10 Second-Year NFL Players Primed for Breakout Seasons in 2012
How soon draft picks can translate to the NFL is not an exact science.
Teams do not expect every drafted player to immediately come in and play at an NFL level.
Even first-round picks may need some time to develop.
While most fans are eager to grade a team's draft after just one season, it's how those players perform two and three years down the road that demonstrates the draft's real worth.
Players progress at different speeds.
Many players use their first season as a learning year and burst on the scene in their sophomore campaign.
Here is a look at some of the players from last year's draft that could have a breakout 2012 season.
Brooks Reed, Houston Texans
He exceeded expectations, tallying 45 total tackles and six sacks.
Reed carried this momentum into the postseason, recording 3.5 sacks in two playoff games for the Texans.
With Williams now a member of the Buffalo Bills, Reed will continue to occupy that starting spot.
Now, with an entire offseason to work with the first team, there is no reason to believe that his production will drop off.
Reed should enjoy a season that solidly entrenches him as one of the league's best pass-rushers.
Prince Amukamara, New York Giants
He suffered an early injury that caused him to miss the first nine games of the season.
When he was able to return to the field, Amukamara played primarily in nickel and dime situations.
With Aaron Ross now with the Jaguars, this opens up a starting spot that could be potentially filled by Amukamara.
His ability to play the position, coupled with one of the league's top pass-rushing units in front of him, puts Amukamara in the fast lane toward a breakout season.
Blaine Gabbert, Jacksonville Jaguars
After his rookie season, that was in doubt.
He started 14 games in his rookie season, throwing for 2,214 yards, 12 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
Those are not stats that make anyone stand up and take notice.
In Gabbert's defense, he played behind a beat-up offensive line and had one of the most underwhelming receiving corps in the league.
A new coaching staff, upgraded receivers and a healthy line will go a long way in improving Gabbert's game and confidence.
The Jaguars should finally see the franchise quarterback they envisioned when they traded up for Gabbert.
Jimmy Smith, Baltimore Ravens
Coming into the NFL draft, there was no questioning if Jimmy Smith had the ability to be a superstar at the next level.
The question was if he could eliminate all of the off-field distractions.
He played fairly well as a rookie, coming away with a couple of interceptions.
Smith should be able to secure the other starting cornerback spot in the preseason, and he could be in store for a big season playing on that fearsome Baltimore defense.
Greg Little, Cleveland Browns
He had the second most receptions of any first-year receiver with 61.
Little started to come on strong toward the end of the season, posting his only 100-plus yard game in Week 15 against the Cardinals.
The Browns' quarterback play last year was easily below average, and that drastically affected Little's numbers.
Even with average quarterbacking, 80 receptions for 1,000 yards and eight touchdowns would be attainable numbers for Little.
Justin Houston, Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs defense averaged nearly a touchdown less given up per game once Houston moved into the starting lineup.
He finished the season strong with 5.5 sacks in his final five games, including a three-sack effort against the Chicago Bears in Week 13.
With Romeo Crennel still running the defense, there is no reason to think that Houston will slow down anytime soon, and it should not surprise anyone if he puts up double-digit sacks in 2012.
Robert Quinn, St. Louis Rams
Robert Quinn has elite-level ability, and he flashed some of that potential as a rookie in 2011.
Even without logging starter minutes, Quinn was able to register five sacks.
The St. Louis Rams released veteran end James Hall this offseason, opening up a starting spot.
As long as Quinn seizes that spot, he should easily be able to record double-digit sack totals playing opposite Chris Long.
Robert Quinn has monster ability, and in 2012, could post monster numbers.
Doug Baldwin, Seattle Seahawks
There was nothing spectacular about the Seattle passing game, but Baldwin was still able to turn heads.
He broke on the scene in Week 5 against the New York Giants, hauling in eight receptions for 136 yards and a touchdown.
While the passing game was up and down all season long, Baldwin managed to finish with 51 receptions and 86 targets.
Baldwin could be in store for an even bigger season if Sidney Rice can come back healthy and take some of the pressure away.
DeMarco Murray, Dallas Cowboys
Murray started the next seven games before suffering a fractured ankle that ended his season.
But in those seven games, he ran for 897 yards and two touchdowns and added 26 receptions for 183 yards.
He thoroughly outplayed Jones and should go into the 2012 season as the starting running back for the Dallas Cowboys.
With the offensive explosion he burst on the scene with and an entire season as the feature back, Murray has the potential to be one of the best all-purpose backs in the NFL.
Torrey Smith, Balitmore Ravens
He put his speed on display in Week 3 against the St. Louis Rams, where he caught five balls for 152 yards and three touchdowns.
Smith found himself in the starting lineup from that point forward, catching 50 passes for 841 yards and seven touchdowns.
If he can develop good chemistry with quarterback Joe Flacco, then the sky is the limit for Smith.
He carried his strong rookie campaign into the postseason, where in two games, he had 91 yards on four catches and a score in two playoff games.
As long as Smith improves his consistency, he could prove to be a real force in 2012.
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