Younger players are often secret weapons for teams on offense and defense. Unlikely to draw attention from opposing coordinators, these guys make a big difference for their teams before they become full-blown stars at the NFL level.
Offense: D.K. Metcalf, WR, Seattle Seahawks
Metcalf was the physical standout of the draft combine, rocketing up draft boards and finding a home in Seattle early in the second round. He’s having a great first few months in his new job, leading all rookie wide receivers with a whopping 22.3 yards per catch. In Sunday’s divisional battle with the Rams, Metcalf came up huge with a forty-yard touchdown reception from Russell Wilson to give the Seahawks the lead in the second quarter. He only had two total receptions on three targets, but as his chemistry with Wilson improves, I’m sure we’ll see more and more from him in Seattle’s offensive game plan. He’s too good a weapon to target that infrequently. Look for him to make his mark this weekend against a depleted Browns secondary that has yet to see the return of Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams, who were limited in practice on Wednesday.
Defense: Brian Burns, LB, Carolina Panthers
Burns was one of the most talked-about LB/Edge rushers coming out of the draft this year. He’s been getting right into the thick of Carolina’s defense right off the bat. The rookie trails only the Patriots Chase Winovich in sacks by a rookie with 3.5 and had himself a day against the Jags last weekend. In addition to a sack and forced fumble, Burns also capitalized on another strip sack, scooping up the fumble and scampering sixty-six yards to the house for a touchdown. Paired with league tackle leader Luke Kuechly, Burns is the type of versatile backer that can help the Panthers recreate their defensive juggernaut from years past.