2nd-year NFL players who must improve in 2014

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Highly touted draft picks like Dee Milliner and Eric Fisher failed to live up to expectations as rookies. The success of their teams moving forward may depend on how well they bounce back in year two.

For some second-year NFL players, 2014 will be about avoiding the dreaded sophomore slump. For others, it will be the opposite problem: they got their slump out of the way as rookies and are hoping to live up to their draft position the second time around.

Let's take a look at seven guys who will be called on to increase their production after rocky first seasons.

Dee Milliner

Only three more cornerbacks in the NFL allowed more touchdowns last season than Milliner, who had a rough go of things in year one with the Jets. The Alabama product was benched on three separate occasions, failing to show the lockdown ability Rex Ryan and Co. saw in him when they made him the No. 9 overall pick. Milliner ended the year on a high note at least, grabbing two picks in the Jets' season finale against the Dolphins.

He needs to build on that momentum in 2014, as Antonio Cromartie's offseason departure means Milliner will be relied on to step into the No. 1 corner role. The Jets addressed the position twice in the draft, most notably with third-round selection Dexter McDougle, to push Milliner in camp.

E.J. Manuel

Manuel battled inconsistency and knee issues as a rookie quarterback with the Bills, resulting in an injury-shortened season filled with more valleys than peaks. In 10 games he threw for 1,972 yards, 11 touchdowns and nine picks, going 4-6 as a starter in the process. Swelling in his left knee was a recurring issue, sidelining him on two separate occasions.

The Bills didn't have a load of offensive support around Manuel either, but lack of talent won't be an acceptable excuse this time around. Coveted receiver prospect Sammy Watkins replaces Stevie Johnson on the outside, and Cyrus Kouandjio and Cyril Richardson should help shore up the offensive line.

Eric Fisher

If the Chiefs are to replicate their unexpected success from a season ago, they'll need Fisher to live up to the No. 1 overall pick they spent on him. With Branden Albert gone, they'll need Fisher to slide from right tackle to left and protect Alex Smith's blind side.

Fisher didn't do a good job of stopping edge rushers in 2013, getting beat for a sack seven times. Only five offensive tackles in the league finished with a worse pass blocking efficiency rating, a stat formulated by sacks, hits and hurries per passing play.

Dion Jordan

Jordan was supposed to be an immediate terror as a defensive end for the Dolphins. Instead, the No. 3 overall pick from 2013 finished his rookie campaign with just two sacks. Part of that had to do with being stuck behind Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon on the depth chart -- Jordan was on the field for just 30 percent of Miami's defensive snaps -- but there's also a question of what position he can play.

Jordan's true spot is a 3-4 pass rusher, but he doesn't quite fit into Miami's 4-3 scheme. The Dolphins toyed with the idea of moving him to linebacker but decided they didn't want him dropping into coverage. He admitted recently that he was too small to play the 4-3 end position last season and showed up at OTAs this week carrying an extra 15 pounds of muscle.

The Dolphins reportedly shopped Jordan before the draft but decided to keep him. If he can't find a role in the defense this season, he'll be traded eventually.

Tavon Austin

The Rams have invested heavily in the wide receiver position over the last couple of seasons and haven't had much to show for it on the field. Austin is a prime example: he caught just 40 passes for 418 yards after being selected eighth overall. He wasn't even in the top 10 among rookie wideouts for receiving yards. In fact, rookie running back Giovani Bernard had more receiving yards than Austin.

It's not for lack of ability. Austin flashed an unstoppable playmaking potential at times last year, no more so than in a three-touchdown explosion against the Colts in Week 10. Getting a healthy Sam Bradford back should help him reach a more consistent production output.

Montee Ball

Knowshon Moreno is in Miami now. That means the Broncos will be relying on Ball, the former second-round pick, to carry the load at running back in 2014.

It's not that he played poorly last season -- in fact, his 4.7 yards per carry was higher than Moreno's -- but he failed to offer much of a threat to Moreno's spot on top of the depth chart. A lot of that had to do with coughing up two fumbles in his first three games. He'll need to fix those turnover problems if he wants to become the team's feature back.

Chance Warmack

Warmack started all 16 games for the Titans, who grabbed him 10th overall in 2013. But the big man struggled as a rookie, ranking as the No. 46 offensive guard in the league by Pro Football Focus. He was particularly bad in pass blocking, ranking in the bottom fourth of the league after allowing seven sacks and 25 quarterback hurries. He's working on controlling his weight this offseason, which should allow him to be a bit more nimble on pass plays in 2014.

More from SBNation.com

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior users will need to choose a permanent username, along with a new password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

I already have a Vox Media account!

Verify Vox Media account

Please login to your Vox Media account. This account will be linked to your previously existing Eater account.

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior MT authors will need to choose a new username and password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join SBNation.com

You must be a member of SBNation.com to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at SBNation.com. You should read them.

Join SBNation.com

You must be a member of SBNation.com to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at SBNation.com. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.