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Friday, June 7, 2013
Eight in the Box: Rookie eye-catchers

By James Walker

» NFC Eight in the Box: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

A first-year player who has turned heads in OTAs/minicamps.

Buffalo Bills: Rookie wide receiver Robert Woods was one of my favorite players in this draft, and he is already living up to his reputation of being an NFL-ready player. The second-round pick and former USC product is gaining the inside track for a starting job during organized team activities. Woods is putting his stamp on the position by running solid routes, making plays and displaying good hands. That is what the Bills are looking for opposite 1,000-yard receiver Steve Johnson. Buffalo has a trio of rookie receivers in Woods, Marquise Goodwin and Da'Rick Rogers who are all looking to make an impact.

Miami Dolphins: It's early, but Miami may have a steal in fifth-round draft pick Mike Gillislee. The former Florida running back is showing good burst and vision during OTAs. Gillislee is the type of downhill runner Miami wants in its West Coast offense. He is decisive, physical and had a reputation in college for usually falling forward after contact. Gillislee is definitely in the mix to share carries with starter Lamar Miller and backup Daniel Thomas. Several of Miami's rookies are injured and have not done much work in practice. First-round pick Dion Jordan is recovering from shoulder surgery in February and second-round pick Jamar Taylor has a sports-hernia injury. Third-round pick Dallas Thomas (shoulder) just got on the practice field for the first time this week. That leaves more of an opportunity for lower-round picks like Gillislee to stand out.

New England Patriots: It's been a mixed bag for Patriots rookie Aaron Dobson in OTAs, but he is showing enough early to offer hope at the wide receiver position. Dobson is making the tough transition from playing at small-school Marshall to arguably the most demanding and precise offense in the NFL. Dobson is making athletic plays in practice but also some rookie mistakes. The Nos. 2 and 3 receiver jobs are wide open in New England. Dobson is competing with fellow rookie Josh Boyce and veterans Michael Jenkins, Donald Jones and Lavelle Hawkins. Dobson has a higher ceiling than all of these receivers and is showing it with big plays. But Dobson, like most rookies, must work on consistency.

New York Jets: Head coach Rex Ryan loves his defense, and so far first-round pick Sheldon Richardson has impressed. The former Missouri defensive lineman has displayed strength and a quick first step off the ball in spring practices. He has the potential to be disruptive, and this is what made Richardson the No. 13 overall pick in April's draft. Due to a need at quarterback, the Jets reportedly considered drafting Geno Smith with the No. 13 pick but took the higher-rated player in Richardson. It was a wise choice, because New York landed Smith in the second round with the No. 39 overall pick and got a good defensive lineman prospect in the process. The Jets are a young, rebuilding team, and Richardson is projected to be in the starting lineup in Week 1 of the regular season.