This NFL season has been nothing short of exciting. The top of the league a tussle between teams like the 49ers, Ravens, Seahawks, etc. Week after week there are exciting games that keep fans on the edge of their seat. Not only are there exciting teams, but a lot of players have seemingly come out of nowhere to cement themselves at the top of the league at their respective positions.
Bud Dupree, EDGE
Steelers’ edge rusher, Bud Dupree looks like a different man out on the field this season. Prior to this season, his career sack high was 6.0 in 2017. This season, in 12 games, he has accumulated 8.5 on 24 pressures. For some reference, Von Miller has 6.0 sacks this season along with 25 pressures. Dupree has been a big part of why that defense has been so disruptive this season. He is in line for a new contract this offseason, and at this rate, he will be a lot richer come next season–hopefully in the Black and Yellow.
Fred Warner, LB
Another elite defense who sports a top breakout candidate is San Francisco with their 2nd year linebacker, Fred Warner. Warner has been a premier run defender in the league this season. He was shown elite instincts and ball tracking ability. Every week he makes a play that makes me think, “wow.” His numbers don’t jump off the stat sheet, but it is impossible to watch this 49ers defense is impossible to watch without noticing Fred Warner.
DJ Chark, WR
It would be unfair to not mention DJ Chark in this piece. He has put together quite a season, and I’ll be the first to say, I was very wrong about Chark. The WR out of LSU received a 4th round grade from me. I thought he was incredibly raw, and would need an immense amount of coaching in order to be even semi successful. That seemed like a pretty good take after his rookie season. He came out in 2019 with Minshew Mania and proved me wrong. He was the sole reliable contributor to that offense other than Fournette. Chark saw an opportunity to wow the world, and he took it. With 881 receiving yards and 8 receiving touchdowns, he is the clear WR1 in Jacksonville, and the chemistry between Minshew and him excites me for the future.
Lamar Jackson, QB
I considered not including Lamar Jackson into this article, considering I expect a jump from QBs entering their 2nd season, but Jackson has been nothing short of spectacular this season for the Baltimore Ravens. With over 3500 total yards and 32 touchdowns, Jackson is the clear MVP front runner, and I don’t think he has yet reached his potential. If Greg Roman stays on this coaching staff and continues to put Jackson in a situation to succeed, I don’t see how this team can be stopped as of now. Jackson still shows inconsistencies as a passer, but he has made leaps and bounds from his rookie season.
Shaquil Barrett, EDGE
I have been critical of Shaquil Barrett this season, but there is no denying the impact he has had for a bad Bucs defense this year. On a one year, ‘prove it’ deal, Barrett has put up elite numbers. In 12 games, Barrett has put up 14.5 sacks on 36 pressures. He wins with bend and speed around the corner, but he possesses excellent football intelligence. It seems the Buccaneers have struck gold. If the Bucs will ever have success in the Bruce Arians era, they need Barrett to stay loyal to Tampa Bay.
(Photo Credit: FanDuel)