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Ten players from 2012 NFL Draft poised for bigger roles

While the 2013 NFL Draft hype season kicks into full gear, Around The League wants to ensure that last seaspn's top prospects don't get overlooked. We recently highlighted a handful of 2012 NFL Draft picks on the brink of Pro Bowl status. This time we are delving into a 10-pack of second-year players who will be thrust into a major role in 2013.

1. David Wilson: Running back, New York Giants


The first-rounder's explosiveness was evident as he racked up the most all-purpose yards (1,925) yards by a rookie in franchise history. But mistakes in pass protection, route-running and ball security limited Wilson's offensive snaps. Now that Ahmad Bradshaw is gone, general manager Jerry Reese is confident that Wilson can be the "lead dog" in a tandem attack with Andre Brown.

2. Lamar Miller: Running back, Miami Dolphins


We pointed out in early February that Reggie Bush became persona non grata in Miami because the team's brass believes Miller can be a "bigger, faster, better" version of Bush. The fourth-rounder showed impressive burst with the ability to succeed between the tackles and in space. The addition of deep threat wide receiver Mike Wallace should leave Miller poised for success against few stacked boxes.

3. Peter Konz and Lamar Holmes: Offensive line, Atlanta Falcons


Konz was drafted in the second round as the first center off the board, but he spent the majority of his rookie season filling in at right guard. With veteran center Todd McClure retiring, Konz should find more success at his natural position. He needs to hit the weight room this offseason to help handle bigger nose tackles. Offering ideal size at 6-foot-6 and 325 pounds, Holmes was drafted in the third round after catching the eye of NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock at the East-West Shrine Bowl. The release of right tackle Tyson Clabo suggests the Falcons have high hopes for Holmes in his second season.

4. DeMario Davis: Linebacker, New York Jets


Head coach Rex Ryan raised unreasonable expectations when he compared Davis' mannerisms and leadership to Ray Lewis, but the third-rounder was limited to nickel packages as a rookie. With Bart Scott out of the picture, Davis will combine with pass rusher Quinton Coples to add a much-needed speed element to the Jets' front seven this season. One NFL executive said last summer that Davis projects as an eight- or 10-year starter based on his talent level.

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5. Riley Reiff: Offensive tackle, Detroit Lions


The first-rounder started eight games as a rookie but mostly was limited to jumbo packages as a sixth lineman. Now that Jeff Backus retired and Gosder Cherilus was signed away by the Indianapolis Colts, the coaching staff is leaving the door open for Reiff to step in as the left tackle. His short arms and average athleticism might be better suited to the right side if the Lions settle on a left tackle with No. 5 overall pick.

6. Whitney Mercilus: Outside linebacker, Houston Texans


Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips noted that the light flipped on for Mercilus at mid-season, and the first-rounder went on to rack up 6.5 sacks in a part-time role. General manager Rick Smith expects an "exponential" leap in Mercilus' second season, which likely factored into the decision not to re-sign defensive end Connor Barwin.

7. David DeCastro: Offensive guard, Pittsburgh Steelers


The Steelers held out hope that DeCastro would contribute despite a dislocated kneecap, torn medial collateral ligament and partially torn patellar tendon in his right knee, but the first-rounder didn't enter the lineup until mid-December. Widely viewed as an elite guard prospect and one of the safest selections in last year's draft, DeCastro might emerge as the Steelers' best offensive lineman in his second season.

8. Isaiah Pead: Running back, St. Louis Rams


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The second-rounder's rookie season never got on track after missing OTAs due to a late college graduation. The Rams still have high hopes, though. "We drafted Isaiah because we felt like he has a chance to be a good back," head coach Jeff Fisher said at the NFL Scouting Combine. Pead already has been picked by one national analyst as the breakout player of 2013. With Steven Jackson, Danny Amendola and Brandon Gibson all departing, Pead might join wide receivers Brian Quick and Chris Givens as second-year starters in a less experienced, more dynamic offense.

9. Michael Floyd: Wide receiver, Arizona Cardinals


The first-rounder was a non-factor in the first half of the season, but he showed flashes down the stretch, culminating in a 166-yard effort in the season finale. New head coach Bruce Arians "loved" Floyd coming out of Notre Dame and called the receiver a "bright young star" in February. Floyd is strong vertically, which fits Carson Palmer's strengths and Arians' offense.

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10. Nigel Bradham: Linebacker, Buffalo Bills


The Bills' woeful run defense showed considerable improvement once the fourth-rounder replaced Arthur Moats in the starting lineup in Week 6. Bradham played his best late in the season, leading one observer to exclaim the coaching staff has to be "jumping through hoops" at his emergence so early in his career. With the release of veteran Nick Barnett, it's apparent that the Bills have "high hopes" for Bradham in 2013.

Follow Chris Wesseling on Twitter @ChrisWesseling.

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