2012 NFL Predictions: Projecting the 25 Biggest Overachievers of the 2012 Season

Eli Nachmany@EliNachmanyCorrespondent IIIJuly 20, 2012

2012 NFL Predictions: Projecting the 25 Biggest Overachievers of the 2012 Season

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    An "overachiever" is a player who outperforms his skill set due to a variety of different reasons, including system, circumstance and supporting cast.

    Some players, like Wes Welker, have made a career of "overachieving" expectations and winning battles on the field despite a lack of size, speed or other factors.

    The following players may not be the best on the field in 2012, but they'll put up numbers that exceed what they'd normally be able to do with their skill set.

Stevie Johnson

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    Stevie Johnson isn't a big, imposing receiver who boxes out defenders for the football, and he's not elite in any facet of his game.

    When the shoulder pads come on, though, Johnson is a true No. 1 receiver.

    He may not have the best attributes or skill set, but this pass-catcher produces (to the tune of 1,000-plus yards and seven touchdowns in 2011) and will continue to do so in 2012.

Richard Marshall

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    Despite the fact that this player could conceivably line up as a No. 1 cornerback, Richard Marshall constantly finds himself on the other side of a solid defensive back.

    Last year, lining up across from Patrick Peterson, Marshall had a great year, tallying two sacks, three interceptions and 11 pass defenses.

    Look for his success to continue this season, when he'll find his niche on the other side of the more experienced Vontae Davis.

Stevenson Sylvester

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    With the retirement of James Farrior, the Steelers need to move on at middle linebacker, and I predict the team will go with Stevenson Sylvester.

    Larry Foote is a good player, but Sylvester is younger and does a better job in pass coverage.

    That being said, look for this linebacker to put up outrageous numbers for his skill set, if only because he's playing next to Lawrence Timmons, LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison.

Tandon Doss

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    I may be going out on a limb here, but I predict Tandon Doss will come down with an impressive amount of catches and yards in 2012, considering the player's skills and draft position.

    A fourth-rounder, Doss didn't see many opportunities in 2011, but now that Lee Evans has left the Ravens, look for this former Hoosier to step up.

    He doesn't do anything particularly well, but he'll be big for Baltimore this season.

Tracy Porter

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    Similar to Richard Marshall, Tracy Porter always finds himself as the No. 2 corner on the other side of a very good defensive back.

    With the Saints, Porter had success on the other side of Jabari Greer and should continue said success in Denver with Champ Bailey.

    While not good enough to be the first corner on many depth charts, Porter has success in his role as the No. 2 guy.

Aaron Maybin

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    Labeled a bust in Buffalo, Aaron Maybin's had a resurgence as a New York Jet thanks to head coach Rex Ryan's clever schemes.

    Ryan puts Maybin in different positions to succeed, having the linebacker rush quarterbacks off the edge as a part of elaborate blitz schemes.

    After leading the Jets in sacks for the 2011 season, Maybin will certainly have more opportunities to get after the quarterback in 2012.

Any Linebacker on the Giants

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    The Giants have the best defensive line in the NFL, a fair assessment when all things are considered.

    While its front four are great, the team's linebacker corps leaves a lot to be desired, and such is the reason that it makes this list.

    When Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck and other Giant defensive linemen are blowing up their respective gaps, average linebackers like Mathias Kiwanuka will have the chance to shine.

Alex Smith

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    A hot topic of many debates this offseason, Alex Smith finds his way onto this list because of the weapons he has around him.

    While Smith is not a star quarterback, he'll again post great numbers in Jim Harbaugh's passer-friendly system with a host of talent around him.

    With the addition of players like Randy Moss, Mario Manningham and Brandon Jacobs, the 49ers could be back in the NFC Championship Game come 2012.

LaMichael James

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    While on the topic of the 49ers, Jim Harbaugh and the team's newly added weapons, don't forget that LaMichael James will be looking for touches out of the backfield.

    While many draft scouts passed off James as a college star who doesn't have an NFL skill set, look for the 49ers to find creative ways to get this running back the ball.

    James won't be a featured part of the offense, and he may not get that many carries or catches, but he'll prove that he can succeed in the Jim Harbaugh system in 2012.

Bernard Scott

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    Cedric Benson carried a lot of the load for the Bengals in 2011, but look for the team to run more of a two-headed attack for years to come.

    Benson is gone, and the backfield now belongs to a combination of BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Bernard Scott.

    Scott, who isn't the most productive of players, will rack up stats with an increased workload in 2012.

Tim Benford

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    NFL (and especially Cowboy) fans witnessed Laurent Robinson lament himself as a top-notch option from the slot receiver position in 2011, eventually moving on to the Jaguars for a big contract.

    The Cowboys will roll with undrafted free agent Tim Benford as their No. 3 receiver in 2012, who will have every opportunity to make a Robinson-like impact in the slot.

    Look for this player to become the next in a long line of players who should have been drafted, but weren't.

Ryan Kerrigan

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    Playing across from Brian Orakpo, one is bound to get an inordinate amount of opportunities to take down the quarterback.

    Such is the case with Ryan Kerrigan.

    A solid defensive end in college, this pass-rusher burst onto the scene in 2011, racking up 63 tackles and 7.5 sacks. He'll continue to perform in the upcoming season.

Coby Fleener

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    Don't get me wrong, because Coby Fleener is a good player, but it's not common that a tight end gets a chance to come into the NFL and work with the same quarterback he had during his college career.

    Factor in that quarterback as Andrew Luck, and Fleener's path to success is rather defined.

    Though he's no elite option at the tight end position, he'll likely play like one in 2012 and for years to come.

Josh Gordon

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    Josh Gordon's name has been in the news a lot recently, from the supplemental draft to speculation as to whether or not the player could be a No. 1 wide receiver.

    Gordon has a rare skill set, but he's very raw and would usually need some seasoning.

    Expect the Browns to put this player (along with Trent Richardson and Brandon Weeden) at the forefront of their rebuilding efforts. He'll get more catches and yards in 2012 than one would expect.

C.J. Spiller

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    C.J. Spiller's role has been growing in the Buffalo Bills offense ever since he was drafted with the ninth overall pick back in 2010.

    While he'll never be a featured back or a between-the-tackles runner, Spiller looks to come into his own in the 2012 season and put up much better numbers than his skill set would usually dictate.

    Chan Gailey's wide-open, spread offense creates opportunities, and players like Spiller ultimately benefit.

Doug Martin

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    Doug Martin is a very, very good running back, so don't mistake this slide for me saying that Martin isn't a top-notch player.

    The fact is, though, Greg Schiano is a guru when it comes to developing running backs and should be able to make a star out of Martin.

    While this running back is a good player in his own right, he'll go nuts with production under Schiano.

Jon McGraw

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    Jon McGraw is not a great player by any means, but the talent he has around him helps to make this Chief a productive safety.

    The opportunity to play in the same defensive backfield as Eric Berry and Brandon Flowers in 2012 will help McGraw look great.

    This safety will put up bigger numbers than he should, and his teammates are to thank for it.

Martellus Bennett

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    Eli Manning has made productive players out of Jake Ballard and Kevin Boss at the tight end position, among others.

    While Martellus Bennett is an athletic pass-catcher, he struggles with catching the football and running crisp routes.

    No matter, for Manning will find a way to integrate Bennett into the rotation of targets.

Jacquizz Rodgers

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    Michael Turner's dealt with an excessive workload over the last number of years, so look for the Falcons to involve another running back in their offense.

    The excess of carries and catches should fall upon Jacquizz Rodgers, a running back whom Atlanta drafted out of Oregon State.

    Rodgers, an explosive back who lacks the size to have success in a traditional offense, will put up good stats for a Falcon team searching for answers at tailback.

Brandon Browner

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    Brandon Browner doesn't do anything particularly well, but he was very successful in the Seahawks zone scheme for the 2011 season, racking up interceptions.

    Seattle is counting on Browner to perform well again, so look for the team to put this cornerback in a position to succeed come 2012.

    Playing with Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor doesn't hurt, either.

Tim Tebow

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    As much as I think Tim Tebow is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, the fact remains that this player has severe deficiencies when it comes to throwing the football.

    Regardless, the Jets will use Tebow in different Wildcat packages and mask a lot of this quarterback's deficiencies.

    As for the signal-caller's stats, expect a healthy number of rushing touchdowns around the goal line for No. 15.

Mark Anderson

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    Mark Anderson recorded 10 sacks on a subpar Patriot defense last season, which leads many to believe that he'll post huge numbers for the Bills in 2012.

    Though he's been a journeyman most of his career, Anderson will destroy quarterbacks for Buffalo, considering that offenses will have to pick between blocking the ex-Patriot or marquee free agent Mario Williams.

    This player has the ability to explode at any given time, so look for him to be an above-average pass-rusher come 2012.

Isaac Redman

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    Isaac Redman has never been much of a featured player throughout his career, but he's on track to get meaningful carries in 2012.

    In the Pittsburgh Steeler offense, running backs tend to outperform their own skill sets, so look for Redman to do the same.

    The addition of David DeCastro to the offensive line is also a positive here.

Davone Bess

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    After tallying just 537 receiving yards in 2011, look for Davone Bess to step into the role of No. 1 wide receiver in 2012.

    This pass-catcher doesn't have any "wow" factor about him, but he's a reliable player who makes catches, runs great routes and moves the chains.

    Not a traditional No. 1 receiver, Bess will look to come down with a majority of the targets in the Dolphins passing offense. This is a story to follow.

Pierre Garcon

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    When the Redskins drafted Robert Griffin III and signed Pierre Garcon, it became clear that the team was trying to replicate the Griffin/Kendall Wright connection from Baylor.

    Garcon has problems with drops and isn't much to talk about from a scout's perspective at receiver, but he makes plays on the deep ball, and that should be enough.

    Griffin III will make Garcon a productive player in the Redskins offense, constantly going over the top to this ex-Colt.


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