The modern NFL provides rookies with ample opportunities to impress coaches. From the media-saturated combine to minicamps and OTAs, there is no shortage of ways for players to gain reps and impress coaches and fans alike.
You really don't know a player until he throws on all the pads and plays at full speed under the bright lights of an NFL contest. Rookies can do all they want in the summer, but the preseason is the first true opportunity for many players to break out and really make a name for themselves.
Let's put our Nostradamus cloaks on and predict which rookies will make huge strides during the 2014 preseason and throw off any and all late fantasy football draft rankings.
Carlos Hyde, RB, San Francisco 49ers
This one may be more out of unfortunate necessity than anything else, but Carlos Hyde has the bona fide skills, and he now has the opportunity to showcase his skills in the preseason.
According to CBS Sports' Ryan Wilson, backup running back Kendall Hunter is out for the season with a torn ACL suffered during a Niners training camp practice on Friday. On Sunday, former Oregon star LaMichael James was carted off the field with an apparent dislocated left elbow, per Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News.
That's 90 carries from last season confined to the sidelines (although hopefully not for long in James' case).
Trading up for a running back in the second round is indeed high praise in today's NFL, especially considering the 49ers already had James, Hunter and Frank Gore on the roster.
Hyde rushed for 1,521 yards and 15 touchdowns with Ohio State last year. He's looked good in workouts so far, with general manager Trent Baalke noting Hyde looks like a great fit for the 49ers offense.
"He's not a home-run hitter every time he touches the ball, but he's capable just as Frank has been capable over his career to break some long runs," Baalke said, via CBS Sports' Larry Hartstein. "He runs our style of offense very well."
Hyde should get plenty of carries in the preseason, which will allow him to get into the flow of the game and fine tune his ball-carrier instincts.
Kyle Van Noy, LB, Detroit Lions
Kyle Van Noy is a menacing outside linebacker who might have teams wondering why they let him fall into the second round this preseason.
Van Noy has been hard at work learning defensive coordinator Teryl Austin's aggressive scheme, per The Salt Lake Tribune's Gordon Monson:
Already, Van Noy has participated in mini-camps and OTAs, running with the 1s and 2s, absorbing as much as he could of an aggressive new defensive scheme in Detroit, one that favors his particular abilities, the versatile skills that have been on display in Provo over the past few years.
An aggressive approach certainly suits Van Noy, who registered 26 sacks in four seasons at Brigham Young University.
He's also bulked up over the offseason, per Josh Katzenstein of The Detroit News:
Preseason offers him the opportunity to face offensive tackles with a wide variety of skill levels, from veteran starters to undrafted players looking to snag a roster spot or find safe passage to the next offseason with the practice squad.
Van Noy's athleticism is such that he should be able to whip the lesser tackles and make some big plays in the backfield. This isn't to say he will dominate the regular season, but Van Noy will likely flash signs of some serious playmaking ability if the Lions let him loose in the preseason.
Donte Moncrief, WR, Indianapolis Colts
Donte Moncrief was the 14th wide receiver drafted in 2014, but he has the size and athleticism to make an immediate impact in the NFL.
The Ole Miss stud racked up 59 catches for 938 yards and six touchdowns in 2013. Moncrief did have a problem with drops during his collegiate career, and high-profile wideouts like Sammy Watkins and Mike Evans certainly overshadowed him heading into the draft.
However, not many 6'3" receivers can run a 4.40 40-yard dash and record a 39.5-inch vertical jump, per NFL.com.
Moncrief will have to work hard, as there is already plenty of competition on the Colts roster. It would take a miracle for Moncrief to dethrone Reggie Wayne or even T.Y. Hilton, but with some big plays early on, he could take some snaps from Hakeem Nicks.
He's already attracted the attention of Colts media reporter Steve Andress and Nicks in training camp:
And Colts cornerback Greg Toler noted in OTAs that Moncrief had a grasp of some of the nuances of receiving.
"He showed his hands to the DBs late because we are taught to play hands and eyes. He shields them off and just does a great job with his body. If he keeps working, I think he'll be great," said Toler in June of 2014, via Kevin Brown of Colts.com.
Look for Moncrief to make good use of his eye-popping athleticism and really turn heads in August.
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