Ryan Tannehill and Rookie of the Year Candidates Who Will Be Next Andy Dalton
Last year, everyone knew who Cam Newton was, but Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton flew under the radar. While Newton put up great numbers, Dalton was solid and led his team to a shocking playoff berth.
This year, there are several rookies who could step up and shock everyone by mimicking Dalton's under-the-radar approach. The following is a look at five guys who will be Rookie of the Year candidates when the end of the season rolls around.
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The Miami Dolphins selected quarterback Ryan Tannehill with the No. 8 pick in the 2012 NFL draft, finally securing a guy they think will be their long-term solution under center.
As things stand right now, Tannehill will likely be the team's third quarterback entering the season. However, with a weak depth chart in front of him that includes Matt Moore and David Garrard, it isn't a stretch to think that the Texas A&M product could see the field in 2012.
When Tannehill eventually does see game action, I expect him to surprise people. He still has a lot of developing to do and isn't as accurate as you would wish for, but he certainly has loads of ability.
At 6'4" and 225 pounds, Tannehill has the size and tools to be a legitimate franchise quarterback in the NFL. He's a smart kid and will pick things up quickly.
Moore and Garrard aren't good enough to keep Tannehill on the bench for long. Expect him to get playing time and surprise observers when he does.
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Leading up to the draft, much of the attention for pass catchers centered on Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon. However, Notre Dame wideout Michael Floyd landed in a perfect situation with the Arizona Cardinals and could be in position to have a huge rookie season.
Floyd will be starting opposite Larry Fitzgerald, who might be the NFL's best all-around receiver. That means the rookie will be expected to produce immediately and likely won't have to face double-teams as Fitzgerald gets tons of attention.
At 6'3" and 225 pounds, Floyd has the size, speed and hands to make a big-time impact in 2012. During his four years in South Bend, the Minnesota native racked up 271 receptions for 3,686 yards and 37 touchdowns. He's no stranger to producing big numbers.
While Blackmon got most of the headlines heading into the draft, Floyd is in a better position to make them on the field as a rookie.
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After watching hundreds of hours of tape in preparation for the 2012 NFL draft, I ranked Stanford guard David DeCastro as the fifth-best player in this year's class.
He is a big, dominant presence in the interior of the offensive line and should be one of the NFL's best guards from the first time he steps on the field.
Somehow, DeCastro fell to the Pittsburgh Steelers at No. 24 in the first round, and now he'll be a part of one of the NFL's best offensive lines immediately.
DeCastro is a monster at guard with his 6'5" and 310-pound frame. He is nasty as a run blocker and solid in pass protection. He is an absolute mauler and will be a perennial Pro Bowler.
Guards almost never get national attention and hype, especially early in their careers. DeCastro is different and will surprise people.
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Alabama's Trent Richardson was the best running back in the 2012 NFL draft, and it wasn't surprising that he went off the board with the No. 3 pick. However, Boise State's Doug Martin wasn't too far behind Richardson. Furthermore, after landing in Tampa Bay, he finds himself in a perfect situation to succeed.
At 5'9" and 219 pounds, Martin has good size for an NFL running back, while also having quickness and excellent open-field speed. He will immediately help the Buccaneers in the passing game, which makes him a true every-down back and an immediate upgrade over incumbent starter LeGarrette Blount.
Not many people are talking about Martin and what he can do on the field, but rest assured, he will make an impact as a rookie.
In four years at Boise State, Martin carried the ball 617 times for 3,431 yards (5.56 yards per carry) and 47 touchdowns. He also caught 67 passes for 715 yards and four more scores.
In new head coach Greg Schiano's offense, Martin will thrive and be one of the biggest offensive surprises in 2012.
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Andrew Luck has obviously received all of the attention for the Indianapolis Colts, but his buddy and tight end Coby Fleener could actually be poised for a better rookie season.
The Colts made Fleener the second pick of the second round (No. 34) and while Luck will have to get him the ball, his fellow Stanford product should turn into a very good pass-catching option. At 6'6" and 250 pounds, the Illinois native is a massive target who also possesses outstanding athleticism. Luck will almost surely look for his favorite college target early and often.
In his final year at Stanford, Fleener caught 34 passes for 667 yards, which is a ridiculous 19.6 yards per catch average for a tight end. He also finished with 10 touchdowns.
While everyone knows about Luck and all the hype surrounding him, Fleener could actually be the key to the star quarterback having a good rookie season. Expect him to put up big numbers in 2012.