I always find it prudent to check in on the draft classes of the past and see how they are fairing. The 2018 class gave us a lot of talented players including 5 new starting quarterbacks, two All-Pro Indianapolis Colts, a franchise running back in New York, and an All-Pro Safety in LA. As with every draft class, however, there are players who show promise in their rookie season but don’t have an opportunity to breakout. Sometimes it’s due to injury and sometimes it’s due to being buried on the depth chart.
For this article, I am gonna take a look at five offensive players from the 2018 draft class who are due for breakout seasons. My only disclaimer was that I wouldn’t include any quarterbacks because that’s too easy and no fun. The order the players are listed in is completely irrelevant. This isn’t a ranking of these player’s skill levels but merely a watch list.
James Washington, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
2018 Stats: 16 catches, 217 yards, 1 touchdown
This one is obvious, isn’t it? Someone has to fill the massive void left by Antonio Brown in this receiver group. Most of the burden will fall on the back of Juju Smith-Schuster, but he will need some help at some point. Washington was a second-round pick in 2018 and holds a lot of records at his alma mater Oklahoma State. Washington was a player I had ranked inside of top-50 in 2018 but just didn’t put it together last year. With Brown gone, Washington will have a chance to be Ben Roethlisberger’s number two target this season which should lead to quite the uptick in production. Washington will have to compete with Deionte Johnson, who was drafted in 2019, but all of the talk out of Steelers camp is that Washington has improved greatly this offseason. The Steelers still have a good team and expect to compete this season but if Washington falters again things will be made even harder for a team with a lot of new faces.
Derrius Guice, RB, Washington Redskins
2018 Stats: Missed Entire Season with Injury
The Washington Redskins had one of the most injured teams in all of football last season. Guice tore his ACL in a preseason game against the Patriots last year. Guice looked quite good in the preseason and was a highly touted player coming out of LSU. Guice received a first-round grade on my board in 2018 and was my second overall running back(only behind Saquan Barkley). If you are asking me Guice should be the unquestioned bell-cow for this team in 2019 but there is a lot of competition. Adrian Peterson, Samjae Perine, Chris Thompson, and 2019 draft pick Bryce Love are all on the roster. Guice’s combination of speed and power should win him the starting job easy and since Washington’s quarterback situation is less than ideal Guice should get plenty of opportunities to make an impact. The biggest thing with Guice now is praying that he can stay healthy for the majority of a season.
Will Dissly, TE, Seattle Seahawks
2018 Stats: 8 catches, 156 yards, 1 touchdown
Most people probably don’t even know that Dissly is a Seattle Seahawk, but he had a promising start to his rookie year in 2018. Dissly only played four games last year because of an injury to his patellar tendon suffered during week four against the Cardinals. During week one, Dissly caught three passes for 105 yards and a touchdown. That’s some mighty good production for a first-year tight end in their first-ever game. Dissly’s competition on the Seahawks depth chart doesn’t pack much of a punch right now. The other tight ends on the roster include Nick Vannettt, Ed Dickinson, and Jacob Hollister. As long as Dissly is healthy for training camp he’s got a real chance to earn the number one TE job in Seattle. Seattle has been searching for a dominant tight end since Jimmy Graham was brought on. If week one from last season is any indication than Dissly has a chance to be the tight end they have been searching for.
Ronald Jones, RB, Tampa Bay
2018 Stats: 23 ATT, 44 Yards, 1 Touchdown
To put it lightly, Jones had a really tough rookie season after being selected in the second round out of USC. If you don’t feel like doing the math then I will do it for you (or really google will). With those numbers listed above, Ronald Jones averaged 1.9 yards per carry last season. That’s the lowest number I’ve seen in my brief career covering football. During OTAs and training camp pictures have been going around of Jones showing how much more in shape he is this year. That happens a lot this time of year, so I wouldn’t put much stock in it. Whether he deserves another chance or not Jones is going to get another one to win the starting job this year merely because of his draft slot. The other running backs on the roster include Peyton Barber, Bruce Anderson, and Andre Ellington. Those guys aren’t gonna turn many heads leaving the starting job wide open for Jones. Another thing working in Jones’ favor is new head coach Bruce Arians getting hired. Arians is known for his work with quarterbacks but he’s also just an all-around good offensive coach. This is Jones last chance to prove he belongs in the NFL, and I think he improves greatly this coming season.
Braxton Berrios, WR, New England Patriots
2018 stats: Missed season with Injury
I tried to get creative with this last pick because I feel like I’ve hit most of the obvious ones so far. Berrios was a sixth-round pick out of the University of Miami, and he looks exactly like a New England Patriots receiver. He’s small, tough, and a slot receiver. Looking at the Patriots roster, Berrios is the only true slot outside of Julian Edleman. Everyone knows the Patriots like to use more than one slot receiver on a good amount of snaps. The rest of the depth chart fills out with N’Keal Harry, Demaryius Thomas, Dontrell Inman, and Ryan Davis. Berrios has a chance to win that second slot role, but also, the punt returner duties which he was competing for in last year’s camp before getting hurt. Berrios racked up 488 yards and 1 touchdown as a punt returner with the Hurricanes. Nothing is more dangerous than a good slot receiver with the New England Patriots and Berrios has an opportunity to pick up all of that production in 2019.