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2013 NFL Training Camp: D.J. Fluker and 15 rookies to watch

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The NFL is a league that demands immediate results, and for the 2013 NFL Draft class that starts at training camp.


The time we live in is a fun one. It's one where Geno Smith can be a bust before taking a snap in the NFL and Tavon Austin can revolutionize an entire side of the sport before even getting his hands on the ball in an NFL game.

Rookie are expected to make an impact in a league where fans, owners and front offices demand immediate results on the field. Thus, Smith and Austin, as well as countless other rookies, will be thrust firmly beneath the spotlight over the next month in training camp and preseason.

How is he handling the transition to the NFL? Is he in over his head? Is he working hard? How is he spending his time away from the field? This isn't college football anymore. These guys aren't the big men on campus anymore and have to prove themselves all over again.

Everyone will have their eyes on Smith, Austin and other high profile rookies during training camp. But here are 15 other rookies to keep track of when training camp practices get underway later this week.

Tyler Wilson, Quarterback, Oakland Raiders

The Raiders' quarterback situation will be an interesting one to follow in training camp. Terrelle Pryor entered the offseason as the favorite after Carson Palmer's departure. But Oakland proceeded to trade for Matt Flynn and draft Tyler Wilson in April. Considering his toughness and willingness to take shots downfield, Wilson could endear himself to the Raiders' coaching staff in training camp. Flynn and Pryor are both unproven as NFL starters, so Wilson has a realistic shot at the starting job.

Joseph Randle, Running back, Dallas Cowboys

DeMarco Murray has been a weapon for the Cowboys offense when he's healthy. The issue has become his inability to stay on the field. Dallas' poor offensive line play and lack of depth at running back held the team back in 2012 when Murray went down.

Oklahoma State's Joseph Randle, drafted in the fifth round of the 2013 NFL Draft, should add depth to the backfield. With an improved offensive line and Murray's tendency to get injured due to his upright running style, Randle could have a chance to shine as a rookie. He has the straight speed and lateral explosiveness to succeed in similar ways to Murray.

Stepfan Taylor and Andre Ellington, Running backs, Arizona Cardinals

Bruce Arians heaped praise on Cardinals running back Ryan Williams during his introductory press conference and Rashard Mendenhall is in line to start, but the Cardinals added a pair of running backs in the NFL Draft that complement one another well.

Stepfan Taylor and Andre Ellington were both drafted on the third day, though Taylor appears to be the more NFL-ready between the two. Taylor is a strong pass blocker and a reliable runner between the tackles, while Ellington has the burst and speed to take it the distance. Ellington is also effective out of the backfield. If Arians can find a way to get these two involved, the Cardinals' running game has a chance to improve in 2013.

Quinton Patton, Wide receiver, San Francisco 49ers

Michael Crabtree seemed poised for a step forward this season season after breaking out in 2012, but the wide receiver tore his achilles and will miss most, if not all, of the 2013 season. The 49ers drafted A.J. Jenkins in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft and traded for Anquan Boldin this offseason, but rookie Quinton Patton will also be in the mix to receive some targets.

Patton, a fourth-round pick out of Louisiana Tech, gets separation with his smooth route running and displayed reliable hands throughout his productive college career. Those types of things are what help a rookie contribute early on at the wide receiver position. He could put Jenkins' roster spot in jeopardy.

Denard Robinson, Offensive weapon, Jacksonville Jaguars

The title of offensive weapon is enough to make Denard Robinson an interesting player to watch during training camp. The Jaguars labeled their fifth-round pick as such after the former Michigan quarterback described himself as an offensive weapon in team meetings at minicamp. Robinson has a ton of wiggle in the open field and the vision to be a productive ball carrier for the Jaguars. The coaching staff will have to find a creative way to use his skills, but that's what makes Robinson such an intriguing case study.

Tharold Simon, Cornerback, Seattle Seahawks

Tharold Simon was somewhat dreadful in his final season at LSU. A physical cornerback with the ability to play press coverage, Simon was constantly exposed for his lack of quick feet and fluid hips. Lucky for him, the Seahawks love big, physical cornerbacks. Was Simon's final season at LSU indicative of his ability, or can the Seahawks find a way to mold him into a formidable cover man like they have so many others?

Johnathan Franklin and Eddie Lacy, Running backs, Green Bay Packers

Fantasy football owners will be watching the Packers' running back situation with a close eye throughout training camp and preseason. Rookies Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin seem poised to split the workload in Green Bay's backfield, as the two have different skill sets. But one of these running backs could separate himself during the preseason.

Quanterus Smith, Defensive end/Outside linebacker, Denver Broncos

Quanterus Smith would have picked up more pre-draft buzz if he hadn't torn his ACL towards the end of his senior season. Smith is one of the most technically advanced pass rushers in this draft class, but the Broncos are hoping he maintains his explosiveness after his season-ending knee injury. Will he be able to participate in training camp? If so, how effective will he be?

Cornellius Carradine, Defensive end, San Francisco 49ers

Another injury situation worth monitoring in the preseason is 49ers rookie Tank Carradine and his ACL injury. He seemed to be recovering at a remarkable pace leading up the draft, but how will he respond to the rigors of an NFL training camp? A healthy Carradine in the 49ers' defense seems almost unfair, as he has the ability to stick his hand in the ground and stand up to get after the passer. He would have been a first rounder if not for his knee injury.

Tyler Bray, Quarterback, Kansas City Chiefs

Character concerns have been taken on a new importance to NFL teams after the events of the last few offseasons. Tyler Bray went undrafted because of issues surrounding his maturity. However, he may have landed in the perfect place. New Chiefs coach Andy Reid has proven to be a rock solid mentor to troubled players during his career. Bray's physical ability is immense, but he needs to mature to make the Chiefs roster. If he fails to stick as the team's third quarterback, it will say a lot about his attitude.

Da'Rick Rogers, Wide Receiver, Buffalo Bills

Another incredible talent that went undrafted due to off-the-field issues is wide receiver Da'Rick Rogers. Rogers was booted out of Tennessee for failing drug tests and butting heads with the coaching staff. He's big, fast and can make plays after the catch, but the Bills have nothing invested in him as an undrafted player. As a result, he will be walking a fine line and will have to do everything right off the field to make the team's roster.

D.J. Fluker, Offensive Tackle, San Diego Chargers

Philip Rivers can attest to how much the Chargers' offensive line struggled in 2012. First-round pick D.J. Fluker will have every chance to earn a starting spot on one of the league's worst fronts. He's not an ideal fit for left tackle due to his heavy feet and may even struggle at right tackle early in his career. He will have an opportunity to play early, but will he be ready for it?

Cordarrelle Patterson, Wide Receiver, Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings are hoping Cordarrelle Patterson can ease the loss of Percy Harvin. Patterson's a playmaker with the ball in his hands, but he's far from Harvin in most aspects of his game. During the preseason, the Vikings are likely to put a lot on Patterson's plate in an effort to get him acclimated to the NFL quickly. It should be interesting to see how they manage to get him involved.

Ziggy Ansah, Defensive End, Detroit Lions

The term raw was used in nearly every conversation about BYU defensive end Ezekiel Ansah before the NFL Draft. His combination of strength and speed got him drafted in the top five, though, and that draft position comes with the expectations of being an early contributor. Given how quickly Ansah has developed in his college career, the next chapter of his career should be exciting to track.

Brian Schwenke, Center, Tennessee Titans

The interior of the Titans' offensive line has been a glaring issue for the team in recent seasons, but it shouldn't be anymore after Tennessee signed guard Andy Levitre and drafted Alabama guard Chance Warmack with the No. 10 pick in April's draft. However, fourth-round pick Brian Schwenke, a center out of California, is the interior lineman to watch during training camp. He flew under the radar as an "ordinary tools" guy, but should get a crack at a starting job from day one.

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