Reports out of NFL minicamps should always be taken with a grain of salt, as the practices aren’t full contact, but impressing in the spring can indeed be a predictor of future success.
Here are the five players who generated the most glowing reports from the press, coaches, and teammates this minicamp season.
Adrian Peterson, RB, Saints
He’s 32 years old and coming off yet another major knee injury, but listening to Peterson’s new Saints teammates, you would think he’d found the fountain of youth.
“It’s his motor. Even when we do walkthroughs, he’s so explosive,” safety Kenny Vaccaro told The MMQB’s Albert Breer.
“Watching him go downhill and hit the line of scrimmage, it’s impressive. It’s what we’ve seen in the past,” center Max Unger gushed.
And it’s not just players.
“There are have been some plays where it’s, ‘Woo!’ You didn’t really see him come through the hole, and it’s like, where’d he come from? You see that burst and explosion,” defensive coordinator Dennis Allen said.
Peterson was ostensibly signed to back up Mark Ingram, or perhaps form a 50-50 timeshare on early downs, but if he truly runs like the Peterson of old when the pads go on this summer, it’s hard to see the Saints taking him off the field.
DeVante Parker, WR, Dolphins
Now entering his third season as a pro, the light has come on for former 14th overall pick Parker – if his Dolphins coaches are to be believed.
Maddeningly inconsistent over his first two seasons for a list of reasons that includes injuries and a lack of professionalism, Parker’s earning rave reviews, with offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen telling Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald he expects Parker to have “a gigantic year.”
What’s the main source of Parker’s sudden improvement? It might be simply that he’s taking better care of himself – he says he’s hydrating, eating better, stretching before and after practice, and getting at least eight hours of sleep every night.
The typically quiet Parker also says he’s asserting himself in the realm of trash talk.
“It’s something newer now,” Parker explained. “I just feel like 100 percent and I just express myself, let it all out now.”
Target monster Jarvis Landry is still the best bet to lead the Dolphins in catches this year, and deep threat Kenny Stills remains in the fold, but Parker has by far the biggest upside of the trio.
Joe Mixon, RB, Bengals
Discussions about a player’s character and past actions fade into the background in the NFL if he impresses on the field, and it appears that’s precisely what Mixon is doing.
The second-round pick looked “like a beast” at minicamp, a Bengals staffer told The MMQB’s Albert Breer, with Mixon’s rare combination of size, speed, and acceleration standing out.
Mixon is a first-round talent who fell in the draft for off-field reasons, so perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise that he looks like a future star. With Giovani Bernard expected to miss time early in the season as he recovers from a torn ACL and Jeremy Hill bordering on bust territory, Mixon could seize the Bengals’ feature back job with a strong training camp.
Kenny Golladay, WR, Lions
The Lions’ third-round draft pick isn’t just turning heads with big plays at minicamp, he’s already drawing whispered comparisons to Calvin Johnson.
Golladay is 6-foot-4, an inch shorter than Johnson, and runs a 4.50-second 40-yard dash – significantly slower than Johnson’s 4.35 seconds, but still plenty fast. No one honestly expects him to produce at a level comparable to Megatron, but Golladay has the chance to play a big role in a passing attack that could be prolific.
“Everything he has shown so far has been impressive,” ESPN’s Michael Rothstein wrote of Golladay’s progress, noting that the rookie has made difficult catches, displayed an excellent catch radius, and showed route-running precision. “He should be the No. 3 receiver this fall and a legitimate red-zone threat.”
Donte Moncrief, WR, Colts
Entering a contract year after three seasons of failing to live up to high expectations, Moncrief appears to be on track for a long-awaited ascension to stardom.
Moncrief may have been “the best player on the field” in Wednesday’s practice, wrote Stephen Holder of the Indy Star. The wideout caught everything the Colts threw at him, finishing with three touchdowns.
“This year, being healthy and being able to get some work, being in shape, you can tell the difference,” Moncrief said. “And I’m ready to keep it going.”
(Photos courtesy: Action Images)
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