Rising Stars Emerging in NFL Training Camps
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Every year players emerge as rising stars at training camp, exhibiting talents that have hitherto presented themselves, and seek to carry over those performances into the regular season.
For the purposes of this column, a "rising star" cannot be a high-round selection of the last few drafts, unless that player has yet to truly make an impact (see picture above). Players picked in the first few rounds are expected to make an impact and have star potential.
Some of the players on this list are total unknowns, while some have been hampered by injuries or poor performances. Regardless of the reason, they are now ready to emerge as rising stars.
Patriots WR Kenbrell Thompkins
While many (including yours truly) bemoaned the Patriots missing their top five receivers from 2012 (Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd, Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez and Danny Woodhead), that was before the team hit the field for training camp.
Since then, the undrafted Kenbrell Thompkins has emerged as the team's best rookie wide receiver in camp, a major compliment considering the team invested a second-round pick (Aaron Dobson) and fourth-rounder (Josh Boyce) into the position.
If the talented Thompkins can be a reliable target for Tom Brady, it would be a major boon to a Patriots offense that has been scrutinized more than the Zapruder film.
Colts DT Josh Chapman
When the Indianapolis Colts selected Alabama defensive tackle Josh Chapman in the fifth round of the 2012 draft, they knew he would likely miss time coming off a torn ACL, and he ended up missing the entire campaign.
But now, it appears as if general manager Ryan Grigson made a prescient selection with Chapman, who has dominated at Colts camp to the point that he's been dubbed "TNT" ("thug in the trenches") by teammate Robert Mathis.
Chapman is a prolific run-stopper, and if he can keep up his stellar play, the Colts could have a force in the middle of their defensive line.
Raiders WR Rod Streater
When Bleacher Report lead AFC West writer Chris Hansen writes, you must read it. The man knows what he's talking about.
With that said, check out Hansen's recent piece on Raiders wideout Rod Streater. An undrafted free agent from the 2012 draft, Streater has had a terrific camp and looks poised to assume the mantle of "go-to guy" for new Oakland quarterback Matt Flynn (who has reportedly looked great himself).
For a team in desperate need of help in the passing attack, Streater could provide the Silver and Black with a spark.
Eagles WR Russell Shepard
That the Philadelphia Eagles haven't had much luck at wide receiver thus far has to be the biggest understatement of the year.
Top option Jeremy Maclin was lost for the year with a torn ACL. Riley Cooper got himself into hot water with racially charged remarks. And earlier this week, Arrelious Benn also tore his ACL, and he's finished for 2013.
But, all is not lost, as undrafted rookie Russell Shepard has emerged as a viable threat and has turned heads at camp. The former LSU star has been catching everything in sight.
If Shepard can carry over his dazzling camp form into live game action, it would go a long way in softening the recent blows to the Eagles offense.
Redskins WR Aldrick Robinson
Last year, Redskins wide receiver Aldrick Robinson had a Thanksgiving to remember, as he caught a 68-yard touchdown pass to help defeat the Cowboys on one of the biggest national stages.
While Robinson only caught 11 passes last season, he averaged nearly 22 yards per reception and appears poised to make noise in 2013, with Griffin gushing over his play in camp.
The Redskins offense has much potential, and if the speedy Robinson can continue his excellent play and prove to be a viable deep threat, look out.
Lions WR Ryan Broyles
When Lions wide receiver Ryan Broyles tore his ACL last season for the second time in his football career, many wondered if he'd be able to return to his great Oklahoma form that made him the 54th overall selection in the 2012 draft.
If Broyles can stay healthy, there's no question that he can help remove some of the pressure on All-World receiver Calvin Johnson. It will also free up space in the run game, an area where Detroit struggled last season (and a major reason why the team finished a very disappointing 4-12).
Green Bay Packers OT David Bakhtari
The Green Bay Packers suffered a significant blow to their offensive line when Bryan Bulaga, who was moved over to the left side of the line from RT to protect quarterback Aaron Rodgers' blind side, was lost for the season with a torn ACL this past week.
But, not all is lost in Titletown, as David Bakhtiari, the team's fourth-round pick out of Colorado, looks set to step into Bulaga's role and perform at a high level.
If Bakhtiari, who has shown talent and aggression at camp, can prove to be a stalwart on the left side of the line, it will be an invaluable boost to the Packers offense.
Saints RB Mark Ingram
When the New Orleans Saints traded back into the first round of the 2011 draft to select Alabama running back Mark Ingram, many assumed that the reigning Heisman Trophy winner was due for big things in the bayou.
Well, through his first two seasons, that hasn't exactly materialized, as Ingram found himself behind fellow running backs Pierre Thomas and Chris Ivory.
But with Ivory now with the Jets, Ingram will have an opportunity to shine in New Orleans' high-octane offense, and he's making the most of it at training camp.
While Thomas is currently listed as the starter, there's no question that Ingram will be given a chance to shine this season. If his camp performance is any indication, this could be the year that he finally breaks through.