Patience is not a virtue in great supply in the NFL, but it is the best policy when dealing with the development of most draft picks.
Very few players go on to be instant superstars in their rookie year and, for many, year two is the season in which they make the jump.
So, as the 2019 season approaches, which players from the 2018 class are poised to enjoy a breakthrough campaign?
Here we look at five players primed to enjoy stellar second years.
Dante Pettis – San Francisco 49ers
Despite losing much of his rookie year to injury, Pettis finished his 2018 season with momentum having been one of the 49ers’ best offensive players down the stretch.
He ended 2018 with 27 catches for 467 yards and five touchdowns, demonstrating a hugely impressive ability to create separation with his footwork at the top of his route, which made him a very effective weapon in the red zone for Nick Mullens after he eventually took for C.J. Beathard following Jimmy Garoppolo’s injury.
— Matt Bowen (@MattBowen41) June 17, 2019
Blessed with deceptive speed to pull away from defenders after the catch, Pettis will hope to build a a rapport with Garoppolo and should have ample opportunity to do so in his second year. He is expected to be the 49ers’ starting X receiver and, if what he did in the closing stages of last year is any indication, 2019 should be an extremely productive campaign for Pettis.
Harold Landry – Tennessee Titans
That Landry lasted until the second day of a draft lacking in depth at edge rusher compared to the 2019 class was one of 2018’s bigger surprises. The Titans were the beneficiaries of his slide down the board, and saw him produce flashes of the talent that helped him lead the NCAA in sacks in 2016.
Landry recorded 4.5 sacks and 14 quarterback hits as a rookie and, with Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan out of the picture in Tennessee, the former Boston College star has an opportunity to lead the Titans’ pass rush even with the addition of veteran Cameron Wake.
— Tennessee Titans (@Titans) December 31, 2018
With his speed, explosiveness and flexibility, expect Landry to have no problems thriving in such a role and for his sack numbers to greatly increase in his second season.
Isaiah Oliver – Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons appeared to have got great value late in the second round in 2018 when they selected Oliver with the 58th overall pick, but it took some time in an underwhelming 2018 season for Atlanta for him to make an impact.
Oliver came on strong down the stretch but played only 22 percent of the snaps on defense as a rookie. However, he has received work at both boundary cornerback spots during offseason activities and told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution he is ready to take on a starting role after the Falcons moved on from Robert Alford.
Long and agile with the speed to recover when he gets beaten deep, Oliver fits the bill as the prototypical modern NFL cornerback and came into the NFL with a very high ceiling. Playing on a Falcons defense that will be boosted by having Deion Jones and Keanu Neal fully healthy again, Oliver is in an excellent situation to start realising his potential and emerge as one of the league’s better young corners.
Josh Sweat – Philadelphia Eagles
Medical concerns saw Sweat drop to the fourth round last year and the former Florida State defensive end made little impact as a rookie, appearing in nine games before being put on the shelf because of an ankle injury.
However, following Chris Long’s retirement, there is an opening on the Eagles’ defensive line and, according to Mike Kaye of NJ.com, Sweat is the frontrunner to fill it in the wake of strong performances during offseason practices.
Sweat has the talent to excel in such a significant role in the defensive line rotation. At his best with the Seminoles he was a force off the edge and consistently displayed an exciting blend of burst, bend and power.
It is those attributes that once had many pegging Sweat as a first-round talent. With Long’s retirement potentially giving him the chance to play alongside the likes of Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham, Sweat is in the ideal spot to unlock his undoubted potential and cause havoc for opposing offensive lines.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling – Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rodgers was not shy about calling out a young group of Packers receivers last season, but he has confidence one of the three receivers they drafted in 2018, fifth-round selection Valdes-Scantling, can make the leap in his sophomore year in the NFL.
“I think Marquez has had a fantastic spring and really stepped up as a guy who can be an every down player,” Rodgers said, per The Packers Wire.
Valdes-Scantling was a solid contributor for a disappointing Packers team in his rookie year, averaging over 15 yards a catch as he put up 581 yards and two touchdowns.
#Packers WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling had 8 receptions of 20+ yards last season…
Valdes-Scantling is a RARE size/speed combo WR that can win downfield. Impressive rookie year – sky's the limit in year 2 pic.twitter.com/YkPJtzbz3w
— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) June 20, 2019
That is encouraging production in an offense that stagnated in Mike McCarthy’s final year and, with starting wideout Davante Adams, per Rob Demovsky of ESPN, believing new head coach Matt LaFleur’s offense is “catered” for a guy like Valdes-Scantling, there is plenty of evidence to suggest he will be a much more potent part of the attack in 2019.
Demovsky reported that Valdes-Scantling lined up as the No. 2 receiver behind Adams during minicamp, putting him on course to becoming one of Rodgers’ favorite targets, a role very much conducive to a breakout year.