Our Under the Radar column looks at a specific grouping of players that are poised to make a drastic leap in production.
In this segment of Under the Radar, I will take a look at second year IDP players that I think could be in store for breakout seasons in 2018.
Jordan Willis DE (CIN)
In his rookie year, Willis logged 360 snaps as a part-time role player in the defense. Even in limited action last year, he showed very well against the run. This year, Willis is set to take over the starting Right Defensive End spot for aging veteran, Michael Johnson. Johnson will take a back seat and serve as a complementary piece going forward in Cincinnati. Willis posted an impressive 94th percentile SPARQ score at the combine and was taken by Cincinnati 73rd overall in the 2017 draft. I really like Willis this year and going forward as a long term dynasty asset. He has all the tools to become a pro bowl caliber player for many years to come.
Raekwon McMillan LB (MIA)
McMillan was running as Miami’s starting Inside Linebacker last year before tearing his ACL in the preseason opener. After being cleared for OTA’s, he is once again set to take over the starting ILB role this year in Miami. If McMillan can stay on the field, he could become an instant factor as an IDP. The former Buckeye was very productive in college and will have every opportunity to show he belongs this year. The floundering Dolphins are desperate for playmakers to step up on a rebuilding defense and Raekwon McMillan may just fit the bill.
Xavier Woods S (DAL)
Woods is currently slated to be the starting Free Safety in Dallas. Dallas took him in the 6th round last year which was a steal. He was a part time player last year and played well enough to earn himself a more time on the field as the season progressed. Woods will spend the offseason battling it out with fellow safeties Jeff Heath, Kevon Frazier, and Jameill Showers for a starting spot. He has already earned praise from newly hired secondary coach, Kris Richard. I fully expect Woods to be a productive starting safety in 2018 and beyond.
Daeshon Hall DE (CAR)
Hall is currently penciled in as the 4th defensive end on the Panthers depth chart. However, he sits behind three aging players that could end up taking a back seat if Hall shows well in the pre-season. Carolina traded up to select Hall in the third round of the 2017 draft. Unfortunately, he only played nine snaps before his rookie campaign was cut short by a lingering knee issue. Hall will need to beat out Wes Horton (28), Mario Addison (30), future hall of famer Julius Peppers (38), and rookie Marquis Haynes (24) for one of the starting defensive end spots. Keep in mind the thirty-eight year old wonder, Peppers, is already slated for a part time role. Meanwhile, thirty year old Addison is better suited as a situational pass rusher. Horton could be a lunch pale sort of every down starter this year, but doesn’t have anywhere near the upside that Hall does. Fourth round rookie Marquis Haynes could push for playing time this year as well but profiles as yet another situational pass rusher. I predict that Daeshon Hall will emerge as the Panthers best defensive end by the end of the 2018 season, if not sooner.
Larry Ogunjobi DT (CLE)
In the aftermath of Danny Shelton being traded to New England, Ogunjobi finds himself in line to be one of the starting defensive tackles for the new look Cleveland Browns. Taken in the third round of the 2017 draft, Ogunjobi showed he belonged as rookie as he racked up 32 tackles and one sack with just 300 snaps. In comparison, Shelton logged 33 tackles and no sacks with 469 snaps. There are some other capable defensive tackles on the Browns roster such as, Trevon Coley, Chris Smith, Jamie Meder, Caleb Brantley, and darkhorse rookie UDFA Trenton Thompson. Coley will likely lock down the spot next to Ogunjobi and could have some value, while the others could be in line for some rotational work. However, I believe Ogunjobi is the Cleveland DT to own in leagues that start DT.
Derek Rivers DE (NEP)
At the conclusion of the 2017 draft, Rivers was lauded by many as the “steal” of the draft. Rivers rookie season would be claimed by a torn ACL during August practices. The Patriots defensive line has a lost a great deal of talent the last several years. Trey Flowers (24) was the only defensive end to consistently show up in 2017. After that you have journeyman veteran Adrian Clayborn (30) and a slew of unproven players such as Deatrich Wise (23), Geneo Grissom (26), Eric Lee (23), and rookie Trent Harris. New England hasn’t made the position a priority this offseason which speaks volumes. Rivers is best suited to play the left defensive end spot and has a solid chance to become the starter on that side.