Players prepped to make a leap

Rookie adjustments over, these 2011 draftees could break out

Originally Published: May 18, 2012
By Mel Kiper Jr. | ESPN Insider
Quinn, Hankerson, LockerGetty Images2012 could be a breakthrough year for Robert Quinn, Leonard Hankerson and Jake Locker.

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Every year people get fired up for the NFL draft, only to be disappointed when they don't see immediate dividends. I do it too. But the reality is that many consider the jump from college to the NFL as bad or worse than the jump from high school to college. It's like the old cliché about sitting down in your first college class at Yale, and the teacher asks "How many of you were valedictorians?" Half the hands go up.

Same deal with the NFL. Nearly every one of these guys was an impact player in college. So I like to look at some guys who saw the field as rookies, or maybe didn't see much but could make a big jump in their second year. I call them my "Leap Year" players.

There could be a few dozen from the 2011 draft, but here are some who jumped out at me based on where they play and the situation they could be in. And remember, if they had a really great rookie year, they won't be on this list. These are in no particular order.

Leonard Hankerson, WR, Redskins
I thought Hankerson was just about to really get it going last year when a hip injury derailed his season. While the Redskins went out and made several moves at wide receiver, I think Hankerson could put up big numbers as a down-the-field threat in Mike Shanahan's offense. He's a bigger target, something this offense lacks otherwise, outside of tight end Fred Davis.


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Mel Kiper Jr.

Football analyst