Michael Smith and 10 Mid-to-Late Round Rookies Sure to Impress in Training Camp
NFL training camps are no longer the cookie jars way, way up on the counter top that our seven-year-old selves couldn't reach—no matter how much we stretched or how high we stood on our tippy-toes.
They've arrived or are arriving shortly (Click here for team-by-team schedule of training camp dates)—after five long months since the New York Giants were crowned Super Bowl champs—and the feeding frenzy is about to begin.
Time for depth charts and rosters to be finalized and for rookies, especially those drafted in the mid-to-late rounds, to show their worth.
Here are 10 such prospects sure to impress in their respective training camps.
RB Michael Smith, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Smith fits in well in Tampa Bay. He's an ideal change-of-pace, situational back—he posted a 4.33 40-yard dash and a 40-inch vertical leap at his pro day—who makes the most of limited opportunities.
A backup at Utah State behind Robert Turbin, Smith averaged more than seven yards per carry in his career and was dangerous as a receiver and kick returner.
WR Juron Criner, Oakland Raiders
Why did Louis Murphy cross the road?
Because that's where the plane out of Oakland departed. Really, though, it's because Criner has already established himself as a viable starter and early contributor—pushing Murphy off the depth chart and all the way to Carolina.
What Criner lacks in top-end speed, he more than makes up for with route running, body control and the ability to make difficult catches look easy.
OT Bobby Massie, Arizona Cardinals
An appropriate name for an appropriately-skilled lineman. Massie has the right blend of size, strength and athleticism to contribute in both the run and pass games.
After surrendering 54 sacks in 2011—second-worst in entire NFL—the Arizona offensive line appears to have room for Massie.
Plenty of it.
WR Nick Toon, New Orleans Saints
A vastly underrated wide receiver prospect, Toon will thrive in New Orleans' pass-happy offense—a stark contrast to the offense of Wisconsin.
He is a big target with deceptive speed and soft hands that really pluck the ball out of the air.
OLB Terrell Manning, Green Bay Packers
Word is several teams had their eyes on Manning, a complete linebacker out of N.C. State, until the Packers nabbed him in the fifth round. He's a must for a defense that surrendered five yards per carry and was even worse against the pass.
If he adds bulk to his 230-pound frame without losing a step, Manning could be a real steal.
OG Tony Bergstrom, Oakland Raiders
Not your typical "wow" or head-scratching pick by the Raiders, but they're a different franchise with a different plan under Reggie McKenzie.
Bergstrom is a nasty, high-intensity player on the field, and he has high character off it.
QB Ryan Lindley, Arizona Cardinals
A real gunslinger with no real chance to start as a rookie—though the call may come sooner than expected.
Lindley can make all the throws—outs, slants, screens, deep balls, you name it—but he struggles with decision-making and accuracy.
However, a few polishes here and there may expose a very shiny diamond.
DE/OLB Cam Johnson, San Francisco 49ers
The "tweener" label and knee concerns unfairly caused his stock to drop, and the 49ers couldn't be happier. Johnson is a natural pass-rusher who also sets the edge against the run.
Working with Patrick Willis, Aldon Smith and linebackers coach Jim Leavitt will help tremendously as Johnson transitions from defensive end to outside linebacker in the NFL.
CB Trumaine Johnson, St. Louis Rams
Johnson is that rare corner with size (6'2", 205 pounds), speed and physicality. He looks like a safety but plays like a corner, with fluidity in the hips and quick recovery. He can also step up and use that size and strength to jam receivers at the line.
DE/OLB Tim Fugger, Indianapolis Colts
Laugh all you want at the name, not the game.
Fugger was the ultimate value pick in the seventh round. He flew under the radar despite 7.5 sacks, 13.5 tackles for loss and three forced fumbles in his final season at Vanderbilt, and he is soon to make a name for himself in training camp.
He seems destined for a special teams role as he develops into a starter down the road.
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