Nothing in sports is more exciting to fans than the “potential” an individual player possesses. Statistics and gaudy highlight reels are nice, but what a player has done in the past rarely usurps expectations about what they can do in the future. Look no further than the opening two picks in the 2014 NFL Draft to make that case, with Jadeveon Clowney and Greg Robinson both projected to be perennial All-Pro players, with some throwing out comparisons to Hall-of-Famers, like Lawrence Taylor and Orlando Pace.
While, we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves by predicting which draftees might end up enshrined in Canton in 10-15+ years, it might not be too much of a leap to attempt to nail down the 2014 All-Rookie squads. In the past, the roster makeup has been pretty straight-forward, laden primarily with higher-drafted prospects, with a handful of “surprise,” lower-round players sprinkled here and there. So, who from the St. Louis Rams might make their way onto the All-Rookie squad this year?
Greg Robinson, OG
The battle for a “starting” spot at guard on the All-Rookie squad should be tossup between a handful of prospects. More often than not, interior linemen get bolstered by mere name recognition, meaning that Greg Robinson, Zack Martin, and Xavier Su’a-Filo will likely be fighting for two spots on the squad. Both the Houston Texans and Dallas Cowboys regularly get attention for their offensive lines, whereas, at least in the past, the St. Louis Rams have rarely gotten any acknowledgment. However, should Zac Stacy, Tre Mason, or Sam Bradford put up “eyebrow-raising” numbers this season, Robinson is a near lock to get an All-Rookie invite.
Tre Mason, RB
Tre Mason is in a tough position in his rookie season, with Zac Stacy firmly planted as the No.1 running back on the depth chart. However, it wasn’t uncommon in the Jeff Fisher-era in Tennessee for the second back to accumulate 500+ yards in a season. In fact, in 2008, when LenDale White and Chris Johnson nearly split carries in the backfield, both running backs managed 700+ yards ,with White (No.2 on the depth chart) racking up 15 rushing touchdowns.
At this point, it is difficult to predict how the carries will be split between the two young, former-SEC running backs. Les Snead said earlier in the offseason that they anticipated Stacy manning about 75% of the carries, which would leave Mason with limited reps to make a name for himself in his rookie season. While the split may be more along the lines of 60-40 my mid-season, there is another factor that may benefit Mason; injury. Stacy’s durability has been a concern since his time at Vanderbilt, and flared up again in his rookie season, missing several chunks of time in both preseason and the regular season. Mason is more than capable of being “the option” in the backfield, if necessary, and could benefit from Stacy’s rugged running style, which has led to missed time in the past.
On another bright note, the competition for the “top rookie running back” might be scarce this season. Bishop Sankey is headed to Tennessee, but will be playing on a squad with limited offensive talent, and will likely be trailing in games for a majority of the season. Jeremy Hill is planted behind both BenJarvus Green-Ellis and 2013 rookie standout, Giovani Bernard. Andre Williams will be playing behind a patch-work offensive line in New York, with the reining interception-throwing leader as his signal caller. Carlos Hyde will be buried on the bench in San Francisco. Devonta Freeman is slotted behind both Jacquizz Rodgers and Steven Jackson in Atlanta. Limited competition and some opportunity might allow Mason to sneak onto the All-Rookie roster.
Lamarcus Joyner, CB/S
In a draft class filled with talented defensive backs, the “projecting waters” are extremely murky heading into the 2014 season. An astonishingly-high nine defensive backs were taken in the opening round, including five corners and four safeties. However, Joyner might in the most advantageous position of any of the Top 45 prospect, likely coming into fill the nickelback role in Gregg Williams’ aggressive defensive scheme.
While Joyner may have his hands full manning up on the quicker slot receivers in the league, he will be also get the opportunity to make plays as a pass rusher; something he excelled in during his time at Florida State. Turnovers are turnovers in the NFL, and with offensive coordinators focusing on stopping Robert Quinn and Co. on the defensive line, Joyner could have some clean shots to make plays on unsuspecting quarterbacks. Joyner won’t grade out as the top rookie in coverage, nor will he likely lead rookies in interceptions. However, a combination of sacks, forced fumbles, interceptions, tackles, and other meaningful statistics might be enough to steal a spot on an All-Rookie team at the end of the year.