Five NFL Rookies Who Will Become Stars In 2013

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NFL 2013: Five Rookies Who Will Become Stars

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Most of the attention grabbers among the NFL’s 2012 rookie class were quarterbacks, with Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson taking a lot of spotlight as they led their teams to the playoffs

But rookies at a variety of other positions also made notable contributions to their teams, including at running back (Doug Martin, Trent Richardson), linebacker (Luke Kuechly, Lavonte David, Bobby Wagner) and cornerback (Casey Hayward, Stephon Gilmore) along with two other signal callers that started the majority of their team’s games (Ryan Tannehill, Brandon Weeden). Time will tell if any of last season’s notable rookies maintain their star power, or if others take significant steps toward becoming stars and leading their team to success in the coming years.

The league’s 2013 rookie class was unlikely to have the luster of 2012’s group, and the fact the first two picks in April’s draft were offensive tackles was the first tangible indicator that was the case. The first round of the draft was heavy with offensive and defensive lineman, and just five offensive skill position players (one quarterback, three wide receivers and one tight end) were selected among the first 32 picks.

But that does not mean this year’s group of rookies is devoid of potential stars, as plenty of players that are familiar to college football fans move to the next level and into significant roles.

Here are five rookies I think will become stars this year, whether they are replacing a Hall of Famer, or simply likely to be given an opportunity to make an immediate impact.

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5. EJ Manuel, QB, Buffalo Bills

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Manuel may not be ready for Week 1 after undergoing knee surgery last week, and the Bills will look to undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel to start the season opener if need be. But Buffalo has a solid core of offensive talent, and as long as Manuel is back healthy early in the season he should be set up for success right away.

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4. Kenny Vaccaro, S, New Orleans Saints

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Vaccaro is the kind of aggressive, hard-hitting safety Saints’ defensive coordinator Rob Ryan can put to good use. Roman Harper and Malcolm Jenkins look firmly in place as the team’s starting safeties right now, but I think Vaccaro will force his way onto the field frequently and make an immediate impact for a New Orleans defense that needs a spark.

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3. Tavon Austin, WR, St. Louis Rams

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The Rams look certain to find a way to get the ball into Austin’s hands as much as possible this year, and he has a good chance to be an impact player as a kick and punt returner as well. Big plays are the name of Austin’s game, and he should be a staple in highlight reels on a weekly basis.

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2. Giovani Bernard, RB, Cincinnati Bengals

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Bernard is expected to start the season in a fairly equal split of playing time with BenJarvus Green-Ellis, but I think it’s only a matter of time before his more diverse skill set leads to a prominent role in the Bengals’ offense.

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1. Arthur Brown, LB, Baltimore Ravens

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Brown fell to the second round of April’s draft due to concerns over his size, and he will have the difficult task of replacing Ray Lewis in the middle of the Ravens’ defense. Still, he had back-to-back 100-tackle seasons to end his career at Kansas State and there’s no reason that productivity can’t carry over to the NFL.