Every NFL Team's Most Dynamic Rookie with Big-Play Potential
There is no role in professional sports quite like that of the NFL playmaker. Single plays can change the course of an entire season in football, where one tipped pass or broken tackle can mean the difference between the playoffs and the golf course.
Guys with big-play ability can come from any position, and they can strut their stuff on any given snap. Since the world of the NFL is a revolving door that never locks, we see an endless carousel of playmakers who disappear as quickly as they arrive.
The only remedy to the constant deluge of injuries and old age is the annual infusion of new talent. Teams look for explosive players, hoping every guy they sign is the next Victor Cruz, praying they don't land a Vernon Gholston.
Whether each NFL team found its newest "guy" this offseason is something we won't know until they finally hit the regular-season turf. But let's take a look at the rookies with the potential to make an impact this fall.
Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck, QB
It may be slightly unfair to put quarterbacks in the category of playmakers, considering they touch the ball on every non-Wildcat snap.
Still, we already know the story on Andrew Luck; how could he not be the man to make big plays for Indianapolis in 2012?
To be fair, he doesn't just throw; he can catch too.
Minnesota Vikings: Jarius Wright, WR
Jarius Wright is a speedster with some nasty skills who led the SEC in several receiving categories last season.
With good hands, quickness and instincts, he has the ability to be a major playmaker for Christian Ponder alongside the explosive Percy Harvin.
As one of the top receivers in Arkansas Razorback history, Wrights looks to have a bright NFL future.
Cleveland Browns: Trent Richardson, RB
Does Trent Richardson really need to prove that he's the best playmaker in Cleveland other than Kyrie Irving?
This guy does it all; he can pass-protect, run outside or inside, catch and score. He was a Heisman finalist in a year when it was nigh impossible for any non-quarterback to win. Don't forget, he was the offense of the BCS national championship team last season.
He's explosive, aggressive and simply the best running back prospect since Adrian Peterson.
If all of this wasn't enough, the rest of the Browns' draft was pretty subpar after him.
St. Louis Rams: Janoris Jenkins, CB
Janoris Jenkins is an unbelievably talented cornerback. Had it not been for his off-the-field issues, he likely would have been the second corner taken after Morris Claiborne.
If you're looking for big-play ability, see above.
He can do that on kicks too. The Rams better hope he stays clean.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Justin Blackmon, WR
Justin Blackmon wasn't just the best wide receiver in the 2012 draft class; he was arguably its most dynamic playmaker as well.
The Oklahoma State product has all of the tools to thrive in the NFL, and he'll succeed by doing what he does best: making big plays.
Step it up, Blaine Gabbert.
Miami Dolphins: Lamar Miller, RB
Lamar Miller was one of the 2012 NFL draft's biggest steals, going in the fourth round despite some seriously dynamic playmaking at The U.
Miller was the fastest running back in this year's draft. He can catch, and he can evade. Every time he touches the ball, he is a threat to score.
Pretty good value in Round 4.
Oakland Raiders: Juron Criner, WR
The Oakland Raiders didn't really have much of a draft, considering they traded away all of their important picks.
Still, the speedy Juron Criner out of Arizona made for a nice addition to their growing receiver corps. He is quick and agile with good hands and will give Carson Palmer a new target to learn the offense with this summer.
The lone bright spot of an otherwise awful Raider year.
Washington Redskins: Robert Griffin III, QB
The Heisman trophy winner of 2011 is a revelation. He is a dual-threat quarterback that wants to pass first and run second. That is a rarity in and of itself, never mind his fantastic talent.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Doug Martin, RB
Doug Martin is a three-down back who can do just about anything required of the position. He has drawn comparisons to Ray Rice, 2011's yards-from-scrimmage leader.
He is big, fast and agile, with a high motor. What you see above is possible on any given play, which is precisely the reason he is compared to Rice.
Dynamic and explosive enough for you?
Buffalo Bills: Stephon Gilmore, CB
Stephon Gilmore projected as the second-best cornerback in the 2012 draft and was treated as such at 10th overall.
Gilmore is a good tackler, can rush the passer and is excellent in zone coverage. His athleticism allows him to be utilized on special teams as well.
A versatile and dangerous defender.
Seattle Seahawks: Robert Turbin, RB
Robert Turbin is fast and packs a nasty punch. In 2009 he set records with 1,296 yards rushing, 418 yards receiving and 18 total touchdowns. After returning in 2011 from knee surgery, he broke his previous record by rushing for 1,517 yards and 19 touchdowns and catching 17 passes for 171 yards and four more touchdowns.
The Seahawks needed a wrinkle in their running game so that Marshawn Lynch isn't forced into retirement at age 28. Turbin fills a need nicely with big-play scoring punch.
He'll be a good addition to a not-so-great Seattle team.
Carolina Panthers: Luke Kuechly
Luke Kuechly is arguably the best defensive player from the 2012 draft class. Players don't get much more dynamic than an utter stud of a middle linebacker.
The Panthers made a great pick at No. 9.
New York Jets: Stephen Hill, WR
Quinton Couples has had questions raised about his effort and work ethic and can tend to disappear.
Stephen Hill is raw coming out of an option system at Georgia Tech, but he is an absolute freak physically, standing 6'5'' and possessing all the tools Mark Sanchez needs in a wide receiver.
Hill has potential to be a stud in the NFL and is definitely the most explosive rookie the New York Jets picked up.
Arizona Cardinals: Michael Floyd, WR
Michael Floyd is the consensus No. 2 wideout in the 2012 draft class. A huge target, he'll be lining up alongside his mentor Larry Fitzgerald, which will only serve to enhance his already explosive talents.
With defenses unable to double up on both of them, Floyd will likely enjoy a massively successful rookie campaign.
Tennessee Titans: Kendall Wright, WR
Another wide receiver? It's a fairly common position for big-play guys.
Kendall Wright was the favorite target of Heisman trophy winner and No. 2 overall pick Robert Griffin III.
Wright has blinking-quick moves, terrific acceleration and a burst that will help him torch all but the very best defensive backs in the open field.
He'll be a great playmaker in the slot for Tennessee.
Kansas City Chiefs: Dontari Poe, NT
The Kansas City Chiefs had a rather sorry draft, hence Dontari Poe's nomination as their best rookie playmaker.
Poe is being called a workout warrior, which is understandable given his pedestrian game tape and incredible combine.
Still, he has tremendous upside despite an admittedly low floor. If Poe pans out, he has a chance to be one of the AFC's premier nose tackles.
Cincinnati Bengals: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB
Dre Kirkpatrick has the prototypical size and strength to be successful as an NFL defensive back. On top of that, he has great potential for press coverage and should be able to lock down NFL wide receivers.
Kirkpatrick's three interceptions in three years do not tell the true story. He plays terrific man coverage and could end up as a Darrelle Revis/Nnamdi Asomugha-type, a guy who doesn't rack up the INTs because nobody throws the ball to him.
San Diego Chargers: Melvin Ingram, DE/OLB
Melvin Ingram is the best pass-rusher of the 2012 draft class. He was on some mock draft boards as high as No. 7 and has all the tools to succeed in the NFL.
If you want to talk dynamic and explosive, look no further than the guy who spends his day beating on quarterbacks. The first-team All-American is a guaranteed stud.
Somebody show this to Vernon Gholston.
Dallas Cowboys: Morris Claiborne, CB
Morris Claiborne isn't just the best defensive back in the 2012 draft class; he is arguably the best defensive back prospect in the last four or five years.
With great hands, speed and size, he possesses every trait teams want in an elite cornerback.
The Cowboys rightfully traded a bunch of picks to grab him, and he should be lighting up highlight reels alongside Brandon Carr this season.
New Orleans Saints: Nick Toon, WR
Puns on his name notwithstanding, Nick Toon is a dynamic guy who was brought in to replace Robert Meachem.
A third-round talent, Toon has the potential to surpass the underachieving Meachem for the New Orleans offense.
Atlanta Falcons: Johnathan Massaquoi, DE
The Falcons lacked a first-round pick and used their second- and third-rounders on offensive linemen. This leaves late rounder Jonathan Massaquoi as their best rookie playmaker.
A solid pass-rusher, he did very well at Troy in 2010 recording a conference-best 20.5 tackles for loss and 13.5 sacks with 76 tackles, one pass breakup and one forced fumble, earning first-team All-SBC honors.
Chicago Bears: Alshon Jeffery, WR
Alshon Jeffery had a chance to be selected in the top 15 early in his 2011 college season. The size and talent is there, but he struggled with weight issues, which dropped him to the second round.
Despite that, he is an explosive talent and fully capable of being the No. 2 guy across from Brandon Marshall.
Denver Broncos: Ronnie Hillman, RB
Ronnie Hillman is an adept inside runner for his size, though he lacks the true strength to be a power back.
He has been brought in to replace Knowshon Moreno as Willis McGahee's backup, a role he can likely excel in with Peyton Manning's help.
Detroit Lions: Ryan Broyles, WR
Ryan Broyles was basically picked to fill a need. Why is wide receiver a need for the Lions? Between the monster contract and the Madden Curse, an ominous season approaches for Calvin "Megatron" Johnson.
Even if Johnson doesn't suffer from the long-running curse, Broyles will just make the Lions' potent offense that much better.
If everything works out, the Vikings might even regret leaving Morris Claiborne on the draft board.
Philadelphia Eagles: Fletcher Cox, DT
Fletcher Cox was the consensus best defensive tackle of the 2012 draft class. The Eagles will be placing him on a defensive line already sporting Trent Cole, Jason Babin and Cullen Jenkins.
Cox is excellent in his own right, but with those linemates, he'll have no choice but to turn in a good season.
The Steelers didn't draft much in the way of playmakers in 2012, but they didn't need to.
Offensive linemen don't quite qualify as playmakers, but an exception can be made for David DeCastro, who magically fell to Pittsburgh at No. 24.
Stout in pass protection and crushing in run-blocking, DeCastro can do it all. He will likely be the best guard in the NFL soon enough.
Maybe not a playmaker, but certainly dynamic in his own right.
Houston Texans: Whitney Mercilus, DE/OLB
Whitney Mercilus was not only a steal, but also he doesn't even have to be a starter from the outset; the Texans drafted him for a pass-rush rotation.
He will thrive in Wade Phillips' system and continue to terrorize quarterbacks, now in the very vulnerable AFC South.
Baltimore Ravens: Courtney Upshaw, OLB/DE
Courtney Upshaw was the MVP of the BCS national title game, which is pretty incredible given how much you have to stand out in Alabama's defense to be individually commended.
Upshaw was already poised to have a solid rookie campaign, but taking over the role normally filled by Terrell Suggs should see a spike in his numbers.
An early defensive rookie of the year candidate.
San Francisco 49ers: LaMichael James, RB
The speedy back out of Oregon has been a Heisman Trophy finalist and was an invaluable piece of the 2010 BCS runner-ups.
Green Bay Packers: Jerel Worthy, DT/DE
Projected by some as a late first-round pick, Jerel Worthy fills a massive (literally) need for the Packers in their front seven.
Now they actually have a player on the line next to B.J Raji who can draw blockers and do some damage to the offense.
The presence of Raji, Clay Matthews and fellow rookie Nick Perry will only enhance his defensive impact.
New England Patriots: Dont'a Hightower, LB
Dont'a Hightower is dynamic because of his incredible versatility. He can play either inside linebacker or on the outside as a pass rusher.
He is going to thrive in Bill Belichick's defense, being used in a variety of ways and continuing the same dominance he showed in college.
How many Crimson Tide defenders are on this list?
New York Giants: Rueben Randle, WR
Rueben Randle was an utter steal for the defending champs in the draft. Falling to the bottom of Round 2 when he easily could have been picked in the 40s or 50s, the Giants had to go with the 6'2'' guy out of LSU.
He'll be the perfect replacement to Mario Manningham as the third receiving option behind Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks.
However, we do not expect a repeat of Manningham's ungodly Super Bowl-saving catch.
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