Players who leveled up for all 32 NFL teams in 2018 season

Madden NFL 19 predicts the Rams win Super Bowl LIII (0:59)

Madden NFL 19 simulation has the Rams defeating the Patriots 30-27 in Super Bowl LIII. (0:59)

Now that the 2018 season is complete for all but two teams, our NFL Nation reporters have identified a single player on the teams that they cover who raised his level of play from 2017 to 2018. That player could be someone who didn't play much and became a solid starter, or a good player who broke through to become great.

Scan through all 32 teams by division, or click here to jump ahead to your favorite team:


Buffalo Bills

Defensive end Shaq Lawson. The 2016 first-round pick looked to be a bust after he did not fit in former coach Rex Ryan's 3-4 scheme as a rookie and did not seem to be a culture fit for coach Sean McDermott in 2017. That changed in 2018; Pro Football Focus graded Lawson as the NFL's 20th-best edge rusher. GM Brandon Beane said Lawson's professionalism went up "leaps and bounds" in his third season. -- Mike Rodak

Miami Dolphins

Left tackle Laremy Tunsil. Tunsil made a significant jump from lackluster in 2017 to one of the most effective left tackles in 2018. Tunsil has always had the skill set, but he trimmed down on mental mistakes, penalties and technique issues. Quite simply, he played freely without overthinking. The 2016 first-round pick allowed just one sack in a Pro Bowl-caliber 2018 season, although he wasn't selected. "He's as good of a left tackle as I've ever been around," Dowell Loggains, the Dolphins' 2018 offensive coordinator, said late in the year. "That includes Joe Thomas, Michael Roos. Laremy is having a really good year." -- Cameron Wolfe

New England Patriots

Cornerback Stephon Gilmore. He went from good to great, which was reflected in him earning both a Pro Bowl berth and AP All-Pro honors. Gilmore's ability to play man coverage and match up against some of the best receivers in the game gave the Patriots' defense flexibility with its week-to-week game plans. Bill Belichick compared him to Ty Law and Aqib Talib as past Patriots cornerbacks who fall into that category. "I have a ton of respect for Stephon," Belichick said. "He's covered and played against a lot of guys in this league." -- Mike Reiss

New York Jets

Linebacker Jordan Jenkins. His playing time decreased, compared to 2017, but his production soared, especially as a pass-rusher. In 205 pass-rushing opportunities, per ESPN Stats & Information, he recorded a career-high seven sacks. In 2017, he had only three sacks in 286 pass rushes. Jenkins attributed his improvement to a better understanding of different moves and countermoves. His role will likely change for 2019, especially if the Jets switch to a 4-3 front under new coordinator Gregg Williams. -- Rich Cimini


Baltimore Ravens

Cornerback Marlon Humphrey. The 2017 first-round pick went from being a solid rookie to one of the top players on the NFL's top-ranked defense. According to Pro Football Focus, Humphrey's 52.5 percent catch rate allowed was the seventh best in the league this season, and his 22.5 percent forced incompletion rate was third best. "He's the best corner we have. He's playing to that level," Ravens defensive coordinator Wink Martindale said toward the end of the season. "I think he's just going to continue to grow the more he studies the tape, the more he studies himself, the more he studies the game plan -- which he's done all season." Next season, Humphrey has a chance to become Baltimore's first Pro Bowl cornerback since 2006. -- Jamison Hensley

Cincinnati Bengals

Wide receiver Tyler Boyd. Boyd struggled with maturity issues in 2017 and took a step back in his second season, even being demoted to a healthy scratch for one game. But he stepped up big time in the last game of that season and he has been running with that ever since, becoming one of the most reliable players on the team. He's the clear No. 2 pass-catcher behind A.J. Green going into the 2019 season. -- Katherine Terrell

Cleveland Browns

Defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi. Ogunjobi took major steps forward in 2018 after spending much of the offseason working with Bengals standout Geno Atkins. Ogunjobi was active against the run and pass, and he played the final few games with a torn biceps muscle in his left arm. Teams win with players like him. -- Pat McManamon

Pittsburgh Steelers

Running back James Conner. Not many NFL players made as sizable a jump as Conner, who went from struggling backup running back to Pro Bowler over the past 12 months. Conner had trouble with conditioning and blitz pickup during what he called a "humbling" rookie year. In 2018, though, he gave the Steelers a capable Le'Veon Bell replacement, with 973 rushing yards and 13 total touchdowns (12 rushing) over 13 games. Steelers teammates were impressed with Conner's professionalism and work ethic in his sophomore season. -- Jeremy Fowler


Houston Texans

Linebacker Zach Cunningham. Cunningham took a big step toward being a major part of the Texans' defense in his second season lining up alongside veteran Benardrick McKinney. "Having Zach Cunningham paired in there with B Mak [Benardrick McKinney], I think it really helps us," coach Bill O'Brien said after a 34-17 win over the Titans. Cunningham showed his natural ability to track down the football, leading to 107 tackles, 73 of which were solo stops. Cunningham also improved as a pass defender, delivering big plays such as his 38-yard interception return for a touchdown against the Browns. -- Turron Davenport

Indianapolis Colts

Right tackle Braden Smith. The Colts selected Smith as a guard out of Auburn in the second round of the 2018 draft. The staff had to convince general manager Chris Ballard that Smith could also play right tackle. Several injuries at the position forced the coaching staff to start Smith at right tackle in Week 5. He started there against New England and then became the permanent starter at that position. Smith helped the Colts give up an NFL-low 18 sacks this season. "Braden is like the best-kept secret in the NFL as far as I am concerned," coach Frank Reich said during the season. "Quenton [Nelson] has gotten a lot of attention, [but] Braden has played lights-out." -- Mike Wells

Jacksonville Jaguars

Wide receiver Dede Westbrook. He missed the first nine games of his rookie season because of a sports hernia, but caught 27 passes and scored one touchdown in the final seven. By the end of the 2018 season, he had become the Jaguars' top playmaker, leading the team in receptions (66), receiving yards (717) and receiving TDs (five). He also returned a punt for a TD. The Jaguars scored only four touchdowns in their final five games, and Westbrook had two of them. The feeling inside the building is Westbrook could have been a 1,000-yard receiver with consistent quarterback play and an average run game to draw defensive attention. -- Michael DiRocco

Tennessee Titans

Linebacker Jayon Brown. Brown went from a sub-package contributor to one of the best players on the defense. Defensive coordinator Dean Pees said Brown matured as the year went on. "Early on, I probably could have asked him questions and he might not have had an answer," Pees said. "Now he actually asks the questions." That's becoming a pro. Brown finished with 97 tackles, six sacks, two forced fumbles and an interception that he returned 22 yards for a touchdown. His overall production significantly increased from that of his rookie season. -- Turron Davenport


Denver Broncos

Defensive end Shelby Harris. Harris is a restricted free agent for the Broncos, and it's unclear at this point just what roles the team's new coaching staff sees for many of the Broncos' veteran players, Harris included. However, if the team keeps to the 3-4 scheme as expected under Vic Fangio, there will likely be a place for Harris. Former coach Vance Joseph and former defensive coordinator Joe Woods mentioned more than once over the past season how close Harris came to being released in his first offseason with the team -- in 2017. But Harris, who had been released six times by a combination of three different teams before he signed with the Broncos in January 2017, has since carved out a role as a versatile role player who makes the most of the snaps he receives. The Broncos have used him at defensive end and at nose tackle in some of their passing-down looks; he had a game-sealing interception in the end zone against the Steelers this past season on a play in which he lined up at nose tackle. He wants to be back with the Broncos, and he deserves a long look from the new staff. -- Jeff Legwold

Kansas City Chiefs

Running back Damien Williams. A career backup and third-stringer for the Chiefs until late in the season, Williams earned a contract extension and a place in the Chiefs' backfield in 2019 with a big finish to the season. He scored 10 touchdowns in the final six games. "We've appreciated having him here and what he's done for our football team," Andy Reid said. -- Adam Teicher

Los Angeles Chargers

Wide receiver Mike Williams. The Clemson product struggled through an injury-plagued rookie season. But after an offseason spent diligently working on his craft, Williams finished with 43 catches for 664 yards with 11 total touchdowns, establishing himself as a consistent playmaker for the Chargers. -- Eric D. Williams

Oakland Raiders

Running back Jalen Richard. Yes, the diminutive third-year back (he's just 5-feet-8, 205 pounds) was, at one point, the Raiders' MVP. So said coach Jon Gruden on Nov. 19. The undrafted playmaker from Southern Mississippi accounted for 866 yards of total offense in Gruden's system, which took advantage of Richard's pass-catching ability out of the backfield. In fact, Richard's 68 receptions, for 607 yards, were tied for the team lead with Pro Bowl tight end Jared Cook. Richard had 531 yards of total offense in 2017. -- Paul Gutierrez


Dallas Cowboys

Cornerback Byron Jones. When the Cowboys drafted him in the first round in 2015, they thought he could be a top corner or safety. He was a solid player in 2016 and 2017 as a safety, but after he made the move to cornerback in 2018, he flourished under Kris Richard's teaching and was named a Pro Bowler and a second-team All-Pro. Although he didn't have any interceptions, he was a lockdown CB for most of the season, filling a huge need for the Cowboys. -- Todd Archer

New York Giants

Defensive lineman Kerry Wynn. He has been a sort of forgotten man on the Giants' defensive line for several seasons. But he stepped up his game this season despite playing just 35 percent of the snaps. Wynn, an impending free agent, led the team with a pair of forced fumbles and was a force on a special-teams group that finished ranked third in Football Outsiders' special-teams rankings. "There is no way in hell this guy doesn't make us better," veteran Russell Shepard said after noting Wynn's propensity to take on two blockers on kickoffs. "He's a priority if I'm a front-office guy." -- Jordan Raanan

Philadelphia Eagles

Tight end Zach Ertz. He had not only a career year, but one of the best statistical seasons ever at his position. Ertz set a new NFL record for single-season receptions by a tight end (116). He posted 1,163 receiving yards, besting his previous high by more than 300 yards. -- Tim McManus

Washington Redskins

Defensive end Matt Ioannidis. He has gone from a fifth-round pick who was assigned to the practice squad in 2016 to a pivotal starter in 2018. Ioannidis flashed his potential in 2017, but playing with a broken hand limited his improvement. Still, he finished with 4.5 sacks and three tackles for a loss. But this season, Ioannidis posted 7.5 sacks and six tackles for a loss. "He was strong when he got here, but I think he's got more muscle mass, more power and more confidence in the system," Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. "He plays with great effort, great motor. We knew that when we drafted him what type of guy he was, and he's doing a heck of a job with his opportunity." -- John Keim


Chicago Bears

Cornerback Kyle Fuller. The 14th overall pick of the 2014 NFL draft, Fuller signed a big deal ($18 million guaranteed) last offseason to remain in Chicago, but his true breakout year occurred in 2018. Fuller led the Bears with seven interceptions and made the Pro Bowl as Chicago reached the playoffs for the first time since 2010. -- Jeff Dickerson

Detroit Lions

Defensive end Romeo Okwara. A waiver-wire pickup by the Lions just before the start of the regular season, Okwara went from Giants castoff to valuable piece of the Lions' front seven. After one sack in 22 games with the Giants, he had 7.5 this season in Detroit, along with 14 hits and 39 tackles (both career highs). He was one of the Lions' few pass-rushers who could create havoc on his own. He could be in line for a payday from Detroit this offseason because he's a restricted free agent. -- Michael Rothstein

Green Bay Packers

Linebacker Kyler Fackrell. Five combined sacks in his first two NFL seasons left many ready to put the third-round pick into the bust category until he broke out with a team-leading 10.5 sacks in 2018. Most probably would have scoffed had they known Fackrell listed double-digit sacks as one of his goals for this past season. "That's what goals are supposed to do, is to kind of push you along, right?" Fackrell said after the season. "So that is something that I enjoy, pass rushing. It's something that I love to do, and I believe I have the ability to be a great pass-rusher. That's kind of the benchmark. There was a lot of factors that could have held me back, playing time and all that, but I was fortunate that it was able to work out where I played enough." With Clay Matthews at the end of his contract and Nick Perry a potential candidate to be released, Fackrell could end up being the leader of the edge-rushing group next season. -- Rob Demovsky

Minnesota Vikings

Cornerback Mackensie Alexander. Alexander admittedly got out of his own way this season and stopped fighting the idea of playing in the slot after so many years of collegiate success as a physical outside cornerback. After dealing with injuries in the preseason, Alexander took hold of his role from Week 2 onward and showed strong signs of improvement, allowing 40 catches on 59 balls thrown in his direction (and 9.6 yards per catch). Alexander's instinctual, heads-up play allowed him to break up eight passes and be a key part of the Vikings' third-down blitz package (on which he contributed four sacks). The young corner shined brightest late in the season; in six of the Vikings' last seven games, Alexander allowed 10 or fewer passing yards while playing at least half of the defensive snaps in each game, per Pro Football Focus. -- Courtney Cronin


Atlanta Falcons

Tight end Austin Hooper. There's no question Hooper made a significant leap this season, which is one reason he was named to his first Pro Bowl. Hooper evolved into a reliable threat for Matt Ryan in 2018, catching 71 passes for 660 yards and four touchdowns while being targeted 87 times, second-most behind Julio Jones (170). And expect Hooper to continue his ascent with Dirk Koetter now his offensive coordinator and Mike Mularkey his position coach. -- Vaughn McClure

Carolina Panthers

Wide receiver Curtis Samuel. The 2017 second-round pick struggled with injuries as a rookie, catching only 15 passes for 115 yards and no touchdowns. But with the Panthers going to a more high-efficiency passing attack and adding more speed, Samuel made a huge jump. He caught 39 passes for 494 yards and five touchdowns. He also rushed for two touchdowns. He and 2018 first-round pick DJ Moore became the focal point of the offense among wide receivers. -- David Newton

New Orleans Saints

Defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins. His torn Achilles tendon in the Saints' playoff opener was especially disappointing because this was a breakout year for the 12th pick in the 2016 draft. The athletic, 6-foot-2, 305-pounder was a huge reason the Saints ranked second in the NFL in run defense this year. And he was also effective as a pass-rusher, with eight sacks, 15 quarterback hits and a forced fumble. -- Mike Triplett

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Wide receiver Chris Godwin. Despite splitting time with DeSean Jackson and starting just five games, Godwin jumped from 525 receiving yards and one touchdown his rookie season in 2017 to 842 yards and seven touchdowns his sophomore season in 2018. He also nearly doubled his catch total, going from 34 to 59. Despite having a rough two-game stretch against the Saints and Ravens late in the season, Godwin roared back with a 114-yard, two-TD performance in Week 17 against the Cowboys. In all, he proved that he is ready to be the No. 2 receiver opposite Mike Evans. "I think it was good for me to to just [get] back on track," Godwin said. "I had those two games where I didn't feel like I played up to my standard, probably two of the worst games of my career. And they happen. I had to realize that I wasn't the only one who was going through that or has gone through that, and I won't be the last. Getting back on track was good for me and good for my confidence heading into the offseason. ... I think the one thing that I really want to improve on is consistency, in everything I do, not just catching the ball but run blocking, just trying to be as dependable as I can so that the team knows they can rely on me." -- Jenna Laine


Arizona Cardinals

Defensive end Benson Mayowa. He was coming off a 2017 season in which he had just one sack with the Cowboys. He flourished with the Cardinals, finishing with four sacks (the second most of his career) and a career-high 38 tackles. He found a regular spot in the rotation, as Markus Golden came on slow in his return from an ACL injury. Mayowa was consistent. He particularly shined in a Week 2 loss to the Rams in which he had two sacks. -- Josh Weinfuss

Los Angeles Rams

Safety John Johnson III. As a rookie in 2017, Johnson was promoted to starter after four games and finished the season with 75 tackles, an interception and 11 pass deflections, a solid performance for the third-round pick from Boston College. This season, Johnson took a considerable step forward as he proved he could be a force deep in the secondary or in the box. In the regular season, Johnson had a team-best four interceptions, ranked second in tackles with 119 and deflected 11 passes. -- Lindsey Thiry

San Francisco 49ers

Wide receiver Kendrick Bourne. Yes, George Kittle is the obvious answer here, but let's throw a little love in a different direction. The 49ers had a bunch of injuries at wideout, creating more opportunities for Bourne. He looked like he belonged, finishing with 42 catches for 487 yards, both team highs among receivers, and four touchdowns. The 2017 undrafted free agent might not have solidified a starting spot moving forward, but he proved he can contribute at the NFL level. -- Nick Wagoner

Seattle Seahawks

Defensive tackle Jarran Reed. Known more for his run-stuffing skills, Reed combined for only five sacks over his two seasons at Alabama and his first two in the NFL. So it was perhaps the biggest and best surprise of the Seahawks' 2018 season when Reed exploded for 10.5 sacks, the fourth-most by any player lined up as a defensive tackle. "He's built himself into an all-around, three-down player," Seahawks defensive line coach Clint Hurtt said, "which is exciting for him and us." The 24.5 combined sacks for Reed and Frank Clark were the third-most by a pair of Seahawks in the same season, and they give Seattle an effective pass-rush despite the losses of Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril and Sheldon Richardson. -- Brady Henderson