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NFL Draft

Three Players Ready To “Level Up” In 2020

  • The Draft Network
  • May 31, 2020
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You never know which year will be a player's renaissance year: the year where talent, experience and confidence all come together in sync consistently for the first time. 

For some, it's their second year. For others, it could be the third or four year of their career. Heck, sometimes that light doesn't come on until the second contract.

Whether it's sooner or later, for those who display top-end talent, you know it's coming. Sometimes you can see the signs; the flashes of brilliance in play sporadically throughout a season the year before a big breakthrough.

As we approach the 2020 season, there are three players, one from each draft class between 2017-19, that I could see leveling up their abilities to an exceptional point in 2020.

Malik Hooker, S, Indianapolis Colts

Malik Hooker was one of the most alluring prospects in the 2017 draft. In one full year as a starter at Ohio State, Hooker exemplified true single-high centerfield abilities as a free safety. In that season, he recorded seven interceptions and took three of those back for touchdowns.

This led the Colts to select him in the middle of the first round. But the reason he wasn't selected higher was due to a shaky injury history; that didn't get better in the NFL as Hooker has missed time for a variety of injuries, including a torn ACL.

When he's been on the field, he has played well, given the circumstance. Despite not playing a full 16 games in his first three years, Hooker has never recorded less than two picks in a season. In fact, his career started with three picks in his first four games as a starter.

This offseason Indianapolis chose to not pick up the fifth-year option for Hooker, so this could be his last year with the team. But with Hooker healthy going into the season, there is optimism for this to be his best year yet.

Harold Landry, OLB, Tennessee Titans

Can a player who, in just their second season, led the Titans in sacks (nine) really be primed to take it to another level?

For Harold Landry, absolutely.

To go along with his nine sacks, Landry racked up 81 tackles, 28 pressures, 12 tackles for loss, two fumble recoveries and one forced a fumble and interception apiece. But there's a chance 2020 could be even better.

For starters, Landry did all that while not recording a single sack in the final four games of the season; something that likely wouldn't happen again, given how good he is. Second, over his first two seasons, he's been able to learn behind the likes of Brian Orakpo and Cameron Wake. With both of them now gone, it is Landry's show to display what he learned from those guys with a twist of his own abilities. Finally, the addition of Vic Beasley should help on the other edge, and the growth of interior defensive lineman Jeffery Simmons should help even more. Imagine if they also could add Jadeveon Clowney.

If you ask me, Landry's first double-digit sacks season and first Pro Bowl are on deck.

D.K. Metcalf, WR, Seattle Seahawks

Sort of along the same lines as Landry, what would a level up look like for a rookie who recorded 900 receiving yards on 58 catches and saw 100 targets?

Well, if you follow the footsteps of wide receivers like Julio Jones, DeSean Jackson and DeAndre Hopkins who each had around 900 receiving yards in their first seasons, each went over 1,100 yards in their next. 

D.K. Metcalf saw the second most wide receiver snaps (927) of Seahawks’ pass-catchers, trailing only Tyler Lockett (994). Both of them played above 80% of the team's total snaps in 2019, while no other receiver played more than 34%. From a snap count standpoint, Metcalf won't grow much from what he already had in his first season. But the extra success can come from more consistency. 

Although Metcalf saw 100 targets, he only reeled in 58. According to Pro Football Focus, 82 of those 100 targets were catchable. Metcalf was 27th in the NFL when it came to drops at seven percent. When you already take into account Metcalf is one of the top athletes in the league already, improving his catching consistency is where he could truly take his game to the next level.

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