Notre Dame Football: Which Former Player Will Have the Best Rookie NFL Season?

James ToljCorrespondent IIMay 15, 2012

TEMPE, AZ - MAY 11:  Wide receiver Michael Floyd #15 of the Arizona Cardinals practices in the minicamp at the team's training center facility on May 11, 2012 in Tempe, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Michael Floyd will enter into the NFL just as he did at Notre Dame. Floyd's star will illuminate the dark Arizona sky like it brightened South Bend on a bitter cold night, and he will have the best rookie season of any Fighting Irish player who was drafted or signed in 2012.

Floyd has every tool he needs in order to succeed at the next level.

He is as strong as an ox and teams will have difficulty pressing him off the line. He ran a 4.47 at the NFL combine, which is excellent for a player that weighed in at 220 pounds.

At 6'3", Floyd is tall enough to give smaller corners and safeties fits. And if his size isn't hard enough to handle, Floyd's jumping ability is off the charts. He posted a 36.5-inch vertical leap and a 122-inch broad jump at the combine.

If you haven't seen it yet, check out the ESPN Sports Science episode that highlights his range, concentration and leaping ability (41.5 inch running vertical leap and 7.96 foot standing reach).

Floyd is already a solid route runner. He has great hands and can catch the ball in traffic.

The former Fighting Irish standout is determined and an extremely hard worker as well, which will help him develop into an even better player. And the thing that works most in Floyd's favor over the other Notre Dame players who were drafted or signed is actually another player—Larry Fitzgerald.

Floyd won't have to worry about double teams because Fitzgerald will be drawing the lion's share of attention from opposing defenses, and Notre Dame fans know what happened when Floyd was left in one-on-one coverage in college—he got free for a long gain or a touchdown.

Last season, Early Doucet, the Arizona Cardinals second option at wide receiver, caught 54 passes for 689 yards and five touchdowns compared to Fitzgerald's 80 receptions for 1411 and eight touchdowns. And the two posted those numbers with subpar quarterback play.

So, the only disadvantage the young Fighting Irish wideout will face is uncertainty at quarterback.

The Arizona Cardinals traded for Kevin Kolb, but his first year with the team was underwhelming. He was injured throughout the year, and backup John Skelton ended up throwing more passes and touchdowns than Kolb in 2011-2012 (although Kolb had a better completion percentage and a higher QB rating).

Kolb will still have the starting job in 2012, but unless he improves, he won't last very long. However, a Floyd-Fitzgerald duo will go a long way towards elevating Kolb's play.

Learning under one of the best wide receivers in the game, Floyd is set to have a fantastic rookie season in the NFL.

Why couldn't the other Notre Dame players have a better season? Well, Floyd was the obvious choice with his tremendous talent and having a stellar wideout playing opposite him. But the other players just aren't in as good of a position to succeed either.

Harrison Smith and Robert Blanton may see the field (Smith assuredly will as a first-round pick), but the Minnesota Vikings secondary was atrocious last season. While they may make a difference, it will be hard to see either player having a better season than Floyd.

Darius Fleming, who is now on the San Francisco 49ers, will have trouble getting on the field with the 49er defense not needing much help. And with the recent news on that Fleming tore his ACL in rookie camp, he likely won't be playing a down in his first season. When Fleming does play, he will help provide a pass-rush but needs to improve in coverage before he gets ample playing time.

The four players who were undrafted but signed: Taylor Dever, Jonas Gray, Ethan Johnson and Trevor Robinson, face an uphill battle. While one or two might earn playing time, it isn't likely that any see the field in 2012.

And Gary Gray, who is getting a tryout with the Detroit Lions according to, may not even make the team.

The other players first year may be dripping with uncertainty, but In 2012, fans of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Arizona Cardinals can expect big things out of Floyd.