NFL training camps start in less than 2 weeks, and the start of rookie predictions, fantasy drafts, and position battles will linger until week 3 of pre-season games.
In this list, I’ll take a look at players taken after Round 2 (most of which have already signed their rookie contract) that could really start to make an impact in training camp and get in good favor with coaching staffs.
Andre Roberts-Arizona Cardinals-3rd Round-88th Overall
One of my favorite’s leading up to the draft, Roberts should fit smoothly into the Arizona system.
While Early Doucet and Steve Breaston will start on the depth chart as the receiver opposite to Fitzgerald and the slot (though it’s not clear who will be where), they both will have to watch for Roberts. One of the best route runners and consistent receiver’s in last years draft and one of the most NFL ready receivers outside the 1st round in a while, Roberts could instantly join that competition.
His consistent hands, defined route running, and work ethic should put him in good favor with coach Whistenhunt, and Roberts could fit well as more of a Santonio Holmes in the offense than an Anquan Boldin. Either way, training camp will be his first showing of why he could end up being one of the receivers in this class.
Navorro Bowman-San Francisco 49ers-3rd Round-91st Overall
I was singing Bowman’s praises during the season and before the draft, and people I’ve talked to close to the team tell me he could live up to my expectations.
Bowman was a very instinctive and hard hitting linebacker at Penn State, but his lack of mobility on the outside and his only average block absorption technique made him a question mark. But playing behind a massive defensive line in the 3-4 in San Francisco, he fits exactly what they’re looking for: a future running mate inside with Patrick Willis.
While I don’t think he’ll make the jump to starter by opening day, he could start to challenge the aging Takeo Spikes by mid-season and start splitting time.
Eric Norwood-Carolina Panthers-4th Round-124th Overall
Norwood was one of the best linebackers to come out of South Carolina and is the all-time sack leader for the college at linebacker.
Norwood has the pass rush ability to play in the generally undersized defensive line that the Panthers use (similar to Indianapolis), but likely he’ll be a blitzing linebacker. His speed at the position should put him on the map in training camp as a situational player right out of the gate, and as he defines his run support ability in the system, he has the potential to take over the starting job.
Perrish Cox-Denver Broncos-5th Round-137 Overall
While my ranking of a 2nd round grade for Cox didn’t ring true for NFL franchises, he’ll have chances in Denver to make up for it.
With Champ Bailey there as one of the best cornerbacks ever (in my opinion) to help in his growth, he’ll be on the right track early on. He’s got loads of upside and really fell that far in the draft due to character concerns. He’s got deep speed, bump and run coverage ability, can handle being on an island, and has good ball skills.
He should prove to out perform his 5th round draft position in traningcamp, but it likley won’t be until year 2 when he finally gets a shot to crack the starting lineup, barring injuries.
Austen Lane-Jacksonville Jaguars-5th Round-153 Overall
At 6-6, 278 with the speed of a weakside linebacker and the power of a 3-technique defensive tackle, you can say Lane has potential.
He’s a bit raw still and needs to work on refining his skills as a consistent defensive end in the Jaguars defense. But with the team likely making the switch to the 3-4 soon, Lane fits that spot very well.
Lane should impress the Jaguars staff who loves athletic freaks on the defensive line (and 3-4 outside linebacker spot). And, with Derrick Harvey only registering 2 sacks and no one else claiming the left defensive end/left OLB spot in the 3-4, Lane could have a shot to be a starter if he really impresses in training camp.
Arthur Jones-Baltimore Ravens-5th Round-257 Overall
It seems near consensus that the Ravens had at least a Top 5 draft, getting guys like Sergio Kindle, Terrence Cody, Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta later in the draft than expected.
However, the guy I was most surprised about falling and who could provide the most value because he was taken in the 5th round was Arthur Jones. A consistent playmaker and seemingly the only impressive talent from the Syracuse football team, Jones never got a chance to full show how impressive he was because of the lack of talent and injuries over his career.
He could finally get a chance to explode in training camp, and could end up challenging Trevor Pryce by the end of the season at the 5-technique on the line.
Jonathan Crompton-San Diego Chargers-5th Round-168 Overall
The Chargers are known for having more than one capable starting quarterback on their roster. First it was Drew Brees and Phillip Rivers. Then they let Brees go, and a few years back, they drafted Charlie Whitehurst. Now he’s battling to be the future quarterback of the Seattle Seahawks.
Leading up to the draft and in last chance workouts, Crompton really began to become a late round favorite quarterback. The Chargers scooped him up to develop behind Rivers, and all reports are that they may have gotten yet another steal.
Crompton will have no pressure to develop and that combined with his need to only fine tune his passing put him in prime position to succeed early on.
Myron Rolle-Tennessee Titans-6th Round-207 Overall
For the most part, talent wins over smarts in sports. Though it doesn’t always sit right with fans, a character issued receiver from Marshall is one of the best receivers of all time, and Mike Vick, well, we know his story.
But for a guy like Myron Rolle, who in his junior year was a 2nd or 3rd round projected pick if he declared, and is still working on returning to that form, smarts might be the difference. A Rhodes scholar who’s impressive resume actually made him fall in the draft, Rolle will have a lot to prove. His first goal will be to make the team, which I think would be hard to imagine.
If he can return to his former playing ways from when he was at Florida State, the Titans will soon realize that they got a possible starter in under a year in the 6th round.
George Selvie-St. Louis Rams-7th Round-226 Overall
One of the most productive pass rushers in recent NCAA history, Selvie saw his sack totals diminish and his stock as an NFL draft prospect fall from the 1st round all the way to pick 226.
However, one thing that can’t be taken away from Selvie is his intense work ethic, his natural ability, and his will to prove doubters wrong. And Selvie will have the chance to do that yet again. The Rams will be looking for energy guys on defense, and Coach Spagnuolo understands the benefits of having a situational pass rusher on his team from his days with the Giants.
Selvie needs to show that he improved his durability and put on weight without losing his speed, and I think that could be the case come training camp time.
Selvish Capers-Washington Redskins-7th Round-231 Overall
Trent Williams was the prize for the Washington Redskins for the offensive line and for the team. But, another offensive lineman that Mike Shanahan no question wanted in the 7th round could find his way on the field early as well.
I felt Capers was a 4th or 5th round prospect with the potential to be a capable starter at right tackle in a zone blocking scheme. Well, in the Shanahan system that punches out 1,000 yard backs, Capers is a perfect fit. He isn’t ready to start now, but he could see some playing time if his training camp goes as well as I expect at right tackle or inside at guard.