to the table could create some electricity in Foxborough -- I envision fast-break slam dunks when plays don't go as planned. I think 2020 is the year we'll get to see what Harry is truly made of. Harry was a fantastic high school athlete who played multiple sports, and I anticipate seeing his dynamic route-running ability combined with track speed and basketball skills on 50/50 balls, especially in the red zone. Pats fans should expect Harry to flirt with 1,000 receiving yards and (at least) double his TDs in Year 2.
Year 1: 15 games | 81 targets | 57 rec. | 802 yds | 3 TDs | 14 rush | 159 yds | 3 TDs
Suffering a broken foot in June, Samuel "may miss some games at the start of the year," according to 49ers general manager John Lynch. Regardless, he's a shoo-in to break out in a major way this season after flashing as a rookie and improving throughout the postseason. It was very telling when San Francisco let Emmanuel Sanders walk in free agency. The move ultimately told Samuel he's the clear-cut WR1 -- yes, even after the Niners drafted WR Brandon Aiyuk in the first round -- and he should be motivated to prove he can handle the responsibility. My guess is he'll surpass 1,000 receiving yards and hit double-digit touchdowns even if he misses time early on.
Year 1: 14 games | 84 targets | 48 rec. | 740 yds | 8 TDs
Slayton is the best wide receiver on the Giants, in my opinion. I know Golden Tate and Sterling Shepard both missed time with injuries last season, but the fifth-round steal showed a lot of promise as the focal point of the passing game. This is an offseason in which veterans Tate and Shepard haven't been able to work on their connection with Daniel Jones. The guy Jones knows best is Slayton, the Giants' leader in receiving yards last season, so I'd expect the pair of Year 2 players to continue to grow together. Slayton looks poised for roughly 1,000 yards and 10 TDs.
Year 1: 16 games | 41 targets | 26 rec. | 538 yds | 6 TDs
My projection for Hardman's 2020 campaign: 50 catches, 800 receiving yards and eight touchdowns. These numbers may not completely jump off the page, but they're quite high, considering the vast amount of talent on the Chiefs' offense. Hardman should be used more in his second season, especially as a gadget player on reverses and screens.
Year 1: 13 games | 71 targets | 49 rec. | 605 yds | 4 TDs
Despite a solid rookie performance, Renfrow will still be overlooked by defenses this season with Tyrell Williams, Henry Ruggs III, Darren Waller and Josh Jacobs drawing the attention. This will leave Renfrow with favorable matchups as a trustworthy target for Derek Carr. Renfrow should sit around 65 catches for 800 yards and eight TDs (doubling last year's scoring mark). Don't sleep on him.