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NFL Draft

5 NFL Players With Most To Prove In Week 2

  • The Draft Network
  • September 17, 2020
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You always hear it after Week 1—don’t overreact. After all, it's important not to put too much stock into a single performance, especially in such an unpredictable year like this one. If that one performance turns into two, however, it becomes a much different story.

Here are five players in need of quality Week 2 performances to help prove/disprove their Week 1 performances.

Baker Mayfield, QB, Cleveland Browns

At this point, Mayfield’s rookie season seems like it was a bazillion years ago.

Putting forth another poor performance against Baltimore this past Sunday, Mayfield looks like a shell of his former self, lacking confidence, sufficient mechanics, and any sort of quality decision-making out on the football field. Failing to make use of his strong run game or his two high-profile wideouts, Mayfield didn’t appear to be overly comfortable in new head coach Kevin Stefanski’s scheme, nor did his revamped offensive line look much improved from 2019.

Now up against the Cincinnati Bengals on Thursday night, Mayfield needs a good performance to not only inspire hope for his team, but also to get the entire media and fan base off of his back. Ultimately, the key to achieving this will likely come from improved pass protection (four of his top six offensive linemen currently being questionable with injuries doesn’t help), and a cleaner base when throwing.

Donovan Smith, OT, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Speaking of disastrous performances, Smith looked awful against New Orleans on Sunday, getting exposed by the New Orleans Saints’ pass-rushers—most notably Trey Hendrickson—on nearly every snap. Drafted back in 2015, Smith is now an experienced starter and shouldn’t be having these problems, especially when rookie right tackle Tristan Wirfs already seemed settled in his very first start.

Ultimately, with quarterback Tom Brady failing to win much outside of structure, the Buccaneers can’t afford any more of these poor outings by Smith, especially if they want to be viewed as a legitimate Super Bowl contender. Let’s hope he rebounds against Carolina this weekend.

Marquez Valdes-Scantling, WR, Green Bay Packers

Unlike the first two names on this list, Valdes-Scantling had a great first week, posting four receptions for 96 yards and a touchdown on Sunday. Consistently able to use his 4.35 speed and push vertically against the Minnesota Vikings’ porous and inexperienced corner group, he looked like a legitimate No. 2 receiver, helping silence some of the criticism that has been heaped upon Green Bay’s wide receiver room. 

If Valdes-Scantling can post similar numbers this week—albeit against a struggling Detroit Lions secondary—he could go a long way in helping cement his status as the primary option behind Davante Adams.

Noah Fant, TE, Denver Broncos

Breaking out in primetime this past Monday night, Fant looks ready to make a full-blown sophomore leap this season.

Always blessed with elite athleticism, the main questions for him coming into the season weren’t based around his pure traits, but rather around his dependability and overall usage. With no drops and a massive amount of targets in Week 1, it’s so far so good on both accounts.

I highly doubt that the Denver Broncos will keep things as simple for quarterback Drew Lock going forward, so Fant’s basic play-action targets may decrease over time, but this weekend will be a good test to see if Monday was a fluke performance or the real deal. I’d tend to believe it’s the latter.

Derek Carr, QB, Las Vegas Raiders

Carr has been stuck in the “is he a franchise QB?” stage for like a decade, and we still don’t have a firm answer.

One game against the Saints probably won't sway people in one direction or the other, but it’s a great matchup against one of the league’s best teams in primetime on Monday night. If he’s ever going to make the leap (or prove Las Vegas needs to go in another direction), now’s the time.

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