2012 NFL Draft: Projecting the Top Special Teams Players
Whether or not NFL organizations choose to accept it or not, special teams are just as important as ever in the league and Kyle Williams' fumble this weekend in addition to Billy Cundiff's field-goal miss should make that as evident as it's ever been.
For what this class lacks in elite punters and kickers, it makes up for with some stellar returners—as you'll soon see. There are some electric playmakers in this class and every player on this list should be on an NFL roster for the 2012 season.
Read on to find out who the top special teams players in this year's class are.
Joe Adams, Punt Returner, Arkansas
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Stats: 33 punt returns, 321 yards (9.7 average), four touchdowns
Joe Adams is undoubtedly the most talented return man in this class. The only thing that's holding him back is his skill at the receiver position. There will certainly be controversy regarding whether he'll focus on returning duties or on his role in the offense at the next level.
Adams is certainly an explosive returner who combines excellent straight-line speed with great balance. It's obvious when he has the ball that there is something special there. He's always a risk to take it all the way, which is all an NFL team can ask for.
Devon Wylie, Punt Returner, Fresno State
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Stats: 40 punt returns, 446 yards (11.2 average), two touchdowns
Devon Wylie doesn't have top-of-the-line track speed, but he makes up for it in the return game with great vision and instincts.
Quicker than fast, Wylie works well in confined areas and is very elusive in space. He uses his blockers exceptionally well and is a tough runner who would be an immediate upgrade for many teams in search of a punt returner.
T.Y. Hilton, Returner, Florida International
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Stats: 18 kick returns, 548 yards (30.4 average); 23 punt returns, 186 yards (8.1 average), one touchdown
T.Y. Hilton has to fill out his frame to be a consistent punt and kick returner in the NFL, but he has the natural ability to become a big-time playmaker.
Hilton makes deceptive cuts and is great at manipulating defenders when he has room. He isn't the most sturdy returner, but he bounces off tackles well and is extremely quick. He also possesses elite top-end speed and won't be chased down often—even in the NFL.
Taveon Rogers, Kick Returner, New Mexico State
Stats: 51 kick returns, 1,318 yards (25.8 average), three touchdowns
Taveon Rogers is another guy who doesn't have blazing speed, but managed to get the job done with vision and impressive burst.
Rogers may not be drafted, but should certainly be picked up as an undrafted free agent if he isn't selected. He's quick enough and has plenty enough strength to make an early impact as a return man.
Shawn Powell, Punter, Florida State
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Stats: 57 punts, 47.0 average, long of 69
Shawn Powell was incredibly consistent this season and deserved consideration for the Ray Guy Award. He was invaluable to the Seminoles this season and greatly contributed to one of the best special teams units in college football.
Powell led the nation in average yards per punt and was accurate at pinning opponents down within their own 20 as well. He isn't the next Shane Lechler, but he would be an upgrade for a handful of NFL teams in his rookie season.