Each year in the NFL, certain players seemingly come out of nowhere to become stars. This year will be no different. Looking around the league, I’ve determined 5 Players poised to become household names.
5. Dante Fowler – Jaguars Defensive End
Fowler missed his entire rookie season in 2015, after Jacksonville selected him 3rd-overall in the draft. The edge rusher out of Florida has reportedly been embarrassing the Jaguars’ offensive lineman in practice and looked dominant in their first scrimmage. Fowler’s return is one of many reasons national pundits are selecting the Jags to make a serious playoff push in 2016. Fowler is that classic hybrid outside linebacker/defensive end who can line up wherever and create mismatches. Fowler, along with rookies Myles Jack and Jalen Ramsey, could be the start of a bright future in Jacksonville.
4. Marvin Jones – Lions Wide Receiver
Reports out of Lions camp indicate Matthew Stafford has been favoring Jones thus far. According to Mlive’s Kyle Meinke, Jones has looked the part of the team’s top receiver. You can’t read too much into these early training camp observations. In the Lions and Steelers’ joint practice yesterday, Stafford connected with Jones on 6 out of 7 attempts and surprisingly has looked more sure-handed than Golden Tate. It’s hard for me to imagine Tate not being the more productive of the two in 2016, but defenses may try and take away Tate, leaving Jones to make big plays. It will be exciting to see him in game action against Pittsburgh this week.
3. Kenneth Dixon – Ravens Running Back
Dixon has made some noise after missing the early portion of training camp with an injury. The Ravens selected Dixon in the 4th-round of the draft, hoping he can add to a backfield by committee approach. He’s flashed great speed and vision and some believe he was one of the biggest steals of the draft. Yes, the team still has Justin Forsett, but if Dixon shines in the Preseason he could earn a much bigger role. The Ravens have been looking for a new feature-back since the Ray Rice fiasco. Dixon is no sure bet to be that guy, however, reports out of training camp indicate he has looked impressive thus far. Keep your eye on Dixon in 2016.
2. Jameis Winston – Buccaneers QB
Winston had an effective rookie season as the 1st-overall pick in last year’s draft. With weapons on the outside, including 3rd-year stud receiver Mike Evans, Winston could take an even bigger step forward. Bucs Report makes a compelling case as to why Winston is poised to breakout in 2016. Re-signing veteran running back Doug Martin — who’s coming off of a very productive season — should complement Winston well. They have pieces on offense to go with a talented defense, led by stud defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. The Bucs will have a tough time winning the division with MVP Cam Newton leading a mega-talented Panthers team who should be as hungry as ever. Winston could become one of the best young quarterbacks in the NFL with another good showing.
1. Leonard Williams – Jets Defensive End
When Leonard Williams was selected by the Jets last season, he was widely considered the best prospect in the draft. The Jets have an embarrassment or riches along the defensive line with Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson already there. Wilkerson re-signed a huge contract but Richardson is suspended for the first week of the season which gives Williams a chance to play more. As Jets Wire thoroughly explains, Williams is perfectly built to thrive in head coach Todd Bowles’ defense. The Jets have some questions on offense, but their defense should be top-10. Williams had a solid rookie year, but expect him to be a household name on the defensive side of the ball by year’s end.