Which '12 draft picks are poised to break out?
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.