NFL Draft 2013: Players That Will Push Teams to Playoff Contention
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Sometimes all it takes is that one player to jolt a team's confidence en route to entering the postseason discussion.
Well, there was no shortage of talent regarding that level of impact during the 2013 NFL draft.
Those who actually get their new respective franchises to January, though, are a completely different story. Last year pro football had the luxury of watching three top prospects in Andrew Luck (Indianapolis Colts), Robert Griffin III (Washington Redskins) and Matt Kalil (Minnesota Vikings) help their new teams reach the playoffs as rookies.
Although it's a team game, there are always individual athletes that contribute on a much greater level. The following offer this capability for the 2013 campaign.
Eric Fisher: Tackle, Kansas City Chiefs
Kansas City entered the 2013 draft in a similar situation as the Vikings did in 2012.
The Chiefs already fielded a strong ground attack, but needed an impact offensive tackle to punish defenses even more and spruce up the pass protection. Well, Minnesota got that from Kalil last season and K.C. echoes him with Central Michigan's Eric Fisher.
Fisher was easily one of the draft's top prospects and his ability to seal the blindside will help bolster the aerial assault. Kansas City's lackluster passing game a year ago was significantly damaged by an unsafe pocket, which in turn, led to an incredible number of turnovers.
So, presenting Fisher just walls the edge courtesy of quick feet, excellent balance and smooth body control when shifting directions. Fewer turnovers then establishes better ball control, and an increase in efficiency allows for stronger balance to keep defenses honest.
Kenny Vaccaro: Safety, New Orleans Saints
Last season the Saints finished 7-9 after beginning 0-4 and were in the NFC playoff picture until December kicked off.
Considering that New Orleans gave up what seemed like a million yards in 2012, five of its nine losses were by eight points or less. Flip two or three of those around and January becomes a greater reality for Drew Brees and Co.
As for the 2013 campaign, the Big Easy did itself a gargantuan favor by selecting Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro. In a nutshell, Vaccaro is a guy capable of impacting all over the field to make plays and help win the field position battle.
While at Texas, Vaccaro accounted for 213 tackles and 24 defended passes from 2010 through 2012. Even though he's not a constant turnover-generator, his knack for locating the rock and minimizing yards after the catch will help the Saints get into more favorable down-and-distance situations.
Jarvis Jones: LB, Pittsburgh Steelers
Which team is most likely to reach the playoffs this year?
Pittsburgh missed the postseason in 2012 as it failed to force turnovers.
The Steelers collected 37 sacks—which is uncharacteristically low —and managed only 10 interceptions. Leading into the fall of 2013, these numbers will increase courtesy of Georgia's Jarvis Jones.
In just two seasons for the Bulldogs, Jones amassed 44 tackles for loss, 28 sacks and forced nine fumbles. His tenacious attitude for getting to the quarterback is rare, which only fits Pittsburgh's defense even better.
Now the Steelers will win more on second and third down, provide the offense with additional possessions and dominate the line as games progress. If anything, Jones' knack for applying pressure simply forces more ill-advised throws to give the pass defense more turnover opportunities.
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