6 2017 NFL Rookies That Will Take a Big Step Forward in 2018

The biggest fear that a second-year player has at the start of the season is if he will suffer from the notorious sophomore slump. NFL stars such as Todd Gurley, Ndamukong Suh, and Matt Ryan have all suffered from the phenomenon, proving that absolutely no one is immune. Although many second-year players are bound to regress, the following six players will defy the stigma and have tremendous seasons.

6. Myles Garrett

If his first ever play in the NFL was any indication (it was a sack), Myles Garret  is going to be really really good. Garrett might have the easiest time taking a step up from last year because he doesn't really need to improve talent-wise to have a better season. Last year, Garrett only played in 11 games due to injuries, limiting what he could do on the field from a production standpoint (and he still totaled seven sacks). Should Garrett stay healthy this year, expect a Pro Bowl-caliber season.

5. JuJu Smith-Schuster

JuJu Smith-Schuster has a lot going for him heading into his second season. If you thought his 917-yard rookie season was impressive, chances are you're going to be blown away by him this year. With Martavis Bryant out of Pittsburgh, Smith-Schuster has solidified himself as the official No. 2 receiver. On top of that, there have been whispers out of the Steelers' camp that they are planning on giving Smith-Schuster much more targets than last year. All of this should build into an impressive year two for the USC alum.

4. Budda Baker

In only one season, Budda Baker was able to establish himself as a Pro Bowl and a First-Team All-Pro player. The only thing is, he was awarded both honors due to his dominance on special teams. While special teams may be Baker's calling, he was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals in the second round to be their starting safety. Now that Tyrann Mathieu has left for the Houston Texans, it's Baker who will be getting more opportunities to prove himself in the secondary. Baker has a big task in replacing the Honey Badger.

3. Christian McCaffrey

Last season, Christian McCaffrey made his impact mostly in the passing game for the Carolina Panthers. McCaffrey would have been impactful in the running attack as well had it not been for ex-Panther Jonathan Stewart, who, for the first time in his career, is leaving Carolina for the Giants. That will open the door for McCaffrey to take charge of the running game. For McCaffrey, there is virtually no competition in the backfield, making him the official new bell cow running back for the Panthers.

2. Joe Mixon

Joe Mixon was apart of a three-headed backfield containing the likes of Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard. When there are three running backs competing for playing time, it's hard for any one of them to have a breakout season. This offseason, Hill left for the New England Patriots, and as of late, Bernard has been used primarily as a pass-catching back. This should allow for Mixon to receive the majority of carries for the Bengals. Mixon might finally get his chance to prove his worth in the NFL.

1. Cooper Kupp

In a crowded Los Angeles Rams receiving corps that included Sammy Watkins, Tavon Austin, and Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp was able to make a name for himself, mostly out of the slot. Finishing the year with 868 yards, Kupp and Jared Goff were creating chemistry as the season went on. Out of the previous receivers named, only Woods and Kupp remain, vastly moving Kupp up the depth chart. Since both Woods and newly-acquired Brandin Cooks are both deep threats, defenses will be forced to play back, letting Kupp continue doing damage from the slot.