2017 Breakout Players: Quarterbacks

be370990-8b3e-11e6-94e4-8960914d3965_Wentz_Winston_thumbDue to the league wide increase in passing, it seems breakout campaigns by quarterbacks are becoming more common. In recent seasons, Derek Carr, Kirk Cousins and Marcus Mariota have taken their games to new heights. It isn’t just younger quarterbacks either as each of the last two seasons, we’ve seen a quarterback over 30 (Carson Palmer and most recently Matt Ryan) go onto have a career year. These quarterbacks I’m covering are all younger, but they all face crucial stages of their development entering 2017.

Jameis Winston, Buccaneers: Few quarterbacks have received as much offseason buzz entering 2017 as Winston. Between “Hard Knocks” following the Buccaneers, and all the talent the team has added there are certainly going to be high expectations. Statistically, he did pretty much everything that would be considered a breakout year. Over 4,000 yards, almost 30 total touchdowns and a winning record. It’s hard to ask for much more. However for Winston, there is one thing to ask and that’s cutting down on turnovers.

A pro and a con of a quarterback who plays like Winston is they are almost stubborn to a fault about not giving up a play. Sometimes this can result in a miraculous play, but others it looks like the interception he threw just this past preseason game against the Jaguars. For a Buccaneers team that is looking to contend for the NFC South, those plays can be the difference between being an 8/9 win team, or a 10/11 win one.  With new weapons such as DeSean Jackson, O.J. Howard and Chris Godwin to go along with a premier wideout in Mike Evans, everything is there for Winston to take a big leap. The  only thing that could prevent it is himself if he isn’t willing to admit defeat when something isn’t there.

Carson Wentz, Eagles: After four games of Wentz, Eagles fans were thinking they had found their savior. The Eagles were 3-1 and Wentz had 1,007 passing yards to go with seven touchdowns and just one interception. For the remainder of the season, the Eagles went 4-8, as Wentz threw nine touchdowns compared to 14 interceptions. So which quarterback is he? At this time, he’s probably somewhere in the middle as the league adjusted when they got tape of Wentz. He also spent this offseason working on solidifying his mechanics, which questions why the team had him throwing over 600 times if this was an issue.

The Eagles certainly are trying to help Wentz though as they brought in both Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith in an attempt to solidify their receiving corps. Jeffery could give Wentz a legitimate number one option which is something he didn’t have at his disposal last year. The team also drafted two receivers in Mack Hollins and Shelton Gibson along with a running back in Donnel Pumphrey who can catch passes out of the backfield. One thing the Eagles also have is the framework for what could be an impressive defense in 2017. If Wentz’s offseason work shows in his play, it wouldn’t be surprising if the Eagles made a playoff push this season.

Jared Goff, Rams: Goff is an odd situation for a first overall pick where his second NFL season could be a “make or break” campaign. New head coach Sean McVay has no ties to drafting Goff, and Cousins who he is quite familiar with could become a free agent this next offseason. In the seven games he did play last season, Goff was by some metrics historically bad as a rookie. However, he not only has a more forward thinking coaching staff, but more weapons at his disposal as well.

After their recent trade with the Bills, Goff now has a wideout in Sammy Watkins that could emerge as a legitimate top tier option. The Rams also made sure to bulk up their pass catching corps in the draft by selecting Cooper Kupp, Josh Reynolds and a tight end in Gerald Everett who figures to be McVay’s new Jordan Reed like weapon.  That doesn’t even include Todd Gurley who like the rest of the Rams offense, struggled mightily in 2016. There could still be bumps in Goff’s development during 2017, but there figure to be enough positives to establish McVay’s trust.

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