In the short Breakout Rookies series, we will take a look at each division and select one Rookie who I think will have a breakout season. (Pretty self explanatory, right?) In addition, I will predict stats and choose an honorable mention.
Steelers WR Laviska Shenault Jr.
With a passing attack that saw Ben Roethlisberger in the top five in all passing categories last year, the rich got richer. Despite the team’s lack of success, they were able to rack up some great picks. Capitalizing on what they have, while they still have it, Pittsburgh is loading up with offensive talent in order to give Big Ben all the tools he needs to succeed as his career comes to a close. In a division that came down to the wire, Shenault is the type of playmaker that really moves the needle for the Steelers. Opposite from fan favorite JuJu Smith-Schuster, the duo will present an intimidating matchup for opposing defenses. Not only is he dominant at the catch point, Shenault possesses the strength to throw defenders into the dirt with a 79 stiff arm rating. Overall, the Colorado receiver joins a favorable situation, and he will likely thrive within this offensive scheme.
65 Receptions, 1100 yards, 9 TDs
Honorable Mention: Bengals QB Tyler Huntley, Browns OL Andrew Thomas
Dolphins DT Derrick Brown
This division saw a serious influx of talent with the likes of Chase Young (Jets), Grant Delpit (Bills), Bryce Hall (Dolphins), among many others. I chose Brown simply because he is head and shoulders above anyone else the Dolphins had on defense a year ago. They were able to field a successful unit, and someone of Derrick Brown’s caliber has the ability to transform the entire defense around such a dominant nose tackle. A stifling run defender out of Auburn, the rookie also comes in with great pass rushing ability, making him a day one threat. Whether it is embarrassing opposing centers on a reach block, or bulldozing them on passing plays, I have no doubt that Derrick Brown will be a household name by the season’s end. Going into one of the youngest units in the league, he will be able to develop serious chemistry with his fellow rookies and teammates, and help take the Miami Dolphins to where they want to be.
55 Tackles, 25 TFLs, 15 sacks, 4 FF
Honorable Mention: Jets DE Chase Young, Bills S Grant Delpit
Titans WR Tee Higgins
Coming into an offense where he will be the man from day one, Higgins has the opportunity to rack up some truly remarkable stats. He will surpass underwhelming receiver Corey Davis as Marcus Mariota/Jake Fromm’s primary target, and will take the South by storm. With elite size and athleticism, Higgins has the physical ability to dominate any corner. Standing at 6’4, he towers over defenses, and with 90 speed he should not be taken lightly as a deep threat. He can get it done in any way, and is sneaky in the open field with 78 juke move. The Titans offense has struggled lately and their new Head Coach Cameron is a bit of an unknown, so look for Tennessee to play through their rookie sensation.
70 receptions, 1300 yards, 14 TD
Honorable Mention: Jaguars QB Tua Tagovailoa
Broncos RB Jonathan Taylor
An absolute steal in the 3rd round, Taylor is by far the best back in the class. He has elite speed and open field moves and can also run over just about anyone who tries to tackle him. In an offense that finished the season red hot paired with a coach who is known for his dominant rushing attack, Taylor is already in the conversation for Offensive Rookie of the Year, if not Best RB in the AFC. He can get it done however you like, making him a threat in any offensive scheme. A true every down player, he can maximize his usage in every way possible. He is in a favorable situation with Head Coach Fallen, and will surely dominate the West this year.