Damon Harrison tops Making the Leap list for Week 3
- By Chris Wesseling
- Around the League Writer
- Published: Sept. 20, 2013 at 04:13 p.m.
- Updated: Sept. 20, 2013 at 06:03 p.m.
Welcome to Around The League's latest weekly feature. This series is an extension of the offseason's Top 40 "Making the Leap" candidates, with a nod to Baseball America's "Prospect Hot Sheet."
One of the most enjoyable aspects of following the NFL is watching young talents develop, injecting a playmaking element that takes opposing teams and casual observers by surprise. A perfect example from the 2012 season was Randall Cobb of the Green Bay Packers, emerging from a special teams weapon and occasional slot receiver to Aaron Rodgers' go-to receiver as the season progressed.
The goal of this piece is to highlight part-time players, making the leap to difference-makers or unproven young talents who ascend to key contributors. Once players truly have made the leap, they will graduate from this running list. Previous lists: Week 1, Week 2.
Without further ado, here are the top 10 prospects for Week 3.
1. Damon Harrison, New York Jets defensive tackle
Consider this a three-man vote for "Big Snacks" Harrison, linebacker DeMario Davis and rookie defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, who combined have transformed the Jets' front seven into a shutdown force in the run game. A mountain of a man at 6-foot-4 and 350 pounds, Harrison is a throw-back to the days of Ted Washington, Sam Adams, Gilbert Brown and Grady Jackson anchoring the defensive line as immovable run-pluggers.
2. Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins quarterback
Tannehill has plenty of arm strength, but he doesn't always show it off. This 24-yard sideline out to Brian Hartline in a tight window was one of the most impressive throws by any quarterback last week. As Gregg Rosenthal opined, it's time to include Tannehill in the discussion of the NFL's great young quarterbacks.
3. Dontari Poe, Kansas City Chiefs nose tackle
While Harrison has been dominant against the run, Poe has been the league's most disruptive pass-rushing nose tackle early this season. He and edge rusher Justin Houston have combined for 11 sacks, as the Chiefs already are more than halfway to their 2012 total of 27.
4. Jordan Cameron, Cleveland Browns tight end
The Trent Richardson trade leaves Cameron as the best skill-position player on the Browns' offense. His numbers are nearly identical to those of New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham's -- another former college basketball player -- through two games.
5. Star Lotulelei, Carolina Panthers defensive tackle
Harrison is the only defensive tackle with a higher Pro Football Focus run defense grade than the Panthers' first-round pick. If the 2013 NFL Draft was done over again, Lotulelei likely would be a top-five pick.
6. DeAndre Hopkins, Houston Texans wide receiver
Hopkins struggled to get open against the man coverage of the Titans' cornerbacks for three and half quarters before making a series of clutch catches in tight coverage late in the game. Even before the two highlight-reel catches to win the game in overtime, Hopkins came down with three huge receptions on consecutive plays leading to the game-winning touchdown.
7. Harrison Smith, Minnesota Vikings safety
The NFL's next great safety is leading the team in tackles and came up with a late-game interception that gave the Vikings a chance to win in Week 2.
8. Jurrell Casey, Tennessee Titans defensive tackle
Putting it all together as a run defender and interior pass rusher in his third season, Casey is starting to resemble Bengals All-Pro Geno Atkins. He and linebacker Zach Brown are carrying the new-and-improved Titans defense.
9. Tyrann Mathieu, Arizona Cardinals defensive back
It's been a running theme since preseason action began: Mathieu continues to show a knack for big plays, especially in key situations. He came up huge with a fourth-down tackle of Nate Burleson, sealing the Cardinals' Week 2 victory as the Lions were driving for a potential game-winning score.
10. Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati Bengals running back
Not since James Brooks was turning the corner and taking bigger defenders head-on have the Bengals faithful enjoyed a dangerous multi-dimension threat of Bernard's caliber in their backfield. In a no-brainer move, coordinator Jay Gruden promised to increase Bernard's role going forward. If Bernard attacks the weight room, there's Ray Rice potential here.
Cold list: Brandon Weeden, David Wilson, Montee Ball, Ronnie Hillman, Greg Little, Denarius Moore, Geno Smith, Kenbrell Thompkins, Darius Slay, Bacarri Rambo, Marcus Gilbert
Watch list: Julius Thomas, Chandler Jones, Cordy Glenn, Sheldon Richardson, DeMario Davis, Zach Brown, Bruce Carter, Junior Galette, Tavon Austin, EJ Manuel, T.Y. Hilton, Marlon Brown, Julian Edelman, George Selvie, Kyle Long, Tyler Eifert, Charles Clay, Barkevious Mingo, Rod Streater, Brandon Boykin