Every year in fantasy football there are some players who have breakout seasons. Whether it be the second year for a player or a change of scenery, there are always some unexpected jumps in production. Let’s see who does it in 2019.
In 2018 there were quite of few players who had breakout seasons. To start we had the rookie linebacker class. Now I guess you cannot really say breakout because it was the only year in the league. In that one season though there were four different linebackers that were top-tier or at least close to it. Those guys were Darius Leonard, Roquan Smith, Leighton Vander Esch, and Tremaine Edmunds.
Then you had players like Raekwon McMillan and Kenny Moore II who blossomed in their second seasons in the NFL. Just that one year of experience is all that some of these players need to reach that next level. Denico Autry is a case of a player needing a change of scenery to reach his full potential.
Denzel Perryman – Los Angeles Chargers (Free Agent)
Perryman has had solid production from the linebacker position. Unfortunately for him, he has not had a chance to put it all together. This is not to say he does not have the talent to. Perryman just has not played a full 16 games in his four-year career. His injury history is quite lengthy for a short career. Of those injuries, Perryman has had a soft tissue injury the past two seasons, both on the same hamstring with the most recent one requiring surgery.
When healthy though, Perryman is a great run stopper and has even shown to be capable in coverage. In his four-year career, Perryman has played in 42 games and started 37 of those. He was able to tally 226 tackles(168 solo), 18 tackles for a loss, two sacks, four passes defended, two interceptions, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery. On average that is about 5.5 tackles a game. His run defense is strong as he is a sound tackler.
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) November 16, 2017
When it comes to his run stuffing, Perryman hits the gaps with a fury. Very rarely does he misread a play and is usually in the right place at the right time. His tackling is rock solid as well as it is unusual for him to have many missed tackles or even assists for that matter.
— Brandon Thorn (@BrandonThornNFL) December 15, 2015
Perryman is a free agent his year and I expect the Chargers to move on from him based off of his injury history. Hamstring injuries are tough to come back from fully healthy. Still, linebacker-needy teams will most likely jump on a guy like Perryman as this history will also make him a cheaper option. If Perryman comes back fully healthy and signs in the right situation, he could finally have his breakout season. He is still only 26 years of age and has shown good ability.
Josey Jewell – Denver Broncos
If there is a position on the Broncos that the defense is thin at, it is at inside linebacker. Todd Davis was a breakout player in 2018 for the Broncos having a great season in his fifth season in the NFL. Outside of Todd Davis, the linebacking corps is incredibly thin. Brandon Marshall has been a disappointment as he is often injured or ineffective.
An IDP Guys favorite, having already been named as a 2019 stash, Josey Jewell played well in his rookie season. He finished with a stat line of 58 tackles (38 solo), four tackles for a loss, and three passes defended. This followed an impressive college career where had over 450 tackles with 10 sacks and six interceptions. Jewell may not be the most athletic but his football intelligence is off the charts.
When #Broncos rookie LB Josey Jewell wins, it’s the intelligence and instincts that stand out most. This play is just like he was screen peaking off his buddy in Madden and knew the exact play. Leaning towards attacking that gap before the ball is even snapped. Blown up play. pic.twitter.com/WNqZy2ezG9
— Nick Kendell (@NickKendellMHH) August 13, 2018
Jewell hits the gaps hard because of his instincts in run defense. He is also a solid blitzer picking up 10 sacks in his career at Iowa. Though he has not been needed to blitz much for the Broncos yet with great edge rushers in Bradley Chubb and Von Miller, that does not mean that they won’t.
— Dr. Tiger Hawk (@Akrum4Heisman) December 21, 2015
The fact that the Broncos do have such a good rush off the edge opens up blitzing up the middle. The Broncos are also flush with talent in the secondary which allows the linebackers to take a few more risks in blitzing. I expect Jewell’s ability to blitz to be utilized in 2019. I also think that he could be second in the team in tackles after Davis.
Reuben Foster – Washington Redskins
This is not to say Reuben Foster is not a bad person. The red flags are all over the place for Foster due to his off the field issues stemming all the way back to draft combine. The 49ers cut Foster during the 2018 season due to his second domestic violence accusation. The Redskins picked him up off waivers and now he has the opportunity to start over.
Foster had a solid rookie campaign playing in 10 games, starting all of them. He racked up 72 tackles (59 solo), seven tackles for a loss, and one defended. In six starts this season he totaled 54 tackles, almost 10 total tackles a game. When Foster is engaged he is one of the most skilled linebackers in the NFL. Unfortunately, I do not think his mind is in the right place for football. He is a very capable player though.
Foster understands game flow well and sniffs out screens well. He is your prototypical Mike or middle linebacker. He understands offenses and can communicate with his line well.
— Ikaika Valeria (@ikaikavaleria) August 31, 2018
I am hoping that a change of scenery for Foster will be good. Zach Brown can be released from his current contract for 2019 as the Redskins have already sat him for Shaun Dion Hamilton. No offense to Dion Hamilton but Foster is the superior talent. He just had his second domestic violence charges dropped and barring a suspension from the NFL could be a full go for the Redskins. If this is possible Foster could be a top-15 linebacker.
Breakout Defensive Backs
Josh Jones – Green Bay Packers
The Packers are not particularly deep at the safety. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was their best safety and he fell out of favor. The Packers dealt him at the trade deadline in 2018. They tried Kentrell Brice as their main safety but he was more or less a bust. Josh Jones always seemed like the more skilled player but the Packers seemed to like Brice more. Brice is the better blitzer of the two, something the Packers may need more of with an aging Clay Matthews.
This is what Josh Jones was born to do pic.twitter.com/B8mKPooKQ7
— Aaron Nagler (@AaronNagler) December 3, 2018
Jones played less than half of the total defensive snaps this season. Still, he was able to total 91 tackles (53 solo), two tackles for a loss, one sack and two passes defended. Jones played a little bit of linebacker and safety for the Packers and plays well closer to the line of scrimmage.
#Packers Josh Jones game improves as he gets closer to the line of scrimmage… Box safety, dime LB, matchup vs TEs. I don't love him in 1/2 field assignments as a deep safety… Doesn't have the read/react range (ex: Trey Burton TD)https://t.co/bjZTt8nQBJ pic.twitter.com/BeanQZmiVu
— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) December 20, 2018
Jones came on strong starting in Week 9. In those last nine games, he posted 52 of his 91 tackles including a huge Week 16 in which he had 12 total tackles and a pass defended. With how strong Jones has finished this season and the lack of depth that the Packers have at the position, Jones should have a real solid season in 2019.
Peppers has a pedestrian rookie season for the Browns in 2017. He was lined up at free safety which is not a good fit for Peppers. Peppers is best lined up at strong safety or hybrid linebacker as he played both of those well in college at Michigan. This past season saw him lined up at strong safety and his tackle total rise by 22 tackles.
Peppers is a more of a box safety by trade but does have some coverage skills. He can play a little center field for the Browns as he does have the speed to cover the entire field. Usually, though, he is using that speed to make up for poor coverage, unfortunately.
Peppers should be used as a box safety and I think with a new coaching staff in Cleveland it should be pretty easy to address. If Peppers is used the correct way he can be a tackling machine. Unfortunately for him, he has to fight with tackles with the linebacker trio of Joe Schobert, Christian Kirksey, and Jamie Collins. This does not leave much room for production but Peppers does have the ability.
JABRILL PEPPERS. GAME OVER. pic.twitter.com/nFz6QKb1Nk
— LeadingNFL (@LeadingNFL) December 16, 2018
For those leagues where return yards go towards your player’s point totals than Peppers should be high on your list. His tackling ability is not his only skill. Peppers blitzes well, is OK in coverage, and is one of the best return men in the league. With the added bonus of return yards, Peppers could be a breakout player.
Jabrill Peppers single-handedly loses the game for the Browns pic.twitter.com/I9nU5zXVYn
— Barstool OSU (@BarstoolOSU) October 21, 2018
Breakout Defensive Linemen
Shaq Lawson – Buffalo Bills
Shaq Lawson was a first-round prospect who seemed to be on his way to bust territory. He rarely saw the field his rookie season and has seen limited snaps the two years since. Though he has never reached playing more than 50% of the teams defensive snaps, Lawson has still been able to come up with 10 career sacks. His pass rushing ability was never in question as he is very quick off the line.
Lorenzo Alexander and Trent Murphy have been more or less teaming up with Jerry Hughes as the edge rushers for the Bills this season. While Murphy also played less than 50% of the teams’ snaps, he is not the answer on the outside, more or less a stop gap. Alexander is 35 and is also an unrestricted free agent. Alexander also finished this season strong and may be looking at a payday that the Bills may not want to match.
This is where they can really see what they have Lawson. Hughes is a great pass rusher with 71 quarterback pressures in 2018. Unfortunately, he only had seven sacks. Hughes can get pressure on the quarterback but fails to finish the play. That is somewhere that Lawson excels at, finishing the play.
If Hughes can continue getting the pressure that he does it would force the quarterback Lawson’s way. I could easily see double-digit sack numbers for Lawson in 2019. It is finally his season to shine.
Da’Shawn Hand – Detroit Lions
Hand had a decent rookie campaign that ended with him landing on IR. He is a very physical presence and had 27 tackles, four for a loss, three sacks and two forced fumbles while playing only 46% of snaps. He may also be the answer for edge rush as Ziggy Ansah is a free agent.
Hand shows great sack tackling as he is a pro at the strip sack, ask Aaron Rodgers.
With Hand on the line, there are not too many offensive linemen who can match him physically. He routinely made lineman look silly by tossing them out of the way.
Da'Shawn Hand making Mason pay for letting his base get too wide & lounging into contact. Wrecks this double team & forces the RB to bounce: pic.twitter.com/fT9y8eSML5
— Brandon Thorn (@BrandonThornNFL) September 28, 2018
Speed is also something that Hand can pride himself on. At 6’3 and 297lbs, he ran a 4.84 40 yard dash at the rookie combine. With a little opportunity and a full healthy season, Hand can make a solid impact.
Those are my takes on who will have breakout seasons for 2019 at each position. There are other things that can happen between now and the season that could add other breakouts to my hot takes but we will cross that bridge when we get there.
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