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Teams looking for quicker impacts from these slow starters

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Kim Klement / US Presswire
Gerald McCoy could still blossom into a dominant force along the defensive line.


A glance back at the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft shows an abundance of players who not only contributed, but stood out individually and helped their team's fortunes. Rams quarterback Sam Bradford, Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, Patriots cornerback Devin McCourty, Chiefs safety Eric Berry and Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey are some -- but not all -- of several first-year breakthrough players.

A look back at 2010 draft
Relive all the picks and what was thought at the time for each of the 2010 draft picks, including when the Chargers traded up to acquire a potential future franchise back. More ...

Not every draft pick got out of the gates quickly. Injuries, limited opportunities and rookie learning curves held some back. The grace period has ended, though, and much more will be expected from players like running backs C.J. Spiller and Ryan Mathews, Texans cornerback Kareem Jackson and Titans defensive end Derrick Morgan in their second seasons.

Let's take a look at some of those players in that category and delve into how offseason changes -- such as the draft or among coaching staffs -- could impact their development.

Gerald McCoy, DT, Buccaneers (selected No. 3 overall) -- McCoy has gotten somewhat of a bum rap because Suh was unusually dominant for a rookie tackle. McCoy was pretty solid, but he didn't flash much. The Bucs will be expecting more. If they draft a pass-rushing defensive end and/or an outside linebacker, as expected, that should help ease McCoy's load. Adding a much-needed outside threat could reduce the amount of double teams McCoy has to worry about.

Russell Okung, OT, Seahawks (No. 6 overall) -- A lengthy contract holdout and chronic issues with a high-ankle sprain limited Okung to 10 regular-season games and two playoff games. We probably never got to see him at optimum health. Even so, there is little doubt that Okung is going to be a solid starter for years. Former Raiders head coach Tom Cable is the new offensive line coach in Seattle and he's a rough hombre who should draw the best out of Okung immediately.

C.J. Spiller, RB, Bills (No. 9 overall) -- One of the bigger disappointments among the first-round group. The supposed game-breaking tailback finished with 74 carries for 283 yards (3.8 yards a carry) and just 24 receptions. Running back is one of the easier transitions for college players to make and it didn't happen for Spiller. The Bills were awful offensively overall last season, so Spiller isn't completely to blame but there won't be much forgiveness if he fails to emerge in the second year in Chan Gailey's system. The Bills have to address the offensive line in the draft and maybe free agency, but Spiller's gains will mostly need to come from within.

Ryan Mathews, RB, Chargers (No. 12 overall) -- The Chargers moved up in the draft to get Mathews, but they only got 158 carries from him. He gained a respectable 678 yards (4.3 per carry) and scored seven touchdowns, so when he's involved and healthy, he showed he can deliver. Mathews was plagued by a high-ankle sprain last season. If he stays healthy, things should go much better this year. Having OT Marcus McNeill in the mix from Day 1 should be a plus. Mathews likely will be entrusted with a bigger workload because Darren Sproles could be lost in free agency.

Brandon Graham, DE, Eagles (No. 13 overall) -- Graham seemed to be coming around before sustaining a season-ending torn ACL that could limit his return early in this season. Graham is a promising player, but the Eagles have to protect themselves by continuing to add pass rushers. He should eventually recover, but his full impact might not be felt this season.

Derrick Morgan, DE, Titans (No. 16 overall) -- Morgan tore his ACL in Week 4, making his rookie season pretty much a lost one. He should be ready for this season and the Titans are expecting him to eventually live up to his high-motor, disruptive promise. If the Titans add a disruptive defensive tackle like Auburn's Nick Fairley that could help Morgan. At some point of the draft the Titans figure to draft another defensive end, and it's not out of the realm that North Carolina's Robert Quinn or Clemson's Da'Quan Bowers could be taken in the first round.

Sean Weatherspoon, OLB, Falcons (No. 19 overall) -- A knee injury slowed the ultra-talented Weatherspoon and never let him get into the flow. He started five of the 11 games he played, and was as tentative at times as he was spectacular. He's a three-down player who can run and cover. The Falcons figure to add a defensive lineman and cornerback in the draft and/or free agency. Should they acquire a vet DE like free-agent Ray Edwards to go with stud DE John Abraham to occupy blockers, Weatherspoon could shine.

Kareem Jackson, CB, Texans (No. 20 overall) -- Jackson was a surprise pick here. He finished with decent stats (71 tackles, two interceptions), but he was part of one of the worst secondaries in the NFL. Teams went after Jackson and he struggled at times, but that's to be expected at this position. Cornerback is one of the most difficult spots for rookies to succeed. The experience should only help Jackson. He is going to be asked to do different things in new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips' 3-4. We'll see if the move plays to his strengths.

Demaryius Thomas, WR, Broncos (No. 22 overall) -- A foot injury slowed his arrival, and a concussion and sprained ankle ended it prematurely. Compounding things, he tore his Achilles' tendon this offseason and might not be able to contribute much in 2011. Thomas showed immense potential as Brandon Marshall's replacement, but he has been plagued by one injury or another. Who knows when or if we'll ever see how good he can be.

Jared Odrick, DT, Dolphins (No. 28 overall) -- Odrick played in just one game before a leg fracture placed him on injured reserve. He should be healthy and ready to compete for a starting job once football resumes. The Dolphins have talent along the first two levels of the defensive front and might not add much there this offseason -- especially since they expect Odrick to deliver the goods.

Kyle Wilson, CB, Jets (No. 29 overall) -- Wilson was viewed as possibly the top cornerback prospect in the draft and early on it looked like he would live up to expectations. He hit a plateau just before midseason and showed how tough a transition it is from college at that position. With Antonio Cromartie possibly leaving via free agency, Wilson could start. He has to make huge strides because we know which Jets corner won't be targeted.

Jerry Hughes, DE, Colts (No. 31 overall) -- With Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis ahead of him, Hughes' contributions weren't expected to be more than marginal, but six tackles total? GM Bill Polian reportedly said that he should have taken an offensive lineman instead of Hughes. Ouch. Hughes is going to have to step up because Mathis' contract expires after this season and his retention could depend on Hughes' development, or lack thereof.

Patrick Robinson, CB, Saints (No. 32 overall) -- Robinson wasn't expected to do much last season. New Orleans has two very good starters in Jabari Greer and Tracy Porter, so Robinson was a luxury pick. He was inactive at times and saw action in eight games. He will be given more opportunities this season, especially in nickel sets. With Greer and Porter also being prone to injuries, Robinson could be called upon more.

Follow Steve Wyche on Twitter @wyche89.

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