With the 2023 NFL season starting in just 2 months, fans and pundits alike are beginning to make their predictions for which players could have a breakout year.
After countless trades in the offseason and a whole new class of collegiate talent, the league is looking very different these days. With legends like Aaron Rodgers making the move to New York and a hoard of other transfers, it's tough to predict how players will perform. Regardless, today we're going to do our best to pick the top players to watch for the upcoming season.
Now, we didn't want to go too obvious with any of our picks, so you may be shocked to see the lack of Kansas City Chiefs players on our list, but we already know Patrick Mahomes will steal our attention countless times throughout the year. This list is for the underdogs, the stars in the making and those with the odds stacked against them. So, without further ado, let's get started...
D.J. Moore: WR, Chicago Bears
This pick may not perfectly fit the 'underdog' description, but D.J. Moore had the odds stacked against him for years in Carolina. The Panthers went through multiple seasons of quarterback struggles after Cam Newton lost his touch, but Moore still managed to thrive and has always been considered a top talent in the league. And finally, he's getting a fresh start in Chicago.
Despite having some truly mediocre QBs to work with, Moore put up at least 788 yards in all of his five seasons with the Panthers, and now moves to a team with a young, talented QB who should only thrive with a brand new cohort of offensive weapons.
The Bears picked up both D.J. Moore and Chase Claypool this offseason, as they look to provide more options for Justin Fields and keep him from having to scramble every other play.
The lack of talented receivers certainly brought up questions of Fields' ability as a passer (after all he was essentially another running back last season), but on the few occasions he did throw the ball, he didn't disappoint.
D.J. Moore possesses the talent to be WR1 in Chicago, although he'll have to fight with Claypool for that spot. Either way, I expect big things from Moore. He's a playmaking machine at heart, and now that he'll be running routes for a truly talented QB, he should put up some great numbers this season.
Kenny Pickett: QB, Pittsburgh Steelers
Pickett is undoubtedly a rising star in the NFL, putting in a good run towards the end of his rookie season. He didn't blow up the stat sheet, but he finished his final eight games with just one interception and 4 game-winning drives, making it clear that he has the potential to compete at the top level.
The AFC is stacked with elite QBs and Pittsburgh GM Omar Khan is building a roster that should help Pickett move up in the ranks. In his first full offseason, Khan has surrounded Pickett with talent, adding G Isaac Seumalo, G Nate Herbig and WR Allen Robinson, while also drafting left tackle Broderick Jones and TE Darnell Washington.
These players will be joining WR George Pickens, WR Diontae Johnson, TE Pat Freiermuth and RB Najee Harris in one of the most complete offensive rosters in the league. With so much talent around him, Pickett is set up for a breakout second season in Pittsburgh, especially under the guidance of Mike Tomlin, who hasn't had a single losing season in his 16 years of being the Steelers head coach.
Garrett Wilson: WR, New York Jets
After securing the 2022 Offensive Rookie of the Year award while dealing with one of the worst quarterback situations in the league, wide receiver Garrett Wilson will now be catching passes from NFL legend Aaron Rodgers, who is looking to take the Jets to the Super Bowl next year.
Wilson finished last season with 83 receptions for 1,103 yards and four touchdowns. It's not a stretch to suggest he could break 100 catches, 1,500 yards and at least 10 trips to the endzone in his second year.
And it's not just Rodgers who will be a factor in Wilson's success. Mecole Hardman was signed from free agency, while Allen Lazard followed his QB from Green Bay to New York. Rumours are also circulating that even Odell Beckham Jr could be moving to the Big Apple.
Regardless of whether OBJ joins the ranks, the Jets will have a stacked receiver corps that will help draw attention away from Wilson, freeing him up for more big gains.
As he takes his year of experience to the turf, I expect big things from Wilson, especially with Rodgers at the helm.
Breece Hall: RB, New York Jets
Another Jet on the list? I know... It might be annoying (especially for you Giants fans out there), but the Jets have a roster full of players to watch, and if I wasn't trying to be nice to the rest of the league, the whole list could be Jets players alone.
The reason Breece Hall lands a spot above the likes of 2022 Defensive Rookie of the Year Sauce Gardner, or even Aaron Rodgers, is simply because his season was cut short by an ACL injury in late October last year, after getting off to a ridiculous start. The idea that he might be healthy for the 22/23 season should put everyone on the edge of their seat.
Hall was on track for a comfortable 1,000 yard season before his injury, putting up 463 rushing yards in just 5 games, along with 4 touchdowns. That's an average of 92.6 yards per game. Of course, there's no guarantee he would have kept up that form, but let's just say he did... That's a total of 1,574 rushing yards across 17 games.
The only thing stopping Hall from destroying defenses every game, is if Rodgers leads an air raid offense with all the options he has at receiver. Either way, I expect big things from the former second round pick.
Breece Hall Highlights cause we miss football pic.twitter.com/sBZOT6lNTn— Barstool New York (@BarstoolNYC) May 17, 2023
Bryce Young: QB, Carolina Panthers
It's tough to write a list like this without including the most hyped rookie of the year...
Bryce Young was the No.1 Overall Pick in the 2023 draft for the Carolina Panthers, and the former Alabama QB will be certainly be looking to leave his mark on the league this season. Unfortunately, with a not-so-talented offense around him (minus Adam Thielen), it could be a big ask. So, although I don't expect huge things from the Panthers, that's exactly why I'll be keeping an eye on Young.
If he manages to put together a good season with a solid stat line, he'll be setting himself up for greatness in the years to come. I'm hoping the rookie can lead a campaign that inspires GM Scott Fitterer to build a team around his talents for the future.
Young was one of the biggest names in the SEC over the last 3 years, as he found huge success in his collegiate career, which included winning the 2021 Heisman Trophy, after logging a 4,872-yard & 47-touchdown season.
Whether this will transfer to the NFL level is yet to be known, but that's why he lands a spot on this list.
Daniel Jones: QB, New York Giants
Despite his fifth-year option being declined last offseason, Jones led the Giants to a surprising season, including a playoff victory on the road. He showed the league that he's capable of being a top tier passer and runner (but we'll still never forget about the incident vs the Eagles). As a result of last year's efforts, Jones earned a massive four-year, $160 million contract.
Now, if there's one thing Jones could use, it's more offensive weapons. Sure, Saquon Barkley is great to have in the backfield, but he can only do so much. And with that being said, the Giants have sweetened that $160 million dollar pot, with Darren Waller, Parris Campbell, and Jalin Hyatt joining the roster this offseason.
So, Jones should have no complaints with his options in the passing game this season. And if Waller has his way, Jones will take home the MVP title too. Honestly, it's not entirely out of the question. Don't sleep on New York...
Did we miss anyone off the list? Who do you think will have a breakout season next year?
(Header Image Credit: Ed Mulholland - USA TODAY Sports)