1 Player from Each NFL Team Who Could Emerge from the Shadows in 2014

Eric Mack@@EricMackFantasyFantasy Football Lead WriterMarch 28, 2014

1 Player from Each NFL Team Who Could Emerge from the Shadows in 2014

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    NFL stars come from all different places. They don't merely come from the first round of the draft or get signed via free agency. Some develop slowly and then, boom, become shooting stars.

    Here, we take a look at one player from each of the league's 32 teams who can emerge from the shadows in 2014.

    There are various reasons as to why these players can break out, and perhaps just as many reasons as to why they haven't broken out already. They could be beset by injury—like the San Francisco 49ers' redshirt running back Marcus Lattimore—or merely emerging as a first-time starter because a veteran free agent left to sign elsewhere.

    Not every one of these 32 picks is going to hit it big next season. Some might not amount to much of anything. But they all have one significant thing in common right now: opportunity.

Arizona Cardinals: Ryan Williams, Running Back

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    How much is former Virginia Tech running back standout Ryan Williams in the shadows with the Arizona Cardinals after missing all of 2011 and most of 2012? He was a healthy inactive for all 16 games last season, according to Darren Urban of the Cardinals' official website.

    They must have kept him around for a reason.

    With Rashard Mendenhall a free agent and headed for early retirement, Williams could play a role in spelling undersized back Andre Ellington next season.

    Head coach Bruce Arians told Urban:

    Ryan has a chance this year. He went into training camp (last year) and missed the entire preseason. It's very hard to become a player during the season when you miss the entire preseason. He did impressive things on the scout team. The big thing, he came to work every day. The consistency of showing up to work every day, that will be the big thing for him in training camp this year. ... But he can play.

Atlanta Falcons: Levine Toilolo, Tight End

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    Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

    You don't need to be an NFL insider to project this one: Levine Toilolo has to step forward as the Atlanta Falcons' tight end after the expected retirement of Tony Gonzalez. Just don't expect replacing a Hall of Famer to happen overnight.

    Toilolo can be a functional in-line tight end and catch some balls, but Falcons head coach Mike Smith hinted at the NFL owners meeting in Orlando, Fla., this week that the role of their tight end is going to change. He told CBSSports.com's Dave Richard:

    It's definitely going to be a different style of offense. We talk all the time about having to have scorers and having assist men. The tight end position in the last five or six years has been filled by a guy that's a scorer. I think the person that will take that role moving forward will be an assist man and there will be a different skill set.

    I think you'll see more of a traditional Y-tight end; Tony was a hybrid, the first hybrid tight end. Last year we drafted Levine Toilolo, and he's more of a Y-tight end. Tony is a guy that's had 80-plus catches on average for us, so there's going to be a redistribution of who the ball is going to go to, and we've got a couple of guys that we feel really good about at the wide receiver position. ... I think the role that the tight end (will have) is going from the scoring guy to the assist man or the setup man.

    Still, the former Stanford tight end is 6'8". The Falcons will find ways to toss it up to him in the end zone. Two of his 11 catches as a rookie last season went for touchdowns.

Baltimore Ravens: Arthur Brown, Linebacker

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    The Baltimore Ravens released linebacker Jameel McClain due to his large salary, but they also had a good reason not to rework a deal. They have former Kansas State linebacker Arthur Brown, who slipped into the second round a year ago, ready to step forward.

    Head coach John Harbaugh told The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec in January, before McClain's release, that Brown will win the starting inside linebacker's job.

    This is the Ravens. They churn out quality linebackers like Baltimore does Maryland-style crab.

Buffalo Bills: Duke Williams, Strong Safety

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    Bill Wippert/Associated Press

    The chances are you have never heard of Nevada's Duke Williams, a fourth-round pick by the Buffalo Bills a year ago. The odds are almost equally good you might never hear of him.

    Still, the Bills need someone to replace free-agent departure Jairus Byrd, who was arguably the best player on the market this winter and signed with the New Orleans Saints.

    Williams and 2011 fourth-round pick Da'Norris Searcy are the leading candidates to start opposite Aaron Williams, who is expected to slide into Byrd's free safety spot next season. The Bills could have brought back Byrd on a second-year franchise tag, but they chose not to. They had to like what they had on the roster, right?

Carolina Panthers: Kenjon Barner, Kick Returner

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    Former Oregon Duck Kenjon Barner is only 5'9" and 190 pounds, but he can fly. He might never threaten DeAngelo Williams or Jonathan Stewart for feature-back carries, but the departure of Ted Ginn as the kick returner opens up a role for Barner as the burner.

    Barner had a nice start to the preseason as a rookie a year ago, so expect this to be a big offseason for him. Heck, with all the departures at wide receiver, it is possible the Carolina Panthers consider giving him a look as a slot guy—perhaps making him the next Dexter McCluster.

    Regardless, Barner is going to break some big runs in the return game and make some highlight reels, starting in the preseason.

Chicago Bears: Jordan Mills, Right Tackle

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    Chicago Bears fans already know about Jordan Mills. You can make a case he is no longer in the shadows of anyone. But, when you are a fifth-round pick and wind up a starter at right tackle as a rookie, it might take a year for the rest of the league to catch up to knowing your name.

    He has already earned a bump in more than just prestige and respect. The Louisiana Tech product topped the performance-based pay distributions in the entire NFL, according to the Chicago Tribune's Brad Biggs, which were announced this week. That money is given to the players who earn the least and play the most.

    Regardless of whether you have heard of him, Mills was an instant starter at right tackle for the Bears and can become an anchor for that offensive line for years to come. You hear about stars emerging from the fifth round at positions like running back, but rarely do we trumpet such late-round gems at offensive tackle.

Cincinnati Bengals: Giovani Bernard, Running Back

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    This one might seem like a cop-out (too easy of a choice), but we will remind you BenJarvus Green-Ellis was, and perhaps still is, the Cincinnati Bengals starting running back. Giovani Bernard, the first running back selected in the draft a year ago, was just so good he seemed like he was a starter.

    He will be shortly—not only a starter but an NFL star.

    The shadow he will be stepping out of is BGE's.

    According to CBSSports.com's Dave Richard, head coach Marvin Lewis had this to say at the NFL owners meetings:

    I think that for young guys that get a chance to play as a rookie, after that first season, you could talk to them all, and they exhale and say, 'It's over.' Because they've been training to get through the combine, because someone told them that really mattered a lot, instead of figuring out that what they did on tape really is what mattered.

    And then for a guy like (Gio), there's a confirmation of how fast is he exactly, how strong is he exactly, what kind of person is he. His body of work was already completed at North Carolina, and then those are the addendums that were kind of put on him, but then they get an opportunity this offseason to take that sigh of relief and then mature and grow.

    I witnessed in Ray Rice since his rookie year in Baltimore, and then from ['08 to '09], and the difference in him. We're hoping that Gio can take those same steps.

    So, from good to great—that is Bernard's path this coming season.

Cleveland Browns: Ben Tate, Running Back

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    Former Houston Texans running back Ben Tate better be prepared to step out of the shadow of Arian Foster. The Cleveland Browns are paying him to.

    He got one of the biggest deals for a running back this winter, according to Spotrac.com. Among those signings, he has the clearest path to being a feature back.

    In talking to new head coach Mike Pettine, the Cleveland Plain Dealer's Mary Kay Cabot wrote, "He said running back Ben Tate can 'absolutely' be the Browns' featured back and that he's not concerned about his durability."

    Tate was supposed to be the next Foster before Foster became Foster with the Texans, but injury derailed him. Now, he can become an NFL feature back in his own right.

Dallas Cowboys: Terrance Williams, Wide Receiver

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    Rick Osentoski/Associated Press

    As rookie wide receivers go, Terrance Williams is already a star. He racked up 44 catches for 736 yards and five touchdowns, making Miles Austin and his huge contract very expendable.

    Now, Williams is a locked-in starter on the verge of superstardom. He has that job and the heavy expectations that come along with it.

    He told Nick Eatman of the Cowboys' official website:

    Seeing (Austin) leave now is kind of bad, but then again I have to continue on doing my job and showing them why they brought me here. It's just going to be a step that I'm going to have to just suck up and do my job the way they brought me here to do. ... 

    I feel like I've got to take a huge step from my rookie year into the guy they believe I can be. I'm trying to get there and start off with a fast pace and pay attention to what the new coaches are talking about.

Denver Broncos: Montee Ball, Running Back

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    The Denver Broncos drafted Montee Ball in the second round a year ago to become a starter in this league. It just took him a one-year apprenticeship to step up from behind departed feature back Knowshon Moreno, who agreed to a one-year deal with the Miami Dolphins on Thursday, according to NFL insider Adam Schefter.

    The ball...ahem...is in the former Wisconsin running back's hands now.

    He told The Denver Post's Benjamin Hochman:

    I want the football every time. I think I'm going to have a great offseason, and I'm going to have a better season next year for sure. ...

    It was a very unfortunate situation for us, obviously, in the Super Bowl, but it gave us a lot to work for. We understand how much it took to get there, and for me as a rookie, it was great to be a part of the process leading up to the Super Bowl, because I truly understand what it takes. And I'm going to play a huge role in next year's success, and I'm really looking forward to it.

    General manager John Elway added this to the Post's Mike Klis this week at the NFL owners meeting: "I think we've got good running backs, and I think it's time to take the training wheels off."

Detroit Lions: Ryan Broyles, Wide Receiver

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    We have to admit: This one is a long shot. It is not because Detroit Lions wide receiver Ryan Broyles isn't talented—he set an NCAA record with 349 receptions at Oklahoma, after all, as MLive's Kyle Meinke writes—he just hasn't been healthy since his collegiate heyday.

    Broyles has torn both ACLs and is coming off surgery for a ruptured Achilles tendon in 2013. Clearly, there are no guarantees he will ever be the same.

    Martin Mayhem told Meinke:

    He's progressing well with his rehab. We'll see how it all plays out. He's had three major injuries—two major injuries with us—but he's rehabbing very well. I had contact with his agent a few weeks ago, so we'll just keep abreast of how he's doing rehab-wise and we'll see how he does.

    Still, Calvin Johnson is a record-setter, and incoming Golden Tate received the second-largest contract among receivers in free agency, according to Spotrac.com. There are plenty of ways Broyles will be hidden in the shadows next season, regardless of his health. It just might be the best way for him to make another return...quietly.

Green Bay Packers: Datone Jones, Defensive End

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    First-round picks don't always become instant hits in the NFL. Some fade after college and never amount to much. The Green Bay Packers are not expecting that to be the case with defensive end Datone Jones out of UCLA.

    "I feel strongly Datone will be one of those second-year players who takes a huge jump," head coach Mike McCarthy told ESPN Wisconsin's Jason Wilde.

    Jones registered 3.5 sacks as a rookie, but the addition of Julius Peppers in free agency can help Jones make strides in that department. Peppers will draw a lot of attention on the other end of the defensive line. Having him around as a personal mentor won't hurt Jones either.

Houston Texans: Garrett Graham, Tight End

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    Patric Schneider/Associated Press

    The Houston Texans' Garrett Graham has already made plays in this league, coming off a 49-catch, 545-yard and five-touchdown campaign a year ago. Those numbers came as Owen Daniels' understudy.

    Now, Graham figures to enter the season as the man at the position for the Texans.

    The Houston Chronicle's John McClain tweeted the Wisconsin product is fired up about playing for new head coach Bill O'Brien: "He wants to use me as more of a move tight end, an H-back. I'm excited about that."

    With the Texans expected to draft a rookie quarterback, expect the tight end—or H-back—and short, rhythm passing to be big parts of O'Brien's system. The former New England Patriots offensive guru can make Graham the next Aaron Hernandez, statistically speaking.

Indianapolis Colts: LaVon Brazill, Wide Receiver

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    When you have an elite young quarterback like Andrew Luck, any number of players from the supporting cast can emerge as a surprising star. Heck, even Trent Richardson can finally make good on his promise. Or maybe even Vick Ballard or Ahmad Bradshaw.

    But we will go with third-year wide receiver LaVon Brazill, who is buried on the depth chart right now. Reggie Wayne, Hakeem Nicks and T.Y. Hilton are likely starters in three-wide sets. Da'Rick Rogers, an undrafted free-agent rookie by the Buffalo Bills, had more catches and yards than Brazill a year ago.

    Yeah, there are a lot of shadows cast on Brazill. That doesn't mean he cannot become a player in this league. And the third year has historically been a kind one to wide receiver breakthroughs. Don't lose sight of this one.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Justin Blackmon, Wide Receiver

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    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    Justin Blackmon, suspended indefinitely after a third violation of the league's substance abuse policy, can go anywhere from never playing again to being the best wide receiver in the NFL. That is a wide range of circumstances right there.

    Because he is such a huge talent, we will lean toward the latter...despite the odds being stacked against him right now.

    He will need to apply for reinstatement to commissioner Roger Goodell this summer, according to ESPN.com's Michael DiRocco. First, he will need to reconnect with his team and head coach Gus Bradley.

    "I wish I could have a more extended conversation with him," Bradley told DiRocco earlier this week. "My feelings toward him haven't changed. I still care about him. To be able to sit down and visit with him, that part I miss."

Kansas City Chiefs: Jeffrey Linkenbach, Right Guard/Right Tackle

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    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    The Kansas City Chiefs offensive line was decimated in free agency, as Branden Albert, Geoff Schwartz and Jon Asamoah each garnered big deals elsewhere. Here is where Jeffrey Linkenbach becomes hugely important.

    He has big shoes to fill, coming over from the Indianapolis Colts.

    He can play tackle or guard, and that versatility will allow the Chiefs to fill either position in the draft.

Miami Dolphins: Dion Jordan, Defensive End

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    Ric Fogel/Associated Press

    The Miami Dolphins' Dion Jordan better step up this year, especially after the price they paid to trade up to get him at No. 3 overall last April.

    The Miami Herald's Barry Jackson reports that "no team received fewer offensive and defensive snaps from its rookie class than the Dolphins last season." Jordan will be looked upon to emerge.

    Head coach Joe Philbin told Jackson at the NFL owners meeting in Orlando this week:

    We have a lot of hope for that draft class. You usually see a significant jump from year one to year two. ...

    We expect (Jordan's) role to expand. He played (339) snaps. We definitely want to see that increase. The most natural place is on third down. He's going to have to have more snaps on first and second down. I think he will have a very good season. We know he has a lot of talent. He plays fast. When he did get snaps, they were quality. We see his role increasing somewhat.

Minnesota Vikings: Everson Griffen, Defensive End

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    Ann Heisenfelt/Associated Press

    Jared Allen cast a big shadow in Minnesota as one of the game's elite pass-rushers. Everson Griffen will be called upon to fill those shoes, especially because the Vikings paid him to do so this winter.

    He signed a five-year, $42.5 million contract to return to the team, which allowed Allen to walk to a division rival for $10 million less. That Griffen contract is a lot of money to pay someone with 17.5 sacks in his NFL career, especially when Allen has had 22 in one season (2011) before.

    For that money and under these circumstances, Griffen has to be much better than good. He has to be great.

New England Patriots: Jamie Collins, Linebacker

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    Brandon Spikes finished last season in coach Bill Belichick's doghouse and now will call Buffalo home, signing with the Bills as a free agent. Belichick was able to ostracize Spikes because of the emergence of 2013 second-round pick Jamie Collins down the stretch.

    ESPN Boston's Mike Reiss wrote last month: "We really saw him coming on at the end of last year and I'd expect that he will be starting alongside Jerod Mayo and Dont'a Hightower in what potentially could be the best linebacker trio we've seen in some time."

    That is high praise for a second-year linebacker who will be replacing a productive player in Spikes.

New Orleans Saints: Kenny Stills, Wide Receiver

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    Michael Perez/Associated Press

    The New Orleans Saints were faced with some tough decisions this winter because of their salary-cap situation, and the departure of Lance Moore creates a huge opportunity for second-year receiver Kenny Stills.

    He tweeted earlier this month: "There's no replacing Lboogs dance moves! Sad to see you go bro. Great person, player and teammate thank you for showing me the ropes."

    Stills made some big plays for a fifth-round pick last year. Heck, he played like a first-round, first-year receiver.

    With Drew Brees still having plenty in the tank, Stills can take his 32-641-5 numbers up to 65-1,000-10 in year two, especially when you consider Marques Colston's awful injury history and the fact he is now in his 30s. Stills just might be the Saints No. 1 receiver—if we're still calling Jimmy Graham a tight end—by the end of next season.

New York Giants: Johnathan Hankins, Defensive Tackle

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    Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

    The New York Giants didn't want to see defensive tackle Linval Joseph (Minnesota Vikings) leave, but at five years and $31.25 million, according to Spotrac.com, they couldn't afford to keep him.

    Having big Johnathan Hankins (6'2", 320 pounds) on the roster to step up behind Joseph softens the blow. John Schmeelk writes on the Giants' official website:

    Considering the Giants will be counting on (Hankins) to step into the starting lineup on Day 1 to replace Linval Joseph, I don't think there's any doubt he will have the most weight on this shoulders. I give him the edge over (tackle Justin) Pugh, since the Giants first-round pick already established himself as a starter on the O-line next year. But the Giants also need (Hankins) to be an upper-echelon starter.

New York Jets: Brian Winters, Guard

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    There is little question the New York Jets offensive line had a rough 2013. They are going through an offseason overhaul there, but holdover Brian Winters, a third-round pick last April, is going to be counted on to improve.

    "Rookie starter Winters had a lot of trouble," the New York Post's Brian Costello wrote in his review of the position earlier this month. "He played better toward the end of the season, but the Jets need him to make a leap in his second season."

Oakland Raiders: Latavius Murray, Running Back

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    When you put your eggs back in the Darren McFadden basket, counting on him to finally make good on his promise, what you're really doing is hoping his backup can pick up the slack when McFadden succumbs to his annual (weekly?) injury.

    With Rashad Jennings now with the New York Giants, that onus falls on second-year back Latavius Murray right now.

    He has his own injury stigma to overcome. He missed the 2013 season, getting placed on season-ending injured reserve for an ankle injury suffered in training camp.

    Still, Contra Costa Times blogger Steve Cockran tweeted in December that Murray could become a surprise starter in year two: "...Could you see Murray stealing the starting gig next year? -- He looks the part and has all the skills."

Philadelphia Eagles: Zach Ertz, Tight End

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    When you have a fast-paced offense like the one Chip Kelly runs, any number of weapons can emerge on a weekly or seasonal basis. Count 2013 second-rounder Zach Ertz as the most likely to make a significant jump from this year to next.

    The Philadelphia Inquirer's Zach Berman writes:

    Look for Ertz to be the primary receiving tight end next season. Ertz, the 2013 second-round pick, finished with 36 catches for 469 yards and four touchdowns last season and improved as the season progressed. I wouldn't (be) surprised if those numbers doubled in 2014. Ertz, 23, is a developing player with Pro Bowl potential.

    Kelly was just as effusive in his praise to The Inquirer's Jeff McLane:

    I think number one, it's athletic ability. Can you get in and out of cuts suddenly and in transition. I think that's one thing with Zach, for such a big target, he's kind of deceptive.

    He's deceptively fast. He doesn't look like he's moving as fast, but all of the sudden he's right on top of you. He can change direction very quickly. I think what you're seeing now is that things are starting to slow down for Zach.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Markus Wheaton, Wide Receiver

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    Don Wright/Associated Press

    The Pittsburgh Steelers replaced the departed Emmanuel Sanders with former New Orleans Saint Lance Moore, but second-year receiver Markus Wheaton still has a large stake in the passing game for Ben Roethlisberger next season.

    It is tough to count on a drafted wide receiver to make an impact in his first year or expect the 30-year-old Moore to stay healthy for 16 games, something he hasn't done in the past three years.

    Wheaton isn't the big target that Big Ben covets, but neither is Moore nor current No. 1 receiver Antonio Brown. That will have to come in the draft. Nonetheless, Wheaton can step forward as a Sanders-like field stretcher.

San Diego Chargers: Manti Te'o, Linebacker

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    John Cordes/Associated Press

    San Diego Chargers linebacker Manti Te'o came with loads of hype, most of which he was unable to match as a rookie. There could have been a reason behind it, though: injury.

    He had offseason foot surgery after playing most of the season on a bum wheel, according to the Union-Tribune San Diego's Michael Gehlken. If Te'o indeed was limited, he stands to be a lot closer to his collegiate form with a clean bill of health.

    Don't discount him from going from serviceable starter to playmaker in year two.

San Francisco 49ers: Marcus Lattimore, Running Back

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    Few college running back prospects came with more fanfare than Marcus Lattimore, and no one has suffered the catastrophic knee injuries he has had to overcome.

    Lattimore, though, told USA Today's Tom Pelissero this winter he has "no doubt" he will be ready for the start of next season after sitting out all of 2013: "I feel faster than I ever was, but my quickness is still coming back. Getting stronger and making sure my balance is right—those are the two main things I've been working on. I feel close. I really do. I feel very close."

    He has more than just injury to overcome to emerge from the shadows. He has to rise up a depth chart that lists Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter and LaMichael James ahead of him.

    If he is anywhere close to his college days, though, the San Francisco 49ers are going to have a gem.

Seattle Seahawks: Percy Harvin, Wide Receiver

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    Outside of some big plays in the Super Bowl, Percy Harvin was a bit player in the Seattle Seahawks' championship season. He is no bit-player talent.

    With Golden Tate now with the Detroit Lions, Harvin is going to need to take on a larger role, but he'll need to stay healthy for once to do that.

    Harvin might be one of the most dangerous receivers in football, but he has played a 16-game season just once in five years. He played just 68 snaps all year for the Seahawks, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).

    He will be counted on for that number again...in pass receptions.

St. Louis Rams: Stedman Bailey, Wide Receiver

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    David Richard/Associated Press

    Tavon Austin was the first wide receiver picked in the draft last April, and he made some big plays for the St. Louis Rams as a rookie. Don't lose sight of Austin's college teammate Stedman Bailey, though.

    The other Rams rookie receiver made an impact down the stretch and could step forward as a sleeper for Sam Bradford next season.

    Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Jeff Fisher likes his wide receivers so much that the Rams might pass on Sammy Watkins at No. 2 overall this May:

    I think with what we have on the roster right now, we can provide (quarterback) Sam (Bradford) with the talent to where we can win a lot of games. We're expecting improvement. We're still seeing improvement from, for example, Brian Quick, Chris Givens who are going into their third year.

    We expect significant improvement and more contribution from Tavon (Austin) and Stedman (Bailey). And I'm not disappointed in any way in what Austin Pettis has done in a backup role.

    Bailey got the biggest increase of snaps down the stretch in December, according to ESPN.com's Nick Wagoner. He could be a 2014 revelation.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Josh McCown, Quarterback

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    Only a select group of people in this world might believe Josh McCown is a legit starting quarterback in this league. Most of them are McCown family members.

    The rest are his new family, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

    The Tampa Bay TimesGreg Augman tweeted a quote from new head coach Lovie Smith about whether McCown is his starting quarterback: "Bucs' Lovie Smith, asked if Josh McCown is his quarterback: 'Yes, he is.'"

    Second-year man Mike Glennon is going to have to take a back seat, perhaps. Fox Sports' Alex Marvez tweeted this week that GM Jason Licht says it will be an open competition but clearly Smith will have the final say.

    McCown is finally going to get his chance to run a team, so first-time, full-time opportunity alone gets him out of the shadows.

Tennessee Titans: Coty Sensabaugh, Cornerback

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    Think of the best cornerbacks in football not named Richard Sherman. Darrelle Revis likely comes to mind.

    Well, how about Alterraun Verner? That is who the Tampa Bay Buccaneers chose to sign away from the Tennessee Titans after releasing Revis.

    That is quite a statement. That is also the player the Tennessee Titans will be tasked to replace.

    Verner told The Tennessean's Jim Wyatt:

    I can understand why (the Titans) did what they did from a business standpoint. I feel like they wanted me to come back, but I wasn't really a strong piece. I didn't feel like they felt me being there or not was going to make a big impact on the team. So I guess I just wanted to go to a place where I felt wanted, and appreciated more. It was good they didn't give up on me...and I appreciate that. But I feel like this was best for me and my family.

    Count Coty Sensabaugh, a third-year corner and a fourth-round pick from 2012, as a reason the Titans could afford to let Verner walk. Sensabaugh will be counted on to fill Verner's spot opposite Jason McCourty.

Washington Redskins: Andre Roberts, Wide Receiver

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    Andre Roberts was superfluous in Arizona, with Larry Fitzgerald restructuring his deal to stick around and burgeoning star Michael Floyd becoming a 1,000-yard receiver in year two. With the Washington Redskins, Roberts is a starter and a potential game-breaker for young quarterback Robert Griffin III.

    Roberts won't be a mere extra for new head coach Jay Gruden, who spoke to The Washington Post's Mike Jones at the NFL owners meetings this week in Orlando, Fla.:

    I think Andre is an exciting player because he can play inside and outside, and he can give you a lot of things. He hasn't been asked to return a lot of punts because they have Patrick Peterson and the Honey Badger. But we might ask him to get back there and return some punts also. Very versatile guy, and I'm expecting big things from him.

    Roberts' ex-coach Ken Whisenhunt reflected on his former player to The Post as well:

    He's a great, great young player. Very tough competitor. I thought he was a good leader and a good player for me when I was there. I have a lot of respect for what he's done, and I'm glad he's getting an opportunity in Washington.

    ... The thing I liked the best about Andre was his flexibility. He can play the slot, he can play outside. He can win outside. He made himself into a tough football player. There were some things he went through early in his career as a football player that he had to fight through and that made him a better player—injuries and getting back on the field. And now he's become a great pro.

    He works hard and understands what he has to do to be out there every day. But the thing that impresses me, is you always have respect with those guys when they come in and blocking. You see him block linebackers and block big safeties. He does a great job in the slot, understanding those routes. He can think quickly on his feet. He's a versatile receiver who can fill a lot of roles.

    Now, he's a locked-in starter with one of the best young quarterbacks in football. Roberts could be one of those players this year who really takes off.

     

    Eric Mack, one of the giants among fantasy writers, was the Fantasy Football Lead Writer for Bleacher Report this past season. He is now an NFL featured writer here. Follow him on Twitter, where you can ask him endless questions about your team, rip him for his content and even challenge him to a head-to-head fantasy game.