Five NFL superstars who will fade in 2020

Making it to the NFL is an unbelievable accomplishment for any athlete. Only a select few can reach the highest level, and only a handful of players reach stardom. 

© Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins lost a key target in Stefon Diggs.

Sadly, as more players will learn during the 2020 NFL season, the title of superstar only lasts  for so long.

The crash from NFL stardom can happen just as quickly as the ascent. Often age catches up to a player after more than a decade of hits leads to declining physical skills. Other times, players who could once excel despite a weak supporting cast around them suddenly can no longer achieve that level of greatness.

A new wave of superstars is coming this season, but it will mark the end for several of the NFL’s greats. 

Here are five superstars who will fade this upcoming season.

Kirk Cousins, quarterback, Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings made another huge commitment to Cousins this offseason with a massive extension. The good news is that the deal created cap space for the cash-strapped Vikings and only keeps Cousins in Minnesota through 2022. 

On the other hand, the Vikings just took away a go-to target by trading Stefon Diggs and things seem to be getting even worse for this offense.

Cousins, 31, is simply not going to keep playing at a high level with a shaky offensive line and an iffy supporting cast. Losing Diggs and the impact of his big-play ability, especially on play-action passes, will significantly hurt Cousins. Plus, running back Dalvin Cook is planning to hold out this season unless he gets a big extension. Given everything that is going on with the Vikings’ offense, we expect  Cousins’ stats to take a significant hit.

Eagles tight end Zach Ertz has been a playmaker in Philly for seven seasons.

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Eagles tight end Zach Ertz has been a playmaker in Philly for seven seasons.

Zach Ertz, tight end, Philadelphia Eagles

Ertz’s ability to play through pain is incredible. When the Eagles have needed him most, and Philadelphia’s fans are screaming for the big play, the 29-year-old Ertz always delivers. He’ll likely be with the organization for years to come, assuming they get an extension done, which should make everyone happy. 

All that said, Ertz’s run as one of the game’s elites might end this season.

Simply put, the presence of Dallas Goedert is what will lead to Ertz starting to fade in 2020. The 25-year-old Goedert proved last season he can be one of the NFL’s best weapons at tight end and he should have an even bigger role this season in Philly. As a result, Ertz will see fewer targets and his contributions will slowly be diminished.

a group of people playing football on a field: Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette has a career average of 4 yards per carry.

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Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette has a career average of 4 yards per carry.

Leonard Fournette, running back, Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars desperately tried to trade Fournette and no one wanted him. It’s an unfortunate fall for a player who came into the NFL as the No. 4 overall pick. The 25-year-old Fournette is coming off a 2019 season that saw him set a career-high in rushing yards (1,152) and receiving yards (522), but Fournette’s time could be up.

It’s not entirely his fault. The Jaguars will be one of the worst teams in the NFL next season. The circumstances surrounding him aren’t a recipe for success, and he is averaging just 4 yards per carry in his career. The explosive plays seem to be few and far between. We expect a mediocre season from Fournette in 2020 followed by an extended wait in free agency next offseason.

a baseball player throwing a ball: After seven Pro Bowl selections, wide receiver A.J. Green's best days could be behind him.

© Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
After seven Pro Bowl selections, wide receiver A.J. Green’s best days could be behind him.

A.J. Green, wide receiver, Cincinnati Bengals

At his peak, A.J. Green performed at high level and did it under less- than-ideal circumstances. A seven-time Pro Bowl selection and three-time All-Pro receiver, few secondaries could contain Green. Sadly, injuries are taking a toll on him, as we have seen in recent years.

Over the past two seasons, Green missed 23 games, with lower-body injuries keeping him sidelined. At 31, Green would be near the end of his prime if he had stayed healthy. Sadly, that is not the case. Now he can’t be trusted to suddenly be durable this season. He will benefit from having rookie Joe Burrow at quarterback, but Green’s days of being an elite receiver are gone.

a person wearing a helmet: Entering his age-38 season, Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger is coming off major elbow surgery.

© Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports
Entering his age-38 season, Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger is coming off major elbow surgery.

Ben Roethlisberger, quarterback, Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers will be a better team this season with Roethlisberger under center. Of course, after what we saw from their backup quarterbacks in 2019, Big Ben doesn’t have a very high bar. The reviews on his arm strength from teammates and the organization have been positive after undergoing significant elbow surgery last year.

It’s also important to note that Roethlisberger is entering his age-38 season. Outside of exceptions to the rule — like Tom Brady — quarterbacks show evident signs of decline this late in their careers. It’s not like Big Ben has avoided a lot of crushing hits across more than 218 starts, either. He’ll be playing with a young supporting cast and we fully expect the absence of receiver Antonio Brown to hurt Roethlisberger’s production. The Steelers can still be a great team in 2020, but don’t expect Roethlisberger to be the one carrying them to the playoffs.

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