After winning 17 games over the past two seasons, one division title, hosting a playoff game in 2015 and narrowly missing a Wild Card spot in 2016, the case can be made that the Redskins' future appears bright. Some new, purely anecdotal, evidence backs that up.
The NFLPA put out it's Rising 50 list – an inexact look at what players will see a sizable rise in popularity – and four Redskins players made the list. Allow the NFLPA to explain the list: "The annual list identifies players poised to break out and rank among next season’s top-sellers of all officially licensed merchandise – and ultimately become the NFLPA’s next retail kings."
Josh Norman landed highest of the Redskins on the list at 11th. In 2016, Norman made plenty of headlines but only three interceptions. He was the NFL's highest flagged cornerback, but also played at a high level. While he came down with only three INTs in 16 games, he got to a ton of passes, and notched 19 passes defensed. Simply, he was the Redskins' best defender last season.
After Norman came Jordan Reed at 18th. In eight starts in 2016, Reed grabbed 66 catches for 686 yards and six touchdowns. Injuries appear to be the only thing that can slow Reed, as defenses cannot handle his size combined with elite athleticism and superb route running ability.
Plenty of people expect a breakout season for Redskins free agent addition WR Terrelle Pryor. The NFLPA is no different, and Pryor ranked 27th on the list. Last year with a collection of bad quarterbacks in Cleveland, Pryor caught 77 balls for just over 1,000 yards. This season, with Kirk Cousins very comfortable in Jay Gruden's offense, Pryor's stats could increase by 15 percent or more.
Washington may have struggled in the run game last year, but then rookie Robert Kelley was a breakthrough performer. The NFLPA expects more success from Kelley as he took the 41st spot on the Rising 50 list. Kelley will see competition early, as the Redskins drafted Samaje Perine in the fourth round this offseason, but with his quick feet and excellent vision the second-year pro out of Tulane could certainly see his popularity grow in the Washington offense.
The NFLPA Rising 50 list is not foolproof. In 2016, the list ranked Kirk Cousins second overall. That prediction paid off, as Cousins popularity soared as he threw for nearly 5,000 yards and guided the Redskins to the brink of the playoffs.
Further down the list came a miss, as Matt Jones ranked 35th. Reed also made the 2016 list, landing 24th.
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