Oh 2015 Draft, how quickly I forgot you. It’s already been a year, and the class of 2016 came around and brought boundless optimism and limitless potential with it. You were old news, a typewriter gathering dust on a shelf. Yet alongside that typewriter I found nothing, because it’s a metaphor and not an tangible object. There are many second year NFL defenders that will cease being so anonymous.
Second Year NFL Defenders Poised for Breakout Seasons in 2016
The premise of this article began, as most great ideas do, with a guy named Kenneth. Specifically Kenneth Dixon, former Louisiana Tech star and rookie running back with the Baltimore Ravens. While I was watching Louisiana Tech’s 2014 game against Oklahoma, I noticed a giant of a man wearing number 80 for the Sooners who dominated the line of scrimmage. That man was Jordan Phillips, the 52nd pick in the 2015 Draft by the Miami Dolphins.
Phillips cracked the starting lineup toward the end of the season, and was quietly successful. He consistently beat interior linemen in one-on-one match-ups, using swim and rip moves as well as fluidity and agility that is uncommon in players his size. Switching to a 4-3 defense will allow Phillips to avoid double teams and join Ndamukong Suh, Mario Williams, and (eventually) Cameron Wake on what could easily be one of the best defensive lines in the league. 40 tackles and six sacks are a reasonable expectations for 2016.
Ibraheim Campbell is poised to become a breakout star this season. He spent 2015 backing up Tashaun Gipson and Donte Whitner, both of whom will not be Browns in 2016. This would leave both starting safety spots up for grabs, but the strong safety spot is Campbell’s to lose, and that’s unlikely. He has great instincts for finding the ball-carrier and avoiding blockers. He didn’t play a lot of man coverage last season, but that will change, as he will play all of the talented tight ends in the AFC North. Campbell looks like a natural out on the field and plays with a style of a veteran player. 80 tackles, one interception, and two forced fumbles are honestly modest expectations for the 115th pick in the 2015 NFL Draft.
The 2015 draft has been overshadowed by the shinier, younger model. No one is debating that. Markus Golden has been overshadowed by the sun. Not literally (obviously). He does seem to be the forgotten man on the Arizona Cardinals defense. That does not mean the second-year pass rusher will not explode onto the scene in 2016. His first step is explosive and he has the speed to be a terror off the edge. Improving his hand and upper body strength would improve his rip move, and couple that with a spin move and it would be awfully hard to stop Golden from flattening quarterbacks this season. He’s slated to start once again at outside linebacker, and at least 50 tackles and eight sacks could be in Markus Golden’s future.
One of the most interesting prospects from long, long ago was Tony Lippett. Back when we all rode dinosaurs to school, Lippett was playing wide receiver for Michigan State. He began transitioning to cornerback prior to the draft, and the Dolphins took him with the 156th pick. Lippett, like Phillips, saw more playing time as last season wore on. He has excellent size for the position at 6’2”, as well as solid ball skills (duh, he played receiver) and recovery speed. He’s got the inside track at the third corner spot, and the players ahead of him on the depth chart are by no means locks to stay there all season. 25 tackles and two interceptions is a fine divination for Lippett in 2016.
That’s the rub. The Vintage Football Archive is closing, and the stone tablets these players’ scouting reports are written on have to go back into storage. I can’t wait to get away from the smell of mothballs and the harsh glare of the halogen lights. Next time I’ll hopefully discuss something more pertinent to today’s NFL. Until then, let’s be good to each other.