NFL players don’t walk onto the field as rookies and immediately become stars. They have to prove their worth on the field. Some have to bounce from team to team, and some were never even expected to be stars in the first place. Everyone gets there a different way, and every story is unique.
The 2018 NFL season has seen its share of breakout players. Some are rookies who were highly-anticipated but had to prove it on the field, while some were players once feared to be busts but finally put it together. Others were never expected to be anything more than squad players or roster filler, but have shown themselves to be capable of a whole lot more.
Here is each team’s biggest breakout player from the 2018 season.
Arizona Cardinals — Christian Kirk, WR
The rookie was only a second-round pick, but Kirk has offered the Cardinals some hope that their offense has a future beyond just Josh Rosen. Though he’s still searching for his first 100-yard game, he has several solid outings to his name, and has caught 3 touchdowns. He’s quickly become one of Rosen’s favorite targets and has racked up 536 yards receiving. He could end up in the 800-yard range when his season is over — a very solid rookie campaign.
NFL superstars tend to receive many rewards, ranging from massive contracts to All-Pro nods and trips to the Pro Bowl. But in order to succeed at the highest level, all 32 teams still need role players and unsung heroes to help them along their journey.
Sometimes those role players receive the recognition they deserve — most often within the fan bases or cities in which they play. But frequently, they are not recognized the way they should be.
Each team has some hidden gems on their roster — here’s a look at one for each team.
Arizona Cardinals – Markus Golden, linebacker
Markus Golden is more overlooked than unknown, but at his current rate of development, he won’t be forgotten much longer. Golden finished the 2016 season with 53 total pressures, 41 run stops and 12.5 sacks. The 41 run stops were good for fourth-most among edge defenders in the NFL. Golden is in line for a Pro Bowl or All-Pro nod in 2017 if he continues at this pace. If that happens, the secret will be out.
Atlanta Falcons – Grady Jarrett, defensive tackle
Grady Jarrett was considered underrated in college and that remained true over his first two seasons with the Falcons. Even despite a strong performance in the Super Bowl, Jarrett hasn’t exactly seen his name in lights. If Atlanta didn’t choke the game away, perhaps that would be different, but for now, Jarrett and his 78.3 Pro Football Focus rating will continue to fly under the radar.