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Three Sophomore NFL Players That Will Take A Big Step In 2023-24

Updated: Jul 8, 2023

It seems like the young talent in the NFL just keeps getting better and better. Every year we see rookies come in and make an instant impact on the team that drafted them. Finding an identity in the NFL can sometimes vary from player to player. Some players find themselves early on, while it takes some guys a few years to fit in. These three guys found themselves in great positions to succeed as rookies, and are now looking to take a big leap in year two after turning some heads last season.

James Cook

Dalvin’s little brother, James Cook was a second-round selection for the powerhouse Buffalo Bills last year. James has gotten a front-row seat to learn how to be a great back in the NFL, as his brother Dalvin has been a perennial top-10 back since entering the league in 2017. They play pretty similar too, both being good on the ground and excelling at pass catching. In his rookie year, James Cook ran the ball 89 times for 507 yards and two rushing touchdowns. In addition, he grabbed 21 receptions for 180 yards and a receiving touchdown. All on a 25% offensive snap share.

Last season, James Cook found himself fighting for reps in a running back room that included Devin Singletary, Zack Moss, and himself. This year Buffalo has a somewhat stacked room again, bringing in former divisional opponent Damien Harris, Latavius Murray, and returning Nyheim Hines, who they acquired by trade last year and finds himself handling kick and punt returns for Buffalo. This year, James Cook will have the most rapport with quarterback Josh Allen out of all the backs. Expect his snap share to jump up from 25%.

Jahan Dotson

A guy who seems to be the forgotten receiver of his draft class with all the explosive weapons that came out last year, Jahan Dotson put together a fine rookie NFL campaign. Between a revolving door of quarterbacks, Dotson managed to post 523 yards on 35 receptions in his rookie year and managed to score seven touchdowns in 12 games. Going into next year, it seems Dotson will have more stable quarterback play, something his teammate Terry McLaurin has been begging for for years now.

Dotson has raved about second-year quarterback Sam Howell who got the nod last year at the end of the season and should win the job now that Taylor Heinicke and Carson Wentz are out of town. Having McLaurin next to him will only make things easier for Dotson, as a player of McLaurin’s caliber deserves a ton of attention from defenses.

Chris Olave

The guy on the list who had the best rookie campaign, New Orleans Saints receiver Chris Olave has a new quarterback and is ready to cook this season. Olave was the 11th overall pick in the 2022 draft and tore up the NFL last year along with college teammate and fellow receiver Garrett Wilson, who was picked by the Jets.

In his rookie campaign where he had Andy Dalton throwing him the ball most of the year, and fellow receiver Michael Thomas missing most of the year, Chris Olave got to see the field a lot, and rightfully so. In his 15 games, Olave posted 1.042 yards on 72 receptions and four touchdowns. He found himself on the field for 66% of offensive snaps. Olave made the 2022 NFL All-Rookie Team last year and heads into year two at the age of 23, the sky is the limit for Olave.

Youth Movement In The NFL

With the legends of the previous decades like Adrian Peterson, Larry Fitzgerald, and Calvin Johnson gone, the NFL looks to usher in a new era of superstars and the transition seems easy with guys like Pat Mahomes, Josh Allen, and Joe Burrow, but it’s not all about the quarterback. It’s largely about quarterbacks, but guys like Cook, Dotson, and Olave will look to become superstars at their position. A big step this year could spring them into superstardom.


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