2010 NFL Season: The Rookie Sleepers
Now that the 2010 NFL Draft is in the books, and the seasons is a few months away, I thought we could take a look at some of the potential breakout rookies that somewhat flew under the radar.
Now, some of these "sleeper picks" might have been drafted as high as the 2nd round, but we're looking at their overall draft rating compared to how they will do in the following season, and seasons to come.
Most of these sleeper picks are based on the team situations, player potential, and opportunities for success.
Here's an early look at some of the potential sleeper rookies for this upcoming NFL season.
Jerome Murphy: St. Louis Rams
Selected in the third round by St. Louis Rams.
This hard hitting corner out of South Florida will give St. Louis an instant upgrade in defensive physicality, and toughness. And given the current shape of the Rams defense Murphy will have a chance to come in and make an immediate impact.
Murphy is a fiery and aggressive corner who can jam and reroute receivers off the line of scrimmage, and he's a solid run support defender.
He is an instinctive player who leverages the ball well in coverage as well as maintaining proper body positioning while defending the run.
Murphy still has a bit to learn, but in time he could develop into a featured corner.
Thaddeus Gibson: Pittsburgh Steelers
The former Buckeye was selected in the fourth round by the Pittsburgh Steelers.
A defensive end at Ohio State, Gibson will move to OLB at the next level.
Gibson moves well for his size, and can rush the pass, so he should fit in well with Pittsburgh's 3-4 defensive scheme.
Gibson, is the traditional Steelers mold of an outside linebacker.
He will also have to contribute with special teams. Gibson, and Jason Worilds just might be the future of the Steelers linebacking corps.
(photo credit: blockonation.com)
Koa Misi: Miami Dolphins
The Trifecta knew exactly what they were doing when they took Misi with the 40th pick in the second round. A pick many believed to be a reach.
But with a motor like this guy in Mike Nolan’s newly revamped 3-4 defense, it will be hard not to succeed.
Misi is considered one of the most talented athletes to ever put on a uniform at Utah. Although Misi played defensive end in college, his move to linebacker exclusively for the Senior Bowl, showcased his quickness, athleticism, and football instincts.
With the departure of Jason Taylor, and Joey Porter, Misi has the chance to come in right away, and make the biggest impact among the entire draft class.
(photo credit: Kevin C. Cox)
Carlton Mitchell: Cleveland Browns
The 6'4" athletic wide receiver was taken in the sixth round by the Cleveland Browns.
Although he's still a bit raw, Mitchell has the potential to be the biggest steal of the entire 2010 draft.
It all depends on how quickly he can learn, and develop. Don't expect to see a whole lot of Mitchell in the 2010 season.
But then again, the Browns have a very young, and promising bunch so there's no telling who will stand out in training camp, and earn those starting nods.
Competition will be high. But the sky is the limit for Mitchell.
Dekoda Watson: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Selected in the seventh round by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the former Florida State linebacker was the Seminoles most disruptive defender in 2009, with 13 tackles for loss, and 6.5 sacks.
He needs to add weight, and strength but shows plenty of power when tackling.
He is a versatile athlete that has played inside and outside linebacker. Watson reacts well, and understands how to maintain leverage on the edge.
He also ran a 4.56 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine, which ranked second among linebackers.
Although Watson probably won't contend for a starting job this year, that doesn't mean the coaching staff isn't excited about his role this fall.
On the very day Watson was drafted, coach Raheem Morris was already talking about his versatility, and how the Bucs might utilize him in various pass-rush packages.
(photo credit: Miami Herald)
Seyi Ajirotutu: San Diego Chargers
This undrafted wide reciever out of Fresno State was recently signed by the San Diego Chargers.
Ajirotutu stands at 6'4" with explosive jumping, and catching abilities. Every expert had him being drafted at some point in this years draft.
While Ajirotutu may not possess great timed speed, he does move extremely well in space for his size, and can break through tacklers for extra yardage.
Ajirotutu has been compared to Vincent Jackson, and Malcolm Floyd by Marty Schottenheimer.
I think we just might be looking at this years "Where did this guy come from!"
(photo credit: scout.com)
Montario Hardesty: Cleveland Browns
Selected by the Cleveland Browns in the second round, Tennessee running back Montario Hardesty, will be looked to to help carry the running load for the Brownies.
Hardesty is the traditional hard nosed AFC North running back.
He has outstanding speed and has the ability to break tackles, and block.
If Jerome Harrison holds out from the volunteer organized team activities this Spring, as expected since he is looking for a new multi-year contract, then Hardesty will get a great opportunity to ingratiate himself even further in the Browns’ regime.
Hardesty appears to be making a very positive splash among the team’s coaching staff.
Jacoby Ford: Oakland Raiders
The former Clemson Tiger was taken in the fourth round by the Oakland Raiders.
Ford posted the fastest 40 time at this years combine. Ford possesses great body control, and playmaking ability.
He does a nice job of working back toward the ball, and can uncover, and find soft spots for his quarterback. He is still learning the position but has the skill set, and burst to consistently separate from man coverage.
This season Ford will aim to polish his route running, and try to become a consistent target for a team in need of an explosive wide receiver.
Ford's size will make him a good option in the slot, and in shorter routes where he can showcase his talent. But for now we probably won’t see much of Ford on the offense.
But expect to see a lot of Ford’s backside sprinting towards the end zone on returns. He could eventually develop into the Harvin hybrid type player.
Terrance Austin: Washington Redskins
Taken in the seventh round by the Washington Redskins.
After an impressive career at UCLA, Terrance Austin will enter the season hoping to grab the fourth receiver spot.
But Austin's impact probably wont come from the wide receiver position, for now at least.
This kid is as nifty as they come.
He returned both kickoff and punts as a Bruin, and finished second in the Pac-10 in all-purpose yards last season.
The Washington Redskins have not had a dynamic returner who took back both punts and kickoffs since Brian Mitchell was released following the 1999 season.
Austin has been put into a great situation where he could end up as the next all-around returner for the skins.
(photo credit: Los Angeles Times)
Donald Butler: San Diego Chargers
Taken in the third round by the San Diego Chargers.
Already possessing an impressive body and frame by NFL standards, Butler is capable of playing inside or outside, but figures to play inside for San Diego's 3-4 scheme.
He is fluid enough to stick in man coverage, and reads underneath routes in zone.
Butler's abilities might be just what the Chargers need this year.
Victor Cruz: New York Giants
I know, I know.
This undrafted rookie free-agent displays all the tools to be a solid contributor at the next level.
A two-year starter awarded varying degrees of All-Conference and All-American honors since his junior campaign. Lead UMass in receiving the past two years.
Unheralded receiving prospect with a reliable and complete game. Displays quickness in his overall game, immediately gets off the line into routes and extends to make the reception away from his frame. Gets vertical in a crowd, displays good eye/hand coordination and comes away with the difficult grab.
Cruz could possibly be another, "Where did this guy come from!" in the 2010-11 NFL season.