NFL

25 Star NFL Players With Tons To Prove This Season

Darren - July 1, 2020
NFL

25 Star NFL Players With Tons To Prove This Season

Darren - July 1, 2020
Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

17. Malcolm Jenkins

New Orleans Saints star Jenkins left the Eagles with a bad taste in his mouth. The Eagles failed to take up their option on him. Jenkins didn’t feel valued in the City of Brotherly Love. Now he’s back in the “Big Easy,” where he will hope to make the same impact he did there before.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

However, in the offseason, he clashed with Drew Brees over the latter’s comments on kneeling during the national anthem. In short, the locker room is going to be very interesting. This is a team that has serious ambitions of winning the Super Bowl. He needs to make a difference.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

16. Frank Gore

Gore is 37 but seems ageless. This offseason he joined the New York Jets in pursuit of a new challenge. The five-time Pro Bowl selection has never won a Super Bowl but doesn’t let that get him down. He’s also the oldest running back in the entire NFL today. But what does he have to gain by playing with the Jets?

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

The answer is satisfaction. First of all, he wants to prove that age doesn’t define you. A tremendous athlete, he still wants to learn and improve despite losing a yard of pace. Finally, his new coaches love him because he’s a consummate professional.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

15. Jared Goff

2018 was a great year for Goff as he demonstrated the qualities of a franchise quarterback. He had particularly good games against the Vikings and the Chiefs that year. However, last season Goff regressed substantially. He only managed 22 touchdown passes and 16 interceptions.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

Of course, you can also point the finger at some of the players around him. But things are not going to get easier for Goff with the loss of star running back Todd Gurley. He needs to drastically improve his ball security and decision making to prove he deserves to be QB1.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

14. Jalen Mills

The Eagles didn’t replace Malcolm Jenkins the way you might expect. Instead of drafting a new safety, they’re moving Mills from corner. It’s an ambitious show of faith in the former LSU man, but he believes in himself as he looks to prove his worth.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

Mills has endured a host of injuries during his time in Philidelphia but has been a class act on the field. He can also expect a fair crack at this new position because his competition isn’t amazing. This is a true prove yourself one-year deal. Let’s see if it pays off.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

13. Lorenzo Carter

Carter is in a battle for the outside linebacker spot with the New York Giants. A third-year professional, he should be a guaranteed starter, but after a tepid 2019, this isn’t the case. He appeared in 15 games with 12 starts, finishing the season with 45 total tackles, six tackles for loss, and 4.5 sacks.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

This simply isn’t good enough. The Giants are in a period of transition so he will get the chance to prove himself. Furthermore, they brought in two new linebackers to increase the competition. His stay in New York all depends on how he responds to this.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

12. Leighton Vander Esch

Several national writers project Vander Esch to be the Cowboys’ MVP this year. 2019 was extremely frustrating for the homegrown star, but he has the ability to step it up and prove his qualities. In nine games, Vander Esch had 72 combined tackles, three passes defended, a forced fumble and a quarterback hit.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

However, his 14 missed tackles stand out as something that he needs to improve. But after recovering from a neck injury, Vander Esch insists that he is sharper than ever. He will need to be because the linebacker can be a mainstay in the Cowboys’ defense.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

11. Yannick Ngakoue

Pro Bowl defensive end Ngakoue is playing a dangerous game right now. He says that he doesn’t want to sign a new contract with the Jaguars. However, the problem is that nobody has shown any firm interest in him. That leaves him and the Jaguars in a very strange position.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

He says that he won’t play for them this year, but only time will tell if that’s true. One thing is for sure; he needs to prove that he’s worth the effort. It’s a big risk to take a year off when you’re only 25. This one looks like it’s going to rumble on and on. The downtrodden Jaguars need him too much.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

10. Joe Burrow

It might seem a little bit harsh to put Burrow on this list, but we don’t mean it in a bad way. If you’re the number one overall pick, then you have a target on your back. It’s up to Burrow to rise up and prove exactly why he was the main man of the 2020 draft.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

After an outstanding college career, Burrow looks like he has it all. But we’ve seen before that college success does not always translate to NFL glory. Baker Mayfield’s 2019 should serve as a warning to Burrow that perceptions can go change very quickly.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

9. Christian McCaffrey

After signing a massive contract with the Carolina Panthers, it’s up to McCaffrey to prove that he’s worth every dime. If he continues his tremendous form in 2020, then he’ll be a steal. That’s not something you would say about a man on a $64 million contract, but it’s true.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

His 2,392 yards from scrimmage and 19 touchdowns in 2019 show just how explosive he is. With blistering pace and outstanding game intelligence, McCaffrey has what it takes to be an all-time great. However, he also needs to drag the Panthers into playoff contention.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

8. Baker Mayfield

Mayfield has a lot of pressure on his shoulders right now. The Cleveland Browns’ quarterback knows he is walking on thin ice. If he starts this season as he finished the last, he may as well give up the starting spot night. It might be less painful for everybody.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

The former Heisman Trophy winner and number one overall draft pick has the ability to be something special. However, last year was awful. He set the rookie touchdown pass record in 2018 but struggled with turnovers in 2019. This year he needs to prove himself quickly.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

7. DeAndre Hopkins

Everybody thinks the Houston Texans made a massive mistake by trading Hopkins to Atlanta. However, now he has to prove we were all correct. There are great expectations for the wide receiver who thinks he is number one in the entire NFL. That’s a bold claim and he has to back it up.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

He definitely has the grounds to make that statement but he’s also inviting more pressure upon himself. We respect his guts, but in his first full season in Arizona, he will need to make an immediate impact. A four-time Pro Bowler, he will want the Cardinals to win their first NFC West title since 2015.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

6. Kenny Golladay

At the time of writing, the Detroit Lions had 12 wide receivers on their roster. Yes, you read that correctly. Obviously, they’ll whittle down those numbers, but the question remains who will be their starters? Golladay remains the best of the group by a wide margin.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

However, he has a lot of players breathing down his neck, so Golladay will want to prove that he’s a level above them all. PFF projects that the Pro Bowler will have a stellar year and could be a top-five receiver in the league. Things are looking up for the 26-year-old.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

5. Damien Williams

It’s clear that his future is in Williams’ hands. The most talented of Kansas City’s running backs, Williams needs to prove his fitness. After scoring the winning touchdown in their epic Super Bowl win, he’ll want to carry on where they left off.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

He recorded 355 rushing yards, 185 receiving yards and 10 total touchdowns in just five postseason games appearances in a Chiefs’ uniform. However, he fell behind LeSean McCoy early in the season when injuries took their toll. The team also drafted former LSU back Clyde Edwards-Helaire in the first round, not exactly a ringing endorsement of Williams’ future with the team. Williams needs to persuade the Chiefs that he’s their main man.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

4. Aaron Rodgers

The first of two veteran quarterbacks who have given a lot to the sport, Rodgers is not in a happy place right now. First of all, the Packers threw a massive curveball into the works when they drafted Jordan Love. They traded up in the first round despite having pressing needs elsewhere on the offensive side of the ball. Now, Rodgers has an exciting but unproven youngster breathing down his neck.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

This also means that there won’t be a new contract. Rodgers always expected to leave Green Bay on his terms but the writing is on the wall. They’re looking towards the future with no sentiment in place. Meanwhile, the Packers’ attack looks quite limited. It could be a frustrating year in Wisconsin.

Mandatory Credit: CBS

3. Tom Brady

You could argue that Brady has nothing left to prove after a stellar career in which he has won everything. However, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers star definitely won’t feel that way because of two words: Bill Belichick. They won’t want to admit it, but Brady and Belichick want to prove they can win without the other.

Mandatory Credit: NBC

Brady’s first season in Florida is going to be fascinating. First of all, the team will have to adapt to his style of play because they play a vertical passing game. It’s questionable if Brady still has plenty left in his arm. There’s more on the line because he would love to win a Super Bowl in their home stadium. That’s possible this year for Brady.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

2. Le’Veon Bell

Last year Bell averaged a career-low 3.2 yards per carry and racked up a disappointing 789 yards on the ground. Those are his worst numbers since an injury-plagued season with the Steelers back in 2015. Last year though, there was no good excuse. Bell really needs to improve for the sake of the New York Jets and his own career.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

However, the Jets have reinforced their offensive line around Bell QB Sam Darnold. In short, this should create opportunities for Bell to improve after his disappointing first season in New York. He will want to prove that he is still a dynamic and powerful running back with a lot left in the tank.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

1. Cam Newton

In the end, it was a no-brainer for the Patriots. Newton joins the post-Brady revolution on an initial one-year deal because former fourth-round pick Jarret Stidham was never convincing as Brady’s successor. If Newton becomes the starter, he’ll be the first starting quarterback in 27 years who the Patriots didn’t draft.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

However, for Newton, there is a lot on the line. He has a unique opportunity at one of the most powerful franchises in the nation to prove that he still has what it takes to be a Pro Bowl quarterback. The 2015 NFL MVP is back, but does he still have the ability and the drive?

Advertisement