The biggest boom or bust players for every NFL team in 2021

For the 2021 NFL season, there are many players whose expected performance have a high scale of variability. These boom or bust players could be difference-makers — either positively or negatively — based on how they play this season.


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The Cardinals let Kenyan Drake walk in free agency and will now turn to Edmonds as their running back. The fourth-year back had a career-high 150 touches last season, and there are questions about his ability to handle a full workload. Arizona is counting on Edmonds to handle the workload for the offense to reach its potential.


Atlanta Falcons: Kyle Pitts, TE

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There couldn’t be more pressure on Pitts, as the fourth overall draft choice and now effectively replacing Julio Jones in the Falcons offense. He had a terrific college career at Florida but has a tall task for a rookie.


Baltimore Ravens: Sammy Watkins, WR

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Watkins was a star early in his career with Buffalo, but he’s struggled to stay healthy since reaching 1,000 yards receiving in 2015. Baltimore added the veteran at a major position of need, with the hope that he will take the offense to another level. He has the potential to be the team’s No. 1 wideout but will have to stay on the field.


Buffalo Bills: Gabriel Davis, WR

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The Bills moved on from John Brown due in part to the emergence of Davis last year in his rookie season. Davis showed great flashes with 599 yards and seven touchdowns and is set for a bigger role this year opposite Stefon Diggs. The pressure will be on him as Josh Allen tries to prove his breakout season wasn’t a fluke.


Carolina Panthers: Sam Darnold, QB

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Darnold had a disappointing three seasons with the Jets, but the Panthers apparently believe he can be their answer at quarterback. A better supporting cast and coaching could push Darnold to the next level, but this might be his last chance as a starter if he fails.


Chicago Bears: Justin Fields, QB

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Bears fans were dancing in the streets when the team selected Fields in the draft. He will compete with veteran Andy Dalton in training camp, and seems likely to start more games than Dalton this season even if he doesn’t win the starting quarterback job to start the year. After the recent string of disappointing quarterback play in Chicago, Fields will have a lot of pressure as a rookie.


Cincinnati Bengals: Ja'Marr Chase, WR

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Chase sat out last season at LSU after a terrific 2019 season and rejoins former college teammate Joe Burrow as a pro. Cincinnati inadvertently put pressure on Chase by taking ahead instead of offensive lineman Penei Sewell, going for flash over need. Chase has the potential to make the team look smart with a big rookie season.


Cleveland Browns: Jadeveon Clowney, DE

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A three-time Pro Bowler in Houston, Clowney is now with his fourth team in four years and is coming off back-to-back disappointing years. The Browns don’t need much from Clowney with star defensive end Myles Garrett on the opposite side, but there will be pressure for Clowney to prove that he has something left after failing to record a sack in eight games last season.


Dallas Cowboys: Trevon Diggs, CB

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Diggs’ play was shaky in his rookie season, though he did make progress as he gained experience. The Dallas defense was still terrible last year and has lost cornerback depth in the offseason. With a new coordinator, the pressure will be on Diggs to deliver marked improvement.


Denver Broncos: Jerry Jeudy, WR

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Jeudy stepped in as Denver’s No. 1 receiver in his rookie season after Courtland Sutton was injured. The first-round pick looked great at times, but he also looked like a rookie with 10 drops and numerous other mishaps. Denver’s passing attack could determine how far they go this season, and Jeudy will be a big part.


Detroit Lions: Jared Goff, QB

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Goff’s play fell off over the last two seasons with the Rams, to the point that the team had enough after last year. He gets a new start in Detroit, but that will be a tough situation with a new coaching staff and limited receiving talent. Goff is out to prove that he wasn’t just a product of Sean McVay‘s coaching.


Green Bay Packers: Preston Smith, OLB

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After a great first season in Green Bay, recording 12 sacks in 2019, Smith struggled last year. The Packers defense is counting on Smith to rebound with what has been inconsistent career production.


Houston Texans: Shaq Lawson, OLB

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The Texans moved on from J.J. Watt in the offseason, and Lawson is one of the players they’re counting on to replace him. After recording 6.5 sacks with the Bills in 2019, Lawson’s production fell in Miami last year, but he will get ample snaps to prove he can rebound.


Indianapolis Colts: Carson Wentz, QB

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Wentz had a great start to his career but was nearly run out of Philadelphia after a terrible 2020 season. Indianapolis is counting on Wentz to replace Philip Rivers, but he already had a slip up in training camp with a foot injury that could cause him to miss the start of the season. The Colts season is likely riding on Wentz getting healthy and regaining his early-career level of play.


Jacksonville Jaguars: Trevor Lawrence, QB

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The Jaguars selected Lawrence with the first overall pick in the draft, putting huge pressure on the former Clemson star. He does have a lot of talent around him at the skill positions, and there’s nowhere to go but up for Jacksonville. Still, Lawrence faces a huge challenge in his rookie campaign.


Kansas City Chiefs: Mecole Hardman, WR

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Hardman has flashed great speed but overall been a disappointment for the Chiefs in his first two seasons. Now just a complementary piece behind Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce, Hardman has created some buzz during the offseason with a hope of a breakout year ahead after the Chiefs moved on from Sammy Watkins.


Las Vegas Raiders: Clelin Ferrell, DE

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The Raiders were criticized for taking Ferrell fourth overall in the 2019 draft when he wasn’t projected to be drafted until later, and he’s failed to progress in two seasons with a total of 6.5 sacks. The addition of Yannick Ngakoue could come at the expense of Ferrell’s snaps if he doesn’t show immediate improvement.


Los Angeles Chargers: Derwin James, S

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James looked like a star from the day he arrived in the NFL in 2018, but he’s played a total of five games over the last two seasons due to injury. The Chargers have high hopes with the development of Justin Herbert at quarterback but need James to stay healthy.


Los Angeles Rams: Darrell Henderson, RB

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The Rams are already facing a tough situation at running back after losing Cam Akers to a season-ending injury just before training camp. Henderson looked capable last year, but there are questions about his ability to handle a full workload. With inexperienced depth behind Henderson, the team is counting on him to perform.


Miami Dolphins: Tua Tagovailoa, QB

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Tagovailoa was shaky when on the field during his rookie season, even getting benched for Ryan Fitzpatrick. The Dolphins allowed Fitzpatrick to walk in free agency, effectively making Tagovailoa their unquestioned starter. The team added wide receiver help in the offseason, but need Tagovailoa to make a big jump in his second year.


Minnesota Vikings: Danielle Hunter, DE

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Hunter’s importance to the Vikings’ defense was on full display last year, as he missed the season due to a back injury. Minnesota’s defense saw a huge decline without Hunter, but they’re hoping he won’t miss a beat with his return this season.


New England Patriots: Cam Newton, QB

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Newton enters the year as the incumbent starter in New England, but he has pressure with rookie Mac Jones behind him. The Pats hope to bounce back this year after a busy offseason, and this could be Newton’s last chance as a starter.


New Orleans Saints: Jameis Winston, QB

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The new quarterback in New Orleans has big shoes to fill following Drew Brees‘ retirement, whether it’s Winston or Taysom Hill. The job was made more difficult with the loss of Jared Cook and Michael Thomas’ ankle surgery that will cause him to miss the start of the season. Winston, a former No. 1 overall draft choice, has the pure talent to keep the Saints’ offense humming, but he must avoid the constant mistakes he made with Tampa Bay earlier in his career.


New York Giants: Daniel Jones, QB

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The Giants have surrounded Jones with a world of talent, adding Kenny Golladay, Kadarius Toney, and Kyle Rudolph in the offseason. Jones still needs to improve his play in his third season, particularly his issues with turnovers.


New York Jets: C.J. Mosley, MLB

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The Jets gave Mosley big money in 2019, but he was lost for the year after only two games and opted out of the 2020 season. The former Ravens star could have a big impact on the Jets run defense but has to prove that he hasn’t lost a step after the time away.


Philadelphia Eagles: Jalen Hurts, QB

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Philadelphia gave Hurts an opportunity to play late last season, and he’s the clear starter heading into 2021. That’s a risky proposition for a player who has shown inconsistency throwing, but Hurts’ dynamic ability could help add a new dimension to the Eagles’ offense.


Pittsburgh Steelers: Ben Roethlisberger, QB

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The Steelers offense declined late last season, with Roethlisberger struggling. With few alternatives, the team brought him back at age 39 with the hope that he has something left this year. Pittsburgh has lost significant talent on the offensive line, but are hopeful Big Ben can overcome it and lead the team to playoff success once more.


San Francisco 49ers: Javon Kinlaw, DT

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A first-round pick last year, Kinlaw effectively replaced superstar DeForest Buckner. His results were shaky in his first season, but the return of Nick Bosa should make Kinlaw’s job easier. If he’s able to improve, San Francisco’s defense could be elite again.


Seattle Seahawks: Jordyn Brooks, LB

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Seattle received criticism for selecting Brooks in the first round last year, and they’re now relying on him to replace K.J. Wright. He has huge shoes to fill as Seattle tries to improve its leaky defense.


Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Tom Brady, QB

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Brady won his seventh Super Bowl last year, but as he continues to do things that no other player has ever done in his mid-40’s, the questions about an age breakdown will remain. He enters his 22nd NFL season at age 44 with a great supporting cast, but Brady will make the Bucs sink or swim again.


Tennessee Titans: Caleb Farley, CB

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The Titans desperately needed to fix their cornerback issues, and have attempted to do with Janoris Jenkins and Farley. the 22nd overall pick in the draft, Farley will have pressure to step in immediately and be an impact player.


Washington Football Team: Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB

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Washington made the playoffs last year despite quarterback issues throughout the season. They hope Fitzpatrick can add stability after a good stint in Miami, but he’s a journeyman for a reason. Fitzpatrick has often struggled when teams have committed to him, and the task won’t be easier at age 38.

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