Let’s talk about five players that might be household names by the end of the 2023 season
The Washington Commanders are coming into 2023 with more hope for the future that they’ve had in two decades thanks to a change in ownership, but let’s focus on what they’re putting on the field.
From 2019 to 2022, Washington has started ten different quarterbacks, and has had a different player lead them in pass attempts for four consecutive seasons. They haven’t had a quarterback start and finish the season since Kirk Cousins in 2017.
Sam Howell might be ready to break that streak.
I’ve heard people call Sam Howell a great value Baker Mayfield. I’ve heard people say that even though he threw for 10,000 yards in the ACC, he fell off in his junior year.
What people don’t point out is that his offensive line didn’t hold up as a junior, and he so he took it upon himself to go from a pure pocket passer with 181 rushing yards in 25 combined games as a freshman and sophomore, to rushing for almost 850 yards and 11 touchdowns as a junior. And he STILL threw for over 3,000 yards. This man is what uncreative sports analysts might call a “sneaky” athlete.
Sneaky means white.
Howell has an extremely solid young group of receivers led by Terry McLaurin, who has three consecutive 1,000 yard seasons, and if Jahan Dotson progresses, you better watch out.
With the NFC East up for grabs, you might be hearing Sam Howell’s name quite a bit come December.
Has there ever been a young QB more set up for success than Desmond Ridder is in Atlanta?
Three former first round picks on the offensive line, including Jake Matthews. Kyle Pitts, the #4 overall pick in 2021 at TE. Drake London, the #8 overall pick at WR. A returning 1,000 yard rusher in Tyson Allgeier. One of the best college running backs we’ve ever seen in Bijan Robinson. And they STILL have Cordarrelle Patterson.
For anyone saying that I’m overhyping a 24-year-old quarterback with only four career starts, you have to remember that Ridder started 50 games in college, and took Cincinnati to the College Football Playoff.
Atlanta has as much of an opportunity to win the NFC South as New Orleans, Carolina, and Tampa Bay- and if they pull that off, this young roster in the playoffs is going to energize the Falcons fanbase for years to come.
Do you know the name Brian Burns? If not, you’re about to.
The Carolina Panthers defensive end and former 16th overall pick out of Florida State seems to have just ended his brief holdout, and is about to become one of the highest paid defensive ends in NFL history.
Why? Well, he has 38 sacks in four seasons, has improved every single year, is coming off back-to-back Pro Bowls, and has only missed two games over that span. Only three players over the last three seasons have more total QB pressures than Burns.
Burns isn’t the best at getting off blocks, and he’s also not considered a top tier edge rusher against the run, but if he improves in either of those areas this season, we’re no longer talking about a top-10 pass rusher. We’re talking about a top-10 defensive player, regardless of position.
And if you’re getting Myles Garrett or Maxx Crosby money, you deserve Myles Garrett and Maxx Crosby’s name recognition.
The Detroit Lions have had three 1,000 yard rushers in the last 20 seasons. They haven’t had an 1,100 yard rusher in 18 years.
That streak might end.
Jahmyr Gibbs started his college career at Georgia Tech, and finished at Alabama, and despite splitting reps in a crowded backfield, Gibbs displayed a skillset that might be the closest thing we have to Christian McCaffrey.
He’s an elite runner, and an elite receiver. There’s never a reason to take this man off the field.
Anyone in a points-per-reception fantasy football league probably already has a Jahmyr Gibbs jersey, but the casual NFL fan might be learning this young man’s name for giving Detroit a backfield threat they’ve been missing since the 1990’s.
I get that it’s a QB league. I get that Trevor Lawrence deserves all the hype he’s getting heading into the 2023 season. I get that the return of Calvin Ridley is a big storyline as well.
But the man y’all need to be talking about is Travis Etienne.
The one place Etienne needs to improve, and it has to be a team effort, is against the NFL’s best run defense- the Tennessee Titans. Etienne’s awesome 2022 campaign included two absolute stinker games against their division foe, where he had 24 carries for 49 yards.
Without those games, his per carry average goes from 5.1 to 5.5.
5+ yards a carry over a full season is insane. Fred Taylor did it in his final two seasons, but there was a 14-year gap before Etienne pulled it off last year. And he duplicated that effort in the playoffs as well.
The only reason Etienne isn’t getting more hype is that he wasn’t their primary short yardage option in the red zone.