JUJU SMITH-SCHUSTER – Pittsburgh Steelers
Which season is the fluke for JuJu Smith Schuster? Was it 2019, when he caught 111 passes for 1,426 yards and 7 touchdowns with Ben Roethlisberger quarterbacking the Steelers? Or was it 2019, when he caught 42 passes for 552 yards and 3 TDs with guys called Rudolph and Duck throwing most of Pittsburgh’s passes? Well, Ben is back, and guess who else will be?
ODELL BECKHAM, JR. – Cleveland Browns
Remember Odell Beckham, Jr.? That stunningly good young WR with the Giants a few seasons back? Three to be exact. Well, the NFL needs to see that guy again. Now. Odell was Hall-of-Fame caliber in his first three season – 35 TDs, 4,122 yards. The next three? Injuries, and numbers that won’t put a guy in the Hall-of-Anything. Good, but not great. Again, injuries are a big part of the issue.
At least that’s the thinking. Or hope, if you’re the Browns. Off-season surgery had better taken care of that issue. The rest is up to Odell. A fourth non-Odell season in a row, and he becomes just another guy who’s career had a great start, followed by a not-so-great slide to retirement. Betting he looks like the first three seasons Odell.
MIKE WILLIAMS – Los Angeles Chargers
So this is the year that Mike Williams puts it all together and becomes the absolute BEAST we’ve all been waiting to see, right? In 2018, 10 TDs on 43 catches, but only 664 yards. In 2019, 1,001 yards on 49 catches – an NFL best 20.4 yards a catch. But only two TDs.
Can he get 1,000 yards and 10+ touchdowns in the same season? With Philip Rivers as his QB, absolutely! Uh… Oh wait. Philip is where? Our bad. With Tyrod Taylor or rookie Justin Herbert as his QB? Well, good luck with all that Mike. But, hey… stranger things, right?
COREY DAVIS – Tennessee Titans
What do Charles Rogers, Troy Williamson, Justin Blackmon, Kevin White, Darrius Heyward-Bey and Tavon Austin have in common? Wide receivers taken in the Top 10 of NFL drafts this century whose careers are looking up at a hill of beans. Corey Davis may be one season away from adding his name to the list.
Davis was the 5th overall pick in the 2017 draft, and three years into his career, the Tennessee Titans are wondering how they took Davis over Christian McCaffrey, Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson and more. And now, with A.J. Brown going into his 2nd season, Davis isn’t even the most promising young WR on his own team.
JAMES WASHINGTON – Pittsburgh Steelers
Lynn Swann and John Stallworth. Hines Ward and Plaxico Burress, or Santonio Holmes, or Mike Wallace, or Antonio Brown. Wallace and Brown. Brown and Emmanuel Sanders. Brown and Martavis Bryant. Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster. Smith-Schuster and… wait for it… James Washington. Dare to dream Steeler fans! The Steelers have a sweet history of nice receiving duos, and Washington is primed for his best season.
He was a 2nd round pick in 2018, when he caught only 16 passes for 217 yards and one TD as a rookie. Those numbers jumped to 44-753-3 in 2019. So get ready Steeler fans, and remember – the great Antonio Brown, like Washington, caught just 16 passes as a rookie.
WILL FULLER – Houston Texans
In 2013, when the Houston Texans had the outstanding 10-year veteran Andre Johnson as their #1 wide receiver, they a 1st round pick on DeAndre Hopkins from Clemson. After two season together, Johnson moved to Indianapolis, Hopkins moved to the #1 receiving spot, and averaged over 100 catches in the next five seasons. Well, Hopkins is now in Arizona, opportunity awaits for someone in Houston, and Will Fuller is ready to pounce all over it!!!
Until… he pulls another hamstring, or strains a groin, or something else that will keep him out of games, just as we’ve seen in each of his first four seasons. Fuller has missed 22 of 64 career games. But when he’s healthy??? Oh yes, he’s pretty dang good.
ALLEN LAZARD/EQUANIMEOUS ST. BROWN – Green Bay Packers
Well, so much for Devin Funchess being the big compliment to Davante Adams in Green Bay. Funchess opted out of the 2020 season, and that leaves Aaron Rodgers even more miffed than he was before. He already thought the Pack was a little light at WR, then in a draft loaded with receiving talent, Green Bay passed. On receivers, not the ball. So who steps up? Who better step up? One would assume Lazard or St. Brown.
But when you assume, you make an $&* out of u, me, and perhaps Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers has praised Lazard publicly. Ditto with the guy he calls EQ — St. Brown missed last season after being pretty good (and pretty big – 6’5”) as a rookie. If one of these two don’t make a leap forward, Rodgers will need more than the insurance that he pitches quite well.
LARRY FITZGERALD – Arizona Cardinals
We can see the headlines now – “46-year-old Larry Fitzgerald catches 100 passes for the 15th time in his career!” Might be a bit long for a headline. Sorry. But, it’s our website. Anyway, you get the point. Larry is now 37. He’s produced at a very high level since Day One.
He’s missed only 6 games in 16 seasons, and none in the last five. All that said, is this the year we finally see a major drop off in Larry’s numbers? With DeAndre Hopkins now in Arizona, and Christian Kirk looking good as a rookie, maybe. (FYI – with free agent guard Larry Warford opting out of the 2020 season, Fitzgerald appears to be the only guy named Larry currently playing in the NFL. So there’s that).