5 NFL players poised for breakout seasons in 2020
Last season, Lamar Jackson took the league by storm with his breakout, MVP-winning campaign in just his second year in the league.
In 2020, a new batch of players eagerly await the chance to step into the spotlight and enjoy Jackson-esque success as the NFL’s next breakthrough star.
With so many coaching changes, blockbuster trades, and free-agency acquisitions occurring in the offseason, opportunities abound for those looking to make a statement.
Here are five players positioned for breakout seasons in 2020.
Kyler Murray, QB, Arizona Cardinals
The NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year already showed flashes of brilliance last season, but Year 2 should see Murray take another step forward, much like Jackson.
Don’t expect him to shatter the same number of records as the Ravens superstar, but Murray may find his name in the running for MVP in 2020.
With a new weapon in four-time Pro Bowler DeAndre Hopkins, Murray’s numbers will continue to rise. Last season, the dual-threat quarterback completed 64.4% of his passes for 3,722 yards and 20 touchdowns, and ran for another 544 yards and four scores.
Third-year receiver Christian Kirk and veteran Larry Fitzgerald provide Murray two more dependable options at receiver, while running back Kenyan Drake — acquired in a trade with Miami in 2019 — creates a dangerous dynamic.
In 2018, Patrick Mahomes earned the MVP in his second professional season, a year before Jackson did the same. Murray can continue the trend.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB, Kansas City Chiefs
With the final pick of the first round, the Kansas City Chiefs selected LSU running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire in the 2020 NFL draft.
He was meant to back up Damien Williams, who ran for 104 yards and scored twice in the Chiefs’ Super Bowl win. However, Williams announced last month that he would opt out of the 2020 season, which moved the rookie to the top of the depth chart.
Edwards-Helaire rushed for 1,414 yards and 16 touchdowns for LSU last seson, and he caught 55 passes for 453 yards and a score. He should fit in nicely as Williams’ replacement, with his experience in LSU’s potent spread attack.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire now has a clear path to a workhorse role as a runner and receiver in the most explosive offense in the NFL.— Field Yates (@FieldYates) July 29, 2020
A reminder: he is the only player in SEC history to have 1,000+ rushing yards and 50+ catches in a single season.
He won’t have much time to adjust to the NFL, but he showed he could adapt to coaching and scheme changes in college. The setup couldn't be more ideal for the rookie, who will join the Chiefs' high-powered offense, loaded with talent at every corner. The lanes should open up for the rookie to rack up yardage and score often in 2020.
Hayden Hurst, TE, Atlanta Falcons
Third-year tight end Hayden Hurst didn’t get much opportunity to demonstrate his abilities in Baltimore, behind Mark Andrews and Nick Boyle.
Now Hurst is the top man in Atlanta and will look to replace the production of Austin Hooper, who signed with Cleveland in free agency.
Hooper was quarterback Matt Ryan’s second-most targeted receiver, behind Julio Jones, in 2019. On 75 catches, Hooper tallied 787 yards and six touchdowns through 13 games.
Hayden Hurst easily could be a TE1.— Hayden Winks (@HaydenWinks) May 4, 2020
+ #Falcons trades a 2nd for him
+ 258 available targets in Atlanta
+ Austin Hooper was TE3 overall per game
+ Hurst was 5th out of 199 qualifiers in EPA/Target
+ 11th out of 44 TEs in yards per route run
+ Tape looked good: pic.twitter.com/c8d1X80q85
Through Hurst’s two seasons in Baltimore, he accumulated 512 yards and three touchdowns on 43 receptions.
He'll shine in Year 3, on a new team with an elite, veteran passer.
Marquise Brown, WR, Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens can expect a huge leap forward from Marquise Brown, who dropped a hint of what’s to come during a solid first season.
Brown played through foot, ankle, and hip injuries and missed two regular-season games last year. Despite that, the former Oklahoma wideout ranked second on the Ravens in receiving yards (584), hauled in seven touchdowns, and averaged 12.7 yards per catch in Baltimore’s run-focused offense. His best game occurred in the season opener against Miami, when he caught four passes for 147 yards and two touchdowns.
He also led all receivers with 126 yards on seven catches in Baltimore’s shocking Divisional Round loss to the Titans.
In the offseason, Brown underwent surgery to remove a screw from his foot, which hampered his speed. That should help him bounce back to full strength and excel as a deep threat for Jackson.
#Ravens WR Marquise "Hollywood" Brown had offseason surgery to remove the screw from his foot that plagued him last season, sources say. While it may limit him in the offseason program, he’ll be fine by camp. The move eliminates any complications moving forward for Brown’s foot.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) February 25, 2020
Greedy Williams, CB, Cleveland Browns
Another rookie hampered by injuries, Greedy Williams sat out four games with a hamstring issue in 2019.
The Cleveland Browns cornerback finished with 47 tackles, two passes defended, and allowed an 84.9 passer rating on the season.
After the Browns went 6-10 under first-year coach Freddie Kitchens, Cleveland hired former Minnesota offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski, who appointed San Francisco defensive backs coach Joe Woods as defensive coordinator .
The Browns also signed Raiders safety Karl Joseph, who is working his way back from a foot injury, and drafted LSU safety Grant Delpit (65 tackles, two sacks, two interceptions in 2019).
With a new coaching staff and additional help in the secondary, Williams should achieve the breakout season many anticipated in 2019.