Sure, it's impressive when rookies take the NFL by storm, but many players take a little time to blossom into solid contributors. Sometimes players need a year to adjust to the pro game before they can start making strides. So, while 2013 rookies Eddie Lacy and Sheldon Richardson excelled right away, we're not talking about players like them here. We're more interested in those guys who can step out of the shadows and make a name for themselves in their sophomore season. Here's a look at 10 second-year standouts for 2014. -- Sid Saraf
Robert Woods: WR, Bills
Woods was just starting to develop a rapport with Bills quarterback EJ Manuel when the latter was put on the shelf for several weeks with an injury. Buffalo's QB situation was a mess throughout 2013, but this is a new year. Manuel has the keys to the offense in 2014 and last year's "marquee" receiver Stevie Johnson is now in San Francisco. The Bills brought in super rookie Sammy Watkins with their first-round pick, added Mike Williams in free agency and plan to use Woods in the slot. Head coach Doug Marrone expects RW to be "very successful," at the position, so it's time for Woods to prove him right.
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Andre Ellington: RB, Cardinals
The man came to the desert via a sixth-round pick in 2013, but he raised eyebrows with his play as a rookie, averaging 5.5 yards per carry in limited action. Well, the reins will be taken off the young man in 2014 as head coach Bruce Arians has said that Ellington will get 20-25 touches per game. We're talking running between the tackles and catching the ball out of the backfield. "It's easy to hand it to him, but throwing it to him is where he's really dynamic," Arians said. Will his body be able to hold up to that kind of punishment? That remains to be seen, but expectations are sky-high.
Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY SportJennifer Stewart
Geno Smith: QB, Jets
Sure, Smith was the lowest-rated passer in the NFL last season. But that was with a moth-eaten offensive line and with almost no weapons to speak of. One offseason has changed all that. Gang Green brought in wide receiver Eric Decker (who is already developing a rapport with Geno) and running back Chris Johnson via free agency and drafted uber-talented tight end Jace Amaro. "I see growth in him. He's slowly becoming a leader," said receiver Jeremy Kerley to the New York Daily News. There're a chance that Smith could take a huge leap forward in 2014 if he continues to smooth out the rough edges in his game.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY SportsKirby Lee
Johnathan Cyprien: CB, Jaguars
Most people probably didn't notice, but the Jaguars went 4-4 over the second half of their schedule after being winless through their first eight games. Part of the reason was that several young players like Cyprien started adjusting to the pro game and began doing some good things. He finished second on the team in 2013 with 104 tackles, improved in pass coverage over his final eight games and began to become a team leader. In 2014, all eyes are on the youngster and he's taking the burden placed on his shoulders seriously. "The ceiling can be so high, but you just keep pushing and keep climbing for it no matter how high you are." We'll be watching.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY SportsKirby Lee
Montee Ball: RB, Broncos
Ball was part of a three-headed monster in Denver's backfield last season. But, Knowshon Moreno is now gone and the Broncos will lean on Ball to carry the load in 2014. What's more, he's already proving up to the challenge, despite being such a young player. "We look at Montee as one of our veterans," head coach John Fox said to the Denver Post. "We know he doesn't have eight years in. But in what we do, it takes a very bright guy to do it." Ball proved during his college years that he can handle the pounding of being the featured back and now it's time for him to prove it at the NFL level. This could be an explosive season.
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY SportsMatthew Emmons
DeAndre Hopkins: WR, Texans
The Texans QB situation might be less-than-ideal at the moment, but let's get beyond that. Andre Johnson -- the unquestioned No. 1 receiver in Houston for the last several years -- could be traded before the season starts. If and when that happens, Hopkins will become the top guy. And let's take a second to analyze that. New head coach Bill O'Brien is known for putting together dynamic offenses. In fact, in 2013 at Penn State, the team's top target, wide receiver Allen Robinson, had 97 catches for 1,432 yards. Hopkins has had some problems picking up O'Brien's system and is "nowhere close to where I want to be," there's no reason to think he won't do great things in the fall.
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY SportsTroy Taormina
Zach Ertz: TE, Eagles
There are weapons all over the field in Philadelphia. Ertz presents a big target, standing 6-5 and possessing soft hands and a nose for the football. His play picked up over the last half of 2013, as he caught 22 of his 36 passes and all four of his TD grabs in the final eight games of the season. Ertz has made improving his blocking a priority and we expect to see head coach Chip Kelly line the big tight end in several different spots in 2014. He presents a matchup nightmare for defenses and should continue to grow into a major contributor for the Eagles.
Howard Smith-USA TODAY SportsHoward Smith
T.J. McDonald: S, Rams
Rams defensive coordinator Gregg Williams loves big, athletic safeties. McDonald fits that to the letter as he stepped into a starting role as a rookie. But his 2013 was marred by a fractured right leg and he was only able to play in 10 games. Now, it's time for him to take the next step and McDonald is ready to do what safeties in a Willams defense excel at -- play in the box, blitz and make plays all over the field. "He understands, he's in great shape right now. Gregg's going to be able to do a lot of things with him on defense," head coach Jeff Fisher said to ESPN. And with the strong front seven the Rams have, McDonald will be afforded the freedom to be a terror in the secondary and up front.
Jeff Curry-USA TODAY SportsJeff Curry
Jamie Collins: LB, Patriots
Collins didn't make much of an impact during the 2013 regular season as he appeared in all 16 games, but played a small amount of snaps. But injuries forced him into a larger role in the playoffs and he took advantage, coming up with six tackles and a sack in the Patriots' divisional win over the Colts. Collins is now in line to win a starting job as the team let Brandon Spikes and Dane Fletcher walk during the offseason. The Patriots are counting on Collins developing into a three-down linebacker and there's no reason to think he can't live up to that.
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Jordan Reed: TE, Redskins
Reed was making a name for himself during his rookie season before a concussion cut things short. But, with the Shanahan regime out and Jay Gruden now the head coach, Reed could be a key cog in the Redskins' offense this season. Gruden has already pegged him as "one of the more talented young tight ends in the league," and a "guy that is very much needed." His size (6-3, 236 pounds) and speed (4.7 in the 40) present problems for any defense trying to match up with him. What's more, the new weapons in the Redskins offense (DeSean Jackson and Andre Roberts) will allow Reed to find open pockets and be a big target for Robert Griffin III. Gruden's offense is dictated on speed and using screens to get the ball into playmakers' hands. This kid is due for great things.