Top 5 NFL Rising Stars: Players Who Will Continue to Shine
Many players in the NFL come and go from teams like interchangeable parts. Getting released and joining a new team is just another aspect of life for many guys in the league. However, the lucky few that stand out amongst their peers often do not follow the same fate. Star players bring in the money for the NFL, and the best players, in turn, receive the most expensive and longest contracts. However, the path to stardom can in the NFL can vary from player to player. We’ve seen players come into the league and make an immediate impact like Patrick Mahomes on the Chiefs, while others might take a few years to develop as Aaron Rodgers did with the Packers. For this article, I selected five current NFL players that I believe could develop into top-level talents in the NFL. With that being said, here are my top five NFL players that will become stars in the league.
1. Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals
Standing at only 5’10, many draft experts and scouts believed that Kyler Murray was too short to be a starting QB in the NFL and should’ve stuck with baseball, where he was a 1st round pick by the Oakland Athletics. However, those scouts are surely eating their words after watching Murray play in the NFL. In his first season in the league, Murray showed flashes of greatness, throwing for 3,722 yards, 20 TDs, and 12 INTs while rushing for 544 yards for 4 TDs. His rookie campaign was impressive enough to earn him 2019 Rookie of the Year honors.
Murray is a versatile dual-threat QB who can make big throws downfield and extend plays with his legs. I expect Murray to take a serious leap forward next season in establishing himself as a franchise QB in the NFL. The Cardinals roster surrounding Murray is filled with loads of offensive talent, including RB Kenyan Drake, WR Larry Fitzgerald, and newly acquired All-Pro WR DeAndre Hopkins from the Texans. With all this talent on offense around him, I believe that Kyler Murray will have a breakout season next year and even make the Pro Bowl.
2. Terry McLaurin, Washington Redskins
Last year’s Washington Redskins team was not exactly anything to write home about. The team went 3-13 last season, and the entirety of the coaching staff and front office were fired after Week 17. If there was one bright spot on the Redskins last year, it most definitely was WR Terry McLaurin. The 3rd round pick from Ohio State exceeded all expectations for him in his rookie season, catching 58 passes for 919 yards and 7 TDs. McLaurin put up those stats while playing in 14 of the Redskins’ 16 regular-season games and without consistent play from his QBs.
McLaurin has everything you would want in a WR in the NFL. He is lightning fast, runs crisp routes, and can make contested catches with the best of them. There is no question that McLaurin has the skillset to be a WR1 in the NFL. However, the real question is who will be throwing him the ball next season. Will new HC Ron Rivera give second-year QB and McLaurin’s college teammate Dwayne Haskins the nod, or will it be newly acquired Kyle Allen who played under Rivera for two years in Carolina? Regardless of who is behind center for Washington next season, it is clear to me that “Scary Terry” is a stud who will be in this league for a very long time.
3. Derwin James, Los Angeles Chargers
Derwin James is a player that some NFL fans forgot about this season. Unfortunately, this was because James suffered a stress fracture in his foot in the preseason that caused him to miss all but the final five games of the regular season. He was unable to do much for the Chargers in his return, as the team’s playoff hopes were dim at that point in the season. However, just because Derwin James didn’t have a memorable 2019 does not mean that the man isn’t the real deal.
After being picked with the 17th pick in the 2018 NFL Draft out of Florida State, James had one of the best rookie seasons for a safety in recent memory. The man brought in 3 INTs and 105 tackles, most of any player on his team that year. He earned a Pro Bowl selection and 1st Team All-Pro honors in 2018, an accomplishment almost unheard of for a player in his rookie season. In only his first year in the NFL, James solidified himself as one of the best safeties in the game. Although we missed out on watching James on the field this season, he is primed to continue upon the impressive start to his career next season in the Chargers’ new stadium in LA.
4. D.K. Metcalf, Seattle Seahawks
When the Seahawks drafted WR D.K. Metcalf in the 2nd round of the NFL Draft in 2019, many fans immediately recognized that this could be the steal of the draft. Before the draft, Metcalf went viral on social media thanks to a picture showing off his athletic frame. Metcalf continued to generate buzz about him coming out of Ole Miss thanks to his 6’4 229lb frame and outstanding 4.33 40-yard dash time, yet somehow found himself not getting selected in the first round. Following his rookie season, teams are certainly punching the air over passing on this kid.
In his first year with the Seahawks, Metcalf caught 58 passes for 900 yards and 7 TDs. He proved to be a reliable deep threat target and solid WR2 for Russell Wilson last season. Metcalf’s most significant moment came in the Wild Card round of the playoffs against the Eagles. He finished the game with seven catches for 160 yards and a TD, including a clutch 38-yard reception on 3rd down late in the 4th quarter to seal the win. Metcalf has already proven to be a clutch performer, and I expect him to take on an even greater load of targets from Russell Wilson next season. Mark my words, this guy will be a perennial Pro-Bowler in the NFL.
5. Kenny Clark, Green Bay Packers
Kenny Clark might not exactly be a household name amongst casual and even some expert NFL fans, but he is well on his way to becoming one. At 24 years old, the defensive lineman just finished his 4th season in the NFL and 3rd season as a starter after getting drafted by the Packers with the 27th overall pick in 2016. Clark has gradually seen his production increase each year during his four-year career, including his best season yet in 2019. Clark put up 62 total tackles, nine tackles for loss, and six sacks on route to his first Pro Bowl appearance. According to PFF, Clark had the highest pass-rushing grade of all players who lined up over the center last season. He is a versatile defensive lineman who is excellent at stopping the run and can generate pressure on the QB from the nose tackle position.
Finding a nose tackle that can effectively rush the passer is rare in the NFL, and Clark gives the Packers precisely that with his style of play. Clark has gone under the radar as one of the best up-and-coming talents in the NFL. If he continues to play at this level, expect Clark to be up there with the likes of Aaron Donald and Fletcher Cox as one of the best interior defensive linemen in the NFL very soon.