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These Rookies Show That What GMs Do After The 1st Round, Separates The Men From The Boys
The first round of the NFL draft gets most of the media attention, but every successful team gets productive players in the second round and beyond. Rookies and young players count more than ever in the NFL today. Gone are the days of waiting three years for a young player to break into the starting lineup. The 2012 NFL Draft will be remembered for an outstanding quarterback class, but fans shouldn’t forget these valuable first-round picks:
TE Dwayne Allen, third round (#64), Indianapolis Colts: The former Clemson star outbid the more touted Coby Fleener (second round) and had a productive regular season for the Colts. Allen caught 45 passes for 521 yards (11.6 per) and 3 touchdowns. Indy finds a tight end who can block them and provide some production as a pass catcher. There aren’t many tight ends that can help both on the run and on the downs. The Colts found such a player in the third round, and it’s worth a lot. Allen’s production should increase as he and Andrew Luck gain experience.
RB Vic Ballard, 5th round (#170), Indianapolis Colts: Ballard didn’t impress with a pedestrian 4.65 time in the forty-yard dash. However, sprints in shorts do not measure stiffness or durability. Ballard produced well for the Colts with 211 carries for 814 yards (3.9 per), 2 touchdowns, 17 receptions for 152 yards (8.9 per) and a touchdown. Ballard hasn’t faltered as the season has progressed, and Indianapolis has had its share of late-round picks in their backfield. The depth of Indy’s 2012 draft class is one of the reasons the team went from 2 wins to 11 in a single season.
OLB Vontaze Burfict, undrafted, Cincinnati Bengals: Burfict was the poster child for how a poster child can crush a player’s draft stock in the postseason. Burfict showed up at the NFL scouting combine, tested positive for marijuana, and blamed his college coaches for his poor junior season. This resulted in every NFL team deciding he wasn’t worth taking a flyer in the 6th or 7th round of the draft. Marvin Lewis was rewarded for his strong people skills and signed Burfict as a free agent.
Burfik started at weakside linebacker for the Bengals after Thomas Howard was lost with a knee injury in the second game. Burfict led the Bengals with 127 tackles, and his nasty nature (yet controlled) helped give the young defense a bit of an edge. Vontaze Burfik proves that some head cases work.
WR TY Hilton, third round (#92), Indianapolis Colts: The third round was definitely a charm for the Colts. Hilton’s acceleration and speed produced big plays in his first year (50 receptions for 861 yards (17.2 per), 7 touchdowns, 11.5 yards per punt return and 1 touchdown). Andrew Luck has a field-stretching wide receiver to connect with for years to come. Mike Wallace (3rd round, 2009 NFL Draft) Hilton could get lucky for Ben Roethlisberger.
CB Casey Hayward, 2nd round (#62), Green Bay Packers: Many fans don’t realize that Hayward had a terrible season for the Packers. He led Green Bay with 6 interceptions, 26 pass breakups and added 53 tackles and a forced fumble. He was Green Bay’s best defender in 2012 and rarely missed an assignment. His high football IQ was more than forty times the average (4.53).
CB Janoris Jenkins, second round (#39), St. Louis Rams: Another example of a team taking a calculated gamble on a player with questionable character and it paid off. Everyone knew Jenkins was a talented cornerback, but his taste for marijuana got him fired from Florida. St. Louis had numerous draft picks to spend a 2nd round pick on top 1st round talent. Jenkins produced on the field with 73 tackles and 4 interceptions (including 3 touchdown returns). It remains to be seen if Jenkins can consistently stay out of trouble, but so far so good. The success of Jenkins and Burfict helped the team pull the trigger on Tyrann Mathieu in the 2013 NFL Draft.
RB Alfred Morris, 6th round (#173), Washington Redskins: Morris was the clear-cut best value pick of the 2012 NFL Draft. The 6th-round pick rushed for 1,613 yards on 335 carries (4.8 per) and scored 13 touchdowns. Morris led the Redskins to the playoffs with a gimpy RGIII at quarterback. The Florida Atlantic product proved to be a perfect fit for Mike Shanahan’s one-cut zone blocking scheme. Morris lacks great pace, but runs with great determination and decisiveness. It will be a pick that will have scouts scratching their heads about how they overlooked this player for years to come.
RB Bernard Pierce, 3rd round (#84), Baltimore Ravens: The demise of the running back position has been greatly exaggerated. A productive running game is still a valuable asset, and teams need two good backs. The Ravens found a nice complement to Ray Rice in Bernard Pierce. Rushed for 532 yards on 108 carries (4.9 per) and one touchdown. Pierce came on strong late in the season and his future in Baltimore looks promising.
OT Mitchell Schwartz, 2nd round (#37), Cleveland Browns: The cerebral and disciplined Schwartz started all season at right tackle for the Browns. He made some mistakes and appears to be the long-term answer at a key position. The jury is still out on Brandon Weeden as the Browns’ quarterback. However, Cleveland has the foundation of a good offensive line. If the skill position talent blossoms, the Browns should really improve their win totals in the end.
RB Robert Turbin, 4th round (#106), Seattle Seahawks: The NFL is truly a two-back league, as it’s very difficult to get a quality back who can withstand the punishment of carrying the ball 20-25 times a game. 16 weeks. Seattle is fortunate to have a workhorse back in Marshawn Lynch. However, the team wisely got a quality backup to Lynch in Robert Turbin. The power forward chipped in with 354 yards on 80 carries (4.4 per) and caught 19 passes for 181 yards (9.5 per). Turbin’s role will expand next season and help extend Lynch’s career.
MLB Bobby Wagner, 2nd round (#47), Seattle Seahawks: Who knew the tiny state of Utah (Bobby Wagner and Robert Turbin played there) was such a hotbed for NFL talent? Wagner was a 2nd round gem as he led a stout Seattle defense in tackles with 140 tackles and added two sacks and 3 interceptions. Seattle should be set for years with an instinctive linebacker who makes plays sideline to sideline.
QB Russell Wilson, third round (#75), Seattle Seahawks: A single strong draft class can put a team over the top. The Seahawks had perhaps the best 2012 draft and Wilson became a terrific find at the game’s most important position. Wilson completed 252 passes for 3,118 yards (7.9 yards per attempt) on 393 attempts (64%) with 26 touchdowns and just 10 interceptions. He rushed for 489 yards (5.2 per) and scored an additional 4 touchdowns. His extraordinary poise and maturity helped lead the Seahawks to the playoffs. Wilson may only be 5-foot-11, but Seattle’s future looks bright with this third-round steal.
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