5. Jordan Hicks – LB
Jordan Hicks doesn’t need a breakout season to be a star in the NFL. He’s already done that. Rather, he needs to stay healthy for a full season; a feat he’s accomplished just once in his four-year career.
In 43 career regular season games, the 26-year-old has tallied 254 combined tackles, 12 tackles for loss, 14 quarterback hits, 19 pass deflections, 5.0 sacks, a pick, and a fumble. His 2016 season saw him accumulate most of those statistics as he was healthy for the entire season and thrived. Pro Football Focus graded his ’16 season at 88.3, which ranked him as their third-best linebacker in the NFL.
Hicks tore his Achilles in 2017 but rebounded well last season. In 2018, he started all 12 of the games he played and finished the year with 91 combined tackles, five tackles for loss, five pass deflections, and 3.0 sacks. PFF gave Hicks’ ’18 season an 80.7 grade, which is good for tenth amongst all linebackers; he also had a career-high 81.3 run-defense grade.
Hicks is one of the better coverage linebackers in the NFL as well, PFF’s Ben Linsley said this about his coverage;
"Just 38.9% of the receptions in Hicks’ coverage throughout his career have gone for first downs or touchdowns (postseason included); that ranks fifth among 124 linebackers with at least 50 targets in that span."
Ultimately, Hicks’ impending star status impends on if he can stay healthy or not. In his four seasons of play, he’s only had two seasons in which he played 3/4th’s or more of the game. However, he’s proven to be one of the best linebackers in the NFL when he’s healthy. Couple his talents with his age (26), and switch to an inside linebacker-dependent 3-4 system, and Hicks could be another defensive star for the Cardinals.