Ready for Anything
Because a lockout means teams might not have the normal minicamps or training camps to help rookies prepare to play in their first year, scouts and G.M.'s are on the lookout for prospects well-positioned to play with minimal preseason preparation. The following are three top candidates to step into NFL lineups soon after a new CBA is signed.
Mike Pouncey C-G, Florida
6'5", 303 pounds
Seems logical that the twin brother of 2010 Steelers rookie Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey, who started from Week 1 of training camp in Pittsburgh, would top this list. A tenacious downfield blocker, the former Gator should be drafted no later than 20th overall and start early in his rookie year.
Marcell Dareus DT, Alabama
6'3", 319 pounds
The success of Ndamukong Suh, last year's No. 2 pick (10 sacks with the Lions), has every three-technique tackle prospect thinking he can dominate right away. But not many have the strength and drive of Dareus, who had 11 sacks over his last two seasons under Nick Saban. He can play end in the 3--4 or either tackle in the 4--3.
Julio Jones WR, Alabama
6'3", 220 pounds
Jones will drop a few more balls than you want in a starting wideout, but he'll also block with the feral eagerness of Hines Ward. And with his 4.39-second 40-yard-dash time at the combine on Sunday, he showed he'll be able to stretch defenses immediately.