Avoiding the Sophomore slump
After a breakout rookie campaign, the real test comes in year two
***This article originally appeared in the June edition of Three Point Stance Magazine. To subscribe to the magazine visit https://3psmag.com/subscribe/
Rare is a second year player able to grace the cover of Madden after just 12 games like Odell Beckham Jr will this fall, but given the Madden Curse and playing in the nations largest market, OBJ has his plate full of worry and concern. These other soon to be second year players though had solid rookie campaigns, and are now of the threshold of becoming a household name.
Blake Bortles – QB – Jacksonville Jaguars
All things considered, I think Bortles had as good of a season as anyone could have imagined in 2014. He threw for 2,908
yards, 11 touchdowns, & 17 interceptions. The help wasn’t really there in terms of a running back or reliable receivers. To put the lack of receiving talent into perspective the teams leader in receiving yards last season was Allen Hurns (677) and right behind him was Cecil Shorts III (557). The backfield wasn’t much better in Jacksonville either. The teams leading rusher was the converted Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson with 582 yards with 135 attempts. Toby Gerhart was a huge disappointment who couldn’t stay healthy, but even when he was healthy he wasn’t effective. All together the Jaguars had a total of 9 rushing touchdowns last season. The reasons why Bortles is on this list are as follows: 1. I think he’s better than he played last season, and he would improve solely based on experience gained last season & 2. I think the additions made in the off season will help. Allen Robinson could easily be on this list because I expect him to be better this season, Julius Thomas will undoubtedly help tremendously, and TJ Yeldon will help immensely in the running game. Projected Stats: 3,500 yards, 20 touchdowns, & 13 interception
The Browns, again, were a mess last season. Uncertainty at literally ever single skill position, lead to just another abysmal season. I thought that one bright spot though was Isaiah Crowell. He wasn’t given many opportunities, 148 rushing attempts but he did the most with those attempts piling on 607 yards averaging 4.1 yards per carry.
Ben Tate was just a disappointment for this team last season who was really banking on him being the bell cow for them, and that dream never materialized. The offensive line is good, really good, which adds onto the confusion as to why the haven’t been able to find a running back to have sustained success in the backfield.
The addition of Duke Johnson, alongside Terrence West, and my breakout candidate Isiah Crowell the Browns have the makings of a very formidable backfield. I think Crowell will get the bulk of the carries though, while Duke gets out in space and plays a Darren Sproles role, and West will spare Crowell some time in the red zone. I’m not sure he’ll quite hit that 1,000 yard plateau, but he’ll get close.
Projected Stats: 205 attempts. 955 rushing yards, & 8 touchdowns
Brandin Cooks – WR – New Orleans Saints
The Saints are going through somewhat of a roster turnover that you would expect with a coaching change. The thing is, Sean Peyton is still there, but the defense needed help and they trust there franchise quarterback and young receiving core to make up for the offensive production that has been lost this off season. Well what did they lose? They traded away both Jimmy Graham & Kenny Stills and they cut running back Pierre Thomas. In total they lost a combined 231 targets from last season, 2,198 yards, and 14 touchdowns. Who benefits more than Brandin Cooks from these changes? I’d be hard pressed to find as talented a second year receiver who will have the targets and opportunities increase, health barring, as Cooks. Granted Cooks won’t get all those 231 targets. Some of those will slide over to Colston, Josh Hill, Nick Toon, Brandon Coleman, Sentavious Jones, etc. Also the newly acquired CJ Spiller should shine for New Orleans in Sean Peyton’s system. Look out for Cooks in fantasy leagues this season.
Projected Stats: 120 targets, 85 receptions, 1,300 yards, & 12 touchdowns
Austin Seferian-Jenkins – TE – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Seferian-Jenkins simply wasn’t healthy last season. Even injured he was able to haul in 21 receptions for 221 yard to go along with 2 touchdowns. Not only is he healthy, but the Bucs made an immense upgrade at the quarterback selection with Jameis Winston in this year’s draft. So those are a few reasons why I expect to see all of his numbers trend upwards this upcoming season. His physical make up has all the tools to be a 60 plus catch per season guy at the tight end position. At six foot five and 262 pounds, he could be a legitimate red zone threat and he has big catch ability down the field as well. Young quarterbacks tend to rely heavily on their tight ends, and with defenses worried about Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson I expect the middle of the field to be open for Seferian-Jenkins. There is work that needs to be done with ASJ and the coaching staff of the Bucs, his game does have flaws. His physical traits though will shine through those mistakes and I think he will continue to grow exponentially as the season moves on. I expect ASJ to be one of Winston’s favorite targets for years to come in Tampa Bay.
Projected Stats: 65 catches, 680 yards, 8 touchdowns