This is the continuation of a series at The Draft Network highlighting the best second-year talents throughout the NFL. Today, we’re going to look at the best second-year players from the AFC West ahead of the 2019 season. This division is particularly top-heavy in this ranking, as there were a few standout rookies last season who project to be long-term impact players in the league.
Here is the top 5 second-year players throughout the AFC West.
Derwin James, Los Angeles Chargers, Safety
Derwin James inexplicably fell in the 2018 NFL Draft, and immediately proved why that was a mistake. As a rookie, James showed valued versatility and a plus skill-set at multiple positions. With instincts, athleticism, ball skills, coverage ability and speed off the edge, he produced an incredible stat-line as a rookie.
With 109 total tackles, 3.5 sacks, 6 quarterback hits, 3 interceptions and 15 pass breakups, James was named all-pro at multiple positions. It’s safe to say that the Chargers found a steal with the #17 overall pick.
Bradley Chubb, Denver Broncos, EDGE
The #5 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, Chubb burst onto the scene as a rookie across from all-pro Von Miller. Denver targeted Chubb to create a pass rush on both edges, and Chubb provided that in spades.
The rookie defensive end 12 sacks and a whopping 21 quarterback hits, suggested that sack total may even be improved upon moving forward in his career. Chubb’s size, power conversion, technical prowess and solid bend for his size provide him a toolbox as a pass rusher that isn’t going away anytime soon.
Maurice Hurst, Oakland Raiders, IDL
Maurice Hurst was once a projected first-round draft pick, but fell in the NFL Draft due to a heart condition that was flagged at the NFL Scouting Combine. Eventually, Oakland scooped him up in the 5th round and cleared him to participate moving forward. That risk was justified with his play as a rookie. Hurst is looking like he’ll be considering one of the steals of the entire draft.
With 4 sacks from the interior defensive line in just 13 games, Hurst’s penetration and disruption was one of the few bright spots on the Raiders roster last season. He’s a centerpiece for the franchise moving forward.
Uchenna Nwosu, Los Angeles Chargers, LB
Nwosu was a second-round pick in 2018, and was my #40 overall prospect in the draft. As a rookie, he played multiple roles as both an edge rusher and stand-up linebacker. His explosiveness off the edge immediately translated to the next level as he racked up 3.5 sacks and 10 quarterback hits.
Nwosu was known for excellent ball skills in college, but that trait didn’t show up quite as much as a rookie. Nonetheless, he has a clear path to becoming an excellent player in the league.
Courtland Sutton, Denver Broncos, WR
I was lower on Sutton than the consensus during the draft process, but I can admit my mistakes. As a rookie, he developed his hand usage to avoid contact and hold his vertical line in his stems. Additionally, his minor separation concerns didn’t seem to bother him much at the catchpoint. Sutton produced 704 yards and 4 touchdowns as a boundary and downfield threat, and he’ll look to continue rounding out his game in the short and intermediate.
Sutton seems like a candidate to produce a 1,000 yard season within the next 2-3 seasons.