I’m going to go with a Rookie, 2nd year guy and a contract year guy.
For the the sake of the entire team I would like to not discuss the QBs for at least 4 pages.
Here is my list.
I want to say AJ Brown in the worst way, but we are so loaded at WR and clearly are a run first team that I’m going to go a different direction while also acknowledging that behind Davis, Humphries, Walker, Lewis and Smith... that he likely puts up around 30-40 catches for around 400-500 yards and 4 TD’s
Instead I will go with Amani Hooker. This kid can ball. I start to think of Vincent Fuller as comparison then I forget that the kid also can play Safety and LB. Amani Hooker is physical, instinctive, extremely quick, and aggressive. I think this kid comes in and plays a lot of snaps from day one on defense. If Ryan gets hurt he will step in as our NB, or his Butler/Jackson get hurt then Ryan likely shifts outside and Hooker takes NB duties. Also I think we see a timeshare of him and Vaccaro rotating in known passing situations where he provides better coverage ability than Kenny V.
I also see us (depending on the opposition for the week) running a lot of three S looks to defend TE’s and pass catching RB’s. I particularly look for this in week one against the Browns who will trot out a lethal combination of Chubb, Beckham, Landry, Callaway and NJoku. We will spend the majority of our time on defense in the nickel with Brown and Evans at LB with Evans taking on Mayfield, Brown taking Chubb, Vacarro/Hooker taking on Njoku, and Ryan matches up on Landry, Jackson on Odell and Butler on Callaway.
Our defense and their offense will be extremely well matched and it will be an awesome game to watch.
Out of the second year players it’s a no brained for me. I am going with Landry. He takes over full time starter reps after adding new moves to his pass rush arsenal and will have more to offer than the speed rush which he is amazing at. When he comes out and throws down a sick spin move or display violent hands to beat the opposing OT he will be a damn nightmare for the QB trying to avoid him. I honestly don’t see a scenario where he doesn’t get more than eleven sacks unless injured. Evans is also going to have a huge year too. He had a slow start last year after missing TC and not being in condition but when he got caught up and his conditioning was on par he found his rhythm and was a monster. He will keep Woodyard fresh and a healthy combo of Evans, Woodyard and Brown could make for a top 3 ILB duo in the entire league for 3-4 teams. I’m talking 100+ tackles, 4-5 sacks and 3 FF and an interception. If I had to predict Landry’s stats I would say somewhere around 60 tackles, 27 pressures, 12 sacks and 5 FF. I really think he can have an All Pro year especially if we are able to put Simmons out there sometime before the bye week next to Casey. Even without Simmons I think Landry is just going to wreck teams and have multiple 2 sack games. I can see it beginning week 1 against the Browns who are going to want to pass 40+ times and are not quite synched after adding a bunch of new players and film on Mayfield out there.
As for contract year guys breaking out. I’m not going Byard. He will have a new deal in a week or so and he broke out his second year. I’m not going Henry who broke out the last 6 weeks last season. I’m also not going with my yearly prediction of Austin Johnson.
I almost want to sat Leshaun Sims but he is behind 3 pro bowl caliber corners. The only way he is on the field is ST’s, injuries and to give breathers.
Im picking Jack Conklin.
After an all pro rookie year and a really damn good second year that ended with an ACL year in January he came back after missing all OTA’s, Camp, and learning a new playbook all the meanwhile having lost his partner in crime next to him in Fasano and Walker. He struggled and never looked healthy. Honestly he looked maybe 70% when he came back and he grinded as hard as he could. While he is still hurt after re-injuring the same knee and missing OTAs again... I do not see him missing much camp and he knows the blocking scheme. We also get Walker back. I expect Conklin to return to form especially after not getting his fifth year exercised and if he performs at a high level he could be looking at breaking the bank and being the highest paid RT in FA if we don’t franchise him.
Who do you have?