Around the NFL, a player's second year is often called his "leap year." After being in the league for a full year, complete with playing as a rookie, a full training camp complete, and knowing his team's playbook, a sophomore player is expected to make a leap forward in their performance.
For last year's rookie class, that leap forward could be even more dramatic than any other year. With the lockout messing up the offseason last year, this rookie class did not get the conditioning program, the OTAs, or any of the developmental process most rookies get before their first time on the field as an NFL player. Now, with the NFL back into its traditional offseason schedule, the sophomores are getting their chance to go through a full program for the first time. Below, we'll assess the potential leaps each of the Miami Dolphins' 2011 draft picks could make in 2012.
Mike Pouncey - Center - Pouncey was considered a reach by the Dolphins when he was selected with the 15th overall pick. However, he would go on to establish himself as the team's starting center from day 1, and would be named a Pro Bowl alternate. Any leap forward for Pouncey would land him in the Pro Bowl this year (if there is one).
Daniel Thomas - Running Back - Thomas had a somewhat disappointing rookie campaign, spending much of the season dealing with hamstring issues. He finished the hear with 581 rushing yards, and proved, when healthy, he was an adequate backfield mate with starter Reggie Bush. However, Thomas has to have a leap forward this year if he wants to be a major contributor for Miami, who drafted Lamar Miller in the fourth round this year. Thomas should find success having the offseason to heal his hamstring, and a full offseason program to help him prepare for the year, resulting in him solidifying his position as the second string running back.
Clyde Gates - Wide Receiver - A lot is desired from Gates, but he failed to live up to it in 2011. The rookie speedster only caught two passes last year, appearing in 13 games. The offseason program should help Gates develop his route running, but early reports this year aren't looking good for Gates, who seems to be the receiver being forgotten this year. His speed has not transferred to the NFL game, yet. If anyone was in need of a huge leap forward this year, it's Gates.
Look for the other half of the 2011 draft class tomorrow, but which of the three players above will make the largest leap forward this year?