12 Rookies Looking Like Early Steals After NFL Minicamps

Matt BowenAnalyst IIJuly 3, 2012

12 Rookies Looking Like Early Steals After NFL Minicamps

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    NFL training camps start in just a few weeks and there are many rookies making a name for themselves after the completion of minicamps. 

    Whether these rookies slipped in the 2012 NFL draft due to personal issues or miscalculation by scouts, the teams that called their names are grinning from ear to ear with what they've seen from them thus far. 

    Rookies are the future of the NFL and fans always love when their team finds a diamond in the rough. There's something about a sleeper pick that brings extra pride to organizations and their fans. These players quickly become fan favorites and gain a cult following overnight. 

    These 12 guys are looking like budding stars heading into training camps in late July.

The Extra Point: It Will Take Years to Determine If RG3 Was a Steal

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    The 2012 NFL draft started with a bang because of the St. Louis Rams trading the No. 2 overall pick to the Washington Redskins, who sought to draft quarterback Robert Griffin III. 

    While everyone expects Griffin to become a superstar, the Redskins paid a hefty price for him. On top of swapping first-round picks and taking the Redskins' second-round pick in 2012, the Rams also got the Reskins' first-round picks in 2013 and 2014. 

    Fans won't be able to truly tell who got the best of this deal for the next five years. The Redskins certainly seem like winners at the moment, but with all the picks the Rams have in the future they could definitely build a contender for years to come. 

    The Rams wasted no time in 2012 when they traded the No. 6 overall pick for Nos. 14 and 45 to the Dallas Cowboys. The Rams then traded No. 45 for Nos. 50 and 150 to the Chicago Bears. 

    In the end, the Rams drafted defensive tackle Michael Brockers, cornerback Janoris Jenkins, running back Isaiah Pead and offensive tackle Rokevious Watkins just from trading the No. 2 pick in 2012. 

    It'll be interesting to see how this blockbuster deal pans out. An NFC Championship Game or two in the future may be the only thing that will settle this debate. 

Chris Rainey May Remind Many of Another Florida Alum

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    The Pittsburgh Steelers made a smooth move when they drafted Chris Rainey in the fifth round of the 2012 NFL draft. 

    What do they have to lose? If he doesn't do much they didn't waste, and pick and if he becomes the X-factor in the offense they'll look like geniuses.  

    Rainey can do a little bit of everything and the Steelers hope he turns out to be similar to Percy Harvin, minus the headaches. 

    With Todd Haley becoming the new offensive coordinator, Rainey will be getting the ball wherever possible, be it as a receiver or running back. 

    The Steelers need a shot in the arm and Rainey could be the cure. Pay attention to this kid in the near future. 

The Packers Are in a Win-Win Situation When It Comes to Andrew Datko

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    The Green Bay Packers are an organization who seem to only get better and offensive tackle Andrew Datko is a prime example why. 

    Datko was highly regarded as an NFL prospect before a nagging shoulder injury hurt his value, and now he's playing with nothing to lose. Taken in the last round of the draft, Datko isn't slated to start in 2012, but his opportunity isn't out of the question.

    Anytime a team can draft a potential starting offensive lineman in the seventh round of the draft, it's a steal. 

    Whether you like the Packers or not, you can't help but root for Datko in his NFL endeavors. He's a smart kid who has a chance to play for one of the league's most revered teams. 

Jared Crick's Injury Created a Steal for the Houston Texans

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    Jared Crick was one of the most dangerous defensive lineman in the Big Ten last season.

    Due to a torn pectoral muscle his draft stock dropped, but the Houston Texans were wise to select him in the fourth round. 

    Anytime the GM of the franchise acknowledges you are the one to "watch out for," you're doing something right. 

    The Texans already have a stout defense and Crick will provide the depth necessary for any NFL defense to make through a grueling 16-game schedule. Considering he was drafted so late and is projected to be a starter in the future, that's the definition of a steal. 

Riley Reiff Came Gift-Wrapped to the Detroit Lions

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    The Detroit Lions didn't expect offensive tackle Riley Reiff to be available at No. 23 in the first round of 2012 NFL draft and didn't think twice to nab him. 

    Reiff is one of the best in his class and will play a vital role for the Lions in the near future. He'll make his case to start the season as the right tackle during training camp and will eventually become the franchise left tackle when Jeff Backus decides to retire. 

    It doesn't happen often where an offensive tackle of his caliber drops so far in the first round, and the Lions will be better because of Reiff.

    With the pass-heavy attack that the Lions present to opposing defenses, it's of the utmost importance to protect quarterback Matthew Stafford

    Look for Reiff to excel and have teams that passed on him asking themselves why they didn't draft him. 

Janoris Jenkins Will Mature Quickly in St. Louis and Make the Rams Look Good

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    The St. Louis Rams have started fresh this offseason by hiring Jeff Fisher to run The Show 2.0. 

    Rookie cornerback Janoris Jenkins will get a fresh start himself in St. Louis as he starts his NFL career.

    Said to have top-10 talent, Jenkins' draft stock dropped because of character issues and the Rams took a chance on him at No. 39 in the 2012 NFL draft.

    Now learning from newly acquired Cortland Finnegan, the Rams have a dynamic duo forming in their defensive backfield.  

    Jenkins will be just fine as far as character issues are concerned. After all, gaining Fisher's trust isn't easy and Jenkins has done just that. 

    He will be part of the reason why the Rams' record heads north in 2012 and beyond. 

Nick Toon Will Be Drew Brees' Newest Weapon in the Bayou

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    Drew Brees doesn't care who catches his passes, and fourth-round pick Nick Toon will emerge as an absolute steal for the New Orleans Saints by the time the 2012 NFL season is over.

    Although he has yet to gel with Brees, it won't take the two long before they're on the same page.

    Brees will be happy with his young receiver and do everything to make Toon better. 

    He has been surrounded by football his entire life thanks to his dad, Al, and has the physical and mental makeup of a successful NFL receiver. At 6'2", 215 lbs. Toon has solid hands and will get the opportunity to shed plenty of would-be tacklers in his rookie season. 

    The current forecast for the Saints may not be so bright, but Toon will shine for the Saints in 2012. 

Third-Round Selection Jamell Fleming Is a Hot Topic in the Desert

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    The Arizona Cardinals suddenly have two of the top young cornerbacks in the NFL in Patrick Peterson and Jamell Fleming. 

    Fleming, a third-round pick this year, has done more than impress to this point in his rookie campaign. Although he may not start right off the bat, he's doing to turn the right heads in Arizona.

    Cardinals fans should be ecstatic for their defensive secondary because their NFL West opponents have all gotten better on offense this offseason. 

    Expect Fleming to make an impact in 2012 and beyond.

Orson Charles Is Going to Be a Beast for the Cincinnati Bengals

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    Orson Charles was thought to be a late first-round pick in the 2012 NFL draft, but took a dive to the fourth round.

    This kid is a monster and will play with a chip on his shoulder for the Cincinnati Bengals. 

    Charles comes in at 6'3", 251 lbs., giving quarterback Andy Dalton two towering tight ends to throw the ball to. Being that the tight end position is the latest focal point for many offenses, Charles will do some damage in his rookie season. 

    It's always somewhat frightening when an NFL coach is taken aback by a player's physical strength, which Charles has done.

    Combined with Jermaine Gresham, the Bengals duo will contend for the best tight end tandem in the league. Yes, they have plenty to prove, but having receiver A.J. Green to stretch the field never hurts. 

    The Bengals have to show the rest of the NFL that their 2011 wasn't a fluke, and Charles just may be the key to their success.

Eagles Fans Can't Wait to See Brandon Boykin Fly High in Philadelphia

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    Brandon Boykin was one of the most versatile players in the 2012 NFL draft, and the Philadelphia Eagles landed a gem when they stole him in the fourth round. The Eagles committed a crime when they chose Boykin because he's pure dynamite on a football field. 

    Boykin will see some time in the defensive backfield in 2012 but will make his mark in the return game. 

    Given some NFL experience and his health, Boykin could become that multidimensional player that produces every time the ball comes his way.

    He's the type of guy fans will become glued to their TVs to see. 

    Boykin is an automatic candidate as a deep sleeper on your 2012 fantasy squad. 

There Was Talk of Josh Norman Being Drafted on Day 1 Before He Went on Day 3

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    Coming from Coastal Carolina, Josh Norman was a player no one had ever heard of before the 2011 college football season.

    Out of nowhere, Norman's stock skyrocketed only to fizzle just days before the draft as he was selected by the Carolina Panthers in the fifth round. 

    Lucky for the Panthers, Norman looks like he'll be a starter in 2012. Anytime a player like star receiver Steve Smith is impressed by a rookie cornerback, that's a good thing. 

    Norman is surely looking like he should have been chosen before the final day of the draft as he's become a blessing in disguise for the Panthers. For a team that struggled on defense in 2011, the Panthers need him to prove every team that passed on him wrong. 

Andre Branch Will Become a Top-Tier Pass-Rusher, Make the Jags Stronger on D

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    The Jacksonville Jaguars will look great when Andre Branch becomes an immediate threat to opposing quarterbacks.

    Chosen No. 38 overall, Branch has played with the first-team defense to this point in the offseason. With a strong training camp, he'll start in Week 1 in 2012. 

    Jags fans should be thrilled for the defensive end who expects to produce and strives to be in the Hall of Fame.

    Sure, every kid wants to be enshrined in the Hall, but very few have the work ethic and focus that Branch has displayed thus far. 

    The team already has a solid defense and Branch gives it the pass-rusher it needs. Branch will turn out to be a steal when he leads all rookies in sacks in 2012 and becomes an All-Pro in the future.

No One Expected Russell Wilson to Start in Seattle, but He's in Contention

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    Russell Wilson was drafted in the third round of the 2012 NFL draft with thoughts of him becoming a solid backup quarterback in the future. 

    Thanks to a strong start to his NFL career, Wilson may be the Week 1 starter in 2012 for the Seattle Seahawks.

    When the Seahawks signed quarterback Matt Flynn in the offseason, everyone thought that the job was his, but that isn't the case. 

    Wilson currently is in contention to start and definitely has a mental edge heading into training camp. He's a terrific athlete who is a proven winner, and he could easily steal the job. 

    The odds may be against him, seeing that the Seahawks paid Flynn a $6 million signing bonus and incumbent Tarvaris Jackson won seven games in 2011, but having confidence in your quarterback is priceless in the NFL.

    If the organization believes Wilson gives the team the best at winning, he'll become the leading man. If he doesn't win the job, he could fetch the Seahawks a couple of nice draft picks in the future.

    Regardless, Wilson will get his shot to start in the NFL before his days are done.