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Friday, 18 May 2012

The Pulling Linemen Way-Too-Early All-Rookie Team

Now that the draft is gone and rookies are starting to settle in to their new environments, it seems the perfect time for us to wildly speculate which prospects will fare best in their first season in the big leagues.

We've each named a starting D, a starting O, plus a K and a P, made entirely of 2012 draftees. Some surprise inclusions? Check after the list for a breakdown of some of the less obvious picks...

Toby Phil Gur
QB Russell Wilson, Seattle

Robert Griffin III, Washington Robert Griffin III, Washington
RB Trent Richardson, Cleveland Trent Richardson, Cleveland Doug Martin, Tampa Bay
WR/RB Dan "Boom" Herron, Cincinnati (RB) Isaiah Pead, St. Louis
Mohammed Sanu, Cincinnati (WR)
WR Ryan Broyles, Detroit Nick Toon, New Orleans Alshon Jeffery, Chicago
WR Michael Floyd, Arizona Michael Floyd, Arizona Michael Floyd, Arizona
TE Coby Fleener, Indianapolis Coby Fleener, Indianapolis Coby Fleener, Indianapolis
T Matt Kalil, Minnesota Matt Kalil, Minnesota Matt Kalil, Minnesota
T Cordy Glenn, Buffalo

Mike Adams, Pittsburgh Jonathan Martin, Arizona
G David DeCastro, Pittsburgh

David DeCastro, Pittsburgh David DeCastro, Pittsburgh
G Joe Looney, San Francisco Kelechi Osemele,
Amini Silatolu, Carolina
C Peter Konz, Atlanta Peter Konz, AtlantaPeter Konz, Atlanta

DE Jared Crick, Houston

Jared Crick, Houston Whitney Mercilus, Houston
DE Chandler Jones, New England Andre Branch,
Shea McClellin, Chicago
DT Fletcher Cox, Philadelphia Alameda Ta'Amu,
Fletcher Cox, Philadelphia
DT/ILB Bobby Wagner, Seattle (ILB) Mychal Kendricks, Philadelphia (ILB) Michael Brockers, St. Louis (DT)
ILB Luke Kuechly, Carolina

Sean Spence,
Dont'a Hightower, New England
OLB Lavonte David, Tampa Bay Terrell Manning, Green Bay Luke Kuechly, Carolina
OLB Nick Perry, Green Bay Courtney Upshaw,
Lavonte David, Tampa Bay
CB Stephon Gilmore, Buffalo Morris Claiborne, Dallas Morris Claiborne, Dallas
CB Janoris Jenkins, St. Louis Stephon Gilmore,
Dre Kirkpatrick, Cincinnati
S Mark Barron, Tampa Bay Mark Barron, Tampa Bay Mark Barron, Tampa Bay
S George Iloka, Cincinnati Trent Robinson, San Fran Harrison Smith, Minnesota

Greg Zeurlein,
St Louis
Greg Zeurlein,
St Louis
Randy Bullock, Houston
P Bryan Anger, Jacksonville Bryan Anger,
Bryan Anger, Jacksonville

TD's Breakdown

Russell Wilson, QB:

I picked him for a few reasons. Firstly, to be different from the others and secondly because I really, really like Russell Wilson. Were he a few inches taller he could easily have found himself going to Miami with the 8th overall selection. He had a dominant season at Wisconsin and has impressed enough in rookie camps that Pete Carroll said he'd get a fair chance at the starters job this year, and Matt Flynn's contract is small enough that the Seahawks aren't locked into him being "the guy".

Dan "Boom" Herron, RB:

Cincy have gone for a whole new running back stable and the #1 spot is up for grabs. Herron was THE back at Ohio St. and should be brimming with confidence and hometown support in Cincinnati. He's got the ability to run for more than the OL blocks, which is not something other new-comer BenJarvus Green-Ellis has.

Ryan Broyles, WR:

No, he's not going to come in and compete with Calvin Johnson for many balls. But what Broyles will do is play the slot, work underneath and importantly keep the chains moving for Detroit. The Lions lacked a guy like him last season and it made them rather predictable on 3rd downs, he can create quick separation and get those 1st downs. Provided his knee is ok.

Chandler Jones, DE:

There's plenty of playing time to be had as an edge-rusher in New England with Mark Anderson and Andre Carter no longer there. There's also the fact that most offenses Jones will go up against will be in catch-up mode fairly early on so he could get a very hefty sack total come January.

Janoris Jenkins, CB:

The best pure man-to-man cover corner in the draft. With an established quality corner like Cortland Finnegan playing across from him Jenkins should see a lot of balls come his way early on. 

          -     Toby Durant (@TDonSport)

PG's Breakdown

Nick Toon, WR:

In an offence that is built around Drew Brees' ability to throw to anyone, Nick Toon could easily find himself catching 50 passes and 7TDs this year. Admittedly, he could also catch 10 passes and only see the field in 4 games such is the strength of the Saints roster, but I'll take a shot on him.

Isaiah Pead, RB:

Publicly, he has been brought in to St Louis to spell Steven Jackson. Privately, I suspect he will be groomed this year to replace SJax in 2013. I expect plenty of carries and his breakaway potential gets him the nod at #2 RB for me.

Greg Zeurlein, K:

He hit 23 of 24 FGs in his senior season, including 9 of 9 from 50yds plus, and two 58 yarders IN ONE GAME. As soon as the Rams drafted him they told experienced and reliable veteran Josh Brown that he was surplus to requirements - evidence if any was needed that the Rams will be rolling with Zeurlein this year.

Alameda Ta'Amu, DT:

This guy is a perfect schematic fit for the Steelers, and will probably start at the middle of their D-line in week 1. With so many quality pieces around him in that front 7, he can be an impact player instantly.

Terrell Manning, OLB:

I take Manning here instead of some of the bigger names, simply because he'll be playing in Green Bay. Whilst offensive lines are trying to gameplan how to stop Clay Matthews, Manning will be likely one-on-one on the other side, and he has the quickness to get a lot of sacks as a rookie.

Trent Robinson, S:

Ok, so this guy is my real niche selection. He went in the 6th round to San Fran, but I think he has a chance to make an impact. I don't rate the 49ers DBs too highly. They benefit from the from 7 being amongst the league's best, but against better passing offenses they can come unstuck. Robinson, although smaller for a S, is a ball hawk, and if he gets a shot in the rotation, he'll have a chance to make some big plays.

- Phil Gaskin (@sosayitisaid)

GS's Breakdown

Mohammed Sanu/Alshon Jeffery, WR:
I believe both these receivers are due for big seasons for the same reason - in fact, I believe Michael Floyd will have a good season for the same reason too: all three of these rookie WRs will benefit hugely from having clear no.1 targets on the other side of the field. AJ Green, Brandon Marshall and Larry Fitzgerald will draw a lot of coverage, leaving Sanu, Jeffery and Floyd respectively with one-on-one matchups which they should be able to take advantage of in a big way. The difference between the three WRs, however, is that I have more faith in Andy Dalton or Jay Cutler (if he gets protection from his O-line and/or stops being a whiny bitch over injuries) than I do in Kevin Kolb, so I'm predicting Sanu & Jeffery outpace Floyd. And all three outpace Justin Blackmon, because Blaine Gabbert.

Shea McClellin, DE:

Another case of a rookie having a great season because of someone playing across from him. The Chicago defense is pretty great, thanks especially to Brian Urlacher & Lance Briggs playing lights-out in the middle of that D. The Bears added one of the best passrushers in the league in 2010 in Julius Peppers, but what the front seven could really use is a second threat off the edge to stretch the O-line and expose protection schemes by demanding attention at both DE spots. Shea McClellin's stock really caught fire leading up to the draft; by using him to bookend the DL with Peppers, McClellin will either face one-on-one matchups with right tackles, who traditionally aren't as good at pass protection, or open things up for Peppers. Either way, he should be in for a rookie season that will see him contend for Defensive Rookie of the Year honours.

Amini Silatolu, G:

A simple one to explain, this. Silatolu was one of the better guard prospects in the draft this year, but specifically, he will get a much easier introduction to the NFL than a lot of other rookie O-linemen. Why? Because he has Cam Newton quarterbacking for his team. Cam will be able to use his legs to escape a lot of pressure, which means Silatolu will be able to mask the errors that naturally come with transitioning to the pros by the sheer fact of Newton's feats of escapology. This will naturally boost Silatolu's confidence - and confidence is a huge part of the lineman psyche. You need to be sure and decisive in all your actions, and you must trust your instincts - nothing will ensure you fail your blocking assignment like over-thinking. The confidence that will come from protecting your QB so well, even if that comes more from the quarterback than it does from your own play, will provide a huge boost to Silatolu, and make him a better lineman for it.

Doug Martin, RB:

Homer pick? Ish. Yeah, I'm a huge Bucs fan, but I actually believe Blount should be what new HC Greg Schiano terms the 'bellcow back'. Still, Schiano seems to have it in his head for some bizarre, inexplicable reason that Blount cannot be a three-down running back, so you can expect Martin to start before too long. Martin was considered the only other 'complete' back coming out of the draft (i.e. someone who can run between the tackles, run to the outside, be a receiver out of the backfield and block in pass protection), so why does he get the edge over Richardson? Simple: Richardson is the entirety of the Browns' offense as far as I'm concerned. He'll be facing at least eight in the box every snap, if not nine; and the passing game will be so bad that it will force Brad Childress to call for Richardson to carry the rock 25, maybe even 30 times per game. Such a workload can, and will, run Richardson down. Furthermore, Richardson will not get much help upfront; there's one of the best pass-protectors in the league in front of him in Joe Thomas, it's true, but Thomas isn't spectacular as a run-blocker (though he's still above average). Outside of Alex Mack, the rest of the offensive line really isn't much to write home about, so Richardson will struggle more than people expect. On the other hand, Martin will be running behind arguably the best guard tandem in football, with the Bucs signing the best left guard, and very possibly the best guard full stop, the league has to offer in Carl Nicks, who will pair up with two-time Pro Bowler Davin Joseph. In fact, with those two, up-and-coming center Jeremy Zuttah and the overrated, but still undeniably talented, Donald Penn, many have said that the Bucs could potentially have the best O-line in the league. Unlike Richardson, Martin also won't be carrying the ball 25-30 times a game, as LeGarrette Blount is certainly too good a weapon to go to waste, so look to new OC Mike Sullivan to institute a 'thunder-and-lightning'-style running game, which will prevent Martin from wearing down over the season. Lastly, unlike Richardson, Martin will almost never face 8 in the box unless in goal-line situations. Why? Because the first priority of every defense facing the Bucs will be to shut down Vincent Jackson, who is a proven, legitimate receiving threat at all times, and no defensive co-ordinator will dare leave him in one-on-one coverage, thereby opening the box up for Martin to have a fantastic rookie season.

- Gur "Fred" Samuel (@FredTheGur)

- The Pulling Linemen

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