Training camp is less than a month away. The 2014 rookie class has gotten a taste of the NFL life through OTAs and mini camp. There have been some rookies who have stood out in the AFC North. Some can be expected to have an impact right away. Let’s take a look at some of the rookie impact players from each team in the AFC North.
The Ravens were able to select a few rookies that will get a chance to play early in the season. C.J. Mosely is an inside linebacker that is sure to get significant playing time but the impact rookie we will focus on is free safety Terrence Brooks. Brooks was a third round selection out of Florida State. He quietly had one of the better combines of all safeties. The Ravens selected Matt Elam last year. He and Brooks will form a very formidable safety tandem.
Brooks has the range to play single high safety but also has the cover skills to drop down in the box and cover slot receivers. The versatility he brings will allow the Ravens defense to mix things up as far as coverage is concerned. They will be able to work Elam more in the box and allow him to be a more disruptive player at the line of scrimmage. Brooks isn’t a stranger to being a run stopping force either. Look for the Ravens secondary to be a strong part of what is becoming a more athletic defense that will cause problems for opposing offenses.
The Bengals selected running back Jeremy Hill out of LSU in the second round. They already have Benjarvis Green-Ellis and Giovanni Bernard on the roster so it may come as a surprise to some that Hill is the selection here. However, if you look at his size, he’s the biggest tailback the Bengals have. Hill is a downhill runner that will get his share of opportunities in short yardage situations.
Green-Ellis is in the last year of his contract so the Bengals will want to see what they have in Hill. Expect him to get plenty of carries as the Bengals utilize a three back offense. Hill did average ten yards per reception at LSU so he did show he has some receiving ability. It wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect Hill to get six to eight touchdowns in his rookie season. His 6-1, 238 pound frame will allow him to get plenty of opportunities in goal line situations. Green-Ellis was the goal line back in the past but it is very possible that Hill takes over that role in 2014.
All of the focus for the Browns draft class has been on Johnny Manziel. The Browns also selected a running back that will have a major impact on their team in 2014. Terrance West is a guy that could end up being the starter very early in the season. He is a really good cut back runner that has a vicious jump cut. His running style is very similar to Frank Gore of the San Francisco 49ers.
West is equally capable of catching the ball out of the backfield. In short, he is the total package. West is well equipped to run between the tackles and has the ability to break long runs once he gets to the second level of the defense. He also runs behind his pads,so don’t be surprised if he is the goal line and short yardage back as well. West is a very compact runner at 5-9, 225 pounds. He has a nose for the end zone as well.
The Steelers caught some flak for selecting Ryan Shazier out of Ohio State instead of C.J. Mosely. While Shazier seems to be a solid fit, the best selection for the Steelers was when they selected Clemson wide receiver Martavis Bryant in the fourth round. Bryant will add a size/speed dimension that is music to Ben Roethlisberger’s ears.
Bryant is 6-4 and has 4.3 speed. This is a unique blend of size and speed. The Steelers will surely take advantage of mismatch opportunities with Bryant. His speed will allow him to out run defenders even once he makes the catch. Roethlisberger will be able to look deep for Bryant especially when the play breaks down and he escapes the defense. Bryant has the ability to be a break away player outside the numbers and has the ability to use his long, rangy frame to high point the ball. He will also excel at back shoulder catches in the red zone.
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