Every year in the NFL, dozens of rising young players become superstars while veteran stars begin to fade. As the 2019 preseason gets underway, here are five particular youngsters who are likely to rise rapidly in the months to come. These guys are all 25 or under, and none have made the Pro Bowl yet.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR Chris Godwin: The 23-year-old was one of just nine NFL receivers with three-plus 100-yard games in the second half of the 2018 season, and with DeSean Jackson and Adam Humphries gone, he should explode under the tutelage of offensive genius Bruce Arians. Arians gets the most out of his No. 2 receivers, and he seems extremely high on Godwin entering Year 3.
Indianapolis Colts RB Marlon Mack: The 23-year-old was the only running back in the AFC to rush for 115-plus yards on five occasions in 2019, including the playoffs. Most importantly, three of those performances came in Mack’s final five games of the year. He averaged 5.9 yards per carry in his first playoff run and is clearly the man in Indy entering his third NFL campaign.
Cleveland Browns QB Baker Mayfield: In the final eight weeks of his rookie season, the 2018 first-round pick was the NFL’s fourth-highest-rated qualified passer, behind only Russell Wilson, MVP Patrick Mahomes, and 2018 passer rating champion Drew Brees. With Odell Beckham Jr. joining his stacked receiving corps, Mayfield could be an MVP candidate as a 24-year-old in 2019.
Carolina Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey: The 23-year-old took a huge step forward with a 1,000-yard 2018 season, and he nearly amassed 2,000 scrimmage yards despite the fact the Panthers had quarterback problems. But Cam Newton is healthy again, and McCaffrey should be in for a massive third season. Don’t be surprised if he’s the No. 1 running back in fantasy football this year.
New York Giants S Jabrill Peppers: There’s a reason Giants general manager Dave Gettleman was determined to get Peppers back in the Odell Beckham Jr. trade. After struggling as a rookie, the 2017 first-round pick flashed more and more as his sophomore season wore on in Cleveland. He recorded 79 tackles, three fumble recoveries, a pick, a sack and the 23rd-best PFF grade among 104 qualified players at his position in 2018, and now the versatile, explosive former Big Ten standout is set to emerge as a superstar in his new home this fall.