NFL 2020 Breakout Candidates

BY JOHN SHIRLEY

Every NFL season we see young players who haven’t cracked the starting lineup, but nevertheless flash big-time potential. These players have taken advantage of their limited opportunities and hope to build upon them to become larger contributors the next season. Here we will highlight some of these players from last season who hope to breakout in 2020.

Players were chosen based on their performance in the SIS player value metric Total Points per Snap. To qualify for this list players have to be entering either their second or third NFL season and must have played between 10 and 40 percent of their teams’ snaps in 2019.

Player (Pos, Team)Pct of Team SnapsTotal PointsTotal Points / Snap
Derrius Guice (RB, Redskins)10%100.12
Tony Pollard (RB, Cowboys)18%190.11
Ryan Connelly (LB, Giants)17%160.09
George Odum (S, Colts)27%240.09
Rashad Fenton (CB, Chiefs)15%140.09
T.J. Edwards (LB, Eagles)11%90.09
Foyesade Oluokun (LB, Falcons)30%240.09
Chandon Sullivan (CB, Packers)34%270.08
D.J. Reed (S, 49ers)12%90.08
Darius Phillips (CB, Bengals)10%80.07
  1. Derrius Guice, RB Redskins
  • Guice has so far had trouble staying healthy during his first two seasons in the NFL. But when he was healthy last season, he flashed high-end potential. His 5.8 yards per rush average ranked second among backs with at least 40 carries. And he ranked first in Yards After Contact (4.6) and fourth in Broken Tackles Per 100 Rushes (28.6).
  1. Tony Pollard, RB Cowboys
  • Pollard will continue to be a role player for the foreseeable future. When he is given the opportunity, he is an explosive player in both the running and passing game. As a rookie, he averaged more Yards Per Rush (5.3), Yards After Contact (4.0), and Broken Tackles Per 100 Rushes (26.7) than starter Ezekiel Elliott (4.5, 2.6, and 14.6). 
  1. Ryan Connelly, LB Giants
  • Connelly was well on his way to a breakout season as a rookie, before being derailed by a torn ACL. When he returns from injury, look for him to build on his 2019 season that included 20 Tackles, 3 Pressures, 2 Interceptions, and an ATD+ of 155 in only 4 games played. 
  1. George Odum, S Colts
  • Odum has been a reserve safety for the Colts the past two seasons since going undrafted in 2018. He put up a solid 2019 campaign racking up 36 Tackles, 2 Forced Fumbles, and allowing a completion percentage of 67% (8 completions) on 12 Targets.
  1. Rashad Fenton, CB Chiefs
  • In limited playing time, mostly consisting of sub packages, Fenton had an efficient season for the Super Bowl champion Chiefs. On 15 Targets, he allowed only 6 completions and 4.6 Yards Per Target.
  1. T.J. Edwards, LB Eagles
  • After going undrafted a year ago, Edwards is now projected to be the Eagles starting middle linebacker. His play in limited opportunities last season bodes well for his new role. He was above average against the run with an Adjusted Tackle Depth+ of 115 and 4 Tackles Above Expectation on designed running plays.
  1. Foyesade Oluokun, LB Falcons
  • As a reserve linebacker, Oluokun made quite a few plays, racking up 62 tackles on only 291 defensive snaps. In coverage, he allowed 10 of his 12 targets to be completed. Though, he allowed only 3.3 Yards Per Target, which resulted in a combined -11.2 EPA for the offense.
  1. Chandon Sullivan, CB Packers
  • Sullivan is the front-runner to take over the primary nickel spot for the Packers in 2020. In 2019, he was one of the most efficient corners in the entire NFL, allowing a league low Completion Percentage of 28.6 among corners with at least 20 targets. He also allowed a league low 3.5 Yards Per Target and broke up almost as many passes (5) as he allowed receptions (6).
  1. D.J. Reed, S 49ers
  • Similarly to Fenton, Reed is another secondary player who has excelled in sub packages and could breakout if given the opportunity. After allowing a completion percentage of 81.3% during his rookie season, last year Reed allowed 5 completions on 10 targets.
  1. Darius Phillips, CB Bengals
  • During his career at Western Michigan, Phillips set the FBS record with 12 non-offensive touchdowns. He hasn’t had the same level of success quite yet in the NFL, but showed his immense potential in 2019. In coverage, he was targeted 12 times, allowed only 4 Completions, had 4 Interceptions and dropped another one, and added 3 Passes Defensed. 

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