The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be relying on second-year players to fulfill key roles this season. Most of the team’s edge rush will have to come from former second-rounder Noah Spence, while Vernon Hargreaves will start at cornerback. And then there’s Roberto Aguayo, who may or may not hold on to his kicking job this year.
That reliance on second-year playersmakes one think of a very specific NFL story: the dreaded sophomore slump, the bane of all hyped-up second-year players. Be afraid, the myth says.
But SB Nation’s Jeanna Thomas notes that second-year performance depends on so many things that speaking of a generic second-year slump based on a few dubious, prominent examples is silly. I tend to agree.
Second-year performance depends on the player’s preparedness and ability to stay healthy, as well as the play of the other 10 guys on the field and the way opponents adjust. With all of those variables, it’s impossible to predict if last year’s top rookies will take a step back in 2017. But if their numbers do dip, it doesn’t mean they deserve the cliched “sophomore slump” label, either.
It’s not just that, it’s that there’s really very little evidence for a sophomore slump anyway. The one position we have the best view of statistically is quarterback, and while perform more poorly in their second seasons than in their first, it turns out that overall, quarterbacks are better as sophomores than as rookies. There’s no real reason to believe that finding won’t hold for other positions.
Of course, all that tells us is that we should expect last year’s rookies to be better this year than they were last season on average. We can’t predict exactly what will happen, but it’s at least a valid reason to be optimistic about Vernon Hargreaves, Noah Spence and even Roberto Aguayo.