Friday, September 6, 2013

IMPACT ROOKIES FOR 2013 NFL SEASON-NFC SOUTH

The NFC south has the potential to be an interesting division.

You have a Superbowl favorite being chased by 2 improving teams led by young stars and a team that recently dominated this division who is looking for a revitalization after a season wrecked by suspensions.

Everyone of them had gaps to fill in the draft.

ATLANTA FALCONS

Projected Starters:

Desmond Trufant CB: Trufant is a long corner with good feet and excellent speed.  He can cover at this level right now, which is why he is playing with the first string.  He is not a great tackler however, and I look for the Falcons to work to help him improve his overall strength.  If he can do that, we might be talking All-Pro.

Likely Contributors:

Robert Alford CB/KR: Alford is a small school guy, but he exploded onto the scene at the senior bowl. This guy is as fast as anyone and is electric with the ball in his hands.  He also looked to have solid cover skills, but I expect there to be some growing pains as he adjusts to the level of competition.

Levin Toilolo TE: The Falcons have very good receiving TE's, but they want to run the ball.  Look for Toilolo to be the second tight end for their running formations.

Kemal Ishmael S: Ishmael has surprised in camp, working his way to the 2-deep at safety.  He is a sure tackler, but there are concerns about how his ceiling is.  Regardless, he gives the Falcons quality depth right now, which is huge in a division where you have to play Drew Brees and Cam Newton twice.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

Projected Starters:

Star Lotulelei DT: Star is a beast and is expected to be a defense-changing talent for the Panthers.  That is in now way an unreasonable expectation as he has dominated at every stage and has the skills, size, and motor that you are looking for from your interior linemen.  Look for them to move him around the line to create headaches for offenses.  He's that kind of talent.

Likely Contributors:

Kawann Short T: Short is not Star, but he is good enough to play in the league right now.  He should be the first DT off the bench and they have the potential to go very big in run situations with Short, Star, and Dwan Edwards.

AJ Klein LB: Klein was the best linebacker in a league that was short on good linebackers, but don't hold his Big 12 pedigree against him.  Klein is a prototypical inside linebacker.  He is a smart, physical leader who made the players around him better at Iowa State.  Just as important is the fact that he play his role in a zone coverage, having come from a league full of spread passing attacks. 

Kenjon Barner RB: This was an interesting pick for a team that had needs outside of running back, but there is nothing wrong with taking a top-level playmaker late in the draft.  I look for them to find ways to get him touches in space.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

Projected Starters: None

Likely Contributors:

Kenny Vaccaro S:  Vaccaro has the prototype body with great measurables, but he really didn't look like an NFL player till his last season or so at Texas.  He tends to be overly aggressive, but looked to have tempered that enough to where it was an asset late in his career.  He is in the 2-deep, and has the potential to be a big upgrade for the Saints secondary.

Terron Armstead OT: Armstead is a raw talent, but there is an immense amount of talent.  He is likely to be primarily an understudy his rookie year, but the Saints think they have their left tackle of the future.  Look for him to fill spots when players are dinged.  Can absolutely maul, and can really move for a big guy with a 4.7 40....at 306 lbs!!!

John Jenkins NT: This is a massive human being.  Jenkins is 330+ and played the nose for Georgia in college.  He will play early and often and should do his part to keep the Saints linebackers clean.

Kenny Stills WR: Stills was somewhat hidden on a loaded OU offense, but people who watch the Big 12 know that he is a big play guy.  He is a sub 4.4 guy who is at least as quick as he is fast, and he doesn't shy away from big moments.  This is a steal for an already loaded offense late in the draft.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

Projected Starters:

Akeem Spence DT: Spence was thought to be a developmental project, but he has performed well enough in camp to put himself at the top of the Buc's depth chart.  He is a big, strong, D-Tackle who
has shown that he can penetrate when needed, which should fit well with the solid, young, D-Line in Tampa.

Likely Contributors:

Johnthan Banks CB: Banks was a dominant, ball-hawking, corner for Mississippi State.  He has great size and instincts, as well as the ball skills to make those things matter.  What he does not have is elite speed.  I look for the Bucs to get him on the field in the right matchup, which an eye on using him as a safety long term.

Mike Glennon QB: Glennon is a rookie QB behind a young starter who has had some success, but Josh Freeman has not been the wunderkind that Tampa faithful were expecting.  If Freeman struggles early, look for Glennon to get a look.  At worst, he is going to keep the pressure on.  The question is, will that bring out the best in Freeman, or the worst?

Steven Means DE/OLB: Means is an edge rusher, and a big of a tweener.  Right now, he is in the 2-deep behind Adrian Clayborn.  He should definitely be in the rotation and may even see some time at OLB as he develops.  Very good athlete.

Mike James RB: James is listed third on the depth chart, so normally you wouldn't expect to see much of him.  The thing about James is that he can do everything.  He was a 4 year contributor for the Hurricanes, and was a feature back for most of that.  People lowered him because of Duke Johnson, but that is not reasonable to me.  This guy can play, and Schiano is too smart to keep him off the field.  That said, this is a loaded backfield as he will be sharing time and behind Doug Martin and Brian Leonard who are both quality backs as well.
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