Eleven To Watch In The 2020/21 NFL Season
American football has the habit of throwing up some big names – with salaries to match. The current superstar is undoubtedly Patrick Mahomes. The Kansas City Quarterback is the youngest ever professional to be named both the league’s and the Super Bowl’s Most Valued Player. So it’s no wonder that he’s been granted a record-breaking 10 year contract extension that should seem him through to the age of 35 and earn him over $500 million.
But there are also a lot of other very promising players out there who may not quite have Mahomes’s earning potential at the moment. But a great season in 2020/21 could well see any of the dream team we’ve put together here reaching for the stars in the NFL.
Quarterback: Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans
Despite Watson’s rookie year with the Texans in 2017 being prematurely cut short by an ACL injury, since then he has consistently broken records and made a major name for himself. These include a Texan franchise record of most rushing touchdowns by a quarterback – 14 – as well as being the first QB to record more than 300 passing yards and 40 rushing yards in a single game.
Running Back: Saquon Barkley, New York Giants
Barkley had a blistering start to his first year with the Giants in 2018 when he picked up many awards including Pepsi Rookie of the Year and the FedEx Ground NFL Player of the Year to name just two of them. His early promise has blossomed, and he finished his sophomore year as the only running back in Giants’ history to have 1,000 running yards in the first two years of playing for the team.
Wide Receiver: JuJu Smith-Schuster, Pittsburgh Steelers
Smith-Schuster made the record books by becoming the youngest ever player to reach 2,500 rushing yards as well as being the first player to score two offensive touchdowns of 97 yards. He’s also a prolific scorer so anyone interested in betting on NFL spreads would do well to keep a close eye on the 23 year old originally from Long Beach, California. He has big shoes to fill though, having been designated as the team’s replacement for the legendary Antonio Brown.
Tight End: George Kittle, San Francisco 49’ers
Similarly, the retirement of Rob Gronkowski has opened up the opportunity for George Kittle to become one of the most prolific tight ends in the league. And, although at 26 he’s one of the older faces to watch, he is set to enter his prime. His second pro-season in 2018 also saw him rack up a record 1,377 receiving yards, not to mention a total of five touchdowns.
Offensive Tackle: Ryan Ramczyk, New Orleans Saints
Ramczyk was picked up by the Saints in the first round of the 2017 draft and has proved to be a very good choice ever since. Starting at Left Tackle, an injury to Zach Strief saw him move over to the right side. By the 2019 season he secured his position as first choice in the role by allowing no quarterback sacks throughout the entire NFL campaign.
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Interior Offensive Line: Ryan Kelly, Indianapolis Colts
When the Colts picked up Kelly in the 2016 draft straight from college in Alabama, they announced their hope that the would be the team’s first solid center since Jeff Saturday. Apart from two brief spells on the sidelines following foot surgery and a concussion, their wishes have come true. Kelly’s value to the team has been underlined by the fact that they picked up the fifth-year option on his contract in 2019.
Interior Defensive Line: Kenny Clark, Green Bay Packers
Widely regarded as being the single most important player in the Packers’ defense, in the 2019 season Clark was following close on the heels of Aaron Donald and Chris Jones in terms of pass rush grades from PFF. Averaging around 55 tackles and six sacks a season, it’s easy to see just why he is so highly regarded.
Edge Rusher: Joey Bosa, Los Angeles Chargers
Bosa is in esteemed company, being placed between Von Miller and Khalil Mack as the highest graded pass rushers from 2016 to date. Observers believe that he will soon exceed Mack’s previous record as the highest paid defensive player in the league – although he also has a younger brother, Nick, who could turn out to challenge him for this too.
Line Backer: Darius Leonard, Indianapolis Colts
As it’s the line backers who make the most sacks that get the most coverage, it can be easy to overlook players like Leonard who specialize in more sideline-to-sideline play. His first year with the Colts saw him picking up an NFL Rookie of the Year Award and in 2019 he made it into the Pro Bowl. For the forthcoming season he’s likely to be number one pick in the position ahead of other Colts including Matthew Adams and Zaire Franklin.
Cornerback: Tre’Davious White, Buffalo Bills
Cornerbacks may not be the highest profile of players, but they have a job to do. Luckily, White is very accomplished at it with a record of 123 tackles, 26 passes blocked and no less than six interceptions. In a physical game he stands out for his aggression, which should set him up well for an alternative hockey career that he seems keen to pursue.
Safety: Derwin James, Los Angeles Chargers
Finally, we’ll conclude this listing with a real all-rounder. When the Chargers picked up James in the 2018 draft they were hoping for a player with flexibility, and that’s exactly what they got. Whether providing deep coverage or moving in on the defensive line, he’s outstanding. He can also adapt his playing style to that of a corner or even a linebacker. In fact, he’s the complete package.
Of course, football is an unpredictable game so some of these players might have bad seasons or be sidelined through injury. But here’s hoping that at least some of these predictions for true superstardom really do come off.
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