Jermaine Gresham and 4 of the Most Promising Young Playmakers in the NFL
Watching young NFL players blossom into dominant forces is one of the most exciting processes in football.
Jermaine Gresham came into the NFL with a chip on his shoulder. Gresham missed his final season at Oklahoma, but he was still drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals with the 21st pick in the first round.
In Gresham's rookie season, he quieted all doubters who thought that he would struggle coming off his knee injury at Oklahoma as he hauled in 52 catches for 471 yards.
Gresham's combination of size and athletic ability makes it extremely hard for anyone to defend him. He is too fast for most linebackers and too big for most defensive backs.
If Andy Dalton continues to develop as a quarterback in Cincinnati, then he will find that opposing defenses cannot stop Gresham.
Dalton already uses Gresham as a safety valve, but once he realizes that he is an unstoppable threat down the field, then Gresham's stats will rise.
Gresham struggles as a blocker, but he can make big plays. With 231 yards and three touchdowns through six games, it is obvious that Gresham is going to be a star tight end in the NFL for a long time.
This list of promising young playmakers is populated by players 23 years old and younger who are not recognized by the general public. Therefore, young players like Cam Newton, A.J. Green, Julio Jones and Von Miller will not appear on this list due to to the fact that they are widely praised by the media and already seem to be on the verge of stardom.
DeMarco Murray, RB, Dallas Cowboys
Once Felix Jones returns from his high ankle sprain, there's a chance that he might regain his position as the starting running back in Dallas.
However, the Cowboys have shown their confidence in Murray by getting rid of Tashard Choice, who is a good running back in his own right.
Murray has tremendous power thanks to his physique and it was on display against the Rams when he plowed over a number of defenders on several occasions to gain yards after contact.
Murray even began mixed martial arts training prior to the NFL draft, which allowed him to gain even more power and better his endurance.
In addition to Murray's power, he possesses good speed for his size and great vision, which allows him to find the open hole.
Murray's fantastic blend of power, speed and vision are certain to make him a great NFL running back for many years.
Torrey Smith, WR, Baltimore Ravens
Coming into the NFL, many people worried that Torrey Smith would be another Maryland wide receiver who is a bust in the NFL, similar to Darrius Heyward-Bey.
Not only has Heyward-Bey risen from bust status to become a good receiver this season, but Smith has proven that he will be a very good receiver in the NFL.
Smith's fantastic speed has made it easy for him to get behind NFL defensive backs, but it's his ability to finish a play by making a fantastic catch that has been impressive.
Smith's one glaring weakness is his route running. However, Smith has shown that he is an extremely hard worker and his hard work should turn him into a good route runner within a season or two.
Once Smith perfects his route running, he will be a nightmare for opposing defensive backs to cover.
NaVorro Bowman, LB, San Francisco 49ers
It's difficult to stand out when you're in the same linebacking corps as superstar Patrick Willis and an up-and-coming superstar in Aldon Smith.
However, NaVorro Bowman has done just that. He currently leads the NFL in solo tackles with 54 and he is only getting better.
Although Patrick Willis is the best inside linebacker in the NFL, the 49ers are lucky to have him paired up with Bowman, who is a monster in his own right.
One of Bowman's highlights this season has been when he surprisingly chased down Mike Vick from behind on a scramble.
Bowman's talent is why it was easy for the Niners to let Takeo Spikes go in the offseason. He has been instrumental in helping the Niners allow the least amount of rushing yards per game at 73.4.
Bowman is just another in the long line of great linebackers to come out of Penn State, commonly referred to as Linebacker U. Other great linebackers to come out of Penn State in recent years are Paul Posluszny, Sean Lee, Cameron Wake and Tamba Hali.
With Bowman, Willis, and Smith at three of the linebacker positions for the Niners, Jim Harbaugh has to be extremely happy with how his defense will look in the future.
Phillip Taylor, DT, Cleveland Browns
After the Cleveland Browns drafted Phil Taylor, it was widely thought that he would be a space-eater who would allow talented players around him to make the big plays on defense.
However, just seven games into his young NFL career, Taylor has shed that label and proven that he is a future star.
Among defensive tackles, Phil Taylor is fifth in tackles with 25 and third in sacks with three.
Taylor's surprising quickness coupled with his 335-pound frame has made it difficult for opposing linemen to stay in front of him.
Taylor has not only clogged the middle and stopped running backs from gaining yards up the gut, but he has collapsed the pocket and supplied constant pressure on quarterbacks.
There's not much more that you can ask for from a defensive tackle.
It's amazing that Taylor is only a rookie.