Time for young 'skill' players to step up

August, 1, 2013
8/01/13
2:40
PM ET
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Greetings from the construction site known as San Francisco 49ers headquarters. The new stadium dwarfs the facility across the blocked-off street. I'll be watching practices and conducting interviews over the next couple days.

Depth issues at receiver have pushed second-year 49ers receiver A.J. Jenkins into the training camp spotlight. The 49ers aren't the only team seeking 2013 contributions from skill-position players drafted in 2012. With each team in mind, here’s a look at where these offensive skill-position players (including quarterbacks) from the 2012 draft factor with their NFC West teams one week into camps.

Arizona Cardinals

The players: WR Michael Floyd (first round) and QB Ryan Lindley (sixth round)

Rookie impact: Floyd finished the season with 45 receptions, including eight for 166 yards and a score against San Francisco in Week 17. Lindley struggled as an emergency starter under brutal circumstances.

[+] EnlargeRussell Wilson
Joe Nicholson/USA TODAY SportsSeattle quarterback Russell Wilson might be able to rely more on his running game in 2013.
2013 outlook: Floyd is the relevant player here. He's projected to start opposite Larry Fitzgerald. Lindley is competing for the third-string job and could probably use a season in the shadows to recover from a rookie season where too much was asked of him.

QB Carson Palmer on Floyd: "He gets it. He understands it. He has had a natural feel for getting open in zones, which is something you're not taught. You just sit there and watch film with a guy forever and you either have it or it's something that takes years to develop. Phenomenal player."

Seattle Seahawks

The players: QB Russell Wilson (third round) and RB Robert Turbin (fourth round)

Rookie impact: Wilson tied Peyton Manning's rookie record for touchdown passes. He led the NFL in passer rating and Total QBR over the final eight games of the season. Wilson had a 22-4 ratio of total touchdowns to turnovers during that span. Turbin proved valuable as the primary backup to Marshawn Lynch, carrying 80 times for 354 yards (4.4 per carry).

2013 outlook: Seattle expects more of the same from both of these players. Wilson should benefit from a full offseason as the starter. He carried the offense for stretches late last season, but the Seahawks don't necessarily need him to do so consistently. They've got a strong ground game and defense, putting Wilson in position to succeed even though opponents will be better prepared for him this time around.

WR Golden Tate on Wilson: "You know that at any moment, Russell can throw a deep ball for six or he could take off running for 30 yards."

San Francisco 49ers

The players: WR A.J. Jenkins (first round) and RB LaMichael James (second round)

Rookie impact: The 49ers did not need either player for most of the season. Jenkins failed to gain traction at any point and finished with zero receptions. James added a welcome dynamic to the offense when the team lost Kendall Hunter to injury.

2013 outlook: Jenkins has a sore hamstring and by most accounts hasn't made much of an impact this summer despite gaining strength through the offseason. Injuries at the position have cleared the way for him. Preseason games could be telling. James had 38 carries for 190 yards (5.0 per carry) over seven games, counting playoffs. He's a keeper, for sure, but Hunter's return could relegate James to another season in the No. 3 role. His time is coming, but perhaps not until 2014.

Note: This space was reserved for a comment relating to Jenkins or James, but I could find none from training camp. Having just arrived at 49ers headquarters, I'll ask someone about Jenkins, for sure.

St. Louis Rams

The players: WR Brian Quick (second round), RB Isaiah Pead (second round), WR Chris Givens (fourth round) and RB Daryl Richardson (seventh round)

Rookie impact: Givens set a rookie record with at least one reception of 50-plus yards in five consecutive games. Quick flashed ability with a 36-yard touchdown reception against San Francisco, the second-longest allowed by the 49ers all season. But he had only 11 receptions overall. Pead wasn’t a factor. Richardson was a pleasant surprise with 98 carries for 475 yards (4.8 per carry).

2013 outlook: Pead must serve a one-game suspension to open the season, but he will likely factor prominently in a committee approach at running back. Givens was becoming more than just a deep threat late last season, a trend that should continue. Quick will get opportunities, but will he capitalize on them? Richardson has a shot at starting.

Coach Jeff Fisher on Quick: “I think we all got really excited [Tuesday] with his physicality. There was a run play yesterday and he came in and cracked the WILL linebacker and put him on the ground. A couple plays later he was run blocking a corner and he threw him on the ground. There was another catch, I think it might have been a couple days ago, where he used his body and went over a guy and it’s just really nice to see that from Quick because he has all the physical ability in the world. To see him finally using his strength and his size is a really good sign.”

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