10 Potential Superstars Who Could Emerge During OTAs
With the vast majority of the league currently undergoing organized team activities (OTAs) and the rest soon to follow, it's time to examine the players who are set to emerge as potential superstars for the 2013 season.
When I put this list together, I set forth a specific criteria:
The player must be 27 or younger, the player must never have been selected for either an All-Pro team or for the Pro Bowl, the player must not be entering his rookie season and the player must be capable of making a huge impact in 2013.
The one final piece of criteria? There must be common sense instituted in the rankings. That means players like Dez Bryant, Colin Kaepernick and Eric Decker (to name a few) are disqualified from the list, as the argument can easily be made that they're already superstars, despite having fulfilled the qualifications listed above.
Remember, this list is all about "potential" superstars emerging. That means no "current" superstar can be chosen.
So, without further adieu, here are the 10 potential superstars who could (and will) emerge during OTAs:
Miami Dolphins S Reshad Jones
Dolphins safety Reshad Jones, a fifth-round pick out of Georgia in 2010, is one of my favorite young players in football and is primed for a huge season.
He's started 28 games in the past two seasons and has made a significant impact, especially last year, when he led the Dolphins with four interceptions.
While Jones didn't show up for Miami's first day of OTAs due to his desire for a new contract (he's entering the final year of his rookie deal), he will reportedly be in attendance moving forward, as Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland and Jones' agent work towards a new deal.
It would behoove the Dolphins to lock Jones up now, because his price tag will only skyrocket after what's sure to be a breakout 2013 campaign.
New York Jets DE Muhammad Wilkerson
While the New York Jets appear to be set for a very long and painful 2013 season, there are some bright spots on an otherwise bare 53-man roster, most notably third-year defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson.
This year, Wilkerson will become a darling of the New York media, as he has all the physical tools to dominate as a 3-4 defensive end. Don't believe me? Ask B/R featured columnist Adam Waksman, who recently wrote about just how good Wilkerson is, or see what ProFootballFocus.com wrote about Richardson's stellar 2012 campaign.
In addition to his skill on the field, Wilkerson has said all the right things this offseason, including that he believes the Jets can win "right now." Whether or not he's right is another story (and he's wrong), but it's good that he's being positive.
Once September rolls around and the season begins, there's no question that the Jets will struggle. But, it won't be because of Wilkerson. He is a superstar in the making.
Cleveland Browns WR Josh Gordon
Well, the Browns' decision turned up aces in 2012, as Gordon burst onto the scene with 50 catches for 805 yards and five touchdowns, leading the team in the latter two categories.
In 2013, things will get even better for Gordon. Cleveland has a terrific new offensive coordinator (hide your eyes, Chargers fans) in Norv Turner who loves to get the ball downfield, and he's a big fan of Gordon, a tremendous sign for the second-year player.
With Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden and running back Trent Richardson likely to improve on their neophyte campaigns, it's easy to think that Gordon will have even more success in 2013.
Gordon definitely has superstar potential, and we'll see it begin to manifest this offseason.
Cleveland Browns CB Joe Haden
While some might scoff at my inclusion of Joe Haden on this list, I'm firmly of the opinion that Haden, despite his obvious physical talents, has not yet blossomed into a superstar. B/R featured columnist James Dudko agrees with me, having left Haden off his list of the best 25 players under 25 years old.
But this is the year that Haden puts it all together and becomes a superstar.
New defensive coordinator Ray Horton plays an aggressive scheme predicated on attacking the quarterback, which perfectly suits the elite cover skills possessed by Haden. When reading some of Horton's quotes on the defense, it arouses a level of excitement not seen in Cleveland in quite some time.
Haden will combine his superior physical ability with the Browns' new defensive mentality and reach the superstar plateau in 2013.
New York Giants RB David Wilson
In 2012, Giants rookie running back David Wilson didn't have the ideal start to his NFL career, but he improved throughout the campaign and finished with a flourish, making him an easy inclusion on this list.
In addition to his spectacular ability running the football (he averaged 5.0 yards per carry in 2012), he also returns kicks with aplomb, leading to speculation that he could have both responsibilities in 2013.
Wilson has tremendous speed and burst, and has shown a willingness to run in between the tackles. When you combine that with his ability returning the football, you have an emerging superstar in the making.
Green Bay Packers WR Randall Cobb
While Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb is no longer flying under the radar after sparkling in 2012, he's yet to reach all-out superstar status.
That will change in 2013.
With former Green Bay wideout Greg Jennings now in Minnesota, Cobb will see an expanded role in the offense, and that's a wonderful thing for the Packers.
Cobb is poised to be one of the NFL's best weapons for years to come. He will be a superstar in 2013 and beyond.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers LB Lavonte David
Buccaneers linebacker Lavonte David had an outstanding rookie year, compiling over 100 tackles and establishing himself as a pillar in the Tampa Bay defense for years to come. He'll be even better in 2013.
With longtime Bucs great Ronde Barber having retired, it'll be up to players like David to fill the leadership void, and general manager Mark Dominik has been impressed with his continued growth and maturity.
The Buccaneers defense, with the additions of Darrelle Revis and Dashon Goldson, appears poised for a solid 2013 season. David will be a huge part of that equation and reach his superstar potential in year two.
Carolina Panthers LB Luke Kuechly
While Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly was named last season's defensive rookie of the year, that prize can only be presented to neophytes.
In 2013 and beyond, Kuechly will be up for a bigger award: Defensive player of the year.
Kuechly was respected enough by his peers to make the NFL Network's "Top 100" list, a harbinger of positive things to come for the second-year linebacker out of Boston College.
Kuechly is a superstar in the making, and he'll fulfill his massive potential sooner rather than later.
Arizona Cardinals DE Calais Campbell
Much like Muhammad Wilkerson of the Jets, Calais Campbell has been a terror at 3-4 defensive end for Arizona, having put together four excellent campaigns in a row. However, he hasn't yet reached "superstar" status. That will change in 2013.
Campbell has compiled 27.5 sacks in the last four year and has proved to be an adept run-stopper as well.
He also appears to be energized by the appointment of Bruce Arians as Cardinals head coach, a very positive development for the ascending Campbell.
Campbell's days of flying under the radar are drawing to a close. He'll begin to emerge as a superstar this offseason and will carry that into a highly successful 2013 campaign.
St. Louis Rams QB Sam Bradford
It's now or never for Rams quarterback Sam Bradford.
Bradford is entering his fourth season and has yet to crack the superstar level that the Rams expected when they selected him with the first overall pick in the 2010 draft. That, however, has more to do with the talent surrounding Bradford than it does with Bradford himself.
The Rams signed super-athletic tight end Jared Cook and drafted receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey, giving Bradford his best set of weapons since he entered the league. There is no longer any excuse for Bradford not to reach the potential that made him the No. 1 overall prospect coming out of Oklahoma.
This is the year that Bradford becomes a superstar. His emergence at that level will begin at OTAs.