10 Little-Known NFL Players Who Will Make Huge Depth Chart Jumps in 2012-13
In the NFL, it is hardly uncommon to see players emerge from the depths of the roster to become key contributors.
In 2010 Arian Foster emerged from the bottom of the Texans' depth chart to lead the league in rushing. That same year Peyton Hills, an afterthought in the Brady Quinn trade, wound up on the cover of next year's Madden.
Here are some of the bottom-feeders of the NFL that could emerge as starters in 2012.
Brandon Hogan, CB, Carolina Panthers
After spending most of the 2011 season on the PUP list, Hogan will have an opportunity to compete with rookie Josh Norman for the starting cornerback spot opposite Chris Gamble.
Hogan was the Panthers' fourth-round pick from 2011 despite the fact that he had an ACL injury that the Panthers knew could sideline him for the 2011 season.
Obviously the Panthers still liked him enough to spend a mid-round pick on him and will give him every chance to win the job in training camp.
Darryl Sharpton, LB, Houston Texans
With Demeco Ryans in Philadelphia, the Texans will have to find his replacement in training camp.
Sharpton, a fourth-round pick out of Miami in 2010, has a lot of upside and looked very good filling in for Demeco Ryans in passing situations.
However, working against his case to win the job is the fact that Bradie James played under Wade Philips in Dallas. Even though he may have more upside than James, Sharpton will have to win Phillips' trust to earn the starting job in training camp.
Jason Worilds, OLB, Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers managed to survive their incessant injuries to their outside linebackers because of the depth provided by Jason Worilds.
The former Virginia Tech sack artist can play just about any linebacker position as he has both pass-rush ability and is light enough to play in space.
After getting a considerable amount of playing time last year because of injuries to starters, Dick LeBeau probably has more trust in Worilds and will utilize his versatility.
Phillip Wheeler, LB, Oakland Raiders
With Rolando McClain set to spend 180 days in jail, the Raiders will need someone to step up in the linebacking corps: the Raiders' defense.
As a member of the terrible Colts' defense in 2011, Wheeler quietly had one of his best seasons as a pro, racking up 84 tackles and a sack. He will be the new strong side linebacker in the Raiders' defense where he will have more talent to work with in front of him than he did last year with the Colts'.
Colin McCarty, LB, Tennessee Titans
Outside of Nashville few NFL fans know about Colin McCarthy.
McCarthy took over for the veteran Barrett Rudd in the middle of the Titans' defense and never looked back.
Assuming he continues his excellent play McCarthy will become a star and he will receive the recognition he deserves.
Jason McCourty, CB, Tennessee Titans
Jason, a former sixth-round pick in the 2009 draft, tends to be out-shined by his brother, Devin McCourty, who was a first-round pick of the Patriots.
However after a bit of a sophomore slump by Devin and a window of opportunity opening up for Jason, the two brothers' career paths seem to be headed in inverse directions.
After Cortland Finnegan left for St. Louis in free agency, the number one cornerback position is now wide open for Jason to take.
Marcus Dixon, DE, New York Jets
Despite the fact that they took a defensive end in the first round of the draft, the Jets are thrilled with the guys they have at defensive end to back up Coples and Wilkerson.
Rex Ryan loves to move guys around and use their strengths to their advantage. In a rotational role, Dixon was also effective against the run as an interior pass rusher.
After proving his worth last year, expect his roles to increase in 2012.
Curtis Marsh, CB, Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles learned the hard way last year that the slot corner position cannot just be filled by anyone. Slot corners need to by physical, which is a trait that Rogers-Cromartie lacked.
Marsh will have to compete with Brandon Boykin for the starting job but he has all of the physical tools to win the job in training camp.
Paul Kruger, OLB, Baltimore Ravens
When Jarrett Johnson left via free agency, Kruger was expected to go from being a backup to a starter.
With Suggs out for the foreseeable future, Kruger will have to be the top linebacker on the Ravens.
The former second-round pick in the 2009 draft had a bit of a disappointing start to his career but he has begun to come on a bit as a rotational player. This upcoming season will be Kruger's chance to go from the ranks of the unknown to being a key component of the Ravens' defense.
Marvin Austin, DT, New York Giants
After missing his entire senior year of football at North Carolina and missing out on the vast majority of his rookie season after suffering an injury in a preseason game, Marvin will finally have his chance to show what he can do at the next level.
Before his dismissal from UNC, Austin was regarded as a potential top-10 pick. It may take him some time to work off the rust, but with some time, Austin could be a star.