10 Current NFL Backups Who'll Wind Up Starters in 2013

Wes StueveContributor IIIJune 5, 2013

10 Current NFL Backups Who'll Wind Up Starters in 2013

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    In every NFL season, many players who start out as backups turn into starters, so it is inevitable that will be sure to happen again in 2013.

    Of course, many of these backups are rookies and it generally takes time for a rookie to adjust to the NFL. While he may not be ready to start immediately, that could easily change halfway through a season. 

    Some of these backups-turned-starters will be veterans, a player who took a little longer to develop or perhaps an underperforming stater. 

    Regardless of the situation or reason, every NFL team will have new starters throughout next season. These are just a few whose teams could benefit from such a switch.

E.J. Manuel, QB, Buffalo Bills

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    Right now, Kevin Kolb is the starting quarterback in Buffalo. That may not last even through training camp. Kolb isn't that good.

    The main thing holding back E.J. Manuel, the Bills' top pick in the 2013 draft, is his skill set. While undeniably talented, Manuel is raw and struggles with ball placement and his decision-making. He will need to adjust to an NFL offense.

    Still, Kolb's lack of success in the NFL and Manuel's talent should lead to Manuel eventually starting in Buffalo. Of course, the fact that Buffalo drafted Manuel at No. 16 overall doesn't hurt his chances either. 

Geno Smith, QB, New York Jets

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    Picture this: It's December, the Jets and Mark Sanchez are struggling, and Rex Ryan's job is on the line.

    Is there any chance Geno Smith doesn't get a start?

    It could, of course, happen well before then, but this situation—which seems almost inevitable given both Sanchez's and the Jets' recent history—would almost certainly result in Smith starting.

    The second-round pick is talented, but dropped much further than most expected. He could even start the season in New York, but for now, the job appears to belong to Sanchez. 

    It just won't stay that way.

Jimmy Smith, CB, Baltimore Ravens

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    Entering his third NFL season in Baltimore, former first-round pick Jimmy Smith has yet to establish himself as a starting cornerback. With Cary Williams now an ex-Raven, he has a chance to do just that, but he will face competition.

    Corey Graham started eight games in 2012, and he is currently slated as the starting cornerback opposite Lardarius Webb. However, Smith has lost 10 pounds, according to Ravens Insider Aaron Wilson of The Baltimore Sun, and the now 6'2", 200-pounder is a great athlete with supreme physical ability. 

    It looks like Smith could finally be developing into a legitimate player, and Graham isn't going to be able to stop him from claiming a starting spot. 

Leon McFadden, CB, Cleveland Browns

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    Right now, Buster Skrine and Chris Owens are competing to start opposite Joe Haden at cornerback. Unfortunately, neither of these players is particularly good.

    Meanwhile, Leon McFadden is spending time with Cleveland's second-team defense. The third-round pick is almost certainly more talented than both Skrine and Owens. He should be able to pass both of them with time.

    It may be midseason before McFadden starts, but such a move seems certain at some point given the lack of other legitimate options. 

Giovani Bernard, RB, Cincinnati Bengals

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    It's not so much that BenJarvus Green-Ellis is a bad player as much as he is a lackluster one. "The Lawfirm" won't scare any defenses and he isn't exactly capable of carrying an offense either.

    Giovani Bernard is capable of being much more of a difference-maker for the Bengals. The 5'9", 205-pounder is quick, athletic and big play-friendly. He can help out Cincinnati as a receiver and ball-carrier.

    This could be a gradual switch. As the season progresses, Green-Ellis should see less time on the field while Bernard should begin to steal away the former Patriot's carries. Eventually, it will be Bernard who is seeing the majority of playing time. 

Brian Schwenke, C, Tennessee Titans

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    During the offseason, Tennessee made an effort to completely revamp its interior offensive line. The team handed Andy Levitre a six-year, $46.8 million contract and it used its No. 10 draft pick on Alabama guard Chance Warmack.

    Both should start.

    The Titans also drafted a center in Brian Schwenke. A fourth-round pick, Schwenke may struggle to immediately supplant two-year starter Fernando Velasco. 

    However, it shouldn't take long for it to become apparent that Velasco is part of the problem. Schwenke is a tough, physical player, and the California product should be starting by midseason at the latest. 

Travis Kelce, TE, Kansas City Chiefs

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    Tony Moeaki's problem isn't talent. It's staying on the field.

    Moeaki is a fairly athletic pass-catcher, but he has played in just 30 games over the course of three seasons and isn't anything amazing.

    Travis Kelce, on the other hand, could be a great tight end and he should be able to stay on the field. Even if Kelce isn't immediately better than Moeaki, he probably will be. Kelce should be able to earn a spot when Moeaki gets hurt.

    Kelce is a physical tight end with impressive athletic ability who could make a difference for the Chiefs in his first season. 

Tyler Wilson, QB, Oakland Raiders

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    Matt Flynn lost a starting job in Seattle last year and he could blow it again in Oakland.

    The veteran backup simply isn't that good, and Oakland admitted it didn't have total faith in him when it drafted Tyler Wilson in the third round.

    Like Geno Smith, Wilson is already competing for the starting job. Wilson is considerably more raw, but he is still athletic and talented. If Flynn shows he can't win ganes, the Raiders may see if Wilson has upside moving forward.

    As already mentioned, it's possible that Wilson wins the job outright. He is Oakland's most talented passer (it's tough to call Terrelle Pryor a passer) and Wilson could be good.

Johnthan Banks, CB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    The Buccaneers traded their first-round pick for Darrelle Revis, who will start at one cornerback position. The other spot will go to either Eric Wright or Johnthan Banks, but the veteran Wright seems more likely to win the spot.

    At this point, the NFL pretty well knows what Wright is—an inconsistent, but talented, cornerback who can look brilliant or terrible on a given play. Tampa Bay is hoping for more from Banks.

    With a little time, Banks should be able to improve some of his technical flaws, and the Buccaneers will likely desire someone a bit better than Wright. Banks definitely has more potential moving forward, and he could be better as a rookie.

Alex Okafor, OLB, Arizona Cardinals

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    It looks like Lorenzo Alexander will be the starting outside linebacker for the Cardinals despite never having more than 2.5 sacks in a single season.

    In other words, the Arizona pass rush may once again be in trouble.

    That should open a door for Alex Okafor. The 6'4", 264-pounder is strong against the run with decent upside as a pass-rusher. He can certainly be better than Alexander.

    The Cardinals may not immediately trust Okafor as he adjusts to a 3-4 defense. He will need time to develop coverage skills and he isn't natural in space.

    By season's end though, he should be sufficiently developed and Arizona should be sufficiently disappointed in its current starters to give Okafor a shot.