By Dan Shearer
NFL Training Camps are underway this week, giving us football fans a taste of what’s soon to come. All 32 teams are gearing up for some much needed practice which I am sure has coaches jumping for joy after last year’s lockouts cut out the majority of OTA’s (Organized Team Activities) during the offseason.
If you have been living under a rock for the last 2 months, here are a few names you need to look out for during Training Camp and the upcoming season:
10. Dontari Poe – Kansas City Chiefs
Dontari is a defensive tackle turned nose tackle who came out of nowhere from the University of Memphis (who knew they had a football program). Poe is a guy to watch because of his freakish athleticism for such a big guy (6’3” 346lbs). Poe came to be because of his monster showing at the NFL Combine putting up 44 repetitions on the Bench Press and a Vertical Leap of 30 inches. Poe should turn out to be the anchor of the Chiefs D’ line for years to come.
9. Bruce Irvin – Seattle Seahawks
Irvin was the biggest surprise in this year’s draft. The University of West Virginia’s outside linebacker, who was said to be the fastest pass rusher in the draft, was expected to be taken in the mid second round. At number 15, Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll believes he got the ‘steal of the draft’. In Carroll’s system, Irvin should be a nice complement to recently signed defensive end Chris Clemons.
8. Russell Wilson – Seattle Seahawks
Russell Wilson had quite the journey through his college days. An under the radar draft pick, passed up because of his size (5’10”), might end up being the Seahawks quarterback halfway through the season if Matt Flynn turns out to be a dud. He has a high football IQ, a great arm, and is a great leader in the huddle.
7. Janoris Jenkins – St. Louis Rams
Speaking of under the radar, Jenkins was projected to be a first round pick in this year’s draft. The Rams believe they struck gold when Jenkins landed in their laps in the second round. Jenkins was dismissed for misconduct from the University of Florida two years ago and transferred to North Alabama. He is a great cover corner who was overlooked because of his off the field issues and the competition that he saw at North Alabama. He will start from day one for the Rams.
6. David Decastro – Pittsburgh Steelers
Decastro may prove to be another steal dropping late in the first round to a team who needed help desperately on the Offensive line. Decastro is an athletic big with a mean streak who loves putting the oppositions on their back side. He should keep Ben Roethlisberger from getting injured this season (maybe).
5. Justin Blackmon – Jacksonville Jaguars
This will become a household name, guaranteed. The size and athleticism he brings to the Jag’s offense should give Blaine Gabbert back the confidence he needs to play the quarterback position. He is such a game changer that he even got his college quarterback (Brandon Weeden) a job with the Cleveland Browns. There is no doubt he will make everyone around him better at the pro level too.
4. Morris Claiborne – Dallas Cowboys
Alright Cowboys fans, enough with the Deion Sanders references. He will be good, but not ‘prime time’ good. Claiborne is another LSU product and was the best cornerback in the draft. He was shadowed by what Tyrann Mathieu did for the Tigers last year. None the less, Morris gives the Cowboys a lockdown corner which is something they have not had in a long time. Claiborne should eventually contribute at special teams, especially if Dez Bryant continues to crash and burn.
3. Trent Richardson – Cleveland Browns
Trent Richardson is another SEC product and the first of four Crimson Tide players taken in the first round. Richardson will be a savior to a team cursed by John Madden two years ago when they lost their star Peyton Hillis. Richardson is an every down back with great vision, explosiveness, and breakaway speed. Once Cleveland fixes their offensive line, he will be a great pick up for fantasy owners everywhere. In the next couple years expect Cleveland to be a competitor in the best division in football, the AFC North.
2. Andrew Luck – Indianapolis Colts
The first pick in the 2012 draft has some pretty big shoes to fill. Jim Irsay, the Colts owner, feels they are going to be set at the most important position on the field for a long time to come. He has drawn comparisons to the great John Elway, not just because they are both Stanford products but because of their similar athleticism and leadership. He has a high football IQ and mastered one of the most complicated offenses in the game today. He has a very accurate arm and can make every throw on the field. These attributes along with his decision making should make Colts fans feel pretty good. They need to be patient, Peyton was 3-13 his rookie season.
1. Robert Griffin III – Washington Redskins
Redskins fans, your savoir is here! RG3 will have the most impact of any player in this draft. He is an immediate starter and will light up the scoreboard for years to come. Fans should expect to see similar numbers to what Cam Newton did for the Carolina Panthers last year. He is faster than Michael Vick and has a better arm than Eli Manning. Redskins fans should be gushing considering they have not been solid at quarterback since Joe Theismann. Let’s hope that Shanahan does not ruin him by forcing him to run a different offense that does not compliment his skillset. With a solid defense and RG3 the Redskins could compete for a wildcard spot in the playoffs this year.