For any second-year player, development remains the single most important aspect of the maturation process. As a result, teams closely monitor how the rigors and rewards affect future performance. In 2017, numerous rookies exploded onto the scene with impact plays and astounding potential. Yet, which ones will make the biggest leap. To answer that, FPC editors Ray, Smith, Kelly, and Rolfe gather to discuss.
Brandon Ray (Bills Managing Editor)
The player going into their sophomore year to lookout for is Mitchell Trubisky. Drafted #2 overall in 2017, it was a matter of time before he took over the starting QB job from Mike Glennon. I expect Trubisky to take a major step forward because of the turnaround of the Bears offense.
Matt Nagy is an offensive minded coach, in which quarterbacks tend to produce more results that are positive. Look at what Sean McVay did for Jared Goff and what Kyle Shanahan did for Jimmy Garoppolo. Granted, Nagy is no McVay or Shanahan but anything can happen when given the opportunity. Trubisky is surrounded with different weapons including his running duo of Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen, and newly acquired Taylor Gabriel and Trey Burton should potentially become heavily involved in the passing game.
The Bears defense is already stable enough, now it is just a matter of getting the offense to finish off the puzzle. Trubisky is in a tough division this year. Arguably the toughest one in the NFL for the season. He has a lot to prove, but with what he has been given this offseason, do not be surprised to see Trubisky take a leap in his second season.
Sam Smith (Vikings Editor)
Mitchell Trubisky. There were many things working against Trubisky in Chicago last year, the greatest of these factors being the dearth of receiving talent. One could argue that Tarik Cohen, a 5-foot-6 running back, was his most consistent target. On top of that (or perhaps, because of that), the Chicago offense was conservative to a fault. John Fox is notoriously anti-turnover, and as such, it seemed at times the Bears were afraid that if Trubisky were given a long leash he would ultimately choke himself. This was most evident in five Trubisky starts of 25 attempts or fewer.
That said, when let loose, Trubisky displayed NFL talent. Now, he did not have a highlight reel quite like fellow rookie Deshaun Watson. However, he did display the physical tools necessary to be an above average quarterback. Moreover, as the season progressed, the game appeared to slow down for him. Now Trubisky is in a brand new situation. Ryan Pace found a host of receiving options in the draft and free agency, including a potential ace in Allen Robinson. In addition, new head coach Matt Nagy coached Alex Smith to the best years of his career and has a knack for using his weapons to their full potential. The talent and situation are right for Trubisky to take a huge step in 2018.
Andrew Kelly (Rams Editor)
One second-year player I expect to make a significant improvement this season is Rams tight end Gerald Everett. Everett, like most tight ends, struggled in his first season in the NFL. The first year turning pro remains difficult at the tight end position, as young players are tasked with learning both the passing and blocking schemes of the NFL game. Despite struggles getting onto the field and conquering the Rams dense playbook, Everett made a few big plays due to his raw talent. A “matchup nightmare” type of tight end, Everett will look to make significant contributions in the passing game.
Luckily for Everett, he could not be in a much better position to do so. With a talented tight end counterpart in Tyler Higbee and a head coach who coached Jordan Reed to his most dominant seasons while in Washington, expect the Rams’ tight end to make big contributions in the redzone. However, a big factor that will affect how often Everett sees the field is his ability to block. Mainly labeled as a passing tight end, Everett will have to become more well-rounded if he wants to take over the lion’s share of the Rams tight end snaps. So keep an eye out for Everett to make an impact in a high-powered LA offense this coming season and do not be afraid to pursue him in your fantasy leagues.
Ben Rolfe (Falcons Editor)
My pick for the biggest improvement by a second year player is actually somewhat of a two-for-one deal. My main pick is Mitch Trubisky, unfortunately held back by the unimaginative offense the Chicago Bears ran in 2017. Trubisky started 12 games but threw for just 2,193 yards with seven touchdowns and seven interceptions. However, the entire offense revolved around keeping the game tight and limiting mistakes. This year I expect things to change massively.
The Bears fired previous head coach John Fox and instead hired the offensively minded Matt Nagy. Nagy’s offense should allow Trubisky to show off the talent and athleticism he flashed in his first season. In addition, the Bears added some nice pieces in Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, and Trey Burton. However, I also think Trubisky should get a massive jump from playing a second year with Tarik Cohen and Adam Sheehan.
I mentioned the two-for-one deal here and Sheehan is that guy. The young tight end was also hindered by the 2017 Bears offense. However, Sheehan did manage to have his moments with three touchdowns on 12 receptions. The system Nagy runs helped Travis Kelce blossom. However, Sheehan faces stiff competition from Burton to take that role on. However, I think Sheehan can provide real stability to this Bears offense and be one of Trubisky’s most trusted targets.
The current Bears offense, with two new quality receivers, two complimentary running backs, and two versatile tight ends should give Trubisky every chance to succeed. I am not expecting miracles in his first year in the system. Yet, if Trubisky can just take the next step then the future in Chicago will look very bright.