One NFL player at each position who will have a breakout season in 2020
Lions tight end T.J. Hockenson (88) could emerge in 2020. Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today Images

One NFL player at each position who will have a breakout season in 2020

With so much attention going to the NFL draft every year, it's often assumed that the best way for a team to improve is through its rookies, who certainly can help to improve teams. But the most individual development is often seen in players entering their second and third seasons, who, unlike rookies, know their expectations at the professional level and are ready to flourish.

So for this list, rookies didn't qualify nor did players 30 and older or who have already earned a Pro Bowl bid. Now knowing our qualifications, without further ado, here is a player at each position who will have a breakout 2020:

 
1 of 10

Quarterback: Drew Lock, Denver Broncos

Quarterback: Drew Lock, Denver Broncos
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After suffering a thumb injury during the preseason, the 2019 second-round pick missed the first two months of last year. When he returned, he played well. Lock led the Broncos to a 4-1 record with a 64.1 completion percentage, seven touchdowns and three interceptions. Without him at quarterback, the Broncos scored more than 20 points three times in 11 games. With Lock behind center, the Broncos reached the the 21-point plateau also on three occasions but in five contests, and that was with limited weapons. Lock could take a big step forward in a full season with the help of top-picked wide receivers Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler along with budding star tight end Noah Fant.

 
2 of 10

Running back: Devin Singletary, Buffalo Bills

Running back: Devin Singletary, Buffalo Bills
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The 22-year-old back already had a pretty special rookie season with 775 rushing yards while averaging 5.1 yards per carry, but the stars are aligning for him to experience an even bigger second year. The Bills didn't re-sign veteran Frank Gore, who had more carriers but not as many yards as Singletary. If healthy, Singletary should receive more than 200 rushing attempts this season, which means even with a dip in his yards per carry average, he will eclipse 1,000 rushing yards. Adding Stefon Diggs on the outside should only help, especially with quarterback Josh Allen's big arm. 

 
3 of 10

Wide receiver: Christian Kirk, Arizona Cardinals

Wide receiver: Christian Kirk, Arizona Cardinals
Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

The wide receiver room is pretty crowded in Arizona, especially with the arrival of DeAndre Hopkins from Houston, but that should mean only good things for Kirk. Hopkins will draw double coverage from opposing defenses, opening things up for the Cardinals No. 2 receiver. Larry Fitzgerald is still on the roster, but he's been playing a lot more in the slot in recent years. If quarterback Kyler Murray continues to develop and Kliff Kingsbury keeps calling a lot of passes, 1,000 receiving yards isn't out of the question for Kirk.

 
4 of 10

Tight end: T.J. Hockenson, Detroit Lions

Tight end: T.J. Hockenson, Detroit Lions
Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

The first-round pick a year ago disappointed as a rookie, but that was mostly because of injury. In his first game, Hockenson set a tight end record with 131 receiving yards and a touchdown during a tie against the Cardinals. He suffered a concussion in Week 4 and while he returned two weeks later, Hockenson wasn't the same. He posted just 236 receiving yards after Week 1. The former is the type of production the Lions expect most the time from Hockenson. He has the talent for major improvements this season, and it would obviously help if starting quarterback Matthew Stafford stayed on the field too.

 
5 of 10

Offensive line: Chris Lindstrom, Atlanta Falcons

Offensive line: Chris Lindstrom, Atlanta Falcons
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As one can clearly see, rookies returning from injury is a major theme to this list. The Falcons made Lindstrom the top-drafted guard in 2019, but after a foot injury in Week 1, he missed three months. Lindstrom returned in December and played every offensive snap for the Falcons in their final three games. He has Pro Bowl and even All-Pro potential in the coming years.

 
6 of 10

Defensive end: Brian Burns, Carolina Panthers

Defensive end: Brian Burns, Carolina Panthers
Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

After going two picks after Lindstrom in 2019, Burns turned in a solid rookie season as a pass rushing specialist. He posted just 25 combined tackles, but he also recorded 7.5 sacks, 5.0 tackles for loss and 16 quarterback hits. The Panthers had arguably their worst defense in team history last year, but they dedicated all seven of their 2020 draft picks to that side of the ball. In the first two rounds, they selected former Auburn defensive tackle Derrick Brown and ex-Penn State defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos. With their arrival, Burns should have even more of an opportunity to get to the opposing quarterback.

 
7 of 10

Defensive tackle: Quinnen Williams, New York Jets

Defensive tackle: Quinnen Williams, New York Jets
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Williams suffered an ankle injury in his NFL debut and missed the next two games. He also sat out a contest in December. But after a slow start, Williams recorded 12 combined tackles, 2.0 sacks, 3.0 tackles for loss and five quarterback hits in the final eight games. As a former top-five draft pick, his expectations are sky high, and he has the talent to reach those lofty goals starting in 2020.

 
8 of 10

Linebacker: Devin White, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Linebacker: Devin White, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

In September, White suffered a sprained MCL, which caused him to miss three games, but he returned in October and dazzled in the second half of the season. In the final eight games, White posted 56 combined tackles, 2.0 sacks, 3.0 tackles for loss, three quarterback hits and an interception. That doesn't even include his performance against Seattle, which was just before the halfway mark of the season when he posted 12 combined tackles and 0.5 sacks. White is every bit the playmaking linebacker the Buccaneers drafted at No. 5 a year ago. If healthy, he's ready to become Tampa Bay's best defensive player in 2020.

 
9 of 10

Cornerback: Mike Hughes, Minnesota Vikings

Cornerback: Mike Hughes, Minnesota Vikings
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

The 2018 first-round pick has already strung together two solid NFL seasons, but that was as a nickel back. Hughes started just five games in his first two seasons, but he'll be counted on as Minnesota's top cornerback this year with the departures of both Xavier Rhodes and Trae Waynes. Hughes posted 45 combined tackles, including 39 solos, and nine pass defenses last year. He has a real opportunity to flourish with more playing time.

 
10 of 10

Safety: Justin Reid, Houston Texans

Safety: Justin Reid, Houston Texans
Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Reid and Singletary are the only players to make this list drafted after the second round. Reid has been a good defender in two seasons with the Texans, posting an average of 83 total tackles per year and five total interceptions. He didn't make as many tackles down the stretch, but Reid improved in pass defense last November and December. He recorded both of his interceptions and all five of his pass defenses in the last eight games of 2019.

Dave Holcomb began working as a sports writer in 2013 after graduating from Syracuse University. Over the past six years, he has covered the NFL, NHL, MLB, fantasy sports, college football and basketball, and New Jersey high school sports for numerous print and online publications. Follow Holcomb on Twitter at @dmholcomb.

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