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

By Bill Williamson

» 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:

Denver: Running back Montee Ball. When Denver took the Wisconsin workhorse late in the second round, it had big designs for him. However, I believe after getting him into their camp, the Broncos have even bigger plans for Ball. He has looked polished and prepared to be an instant difference-maker. I thought Peyton Manning's recent comments on the team’s expectations of Ball were compelling. It is rare for a superstar to say such things of a second-round pick so soon after the draft. It is clear Denver thinks it has something special in Ball.

Kansas City: Third-round pick, running back Knile Davis. I get the sense Davis is the type of player who keeps Kansas City head coach Andy Reid up at night -- and that’s a good thing. I think Reid’s head is exploding thinking of the ways he can utilize the big, strong, fast Davis. Reid likes a multifaceted attack. The rookie from Arkansas fits in well. I can see Davis being used as a bigger, change-of-pace back for star Jamaal Charles, as a short-yardage and a screen option out of the backfield. Davis is even getting looks as a returner. Expect the Chiefs to push Davis directly to the field in several different ways.

Oakland: Sixth-round pick, running back Latavius Murray. I was at Oakland’s camp Monday. There is legitimate excitement over the Central Florida product. He has been a favorite of media in open sessions. More importantly, he has been a favorite of the coaching staff. I get the sense Oakland thinks Murray can be a big part of the offense as a rookie. He is big, fast and versatile. I think Oakland is going to try to get Murray into the open field as a runner and a receiver. He may be difficult to stop. The Raiders’ biggest focus with Murray is getting him ready on pass protection. That is what young running backs struggle with most. However, Murray has shown some aptitude in protection schemes, so Oakland is hopeful he will be able to block well enough to stay on the field.

San Diego: Second-round pick, linebacker Manti Te’o. There is no buyer’s remorse here. The Chargers made Round 2 headlines by taking the polarizing former Notre Dame star. There were reports some teams would stay away from Te’o because of the circus surrounding him. Te’o was involved in a bizarre Internet hoax involving a dead girlfriend who never existed. Before the hoax, Te’o was considered one of the top five prospects because of his great overall game film. So far, the Chargers are thrilled they moved up to take Te’o with the No. 38 pick. He has fit in with his teammates on and off the field. He has been humble and a diligent worker. The Chargers expect him to be an instant starter at an inside linebacker spot in the 3-4 defense. Thus far, Te’o has given the Chargers no reason to be concerned on or off the field.