The Carolina Panthers drafted Arkansas Razorbacks wide receiver Joe Adams in the fourth round (104th overall) in the 2012 NFL draft. It was a very quiet pick that went off the board with little fanfare, but at the end of the season, Adams has a chance to walk away with the Rookie of the Year award.
Heading into the season, Andrew Luck of the Indianapolis Colts and Robert Griffin III of the Washington Redskins will get all of the attention, but they will have an uphill battle to win the prestigious award.
Luck is playing with an awful team that is in the middle of a rebuilding season, and RG3 is on a Redskins team that always finds a way to mess things up.
Adams' biggest hurdle in winning the award is history. It has been over a decade since a player drafted outside of the top 100 has won Rookie of the Year, when rookie running back Mike Anderson (selected 189th) won the award in 2000 as a member of the Denver Broncos. Adams will have a chance to repeat the feat as one of the newest members of the Panthers.
Adams is an experienced wideout that completed his senior season with 54 catches and 652 yards, finding the end zone three times. Those numbers are not staggering by any means, but in this offense, Adams could make an immediate and long-lasting impact.
He will undoubtedly make the Panthers' squad, as the team is very thin at receiver. Legedu Naanee is no longer with the team after leaving for Miami, and that leaves Steve Smith, Brandon LaFell, David Gettis and Seyi Ajirotutu to compete for the job. The Panthers usually keep a deep corps of receivers, and Adams will fit in quite nicely.
Adams will benefit from the electrifying play of quarterback Cam Newton. Now in his second year under center, Newton will be able to utilize Adams as a slot receiver and draw attention away from All-Pro Steve Smith.
Smith will welcome the distraction, as he demands double-teams on nearly every play. Furthermore, he will provide Adams with an excellent mentor who knows how to get the most out of his size and positioning.
Adams is similar to Smith in stature and is a very smart player willing to work and improve on his craft. He is flexible and can be utilized in many different ways on the offensive side of the ball. With his explosion, he can break the big play, as evident in this play against Auburn.
In short, Adams is a playmaker and his biggest impact may be felt on special teams. He won the Johnny Rodgers Award last season, which is awarded to the top return man in college football. Armanti Edwards is a failed experiment as a return man, and he averaged just over five yards per return a year ago. Adams is a perfect fit for this spot, and early big returns will put his name on SportsCenter highlight reels, especially if they are as good as the incredible return he had against the Volunteers.
The stars are aligned for Joe Adams this year with the Carolina Panthers. He will make the team, benefit from Newton and Smith and have the opportunity to make a difference in the return game from day one. He may be a long shot to win the award, but by the end of the year Joe Adams will be a household name.
James Brown is a B/R featured columnist and can be followed on Twitter. Feel free to contact James at firstname.lastname@example.org. He also is a contributor at Bookie Blitz, a sports picks website and the official blog of the World Series of Handicapping.