Which players are the most likely candidates to have breakout seasons for the New York Giants in 2018? Well, before you can answer the question you have to define the parameters of what qualifies as a breakout season.
Bleacher Report has chosen rookie running back Saquon Barkley as the Giant most likely to have a breakout season. Granted, a healthy Barkley could produce in the neighborhood of 1,500 yards of total offense — maybe more. Still, I can’t consider Barkley a “breakout” candidate.
Breaking out from what? For me, you can’t be a breakout candidate if you have never played in the NFL — if you have nothing to break out from. Breakout candidates, for me, are guys who have been in the league and established a performance baseline. Exceeding that can be considered a breakout.
With that in mind, here are five players I consider candidates for breakout 2018 seasons with the Giants.
The Giants signed Latimer as a free agent for a few reasons.
- His prowess on special teams as a punt gunner.
- His experience, limited though it is with 18 returns in four seasons.
- His upside as a big-bodied wide receiver.
It is this last point that makes him a candidate to be a breakout player. Latimer had a career-high 19 receptions for the Denver Broncos on 31 targets, which also equated to a career-best 61.3 percent catch rate.
Nineteen catches, though, doesn’t exactly equate to a breakout year. There could be far more opportunities for Latimer with the Giants. Right now, he looks like the favorite to be the No. 3 wide receiver next to Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard. If Latimer earns that spot and remains healthy, could a 40-50 catch season be possible?
After a disastrous, controversy-filled 2017 season the new Giants regime is banking on Apple playing like the first-round pick he was in 2016. Let’s not talk about being a “shut down” corner. The Giants are gambling/hoping/praying that Apple can be a reliable week-in and week-out performer.
There are, obviously, no guarantees. If Apple can’t be relied upon, however, the Giants will have a major issue at the cornerback position.
The second-year defensive lineman started all 16 games as a rookie in 2017, finishing with 50 tackles (30 solo) and a Pro Football Focus grade of 83.9, 25th among interior defensive linemen.
Tomlinson was good, but not dominant, in 2017. He will likely spend a lot of time at a 5-tech defensive end spot in 2018. Can he adapt to that and become a dominant player? I believe he has the ability.
Win the starting right tackle job. Become a reliable player. That would be a breakout season for the former undrafted free agent. That is within reach.
You might think this one is a stretch. After all, Vernon has been in the league for six years and is a known quantity. What isn’t known, though, is how Vernon will fare while making a transition from a true 4-3 defensive end to a hybrid, a 3-4 outside linebacker who sometimes puts his hand in the ground and rushes as a 4-3 defensive end in nickel packages.
Giants defensive coordinator James Bettcher put Chandler Jones through a similar transformation with the Arizona Cardinals and Jones responded with 28 sacks over the past two seasons, leading the league with 17 sacks during an All-Pro 2017 season.
Vernon has reached double-digit sacks only once in his career. Can he go from good player to dominant, wrecking-ball status with a move to a stand-up position?
Maybe. That’s what makes him a breakout candidate.