This NFL season, several players have risen up to become stars for their teams despite not being predicted to be anything more than small part players heading into the campaign. Without their breakout performances, their teams would be in much worse shape than they are now. Here are the three most surprising NFL stars through Week 5 of the NFL season.
It doesn’t matter if you are a hardcore NFL fan, or merely a casual one. Chances are you had not heard of Gary Barnidge of the Cleveland Browns heading into this season, and that would be understandable given that his highest catch total in a season prior to this year was 13. Well, Barnidge has turned that around in a Cleveland offense that needs him to remain relevant in the AFC North.
Gary Barnidge has 24 catches through five weeks this season, and three touchdowns. Two of those touchdowns came on unbelievable circus catches, the likes of which not only scored his team points but also energized his team.
More importantly, though, Barnidge is a vital safety net for Browns quarterbacks Josh McCown and Johnny Manziel, neither of which are very good and need reliable underneath options while attempting to make their inconsistent deep passes work effectively. If Barnidge can continue to provide that safety net for his quarterbacks, the Cleveland Browns’ offense will continue to thrive.
Devonta Freeman wasn’t even supposed to be the first option at running back for the Atlanta Falcons this season. Atlanta was a big believer in Tevin Coleman, who looked to be the featured back for the team coming out of the preseason. But a rib injury to Coleman has opened the door for Freeman, who has run through that door along with several defenders on his way to the end zone for one of the best teams in the NFL.
Freeman is on pace for over 1,000 yards rushing and 20 touchdowns this year and is one of the main reasons his Atlanta Falcons sit atop the NFC South with an undefeated 5-0 record. His ability to break tackles at the line of scrimmage has allowed him to use his speed at the next level of the defense to break long runs and be a weapon out of the backfield, which defenses will need to learn to stop before Tevin Coleman gets another chance to shine.
It’s no surprise that DeAndre Hopkins is producing at a high level in the NFL. What is surprising, though, is that he is doing so on a Houston Texans team with no production at quarterback. Hopkins is leading the league in receiving yards with 578 yards through five weeks, despite Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett taking turns sabotaging the Houston Texans’ offense with terrible throws.
Hopkins is one of the players that you certainly feel sorry for this season, as his considerable talents are being wasted alongside a truly lackluster franchise that is going to fail to live up to its preseason expectations yet again this season.
Written by: Michael J. Sanin