Operation: Football Sunday. Misson plan: Pigskin viewing, maximum. Bathroom breaks, minimal. Plan your time accordingly; commercial breaks are your friend. Get your sofas, brews, popcorn and window fans ready and join me in front of the television.
Last year we saw breakout performances from Victor Cruz, DeMarco Murray, Rob Gronkowski and others. Here’s some young talent with the potential to make a big impact this season.
Russell Wilson – Selected by the Seattle Seahawks in this year’s NFL draft, the former Wisconsin Badger concluded his collegiate career with an eye-opening senior year.
He completed 73 percent (225/309) of his passes for 3,175 yards, more than 10 yards per attempt, and 33 touchdowns to just four interceptions.
Despite setting the FBS record for passing efficiency and running a 4.55 40-yard dash, Wilson slipped to the third round due to his small stature. Because he stands just taller than 5 feet 10 inches, many scouts doubted his ability to play at the next level.
In three exhibition games the undersized rookie had no problems seeing over his line, completing 67 percent of his passes and posting a preseason best 119.4 passer rating.
The performance prompted coach Pete Carroll to give Wilson the starting quarterback job over free agent acquisition Matt Flynn.
Expect Wilson to be a significant upgrade to last year’s starter Tavaris Jackson, and lead a talented team toward playoff contention.
Julio Jones – Possibly the most physically gifted receiver in the NFL, Julio Jones is making a mockery of defenses this preseason.
The Alabama product is 6 feet 3 inches and 220 pounds of pure muscle, runs a sub 4.4 40-yard dash and jumps out of the building a 39-inch vertical.
In approximately 6/4 of playing time this preseason, Jones hauled in 13 catches for 240 yards, and a touchdown.
With Matt Ryan on the rise and the Falcons incorporating more passing elements to their offense, Julio is primed for a huge season.
David Wilson – The reigning Super Bowl champions, the New York Giants, wasted little time upgrading their run game, which graded as one of the league’s worst in the regular season last year.
While they did perform better in the playoffs, it was clear upgrades had to be made.
With second fiddle Brandon Jacobs bolting for San Francisco, example 1A for addition by subtraction, and brittle Ahmad Bradshaw the only other viable option on the roster, Wilson could see himself playing a big role.
After Cardinals’ running back Ryan Williams left for the NFL, Wilson carried the Virginia Tech backfield and earned ACC Player of the Year honors on the back of a 290 carry, 1,709 yard season.
Though he’s on the smaller side at only 205 pounds, he led the FBS in yards after contact. Expect David Wilson to surpass Bradshaw in the coming years and become one of the more prolific rushers in the NFL.
Torrey Smith – With only three years of receiving under his belt, Torrey Smith made an impact out of the gates for Baltimore in 2011.
Smith exited high school as a highly touted physical product but also one without a true position.
After redshirting for a year at Maryland, he switched to the receiver position where his speed could be best utilized.
Used largely as a return specialist his first season, the elusive receiver broke the ACC kick return yardage record then surpassed his own mark the following year.
In his third season, Smith amassed 1,055 yards and 12 touchdowns before entering the NFL draft.
Now paired with cannon-armed Joe Flacco, Smith is the Ravens’ first true vertical threat since the quarterback joined the Ravens and they connected for 841 yards and seven touchdowns.
The development and performance of these two could be the biggest factor for the Ravens’ Super Bowl aspirations.