One player on every NFL team ready to make the leap in 2018
Indianapolis Colts – Malik Hooker, S
Often likened to Ed Reed, 2017 first-round pick Malik Hooker has a ton of potential. Unfortunately, a torn ACL and MCL limited his rookie campaign to just seven games, preventing the league from marveling at his ball-hawking ability. And while there’s no timetable set for Hooker’s return to the field, he will eventually find himself back on the field in 2018. So long as the knee injury doesn’t hinder him this coming season, Hooker will finally be able put those Ed Reed comparisons to the ultimate test.
Jacksonville Jaguars – Myles Jack, LB
During his rookie season in 2016, Myles Jack was still trying to find his place on defense. He took fewer than 25 percent of the team’s snaps and was rotated at various linebacker positions. In 2017, Jack moved to middle linebacker, where he remained for all 16 games and really came on late in the season and during the playoffs. As he got more comfortable with his new and permanent position, Jack showed the type of talent many expected of him when he was selected in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft. Now at a solidified position and playing with more confidence, Jack is poised to make a tremendous impact in 2018.
Kansas City Chiefs – Patrick Mahomes, QB
Patrick Mahomes is the most obvious “make a leap” candidate for not just the Chiefs, but this entire list. With Alex Smith now in Washington, Mahomes will step up as the team’s starting quarterback, and expectations are already through the roof. Mahomes has been described as “phenomenal” and had his leaderships praised. And while it’s always a guessing game when it comes to a quarterback’s first full season in the NFL, there’s no denying that Mahomes will be handed everything he needs to succeed on the big stage.
Los Angeles Chargers – Mike Williams, WR
Like Patrick Mahomes before him, Mike Williams is an obvious addition to this list but for different reasons. A highly-touted prospect taken at No. 7 overall in the 2017 NFL Draft, Williams was expected to enter Odell Beckham Jr. and Julio Jones territory. Instead, a herniated disc in his lower back cost him the preseason, while a knee injury limited him to just 10 games. But with good health, a chip on his shoulder, and the team’s loss of tight end Hunter Henry, Williams will return in 2018 to a much larger role.
Los Angeles Rams – Gerald Everett, TE
As a second-round rookie in 2017, Gerald Everett had a relatively minimal impact for a team that was otherwise unexpectedly dominant. And while Everett’s 16 receptions for 244 yards and two touchdowns didn’t light up the world, it demonstrated his potential to contribute offensively. THat potential should benefit from the addition of wide receiver Brandin Cooks, who will replace Sammy Watkins as the team’s deep threat. And with the field stretched, it should mean more opportunities for Everett in 2018.
Miami Dolphins – Kenyan Drake, RB
Since the moment Kenyan Drake entered the NFL, the potential for elite production has been there. Unfortunately, he spent his rookie season and a portion of his sophomore season backing up Jay Ajayi, and will find himself battling veteran Frank Gore in 2018. But as the door on Gore’s career closes, it represents Drake’s best opportunity to take over as a bell-cow back and show the NFL world what he’s made of. And if late last season was any indication (Drake led the NFL in rushing from Week 13 through Week 17), he’ll be filling up the stat sheets with regularity.