Four Players From 2012 Who Could Change Things

By Lance Zierlein
February 4, 2013

These four players could change the way general managers and coaches view prospects in the future.

If there is one word that can describe the NFL, it is "unoriginal".  At least, that's the case as it pertains to the way teams are looking to copy the success of others.  If something works, then it must be copied.  If something fails, then it should die an instant death.  Here are players and concepts from the 2012-2013 season that could have an impact on the way teams approach next season.

1. Colin Kaepernick

We all understand just how dynamic RG3 was this season, but it took a slew of draft picks to procure him for the Redskins.  Kaepernick, on the other hand, is the QB who made it out of the first round in the 2011 draft.  He's the guy that any team could have taken a shot on.  He represents attainability for NFL team.

Kaepernick is everything that Vince Young was supposed to be.  At 6'4/230, Kaepernick has good size, tremendous speed for his position (or maybe any position) and a strong arm.  While his throwing motion may look a little raw, it is hard to argue with the results.

Teams will look at Colin Kaepernick and see a guy who was able to make the 49'ers offense much more versatile and much more explosive.  More than any other QB we've seen, Kaepernick appears to be the guy who could potentially blend elements of the college game and the pro game.

Who could benefit: E.J. Manuel, QB, Florida State - Manuel is roughly the same size as Kaepernick, but he won't be as fast.  Manuel has run some zone read and option at Florida State and he has better mechanics than Kaepernick.  Whether or not he deserves to go early, I think Kaepernick's success will greatly influence a few teams about how early they should slot E.J. Manuel.

2. Russell Wilson

The prevailing notion in most NFL circles was that no matter what Wilson did at the Senior Bowl or at the combine, there was a ceiling on how high you could draft him because of his height.  In fact, I know of a few teams who basically dropped him another round or two based upon the combine measurement of his height which was just under 5'11.

Wilson's 2012 season could change the way some teams are willing to look at QBs now.  There will always be the pragmatists out there who see the short QB and decide that he will have too tough a time seeing over the linemen in front of him or that he will have too many balls batted down, but I'm willing to bet that there are some general managers out there who are much more open to taking shorter QBs if they possess the skills that Wilson has.

The Seahawks handled Wilson perfectly this season and put him in position to succeed by protecting him early and then allowing him to thrive in an offense that best suits his strengths.  What might separate Wilson from other QBs of any stature, however, is his incredible poise and maturity.

Who could benefit:  Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M - I know Manziel won't be draft eligible until after next season, but he's another QB who will get dinged by some NFL teams for his size.  As long as Manziel keeps improving with his passing game (which he did this season) and proves that he can stay healthy, he will have a shot to benefit on draft day from the eyes that were opened by Russell Wilson.

3. Brandon Browner

Browner is a rarity in the NFL - a 6'4 cornerback who plays with great physicality.  Despite coming out of college in 2005, this is only Browner's second season in the NFL.  Browner made it to the Broncos camp as an undrafted free agent and was placed on IR his first season, but cut the following summer in 2006.  From there, Browner went on to play four seasons in Canada before getting a shot in Seattle.

Very few big corners have been able to play for very long in the NFL because they typically don't change direction very quickly and that tend to lack long speed.  Browner ran a 4.63 forty at the combine and a pedestrian 7.20 in the 3-cone drill, so most teams saw him as a big guy who couldn't move well enough.  Instead, maybe teams need to start paying better attention to the film and less attention to measurements.

In a league that continues to see WRs getting bigger and bigger, Browner's size was a welcome addition in Seattle.  Browner's success could open the door for other big CBs who don't time as well to get a more legitimate look at CB rather than just automatically being pushed to safety.

Who could benefit:  Big cornerbacks.  To be honest, it is so rare to see them as draftable prospects that I'm not sure we will see anyone benefit in the near future.  However, what we might are college coaches willing to take a few more chances on big CBs in the right defensive schemes.  Most big CBs are automatically moved to safety, but football coaches may be inspired to give a big CB a chance based on Browner's exceptional play in 2012.

4. Alfred Morris

If you just started watching football this year, then I'm sure you think Alfred Morris is a revelation.  "Wow!  Look at how good a late-round RB can be!"  However, chances are you already know about names like Mike Anderson, Terrell Davis and Arian Foster who have all flourished in the zone scheme.

Morris has a physical build and is no-nonsense in his approach to getting downhill.  Granted, he was certainly helped by having such a dynamic QB in RG3, but Morris ran through arm tackles and had a great nose for the endzone.  While they are different stylistically, Morris approach to running the ball is reminiscent of Arian Foster who was an undrafted free agent.  For teams who want to use a heavy dosage of inside and outside zone, Morris proves once again that RB value lies in the middle and even later rounds.

Who could benefit:  General managers.  Overdrafting RBs -- a position with a limited shelf life -- has been a problem for many GMs in the past, but Morris is yet another example that finding the right guy is all about fit rather than round.  There are some solid RBs in this draft who could be pushed further down the draft board as teams continue to realize that there is quality to be found later rather than earlier.