Not every rookie enjoys immediate success. Here’s our list of players we expect to shine in their second seasons in the NFL.
Doug Baldwin, WR, Seattle
This hard worker is limited physically, but he’s extremely dependable and has little competition for targets in Seattle.
Vincent Brown, WR, San Diego
It took some time for the local product to get used to the NFL, but he showed flashes of ability against Green Bay (four catches, 79 yards), Oakland (five, 97, TD) and Denver (three, 50). With Vincent Jackson moving on to Tampa Bay, Brown can expect even more targets.
Randall Cobb, WR, Green Bay
An aging Donald Driver should create chances for the explosive and versatile Cobb in the slot. The 2012 Packers’ offense could easily provide value for three wide receivers.
Leonard Hankerson, WR, Washington
The former Miami Hurricane posted his first 100-yard game in only his second career start before his season ended due to a hip injury. He is on schedule to be back for summer camp and could start in 2012.
Roy Helu, RB, Washington
Robert Griffin III’s best friend this fall will be an effective ground game. Helu, a former Nebraska Cornhusker, started only five games as a rookie and scored only three times. Still, he posted a 4.2 yards-per-carry average and caught 49 passes. What keeps Helu from feature back status? Mike Shanahan’s infamously unpredictable running back rotation.
Mark Ingram, RB, New Orleans
Ingram dealt with nagging injuries as a rookie, but the former Heisman Trophy winner scored in four of the last six games he played and posted his two best rushing totals (91 and 80 yards) over his final four games of the season. Fully healthy, Ingram should prove why the Saints moved back into the first round to draft him in 2011.
Taiwan Jones, RB, Oakland
The Eastern Washington product will compete with scat-back Mike Goodson for time behind Darren McFadden — who has rarely been healthy in his brief career. Jones has been incredibly productive at every stop and has the talent to give Run DMC a break for 10-12 touches per game.
Mikel Leshoure, RB, Detroit
After rupturing his Achilles tendon last August, Leshoure never got the chance to show his explosive playmaking skill that made him a 1,700-yard, 17-TD back at Illinois. He has the size and physical presence Detroit has craved for years, and if he can stay healthy he could explode in 2012. Keep in mind that Leshoure is suspended for the first two games of the season due to his off-field transgressions.
Greg Little, WR, Cleveland
Only A.J. Green caught more passes among NFL rookie wideouts last season than Little’s 61. No one should be more excited about the addition of Brandon Weeden and Trent Richardson than Mr. Little.