2. Keenan Allen, Wide Receiver
The 26-year old wideout is notorious for being plagued with the injury bug throughout his career. However, last season was his first 16-game campaign since entering the NFL in 2013 and it was definitively his greatest. Allen proved in 2017 that if he can remain on the gridiron for a full season, he can evolve into one of the NFL’s upper-echelon pass-catchers.
Rivers’ premier receiver recorded 1,393 receiving yards and six touchdowns off 102 catches last season. His yardage numbers were third-highest in the league in 2017, placing right behind Julio Jones of the Atlanta Falcons (1,444 yards) and Pittsburgh Steelers superstar Antonio Brown (1,533). The latter-two are arguably the best wide receivers in the NFL, a debate highly discussed in recent years.
To produce at the level of Brown and Jones is impressive, but surpassing some of the league’s finest receivers in the yardage department is flat out remarkable. In 2017, Allen had more receiving yards than the likes of DeAndre Hopkins, A.J. Green and Mike Evans, all considered elite talents at the position. But what possibly makes Allen’s production even more splendid is his lack of playing time over the last two seasons.
This is where his aforementioned issues with the injury bug come to fruition. Prior to last season, the former second-round draft pick appeared in only nine games in the previous two seasons combined. His 2016 season saw him play just one half of football, as Allen tore his ACL during their Week 1 affair with the Kansas City Chiefs. The former California Golden Bear had a stellar 2015 campaign cut in half due to a lacerated kidney suffered in their week eight tilt with the Baltimore Ravens.
Allen was on pace for a statline of 134 catches, 1,450 receiving yards and eight touchdowns if he appeared in all 16 games that season.
Staying healthy must be a priority for Allen in 2018 because if he remains injury-free this coming season, expect an output hovering around the 1,400-1,500-yard range. His skills as a crisp route-runner, reliable hands, ankle-breaking footwork and superb speed make him a phenomenal weapon for Rivers. Do not be surprised to hear him in the conversation of top-five wide receiver in the NFL by season’s end.