Every year you have players like Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers, who you expect to have excellent seasons and make the Pro-Bowl. Then you have your guys like Victor Cruz , Connor Barwin, and Aaron Maybin, who essentially came out of nowhere to have excellent seasons. I have a list of guys who I feel can do the same thing as those guys. The players I have included are under-the-radar free agent signings, late-round draft picks, or castoffs who haven’t gotten a chance yet. Most of these players are for the most part, are unheard of.
Rocky McIntosh, Linebacker, St. Louis Rams
In 2006, Rocky McIntosh was drafted in the 2nd round by the Washington Redskins. He was expected to be a high-caliber Outside Linebacker in Gregg Williams’ 4-3 defense. In his first 4 years he showed some promise and was poised to make the Pro-Bowl in his fifth year. Then, in 2010 Mike Shanahan was hired as the head coach of the Washington Redskins. He hired Jim Haslett as the defensive coordinator. Haslett installed the 3-4 defense. McIntosh was expected to be a mainstay in the defense as a Inside Linebacker. This is where his career went downhill. McIntosh isn’t suited for a 3-4 defense, he likes to use his athleticism to make plays in the open-field. In a typical 3-4 defense it requires the Inside Linebackers to be adequate at shedding blocks and making the bulk of their tackles in traffic,which requires bigger ‘backers (McIntosh is only 230 pounds). McIntosh looked lost when on the field and the coaching staff lost faith in him. He spent the recent season as a full-time backup. This week, he was signed by the St. Louis Rams. He will get a chance to compete for the starting spot at Weak-Side Linebacker in their 4-3 defense. Once forgotten in Washington, I think McIntosh will resurrect his career in St. Louis. He will be able to run around and make plays all over the field. I think he will surprise everyone this year.
2012-2013 Projected Stats: 92 Tackles, 2 Sacks, 2 Interceptions, Forced Fumble
Ronald Bartell, Cornerback, Oakland Raiders
During his time in St. Louis, Ron Bartell was always a solid, steady presence at the Cornerback position. He always locked-down opposing receivers. He had the 6th best Burn Percentage in 2010, only %45 percent of passes that came his way were caught. He was able to shut- opposing receivers with excellent man-to-man coverage skills, while also holding his one in zone coverage.Some people thought he was going to breakout in 2011, but he suffered a season-ending injury during the first week of the season. Steve Spagnolo and Billy Devaney were fired at the end of the season. Jeff Fisher was was hired at head coach and decided to bring his own guys in, because of this, Ron Bartell was released. The Oakland Raiders didn’t have a lot of money to work with this offseason, bur had to find a starting-caliber Cornerback(s). The Raide3rs signed Bartell to a one-year “prove it” deal. I personally think this was one of the best signings of the NFL offseason. Bartell will give the team the #1 corner they need. New defensive coordinator Jason Tarver will put Bartell in more positions to get interceptions this year. I fully expect him to return to his old ways. This is the 2012 version of the Carlos Rogers-signing in my opinion.
2012-2013 Projected Stats: 41 Tackles, %49 Burn Percentage, 5 Interceptions
Jerron McMillian, Strong Safety, Green Bay Packers
Jerron McMillian was drafted in the fourth round of the 2012 NFL Draft by the Green Bay Packers. He was originally drafted to provide depth at Safety and contribute on Special Teams, but with the release of Nick Collins his role just got bigger. Morgan Burnett will be moved to Free Safety and Charlie Peprah and Jerron McMillian will compete for the starting spot at Strong Safety. At Maine, McMillian was a standout. He was excellent in run-support , providing game-changing hits and forcing fumbles on a regular basis. He wasn’t necessarily a “ball-hawk”, but he didn’t allow a lot of catches to to whoever he was covering. He also has amazing athleticism to go along with decent size (5’11′ 205lb’s) He is a complete Safety, he doesn’t have very many weaknesses. I think in training camp he will prove how much of a steal he was in the fourth round, beating out Charlie Peprah for the starting spot. Dom Capers will use McMillian’s athleticism to blitz the Quarterback. He will surprise a lot of people this year.
2012-2013 Projected Stats: 70 Tackles, 1.5 Sacks, %57 Completion Percentage, 4 Interceptions, 1 Forced Fumble
Stevenson Sylvester, Inside Linebacker, Pittsburgh Steelers
With release of James Farrior it left a void at the Inside Linebacker spot next to Lawrence Timmons. Larry Foote and Stevenson Sylvester will compete for the Left Inside Linebacker spot. I think this competition will be won by Sylvester and the rest will be history. Dick LeBeau’s 3-4 defense is different from most. He likes to utilize smaller, more Athletic Inside Linebackers. Stevenson Sylvester fits the bill to a tee. He pt 6’2′ 230lb’s and very fast. He can explode through gaps and stop a play in it’s tracks. He has very good read-and-react skills, it’s very hard to trick him. He has the necessary blitzing skills that a Inside Linebacker needs in a Dick LeBeau defense. He has had the chance to learn from guys like; Lawrence Timmons, James Farrior, and Larry Foote. The Steelers will have an excellent Linebacking core for the next 5-6 years with Sylvester and Timmons manning the middle of the defense.
2012-2013 Projected Stats: 94 Tackles, 3.5 Sacks, 1 Interception, 3 Forced Fumbles
Jarius Wright, Wide Receiver, Minnesota Vikings
At one point in the draft process, Jarius Wright was considered a second or third-round prospect, but fell to the fourth-round due to circumstance. Fellow Viking and ex-Arkansas teammate Greg Childs called himself “the steal of the draft“, but Jarius Wright has a much higher chance of becoming a “steal”. The Vikes don’t have a proven Wide Receiver opposite Percy Harvin, so Wright will get his chance early on. The Vikes will line him up in the Slot, as well as Split-End. He is excellent at catching short passes and turning them into a big play, which suits Bill Musgrave’s West Coast Offense. He can also stretch the field from the Slot. If Percy Harvin’s holdout goes into the season it will only help Jarius Wright.
2012-2013 Projected Stats: 64 Catches, 910 Yards, 5 Touchdowns
I hope this article provided some insight. I tried to use players that the common fan wouldn’t know much about. It will be interesting to see if my predictions actually hold any merit. Hope everyone enjoyed the article, bye!