An NFL season can yield so much randomness that a fan will simple be confused to the deepest extent. Players who have been productive for years will struggle and, oddly, formerly bad players will succeed. Each year, athletes experience "fall fever", which is the excitement leading up to athletics for the coming year. In all honesty, some players on this list had solid seasons last year; but something made me place them on this list.
Here is what Larry Fitzgerald said on the matter.
"Every guy has different strengths in the NFL. Receivers are different, running backs are different, but they all have that one thing that they do that's special: that thing that keeps them on the roster every year."
Certainly, all NFL players made immense sacrifices to get where they are now. While this is true, the professional level is much different than any other sporting league. Players who would succeed in other leagues simply struggle in the NFL; but successful NFL players are truly the greatest football players on the planet. While this list is a projection, I have compiled stats and news to help support my points.
Let's start with someone who will fail (in my opinion of course).
15 Fail: Eddie Lacy
While Eddie Lacy is in a high power offense, his career has been on the decline for a couple of years now. He has been gaining weight, then losing it, and then gaining it back. He is not a very consistent runner and lacks simple attributes that a halfback need to success in the NFL - like speed and agility. I think Seattle will realize that Thomas Rawls is a more reliable option early on and Lacy will either be released or moved to second on the depth chart. He is prone to injuries and I am not certain that he will be able to properly be introduced to the Seattle offense in such a quick period of time.
Lacy would probably be better off as a fullback in the NFL, odd as it sounds. He reminds me of a faster version of Mike Tolbert - as I believe his body frame makes him better suited to be a blocker/occasional runner.
14 Succeed: Andrew Luck
Andrew Luck has been struggling in recent years, but I think this will be the season that he returns to his former self. Luck is a great passer and can be a very mobile in the pocket. Unfortunately, he is not really surrounded by adequate talent. Donte Moncrief and T.Y. Hilton are solid receivers, but they are certainly not game changers. Also, the Colts need a younger running back who can make more of an impact than Frank Gore. Luck does not have much help on offense, but the draft can heal all wounds. Realistically, I can see Indianapolis going 8-8 or 9-7 next season. While the team has had its ups and downs, they have been developing chemistry, as a team, over the last two seasons. Andrew Luck was dominant in his rookie season and he will be very successful come next fall, mark my words.
13 Fail: Matt Forte
Forte is stuck in an unfavorable situation, but according to him, he is happy with where he is in his career. Once a dominant running back, Forte remained productive last season. This being said, he does not have much, if any, help in New York. The Jets have a quarterback situation, per usual, and a not-so-good offensive line. While Forte is adept at navigating through a defensive line, he needs some blockers to help guide his agility. Right now, the Jets are looking at Josh McCown or Bryce Petty to be their starting QB. While they might draft another prospect, it is not clear what their motives are. Bilal Powell is a solid halfback as well, but he will not be able to better his career in the situation he is in. As much as I appreciate how well Forte has been and understand how successful he has been previously, I don't think he will do well next season.
12 Succeed: Martellus Bennett
Bennett had a fantastic 2016 season. Now a member of the Packers, he will be Aaron Rodgers' safe haven if Jordy Nelson is not open. I find Bennett to be continuously underrated, especially in regards to Fantasy Football. Year after year, he is a low round pick, but ends up being a high value selection across fantasy leagues.
With Aaron Rodgers, Bennett will flourish even more than he did last season. Playing with Tom Brady was amazing for Bennett - but more importantly - this showed fans how good he can be with a solid QB. Bennett has not always had a good QB to help navigate an offense for him, so Rodgers and Brady, ultimately, will end up being the two greatest QBs he has ever played with. He is a big body and a bulky presence in the red zone. Defenses will need to cover Bennett intensely, because the Packers offense will have more firepower next season.
11 Fail: Sammy Watkins
Sammy Watkins will never reach is full potential as a Buffalo Bill: I feel very comfortable saying this. Throughout time, Bills players have produced better numbers elsewhere. For example, Marshawn Lynch was a solid Buffalo RB, but once he went to Seattle, he was arguably the best halfback in football.
In regards to Watkins, I am not at all convinced Tyrod Taylor is a reliable QB for him. Taylor is an average passer who does not have great vision down field. Also, he makes very poor decisions and throws short check-down passes all too often. I think that Watkins would be a lot better if he were to change teams. Sammy Watkins is a very talented receiver but his strengths are not utilized in Buffalo enough for me to think he will succeed next season. Additionally, the Bills coaching staff, year after year, is outdated in their style and game coaching decisions. Watkins, in many cases, is simply left out of offensive plays in Buffalo.
10 Succeed: Deshaun Watson
Teams need to seriously consider trading up to take this guy. Watson, the Clemson stud, is projected to be a top 10 draft pick. He can throw the long ball and, evidentially, can play under extreme pressure. I could see the Bills or the Browns getting Watson, which would make things very interesting in both cities. The National Championship MVP set numerous records at Clemson. His junior season is hailed as one of the best college football QB performances ever. I think he will make a great QB come next fall, and the falls after that. I think he also shows maturity and being the prospect that he is, maturity is usually the first thing in question.
There will always be the organization that elects to stay away from the hyped up QB, but his performances speak for themselves. Watson is an agile and good pocket passer who can move around, and if he needs to, use his feet to get down the field.
9 Fail: DeAndre Hopkins
Hopkins had a fantastic season two seasons ago. Now stuck with a poor quarterback situation, I am not confident that he will prosper in Houston. In all regards, Hopkins is one of the best players in the NFL. He is a very athletic receiver that can run routes exceptionally. Unfortunately, the Texans are currently focusing on Tom Savage or Brandon Weeden to be the starting QB. Both players aren't quality starters. If the Texans were to draft a highly touted prospect, I would consider taking Hopkins off the list; though, the prospect would still need to adjust to the Houston offensive approach. Hopkins needs to leave Houston and go somewhere where he can compete. While the team has some receiver and running back depth, they lack necessary skills to be a championship contending team - simply put. Hopkins will fail next season.
8 Succeed: Cameron Brate
Brate had eight touchdowns last season. I trust that his workload will increase even more and I can see this number increasing next season. He is a very reliable tight end that possesses good ball catching abilities. Also, Brate is a very adept blocker.
The Bucs have been smart to utilize him. While the team has gotten DeSean Jackson as the #2 receiver, to help out the superstar Mike Evans, Brate will remain a red zone threat. The organization has benefited greatly from his presence, especially when Mike Evans is defended downfield. Brate has emerged as Jameis Winston's safe haven - a tight end that can find the ball when no one else is open. I had the guy on my fantasy team last season and was pleasantly surprised at what he could do with the football - or without it. When he wasn't getting receptions, he was blocking for Winston or Doug Martin - something that is undervalued in the NFL and not appreciated enough.
7 Fail: Ty Montgomery
Montgomery is not a typical NFL starting halfback. He started as a receiver, but because of organizational problems, he ended up being the starting running back. From what I have observed, this position is not his strong suit. He runs like a receiver and holds the ball like a receiver.......because he is a receiver.
Aaron Rodgers should get his word into the Packers organization. The team should try to pick up one of the free agents available or draft some fresh legs. Among free agents, there is DeAngelo Williams, Adrian Peterson, Jamaal Charles, and James Starks. While Starks was a Packer before, he is still a better runner than Montgomery. The Packers should move Ty back to his former position on the depth chart and revamp the position. Montgomery, for some reason, was hyped up as a potential threat - but he failed last season and had trouble holding onto the ball.
6 Succeed: Derek Carr
While there is uncertainty for Oakland fans because of the team's impending relocation, the Raiders organization has to be excited about the talent they have compiled. Carr has been better than most people could have expected and has worked perfectly with his wideouts. Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree have been sensational as well, while Crabtree has been a little more productive than Cooper recently. I could see Carr having his best season next year, considering the team is continuing to get talent through the free agency and they will get more in the draft. I really like the maturity he has shown - especially as a young QB. The NFL can be brutal for incoming college stars, but he handled everything astoundingly. Not only do I think Carr will succeed, but I could see the Raiders having another great season two years before they say their farewell to Oakland.
5 Fail: Darren Sproles
While Sproles remains a fantastic kick and punt returner, he is not a natural starting running back. The Philadelphia Eagles brought in Ryan Mathews believing he would be the guy, but Mathews struggled to remain productive throughout last season. Sproles is a very quick and agile back, but he is not a workhorse type of back and is best utilized as a second or third down runner.
The Eagles need to use the draft or free agency to shop for talent. Without question, Mathews and Sproles are not #1 running back material. Sproles is one of the quickest players the NFL has ever seen, but a starting back needs to be stronger and bigger than he is. While the Eagles have gotten Alshon Jeffery this offseason, they should not assume their offense is ready to go. They need to look for strong blockers and a consistent #1 back to truly contend in the NFC East.
4 Succeed: Terrelle Pryor
Anyone who saw Pryor play this past season has to be impressed with his playmaking abilities. On top of all this, he made a very difficult transition from being a QB to a WR. Now a member of a team that could contend, on some level, he will shine. On the Browns, Pryor was sensational - without a good quarterback. Now with Kirk Cousins - a solid QB - he will get the opportunity to show just how good he can be. The Redskins have gotten some solid talent and have a chance to contend in the NFC East.
Pryor is equally strong and fast on the football field. While he attempted to throw a couple balls, here and there, last season, he proved himself to be a much more reliable wideout. Now that he has some help in Washington, Pryor should be even more productive. Instead of being the only source of receptions, the Redskins will also rely on Jordan Reed and Jamison Crowder - two very solid options in the passing game.
3 Fail: Andy Dalton
While Dalton succeeded in the 2016 season, I am not confident that he will remain at that level next season. The Bengals have continued to become irrelevant and Dalton is not helping their cause. While Cincy fans may say different, he does not take many risks. In some ways, he is like a better version of Sam Bradford - someone I despise because of his cookie cutter game. Dalton really needs to step up his game and start being multi-dimensional in the passing game. Also, he tends to rush on throws resulting in interceptions downfield. While Dalton is certainly worthy of a starting job, I don't consider him to be a great quarterback. He has his moments, and in those times fans think he is insanely good, but he has plenty of bad moments. When Dalton plays bad he really plays poorly - usually throwing 2 to 3 interceptions and maybe having a fumble or two.
2 Succeed: Ezekiel Elliott
This guy had a crazy rookie year. The Cowboys basically won the lottery with Elliott and Prescott, two players the organization feels confident will win them a Super Bowl in the near future - if not next season. Elliott is already one of the best running backs in football - and arguably THE best. People have compared his bursts to Adrian Peterson early on in his career.
I think the Cowboys have a fair shot at winning the Super Bowl next season. If the offensive line can remain as good as they were, Elliott will have no trouble breaking through defensive lines. Prescott has been a great influence on the entire team, garnering respect from nearly every NFL GM and player. Elliott had a crazy rookie season, but he should have an even better season in store for him next year. He is crazy good at getting through holes and once he is in open space, there is an automatic seven coming in Dallas's direction.
1 Fail: Drew Brees
Here is the thing about veteran NFL quarterbacks; once they hit a certain age they, unexpectedly, have a rough season. Brees is 38 years old, an age common for QBs to begin to physically decline. Brees had a great season in 2016, but I am not confident that the team is really headed anywhere. Without real direction and purpose, I feel Brees will not have the structure he needs to succeed next season. He also lost his top wideout in Brandin Cooks via trade.
Let's not forget that we are talking about a possible Hall of Fame caliber player, a guy that has been a leader in New Orleans for quite some time. In my opinion, Brees only has a year or two left. The team has struggled as of late and he has been forced to rush on his throws as well. The organization is simply heading in the wrong direction and Brees is going to suffer for it.