10 offensive sophomores poised for a giant leap
Michael Reaves / Getty Images Sport / Getty

theScore's Mike Alessandrini, Jack Browne, and Alex Chippin reveal which second-year offensive players are poised for a breakout campaign in 2019.

Kerryon Johnson, RB, Lions

Gregory Shamus / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Despite adding C.J. Anderson in free agency, Johnson is expected to carry the bulk of Detroit's backfield load this season. The former Auburn Tiger shined when healthy last year, as only Saquon Barkley and Nick Chubb eluded more tackles among rookies. Johnson was also successful when given opportunities as a receiver, hauling in every catchable pass thrown his way. The Lions made a few minor changes this offseason to help spark the run game as well, shifting 2018 first-rounder Frank Ragnow back to his natural center spot and drafting tight end T.J. Hockenson No. 8 overall. Hockenson profiles as a dynamic receiver and mauling blocker. Overall, the stars align for Johnson to break out in 2019.

Sam Darnold, QB, Jets

His overall numbers were pedestrian, but Darnold's work in the last month of the season - 931 yards, six touchdowns, one interception - inspire optimism for his second year. His decision-making improved drastically down the stretch, and he was particularly lethal when the offense went no-huddle. In the offseason, the Jets improved his supporting cast by acquiring weapons Le'Veon Bell and Jamison Crowder, giving Darnold the tools for a strong campaign.

Marquez Valdes-Scantling, WR, Packers

Al Pereira / Getty Images Sport / Getty

The Valdes-Scantling hype train seems to be growing with each passing day, and perhaps for good reason. The 2018 fifth-rounder recently drew the attention of Aaron Rodgers, which could go a long way in receiving a healthy share of targets. Valdes-Scantling appears ahead of Geronimo Allison, Trevor Davis, and Equanimeous St. Brown on the Packers' depth chart thanks in large part to his impressive offseason. Despite playing in 64 percent of Green Bay's offensive snaps, the speedy receiver led all rookie receivers with 311 deep receiving yards in 2018. With Rodgers' trust, Valdes-Scantling has breakout written all over him.

Isaiah Wynn, OL, Patriots

Wynn was on track to claim the starting left tackle spot last year before a preseason Achilles injury wiped out his inaugural campaign. The job is once again his to lose, and there's no reason to believe he won't capitalize on the opportunity. He's working with the NFL's most revered offensive line coach in Dante Scarnecchia, who a year ago helped turn Trent Brown from a relative no-name into a $66-million man. He's also being incorporated into a line that returns four quality starters from 2018, which will ease the pressure he faces.

Christian Kirk, WR, Cardinals

Dylan Buell / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Kirk had 590 yards and three touchdowns in 12 games last year, and that was in a broken offense devoid of tactical creativity. That won't be an issue under Kliff Kingsbury, a master of the spread offense. Kingsbury is adept at scheming the ball into the hands of his playmakers, which bodes well for Kirk, a strong route-runner who's excellent after the catch. Kirk found success against both zone and man defenses last year, and can play either in the slot or on the outside. Already one of the elder statesmen of Arizona's young receiving corps, he'll be featured in the Cardinals' new offense.

Baker Mayfield, QB, Browns

Although Mayfield was outstanding as a rookie, vaulting the Browns from 0-16 to 7-8-1, he's still poised to take a giant leap in 2019. Last year's No. 1 overall pick led all first-year quarterbacks in adjusted completion percentage (74 percent, per PFF) and ranked third among all passers with 51.4 percent accuracy on deep passes. Mayfield combines poise, precision, and a gun-slinging mentality from the pocket, and appears to be exactly what Cleveland needs to finally ascend into the NFL's top tier. With Odell Beckham Jr. and Kareem Hunt in tow, the fiery pivot has every opportunity to emerge as an MVP candidate, similar to what we've seen in recent years from Carson Wentz and Patrick Mahomes.

Dallas Goedert, TE, Eagles

Icon Sportswire / Icon Sportswire / Getty

There are plenty of hands to feed in Doug Pederson's offense, but Goedert is one to keep an eye on. Scoring a touchdown on just over 12 percent of his receptions as a rookie, the former South Dakota State product's towering height and ability to use his body make him an ideal red-zone option for Carson Wentz. Zach Ertz will almost certainly be targeted more often, but Goedert has illustrated the ability to produce with less volume. Though spring practices are hardly a guaranteed indicator for success, the former second-rounder consistently dominated defenders during OTAs and minicamp and is a sneaky bet to lead tight ends in touchdowns. Goedert isn't just a big target, however, as he led all 2018 draft-eligible prospects at his position in yards after the catch in college, per PFF.

Keke Coutee, WR, Texans

As Deshaun Watson grows into a franchise quarterback and DeAndre Hopkins receives the bulk of the attention, Coutee should emerge as a game-breaking secondary option in Year 2. A dynamic playmaker and shifty route-runner, the fourth-rounder saw 22.7 percent of Watson's targets in the six games he played, per Yahoo's Brad Evans, and gained 209 of his 287 yards after the catch. He also led all rookies by catching 73.7 percent of his targets, according to PFF. Formidable in the slot and on deep routes, Coutee is a high-volume candidate and could take a major leap provided his injury woes are behind him. Fellow youngster Will Fuller may not be at 100 percent in 2019 after tearing his ACL in Week 8.

Ito Smith, RB, Falcons

The Washington Post / The Washington Post / Getty

The Falcons drafted Smith as the future replacement for Tevin Coleman, so his quiet debut shouldn't raise too many concerns. Smith isn't as explosive as Coleman, but he's shifty - only five running backs forced more missed tackles per attempt last year (per PFF) - and emerged as a reliable pass-catcher after recording 27 receptions without a drop as a rookie. Atlanta's revamped offensive line should help him improve upon the 3.5 yards he averaged per carry in 2018, and he's certain to receive an uptick in usage following the departure of Coleman in free agency.

Dante Pettis, WR, 49ers

After battling injuries as a rookie, Pettis has every opportunity to become San Francisco's top pass-catching option after Pro Bowl tight end George Kittle. A refined technician, the former second-round pick's 1.79 yards per route run (per PFF) ranked fourth among his fellow rookies in 2018 and ahead of Calvin Ridley, Courtland Sutton, and Christian Kirk. Pettis dropped just one pass during his first campaign and 49ers quarterbacks earned a 124.7 passer rating when targeting him (fourth-best mark among rookies). After Marquise Goodwin took a step back last season, Pettis may only have to fend off rookie Deebo Samuel to be listed atop the depth chart and emerge as Jimmy Garoppolo's favorite target.

10 offensive sophomores poised for a giant leap
  Got something to say? Leave a comment below!
Daily Newsletter
Get the latest trending sports news daily in your inbox