Breakout 'redshirt rookies' for 2014
Luke Joeckel among injured or little-used NFL rookies primed to rise in Year 2
Redshirt freshmen are a prominent part of college football every season, as we've seen the past two years in the form of back-to-back redshirt freshman Heisman Trophy winners Johnny Manziel and Jameis Winston. It's far less common in the NFL, however, to have talented rookies see limited action in their first seasons, either because of injury or other reasons; if a team drafts a player with a high pick, that player is usually going to see the field right away in a significant role.
But this year presents something of a unique circumstance, with several talented rookies from the 2013 class who missed most or all of their debut seasons but could play big roles in 2014. Which "redshirt rookies" will have the best chance of breaking out?
Here are five, with several more listed at the bottom of this article.
Joeckel is a slight stretch for this list in the sense that he started all five of the games in which he played as a rookie, prior to fracturing his ankle against the Rams in Week 5 and missing the rest of the year. But we'll justify it because medical redshirts are very common in college football, and because Joeckel could play a pivotal role on a rebuilding Jacksonville team this season.
This is for two reasons. First, Joeckel is a high-level talent who was the No. 1 prospect in our 2013 rankings. He has quick feet, good balance and lateral agility as a pass protector, and he has excellent first-step quickness and great range as a run-blocker. Second, the Jaguars need some serious help on the offensive line, having given up 50 sacks last season (31st in the NFL) and averaged just 3.3 yards per carry (also 31st).
To see Todd McShay's complete list of "redshirt" rookies primed to rise in 2014, become an ESPN Insider.