Breakout players emerge every season. A new coaching staff, new schemes, or rehab from an injury, are a few valid reasons to see major improvement in an athlete. I will be giving you 32 names to watch for the 2019 NFL season. One player per team.
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Bradley Chubb – Outside Linebacker/Edge Rusher
6’4” 276 lbs
2nd year pro – North Carolina State University
2018 Statistics– 60 tackles (41 solo), 14 tackles for a loss, 12 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery, 16 games started
With the 5th pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, the Denver Broncos selected elite edge rusher, Bradley Chubb. Chubb was an absolute force in college, winning the Ted Hendricks award for best defensive lineman, during his final year at N.C. State. Chubb kept that moment into his rookie season, recording 12 sacks for the Broncos. Bradley Chubb plays opposite of Von Miller, so his strong rookie season was naturally overlooked by the national media. I don’t see any reason for Chubb to take a step back in 2019, and he will be forcing people to mention his name sooner, rather than later.
Chubb is an explosive athlete off the edge. He combines strength, speed, and leverage when rushing the quarterback. Chubb uses his hands well, extending them to engage blockers and controlling the linemen at the point of attack. He showed a high motor and a knack for creating pressure. Chubb shouldn’t see any double teams either, as Von Miller requires that kind of respect on the other side of the line of scrimmage. Having two pass rushers this good can be the backbone of an elite defense. The sky is the limit for Bradley Chubb, and I believe he is a star in the making. I predict Chubb will record 14 sacks this season and finally get the respect he deserves from the national media outlets.
Los Angeles Chargers
Desmond King III – Cornerback/Slot Corner
5’10 200 lbs
3rd year pro – University of Iowa
2018 Statistics – 62 tackles (47 solo), 4 tackles for a loss, 3 interceptions (1 returned for a touchdown),10 pass deflections, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery, 16 games played (8 started)
The slot cornerback position has become a starting position in the national football league. “Base” personnel is a three wide receiver set these days, so having a good third cornerback is mandatory. The Chargers found their own elite nickel cornerback in the 5th round of the 2017 NFL draft. Desmond King has developed into one of the best corners in the NFL, that no one is talking about.
The Chargers have one of the best secondaries in the league, and King is a large part of that. As a nickel corner, you have to be quick, intelligent, aggressive, and physical. King checks all of those boxes. King plays downhill, and isn’t afraid to come up and make tackles in the running game. He is solid in man coverage, but really excels in zone. His instincts and play recognition are elite. His technique isn’t the best, but he is still developing and will only get better with time. The cornerback also spent time returning punts and kickoffs for the Chargers last season. Desmond King is the definition of an impact player. The Chargers truly have a star in the making with King. Look out for him to lead the Chargers in interceptions, after tying Derwin James in interceptions with 3 this past season.
Kansas City Chiefs
Mecole Hardman – Wide Receiver
5’10” 187 lbs
Rookie season – University of Georgia
2x All-SEC Team Wide Receiver (2017,2018). 4.33u 40 yard Dash Time at the NFL Combine.
Speed kills in football. It’s one of those attributes that you can’t teach. No team has more speed than the Kansas City Chiefs. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes lit the league on fire last year, throwing for 50 touchdowns in his second NFL season. Mahomes has a big arm, and head coach Andy Reid has tailored his system to maximize their speed on offense.
In the 2nd round of the 2019 NFL Draft, the Chiefs added wide receiver Mecole Hardman. Hardman ran a 4.33u 40 yard dash at the NFL combine. The Chiefs have the perfect scheme for Hardman, and he should contribute right away for this offense.
Hardman made a lot of big plays for the Georgia Bulldogs, averaging 16 yards per reception during his college career. He showed the ability to make explosive plays, deep down the field. Hardman also does a good job of tracking the deep ball. The ability to track the ball is an underrated attribute for wide receivers. Hardman has all the tools to be another great playmaker in the Chiefs’ offense. I predict Hardman will score at least 6 touchdowns in his debut season.
Maurice Hurst Jr. – Defensive Tackle
6’2” 291 lbs
2nd year pro – University of Michigan
2018 statistics – 31 tackles (26 solo), 3 tackles for a loss, 4 sacks, 3 passes deflected, 1 forced fumble, 13 games played (10 started)
With all of the focus on skill positions (wide receivers, quarterbacks, tight ends, etc), many people forget that the battle is won up front, first. Some teams have fallen in love with trying to make the “flashy” pickups on defense, by drafting defensive backs and edge rushers, while ignoring the interior of their defense. The Raiders bolstered the interior of their defensive line by selecting defensive tackle Maurice Hurst with a 5th round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.
Hurst was an outstanding player during his college years at Michigan. His draft stock fell after an issue with his heart was detected at the 2018 NFL Combine. The Raiders took a chance when drafting Maurice Hurst, and that risk is already paying off.
Hurst is an athletic interior defensive linemen that uses his power effectively. He plugs up holes against the run, and does a good job of not losing ground when he is getting double teamed. Hurst also plays with a high motor, and uses his athletic ability to chase down runners in the backfield. He also contributes to the pass rush, and led the Raiders in sacks last year, with 4. This defensive tackle isn’t the heaviest or tallest at his position, but discipline, effort, and technique make him a very effective player. The Raiders have to be ecstatic that they found such a talented player so late in the draft. As a starter for a full season, I predict Hurst will record over 50 tackles, 5 tackles for a loss, and another 4 sacks in 2019.