It may feel a bit odd, but the 2020 NFL season is happening and Week 1 of the season is already among us. With so many expectations weighed on these players, we take a look at the top breakout candidates for this upcoming season.
Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Carolina Panthers
Bridgewater should be widely regarded as a breakout candidate, which is why he’s the first player mentioned on this list. Bridgewater was 5-0 in his starts for the Saints last season, having career highs in completion percentage (67.9%) and passer rating (99.1%). The talented duo of HC Matt Rhule and OC Joe Brady are putting complete trust into Bridgewater, and you know with Brady’s previous experience, they are going to throw the ball down field. While McCafferey will still dominate on the ground, Bridgewater has a good receiving core in WR DJ Moore, McCafferey, and TE Ian Thomas along with WR Robby Anderson who are also strong breakout candidates. Anderson was horribly misused with the Jets, but now that he has a legit QB and OC, not too mention he’s reunited with his former HC in Rhule, he should easily have his first 1,000 rec yd season. Thomas showed promise when former Panthers TE Greg Olsen dealt with injuries over the previous 2 seasons. By the end of the season, we should be calling Bridgewater one of the top QBs in the league.
Antonio Gandy-Golden, WR, Washington Redskins
Antonio Gibson isn’t the only talented Antonio on the team, as Gandy-Golden may soon be another rookie starter for Washington. Losing Kelvin Harmon to a torn ACL was a huge blow to the team, but the Redskins found a gem in the 2020 fourth-round pick. It’s highly doubtful that journeyman WR Dontrelle Inman is going to hold down the starting #2 WR position for the first few weeks of the season, especially when you have a freak athlete like Gandy-Golden. The former Liberty Flames WR is 6’4, 223 lbs, plays faster than his 4.6 forty time, and can jump out the gym. He was unstoppable at Liberty, averaging 107 rec yds per game in his last season, along with 10 total TDs. Terry McLaurin and Gandy-Golden should form a great WR duo as the season progresses.
James Robinson, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars
Robinson has made waves in recent weeks, by being so impressive in camp, he made Leonard Fournette expendable and was cut by Jacksonville. Even OC Jay Gruden says he’s prepared to give Robinson a huge workload in their first game. The undrafted rookie was a baller at Illinois State, where ranks 2nd in school history in career rush yards (4,444), rushing touchdowns (44), all-purpose yards (5,218) and total touchdowns scored (46). He helped himself tremendously in the pre-draft process, having 136 total yds in the East-West Shrine Game, including a 63 rush yd TD, which is the longest play in the game’s history.
Braden Mann, P, NY Jets
The sixth-round pick out of Texas A&M was touted by some as the greatest college punter of all time, and when you break the single season punting average record as a junior (51 per kick in 2018), you have a fair case. You know he’s good when you hear media going out their way to talk about how good Mann has looked in camp as opposed to more popular players. There’s not an official special teams rookie of the year award, but if there was one, you could rest assured that Mann would be a safe bet for that award.
Younghoe Koo, K, Atlanta Falcons
Koo deserves to be on this list with how awesome his name is alone. But in all seriousness, Koo bounced back after having a brutal rookie season in 2017. Koo worked his way back into the league, after making all 14 FGs for the Atlanta Legends in the AAF in 2019. Then the talented trick-kick kicker would be brought on by the Falcons late last season and the rest is history. Koo made 23 of 26 FGs (88.5%) in 8 games last season, and was named NFL Special Teams Player of the Week twice. Not too mention he acheived 2 back-to-back (3 unofficially) onside kicks in a game against New Orleans last season, when there were only 2 total successful onside kicks in the league that season before that game. Atlanta cut their franchise leading scorer in kicker Matt Bryant last season, but they may have found a potential new record breaker in Koo.
Jordan Whitehead, S, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The former fourth-round pick has made gains in not just muscle but on the field as well. Whitehead had a solid performance last season and will be able to lead this very young but talented secondary, especially with Justin Evans dealing with an achilles injury. With the amount of talent that entire defense has, that should allow Whitehead to be more active in the pass game and get more interceptions, especially if he’s going to play more free safety this season while Antoine Winfield Jr. plays strong safety, but surely they’ll play both safety spots interchangeably.
Zach Allen, DE, Arizona Cardinals
Allen’s rookie season was cut very short, after suffering a neck injury in week 4 that would make him miss the rest of the season. Allen has bulked up and there’s multiple reports that he’s better shape than last season. Allen had an impressive camp last season, and nabbed a starting spot at DE for this season after performing well in this year’s camp. Arizona was able to sign DE Jordan Phillips this offseason who will likely draw double teams, but along with that scary linebacker core, Allen should have a lot of one-on-one opportunities this season and make plays.
Emmanuel Moseley, CB, San Francisco 49ers
Moseley is a fan favorite in San Francisco and many fans prefer Moseley over Jason Verrett, even though Verrett is a former pro-bowler. It makes sense as to why fans love Moseley as he had some great games last season, and at times was able to match up well against good WRs such as DK Metcalf. From week 5-12 last season, he only allowed one TD, broke up four passes, and had an interception while being graded as the 12th best CB by PFF throughout that timespan. Verrett is dealing with injuries (again), but once he’s healthy he should play in the slot and Moseley should be allowed to play opposite of Richard Sherman, where all three DBs would flourish.