By Andrew Franco De Fazio for TonySoftli.com
A quick look into the 2017 NFL season, below are six rookies in whom I feel are destined to have a breakout season.
Many such as myself were surprised by this selection as some had thought the Chargers would address the safety position. However, they felt the need to give Quarterback Philip Rivers a new toy by selecting Mike Williams out of Clemson. At 6’4 218 lbs. Williams is deemed by scouts to being a physical, jump ball receiver.
Going into the 2017 NFL season Mike Williams has the potential to be a favorite target for Rivers in the redzone along with crucial third down conversions. His ability to win the majority of 50-50 balls along with running smooth and precise routs can pay dividends in this upcoming season. Although he is in a rather crowded situation, playing alongside Keenan Allen. Tyrell Williams, and Antonio Gates/Hunter Henry could potentially lead to less attention drawn towards him.
The controversial running back from Oklahoma landed in Cincinnati, as he was the 48th overall pick. Mixon displays a combination of size and speed as he weighs 226 pounds and ran a 4.4 40 at his pro day. The newly added Bengal has the ability to run through tacklers, blow by defenders on outside run calls, and catch the ball out of the backfield. This do-it-all running back is ultimately a 3 down running back.
As for the other notable running backs in Cincinnati, Giovanni Bernard is simply a 3rd down/ change of pace runner. Jeremy Hill on the other hand has simply not lived up to expectations over the past two seasons averaging just 3.7 yards per carry. As a result of this Joe Mixon will become the feature back for the Bengals as they look to become a more balanced offense.
After years of searching for a quarterback, Houston may have finally found their answer in Deshaun Watson. He was deemed as a winner throughout his college career with a 32-3 record, two National Championship appearances, and one national title. As a quarterback he displays great poise and pocket awareness, good arm strength and can make all the necessary throws as he has averaged a career 64.7 completion percentage.
Now playing for the Houston Texans, he is surrounded with pieces that will allow him and his team to excel. This includes a running game with Lamar Miller and D’Onta Foreman, receivers such as Deandre Hopkins and Will Fuller, a reliable pass catching tight end in Cj Fiedorowicz, a good offensive line, and one of the best defenses in the NFL. His ability, combined with the talent around him will allow Houston to legitimately compete for Division titles along with Super bowls for years to come.
The San Francisco 49ers truly got this pick right. The 6’3 273 pound defensive lineman was an absolute nightmare for opposing offenses during last years college football season (UNC’s offense would tell you the same thing). Thomas displays an excellent motor, along with great strength, as he is able to defend the run and rush opposing passers. Playing a 4-3 defense at Stanford will lead to a smooth transition to the 49ers defense as they now run a similar defense. As a pro he will have the ability to line up all over the defensive front as he did in college. With his physical ability I expect him to be a force from day one and be a menace for opposing offenses.
Transitioning from defensive end to middle linebacker can often be a tough transition. For Haason Reddick however, it may be a smooth change for the rookie defender. At 6’1 237 lbs., Haason ran a 4.52 40 at this years combine and was able to jump 36.5 inches in vertical test. The Cardinals rely on their linebackers to not only defend the run, but also display exceptional athletic ability in order to defend the pass.
Although having minimal experience of this in college, Haason proved this ability at this year’s senior bowl, as he was able to show great flexibility along with loose hips when covering opposing tight ends. For the Arizona Cardinals this season, Reddick will show a great ability to defend the run, drop back into coverage, and being asked to blitz on certain plays. His athletic ability will in the end make him a versatile defender for the Cardinals defense.
Colt fans have been long waiting for a game changing defensive back since the days of Bob Sanders. With Malik Hooker at the helm, quarterbacks will now be weary of throwing in his vicinity. At 6’1 206 lbs., the safety displays great instincts and the ability to bait quarterbacks. This past year for Ohio State he finished with 7 interceptions, 3 of them were returned for touchdowns. At times he showed to be an inconsistent tackler, but his job will be to patrol the back end and watch the eyes of the Quarterback. Malik’s rare instincts will lead him to tormenting quarterbacks that choose to throw his way.
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