Commentary

Players bound for a leap year

Sam Bradford was great, but a Pro Bowl could be next. Who else could leap?

Originally Published: May 16, 2011
By Mel Kiper Jr. | ESPN Insider
Getty ImagesJason Pierre-Paul was facing a lot of developmental work, but he's also shown promise.

No matter what they say, any coach or general manager drafting a player in the first round believes they are getting a guy capable of helping the team early. I'm not saying they expect it -- consider this year's draft, in which every quarterback taken should be given time on the bench -- but these are the most talented players in the draft, and in most cases, they target a roster void.

With that in mind, as I look back at picks I liked in the 2010 draft, as usual, there are some cases where a player taken in Round 1 didn't quite live up to all the hype. Either that, or the hype was so great that he became unfairly criticized. I'm not saying these guys disappointed, but whether it was perception or reality, they all had moments or profiles that had the critics out. Let's look at some first-round picks from 2010 who I think could be in line for a big jump in 2011.



Sam Bradford, QB, St. Louis Rams (No. 1 pick)

The results: Let's be clear: In no way was Bradford a disappointment as a rookie. Given what he was handed in terms of personnel in the Rams' passing game, Bradford was brilliant. The Rams put him in the shotgun a lot to ease the transition (in a league in which the shotgun is as prevalent as ever) and Bradford was outstanding. This is a league that saw Peyton Manning throw 28 INTs as a rookie. Young guys will struggle -- period. Bradford came out gunning, throwing 55 times in Week 1, and was trusted to deliver from the get-go. What I like most is the 60 percent completion percentage. While he didn't push the ball down the field a lot, Bradford's trademark accuracy didn't desert him.

Why the leap: The Rams didn't get a home run wideout in the draft, but they did get some value, with tight end Lance Kendricks, then wideouts Austin Pettis and Gregory Salas. I'd expect them to be actively looking for a pass-catching target or two in free agency, and between growth and added personnel, I don't think it'd surprise anyone to see Bradford already at a Pro Bowl level in 2011. He's that talented.



Gerald McCoy, DT, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (No. 3 pick)

Mel Kiper Jr.

Football analyst