2010 NFL Predictions: Tim Tebow And 12 Rookies Set To Spark Playoff Runs
Preseason has arrived and the regular season is just a month away! This past offseason was full of story lines, from the exciting NFL Draft, to the big free agency moves, to the blockbuster trades that brought Brandon Marshall to the Miami Dolphins and Donovan McNabb to the Washington Redskins.
We saw NCAA legends like Tim Tebow sneak into the first round; we saw Sam Bradford sign a contract guaranteeing him the most money in NFL history, and strangely, Ndamukong is a household name.
These 12 rookies will make a huge impact in their first seasons in the league, helping in their quest for a Super Bowl ring.
Brandon Graham, Philadelphia Eagles
In the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft, the Philadelphia Eagles traded up 10 slots from their 23rd overall pick in order to select Brandon Graham, a Michigan standout defensive end.
Graham was highly regarded prior to the draft for his excellent work ethic, and proved himself by leading the nation with 28 tackles for a loss.
The Eagles already have a strong pass rush, and adding Graham on the opposite side of Trent Cole is sure to leave opposing quarterbacks in fear.
LB Sean Weatherspoon, Atlanta Falcons
The Atlanta Falcons drafted linbeacker Sean Weatherspoon out of Missouri, to fill the gap at weakside linebacker. Weatherspoon was captain of his team at Missouri, and finished last season with 111 tackles, four and a half sacks, and an interception.
Weatherspoon is in a tight position battle with Stephen Nicolas and aging veteran Mike Peterson for two starting outside linebacker jobs.
Weatherspoon and Peterson are expected to win the job by Week One.
RB Ben Tate, Houston Texans
When sophomore Texans running back, Steve Slaton, couldn't seem to hold on to the ball last season, it created a huge problem in Houston. Slaton had a monster rookie season and was gaining massive amounts of attention heading into the 2009 season.
The Texans were forced to start Arian Foster at running back, which forced the Texans to select Ben Tate out of Auburn in the second round of the draft.
Tate is a hard runner and will take a huge load off of the shoulders of quarterback Matt Shaub.
OT Trent Williams, Washington Redskins
The Washington Redskins selected Oklahoma Sooner, Trent Williams, with the fourth overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft. His quick footwork and strength makes Williams the perfect offensive tackle for Mike Shanahan's zone-blocking scheme.
With the Redskins adding veteran left tackle, Jammal Brown, in the offseason, Williams will have time to gain experience at the right tackle position. Williams will be a huge improvement to the Redskins pass protection as well as run blocking, helping Donovan McNabb carry the team to the playoffs.
G Mike Iupati, San Francisco 49ers
The San Francisco 49ers offense has been short of stellar, to say the least, for the better part of a decade. By selecting offensive linemen Anthony Davis out of Rutgers, and Mike Iupati out of Idaho, the 49ers invested in two great pass protectors and run blockers that will ensure that the 2009 success of Alex Smith and Frank Gore continues.
Iupati is a physical interior linemen, and is expected to start by Week One. With Gore coming off of an injury plagued year, this addition had to come as good news to the former hurricane, as well as Smith, a former No. 1 overall pick.
WR Brandon LaFell, Carolina Panthers
In the third round of the 2010 NFL Draft, the Carolina Panthers selected wide receiver Brandon LaFell, out of Louisiana State University, to eventually take over Steve Smith's No. 1 role. LaFell is a big, strong, fast, and physical wide receiver with great size and better hands.
The Panthers desperately need a wide receiver to take coverage off of Steve Smith, and let first year starter, Matt Moore, have more options in the passing game.
Everyone knows about the Panthers' strong ground game, led by DeAngelo Williams and Jonathon Stewart, but defenses now have to balance out their coverage, now that the Panthers have another weapon on the field.
With head coach John Fox on the hot seat this season, LaFell will be called upon to lead the Panthers in the highly competitive NFC South division.
WR Mike Williams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers seem to have taken a step in the right direction, as they selected defensive tackles Gerald McCoy and Brian Price with their first two selections in the draft, and wide receivers Arrelious Benn and Mike Williams later on in the draft.
Mike Williams was a first round talent, but dropped to the fourth round due to concerns about his work ethic, as he quit the football team at Syracuse, Williams has reportedly been amazing throughout training camp, and is expected to earn the starting job over Benn.
The Bucs desperately need an offensive weapon other than tight end Kellen Winslow for second year quarterback Josh Freeman to target. With the Bucs defense significantly improved, they are definitely a sleeper team to watch this year.
RB Ryan Matthews, San Diego Chargers
The LaDanian Tomlinson age is over in San Diego, and Ryan Matthews is in town. The Fresno State standout gained an incredible 3,280 yards on the ground with 39 touchdowns in three seasons, averaging over 5.5 yards per carry.
LaDanian Tomlinson was a bruiser, and his physical style of play took a toll on the veteran, who now plays for the New York Jets. Mathews brings fresh legs with a combination of speed and explosiveness that will help the Chargers ride to the top of the AFC West division.
QB Tim Tebow, Denver Broncos
The celebrity hype machine that is Tim Tebow is donning a new set of blue and orange gear this season, as the Denver Broncos selected the Florida Gator quarterback in the first round of the NFL Draft.
The Broncos also traded for Brady Quinn this offseason, and have Kyle Orton on their roster as well. Either way, Tim Tebow's celebrity status will most likely have him in the lineup by midseason, where his leadership abilities and champion attitude will help the Broncos on their playoff run.
LB Rolando McClain, Oakland Raiders
The Oakland Raiders made the first sensible draft decision in a long time when they decided to select Butkus Award winner, Rolando McClain, out of Alabama. McClain was the leader of the Crimson Tide defense, and racked up 270 tackles and five interceptions in his three seasons with the team.
McClain will most likely start at middle linebacker for the Raiders this season, in what looks to be a promising turn around for a team that has gone from dynasty to the butt of jokes as of late.
DE Derrick Morgan, Tennessee Titans
When Kyle Vanden Bosch left the Tennessee Titans for the Detroit Lions, the Titans really needed to address the defensive line, as they lost Pro Bowl defensive tackle, Albert Haynesworth, to free agency.
Derrick Morgan was selected in the first round, out of Georgia Tech, where the 6-foot-4 275 pound defensive end made 12 sacks and 52 tackles for the Yellow Jackets.
Morgan is a dynamic and versatile pass rusher, and is extremely quick off the edge. He adds youth to an aging defense, and will be a cornerstone for the Titans front seven for a long time.
OT Bryan Bulaga, Green Bay Packers
The Green Bay Packers have the best young quarterback in the National Football League, yet allowed him to get sacked an astonishing 50 times last season. That is unacceptable, which is why the Packers jumped at the opportunity to select the offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga, out of Iowa, who was expected to be selected as high as No. 9 overall in the draft.
By adding Bulaga to the offensive line, Aaron Rodgers will have adequate time in the pocket to find Greg Jennings or Donald Driver, as well as clear lanes for running back Ryan Grant to barrel through.
WR Golden Tate, Seattle Seahawks
In his two years as the starting wide receiver for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Golden Tate caught 151 passes for 2,576 yards and 25 touchdowns, averaging over 17 yards per reception.
Now, Tate is a member of the Seattle Seahawks, where he is desperately needed as veterans T.J Houshmenzadeh and Deoin Branch are aging. With Russell Okung added to the offensive line to protect quarterback Matt Hasselback, Tate should have an opportunity to perform.
The Seahawks, under new head coach, Pete Caroll, didn't perform as expected last season, and hope to make up for it this year in a newly competitive NFC West division.