The 2021 season is underway, and all the players on this list so far haven’t quite earned the unwavering trust of football fans. These talented players still have to improve in order to become superstars.
1. Baker Mayfield
Baker Mayfield is coming off a career year under reigning NFL Coach of the Year Kevin Stefanski, their first together. Mayfield is a lightning rod, known for playing with a chip on his shoulder, exuding passion and being outspoken.
Baker Mayfield's commitment to quarterback footwork and the under-center PA sell since Stefanski's arrival has been noteworthy. The small details here: empty hand lead, ball on the hip, and lingering head all sell the fake.
— Jake Burns (@jake_burns18) September 20, 2021
Mayfield’s development will determine how far the Browns go this season. They have accrued elite talent via free agency and the draft and have one of the league’s deepest rosters.
The fourth-year quarterback has struggled at times, but when he was drafted No.1 overall in 2018 Cleveland was a place where folks’ careers went to die. A wasteland where quarterbacks were destined for failure. Analysts from Staten Island to Mount Desert Island were picking Cleveland to go to the Super Bowl entering this season.
Now he’s got to piggyback off of last season’s success and continue to develop. The team should be 2-0, but 1-1 with a heartbreaking loss to the Chiefs is promising. Getting a healthy OBJ back should help immensely.
2. Kirk Cousins
Kirk Cousins is a solid starter. Solid hasn’t been good enough for the talented Vikings, who gave Cousins a fully-guaranteed three-year, $84M deal and then another that pays him $66M million over two more years.
QB Contract extensions occured within the past day.
Kirk Cousins: 2-year for $66M
Drew Brees: 2-year for $50M
does this make sense? no pic.twitter.com/gQjbUtQRZD
— Shayne (@StrattonShayne) March 17, 2020
When Your Good Isn’t Great Enough
Captain Kirk has put up solid numbers despite a revolving door of offensive coordinators since his arrival in Minnesota in 2018. Heck, he even won a playoff game at New Orleans.
Losing dependable wideout Stefon Diggs in a forced trade was a death blow for Cousins, who’s using his veteran savvy to keep Minnesota in games.
Kirk Cousins hits Justin Jefferson for his third passing TD of the half 🕺
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) September 19, 2021
Early reports suggest that Cousins will get no help from a horrible Vikings defense. The team is 0-2 and Cousins has passed for 595 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions.
He’s almost always solid, but he has to level up and really earn that check by making others around him better.
3. Saquon Barkley
Giants running back Saquon Barkley is a freak of nature when healthy. Last year he missed the final 14 games of the season with a torn ACL.
He was the focal point of the Giants offense before he went dow,n and they need the former Penn State star to return to his record-breaking rookie form.
The team added weaponry in the passing game like WRs Kenny Galladay and Kadarius Toney to take pressure off Barkley. The Giants hoped that Barkley would return from his injury and be the centeriece of a dynamic offense. Barkley’s shown flashes, but his consistent burst hasn’t emerged yet.
SAQUON BARKLEY IS BACK
— PFF (@PFF) September 17, 2021
The 0-2 Giants need to figure out ways to get this stud going. Before the injuries he averaged 115 yards from scrimmage.
4. Jimmy G, AKA “Porn Star Jimmy”
Two seasons ago Jimmy Garoppolo led the Niners to the Super Bowl behind an elite defense and solid running game. Jimmy G was supposed to be the next 49ers Super Bowl-winning quarterback.
— Forward Mile NFL (@ForwardMileNFL) February 8, 2018
Jimmy G’s Final Drive
Now he’s playing the final year of his deal with No. 3 overall pick Trey Lance ready to grab the keys to the franchise.
Jimmy G is pulling double duty, auditioning for other teams while still trying to get the Niners back to the playoffs.
He’s off to a 2-0 start, but his health is always been an issue, so we have to see if he can stay on the field.
With a Super Bowl-caliber roster, a genius offensive coach, dominant pass rush and good running game, this might be Jimmy G’s last chance to bring a Lombardi back to San Francisco before he certainly departs in 2022.
5. Odell Beckham Jr.
We all know Odell Beckham Jr. is electrifying, but we haven’t seen him look that way since he left the New York Giants. Since being traded to Cleveland his production on the field has plummeted.
He’s scheduled to return from a torn ACL this weekend.
— Camryn Justice (@camijustice) September 22, 2021
With injuries to key pieces and an apparent lack of chemistry between him and Baker Mayfield, it didn’t look like OBJ was having fun even before he tore his ACL in 2020.
Mayfield’s passing numbers went up drastically, and the Browns were one blown call away from the AFC title game after OBJ went down.
Baker’s Balanced Attack
This offense is built around Mayfield and the best pair of running backs in the league — Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt.
OBJ has to realize that he’ll get his touches but so will others. Cleveland has. Real shot at some late season success if OBJ can play team ball when he returns from injury.