In this segment I want to discuss which players’ production I think will jump up and which will decline this upcoming season. Some of the players on the list of fallers might still make the Pro Bowl and play well, but I don’t think will produce the same way they did last year. On the other hand my risers might not play at an All-Pro level, but will produce much more than they did previously.
Let’s get it started!
Cordarrelle Patterson: He probably didn’t get the attention, he would have deserved, just because he played on a sub .500 team, but when you just look at his skill set you have to think he will turn into one of the league’s premiere playmakers. Most people just looked at him for returning kickoffs, but the Tennessee product is much more than just a special teams ace. When he was put in the starting lineup the last five games of the season he scored a total of six touchdowns and helped his team get three of their five season wins. Offensive coordinator Norv Turner certainly won’t hold him back this long and put the ball in his hands much more.
Jonathan Cyprien: Gus Bradley is trying to make him his own version of Kam Chancellor and he might be able to do so. After having some problems at the start of the season adjusting to the pro game, Cyprien has shown flashes of the same skills late in the year – supporting the run, breaking on the ball and laying the wood on ball carriers. I believe he will emerge as a leader on a Jaguars defense that desperately needs one.
Andre Ellington: He’s managed to look good behind a pretty bad offensive line. He always seems to make plays out of nothing, because of his rare speed and the wiggle he has to him and he’s also a great receiver out of the backfield and split out. He should see far more touches this year and really contribute to the Cardinals offense.
Toby Gerhart: You can never get the respect you deserve if you’re behind Adrian Peterson on the depth chart, simply because of his greatness and the low numbers of touches you get. But Gerhart is hungry and has managed to average 7.9 yards per carry on just 36 carries last year. It’s still not a hundred percent clear what happens when you put him in the starting role, but I think he’s done pretty well in 2011, when AP got hurt. I believe he’ll be Jaguars workhorse this year and give them the consistent ground attack they lacked last year, with MJD sitting out.
Kyle Long: He obviously has the genes and the football background to be a dominant player at his position. He has natural strength and is a nasty run blocker. He has a chance to be a perennial Pro Bowler and I expect him to make a big step going into his second year.
Mark Ingram: The former Heisman trophy winner and do-it-all-back for the Crimson Tide had his problems showing what he’s capable of in his early career, because of injuries and the crowded New Orleans backfield. With Sproles joining the Eagles the Saints look for Ingram to fill the hole he’s left. Having all the tools you want to see out of a running back, look for him to win the battle as the feature back and be a big part of this offense.
Melvin Ingram: When he Chargers picked him with the 18 th overall pick in the 2012 draft, I thought they had the biggest steal of the draft, but he hasn’t turned out to be … yet. Since coming out of South Carolina he’s had his problems not getting much time on the field as a rookie and missing almost his entire second year to injury. I expect him to put it all together this year and show his playmaking ability like he did when he was with the Gamecocks.
Brian Cushing: Another guy whose career lately has been marked by injuries. In the 2011/2012 season he was arguably one of the NFL’s top three inside linebacker. Since then he just hasn’t been on the field much. If he can stay healthy this year I see him once again flying around the field, making all kind of plays and together with Watt being one of the leaders of the Texans defense.
Trent Richardson: Does anyone else remember his rookie season? For all of you who don’t – he just finished short of 1000 yards rushing while playing most of the season with two broken ribs, who he said made it hard for him to even sleep. So what happens his sophomore campaign – he gets traded after week 2. Finally healthy and with a full offseason to train with his team, he will be one of the very few power runners in this pass happy league, as a good stabilizer to the Colts passing game, and take safeties heads off again.
Jamie Collins: Looks like Bill Belichick found himself another great linebacker to build his defense around. Last year Collins wasn’t on the field much, but when he got the chance the second round pick really made the most of it, showing his unbelievable athleticism and large skill set – dropping in coverage, rushing the passer and stopping the run. With Brandon Spikes heading to Buffalo, he should become a cornerstone of this Patriots defense.
Some other players coming back from injury looking for a big bounce-back year: Aaron Rodgers, Robert Griffin III, Arian Foster, Clay Matthews, Ray Rice, Vince Wilfork, Percy Harvin;
Nick Foles: If you look at his 2013 stats you’d think he’s one of the best quarterback in the game, but then you have to look at his situation – the leading rusher with him in the backfield, two all-pro offensive linemen and one of the better receiving corps, plus the biggest thing – the offensive system. With DeSean heading to Washington and defensive coordinators having a lot of team to gameplan for their offense, I think not only his stats but also his overall game will drop.
Eric Decker: If you come from Peyton Manning’s offense to the Jets it’s almost clear that your production has to go down. Not only will he have to be the number one receiver in that system but it’s also not sure who his starting quarterback will be. I think being matched up against the other team’s best corner for the majority of time and not having the perfectly placed balls from Peyton will be a big problem for him. Speaking of Peyton …
Peyton Manning: Some people may be shocked about him being on this list. He’ll probably still make the Pro Bowl and be one of the premiere signal callers, but I just don’t see him matching his magical 2013 campaign. No quarterback not named Drew Brees had 40+ touchdowns or 5000 yards passing in back-to-back years. With that being said, I think the Broncos might be a better overall team, especially on defense.
Julian Edelman: It’s always good to have Tom Brady throwing passes to you, because he always seems to find the open target, no matter who that is. Last season Edelman stepped up big time for the Patriots providing a reliable option in the passing game, but he won’t catch 105 passes again this year. With Brady having a full offseason with all the young receivers he has, I see him spreading the ball around much more this upcoming season.
Andre Johnson: If he really wants to play for the Texans, he will once again be one of the top receivers in the league, but because of him looking to be traded and not showing at training camp, you have to think his production this year will drop. Another factor certainly is the still unclear quarterback situation. If Johnson shows at practice soon and one of the Texans quarterback emerges as the number one guy, I’m ready to take him off this list.
Cam Newton: First of all, I think he’s overrated. The main reason the Panthers won the NFC South last year was their great defense. I don’t see him making all the throws that you want to see out of a top tier franchise quarterback. With Steve Smith going to the Ravens and Brandon LaFell leaving the team as well, Newton will have a tough time completing passes. He just has to hope Kelvin Benjamin makes some big plays for him, because if he doesn’t I don’t think their aerial attack will provide enough firepower to really force defenses into dropping enough guys into coverage and give Cam a chance to escape the pocket.
Knowshown Moreno – To me this is a no-brainer. The way the situation happened in Denver, he was put in perfect position to shine. With Peyton Manning leading the highest scoring offense of all time by throwing all over the place, Moreno often times faced defenses playing the pass and a small number of players in the box. Going to Miami he will have a much tougher time finding running lanes and will also have to earn his touches with Lamar Miller fighting for the starting job. He certainly won’t come close to his 1600 yards from scrimmage last season.