Posted May 30, 2013

Which ’12 draft picks are poised to break out?

Atlanta Falcons, Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, Indianapolis Colts, Miami Dolphins, New Orleans Saints, New York Giants, San Francisco 49ers, St. Louis Rams
Coby Fleener was outperformed by Dwayne Allen last year, but Fleener should narrow the gap this season. (Nam Y. Huh/AP)

Coby Fleener was outperformed by Dwayne Allen last year, but Fleener should narrow the gap this season. (Nam Y. Huh/AP)

As is always the case with the NFL draft, there were some hits and misses in 2012. The hits were pretty substantial — Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck, Trent Richardson, Luke Kuechly, Chandler Jones, Doug Martin and so on.

But what do we make of the other members of last year’s rookie class, those guys who needed more than one season to really make their presences felt? Here are 10 members of the 2012 draft class who should be set for bigger things in 2013:

Coby Fleener, TE, Colts

Fleener did not have a bad rookie season, per se. It’s just that injuries limited him to 12 games, and fellow rookie tight end Dwayne Allen (taken 30 spots lower than Fleener in last year’s draft) lapped him with 45 receptions to Fleener’s 26. Indianapolis expects more out of its 2012 second-rounder, especially given his time with Andrew Luck at Stanford — Fleener caught 10 touchdown passes in his senior year.

Akiem Hicks, DT/DE, Saints

New Orleans’ switch to a 3-4 defense should play to Hicks’ benefit, following a rookie season in which he made zero starts and was inactive for the team’s final game. At 6-foot-5 and 318 pounds, Hicks gives the Saints another option at nose tackle (where rookie John Jenkins could start) and he fits nicely as a DE. The Saints are counting on youth up front in Hicks, Jenkins and Cam Jordan.

Lamar Holmes, OT, Falcons

We put Holmes in the spotlight a few weeks ago when examining each team’s most pressing question heading into minicamp. The query posed there: Can Holmes adequately replace Tyson Clabo at right tackle? It’s a gamble for an otherwise-loaded Atlanta offense, what with Holmes seeing all of seven snaps in 2012. Holmes’ opportunity certainly is there, though.

Alshon Jeffery, WR, Bears

Another player hindered by injuries during his first season, Jeffery suited up for just 10 games and finished at 24 receptions. That’s well off the pace the Bears envisioned for him when they nabbed him No. 45 overall as a complement to Brandon Marshall. With Marc Trestman’s aggressive aerial attack in place in Chicago, Jeffery should be in line for a breakthrough.

A.J. Jenkins, WR, 49ers

Arguably the most disappointing of all the 2012 rookies, Jenkins (No. 30 overall) claimed a spot on the active roster for three measly games and dropped the only pass thrown his direction. But with Mario Manningham coming back from injury and Michael Crabtree suffering a potentially season-ending Achilles tear, San Francisco will open the door for Jenkins to win a starting spot alongside Anquan Boldin.

Lamar Miller, RB, Dolphins

GM Jeff Ireland continues to hype Miller, and he opened minicamp taking reps with the Dolphins’ first-team offense. He’s at least got the leg up on Daniel Thomas and rookie Mike Gillislee, for now, in the race to replace Reggie Bush. Miller delivered some solid numbers, too, when given a shot in 2012 — he finished with a 4.9 yards-per-carry average on 51 attempts.

Nick Perry, OLB, Packers

Perry started five games and recorded 2.0 sacks for Green Bay in 2012 before being shelved on IR due to a wrist injury. Considering how badly the Packers struggled to generate a pass rush opposite Clay Matthews at linebacker, Perry’s return to health could be one of the team’s keys to success in 2013. Green Bay spent the No. 28 pick on him for a reason.

Brian Quick, WR, Rams

Quick currently holds a starting job in St. Louis, despite catching a mere 11 balls last season and the franchise nabbing both Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey in the draft. If nothing else, the Rams’ commitment to improving their passing attack should play to Quick’s benefit — as could the arrivals of Austin and tight end Jared Cook, both players capable of drawing a defense’s attention, thereby freeing up more space outside for Quick.

Riley Reiff, T, Lions

Reiff quietly turned in a solid rookie season — Pro Football Focus graded him out as the Lions’ best run blocker, despite the fact that Reiff played about 900 fewer snaps than Detroit’s 16-game starters and he saw the bulk of his action as an extra lineman in run-heavy alignments. His responsibilities will be much more significant in 2013, as he takes over the left tackle spot replacing Jeff Backus, who started 186 consecutive games for the Lions at that position.

David Wilson, RB, Giants

As with Miller in Miami, Wilson will be asked to replace a proven veteran as his team’s No. 1 back. For Wilson, it’s Ahmad Bradshaw (who’s still a free agent, by the way) that has hit the road, vacating the starting job. Of course, Wilson filled in for an injured Bradshaw twice last season, racking up 358 yards rushing and four touchdowns in limited action. The Giants need better production than that in Wilson’s second go-round. Doug Martin, selected one spot before Wilson in the 2012 draft, rushed for 1,096 more yards last year.

15 comments
ianlinross
ianlinross

Hey I'm a Packer fan but putting Nick Perry in the mix among players "poised to break out" is misleading because he didn't show enough last year for anyone outside the organization to know what the heck he's capable of. 

Could be another Jamal Reynolds or Justin Harrell.


afeltes
afeltes

Only one defensive player?    What a joke.

David50
David50

Just what I thought ....no Chargers

Alan16
Alan16 like.author.displayName 1 Like

Sorry, Chris, Casey Hayward will have a greater breakout in GB than Perry. The kid's  on track to be the best CB in football.

pvs
pvs like.author.displayName 1 Like

......and DE Chandler Jones of the Pats is poised to have a breakout year with 10+ sacks.

Joe R2
Joe R2

I hope he's right about Alshon.  He should be very good if healthy.  But that's a big IF

DanMcDermott
DanMcDermott

@Joe R2 He's money and a huge red zone threat, if he's healthy you're right.  How he enters the season is the big IF.  

leehwgoc
leehwgoc

@Joe R2He never had a problem with injuries in college or high school before his final year.  His injury troubles last year have "statistical outlier" written all over them.

Jeffery has hurdles, but it won't be health.  Those hurdles are 1.) keeping in shape (he's had offseason issues with gaining too much weight a couple of times), and 2.) becoming a sharper route runner.

JeffRamey
JeffRamey like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

Don't forget Browns WR Josh Gordon. He had an excellent rookie campaign considering he was a supplemental pick and missed much of the early camps. Deceptively quick and at 6-3/225lbs he has the make-up to be that #1 WR the browns have been missing for several seasons. 

OK
OK

@JeffRamey  

Drugs. Out two games. Chump.

leehwgoc
leehwgoc

@OK @JeffRamey If he gets dinged again he gets an automatic 1-year suspension, too.

Josh Gordon is going to be a gamble in fantasy drafts.

Scramble
Scramble

Bernard Pierce for the Ravens could be on this list. If he stays healthy he may rack up more rushing yards than Ray Rice this year.

leehwgoc
leehwgoc

@Scramble Pft, dream on.  I don't deny that Pierce has talent that demands to be utilized, but the only way he actually *out-produces* Rice is if Rice gets injured.

Scramble
Scramble

@leehwgoc @Scramble We shall see.

leehwgoc
leehwgoc

@Scramble @leehwgoc And pigs may fly, but Ray Rice is still young, still healthy, still every-down capable, and still a top-5 talent at his position.

Pierce will get more touches this year, but only when Rice is being rested for a few downs every once in a while.  Pierce is a high-value back-up, but nothing more at this point.