Monday, May 31, 2010

Saints Nation: 5 Up and Coming Saints Players to Keep an Eye Out For in 2010

As we approach closer to training camp, below is 5 players we should keep an eye on as Saints fans. They may not be established yet, but they have shown enough promise that they may be poised for breakout seasons in 2010.

5. WR/PR Rod Harper: It's hard to say if Harper will make the roster again in 2010 or not because it's crowded at receiver, but Harper was impressive in beating out Adrian Arrington for a final roster spot at the beginning of last season. He was by far the most impressive punt returner on the roster, and it's not impossible he'll get more looks in 2010 there. While the Saints value Reggie's explosiveness on punt returns, his performance in 2009 was disastrous on punt returns. Not till the playoffs, where he ran one back for a touchdown against the Cardinals, did Bush has any success returning punts. Harper is explosive and extremely talented. He is also a blossoming receiver with big play ability and good hands. If he can stay healthy, he may contribute on a weekly basis during the regular season. 

4. LB Jonathan Casillas: Don't be surprised if this undrafted rookie free agent from a year ago beats out veteran Clint Ingram and current starter Jo-Lonn Dunbar for a starting spot at linebacker now that Scott Fujita is gone. In fill in roles last season he showed a lot of aggression, ability and promise. His weakness was over-pursuing plays at times, but that's something that can be improved with practice and coaching. He has the size, speed and technique to become a viable starter.

3. K Garrett Hartley: Some of you may already consider Hartley an established fixture, but his career is currently comprised of just two half seasons. The Saints picked him up half way through 2008, and he sat out the first four games of 2009 due to suspension before taking more time to regain his kicking role from John Carney. This will be Hartley's first chance to play through an entire season and cement himself as a reliable NFL kicker. Hartley didn't miss a kick in 13 tries in 2008, and he made huge kicks in the playoffs throughout the Saints' magical SuperBowl run. There's no question he has accuracy, leg strength, and the ability to make big kicks under pressure. Those three things can add up to a kicker having a very long, and very successful career. This will be the first time Hartley has a chance to build on his promising start for a full season.

2. HB Lynell Hamilton (pictured): The Saints' decision to pass on matching the Eagles' signing sheet offer to Mike Bell, despite the fact that they received no compensation, tells you all you need to hear about Hamilton. Clearly the Saints feel good about his performance, and how ready he is to step into the role Mike Bell had last year. Towards the end of the year, Hamilton was already starting get the short yardage reps ahead of Bell. Expect Hamilton to be second in the pecking order behind Pierre Thomas to get the bruising carries. Reggie Bush's role won't change with Bell gone, so my expectation is it'll just increase the load Hamilton has. He could be poised to have a big year, including many goal line carries, which could mean lots of touchdowns and some fantasy value.

1. DT Anthony Hargrove: Expect Hargrove's role to increase in 2010. He'll be lined up at DT on every single passing down, but don't be shocked if he lines up at end some on running downs as well. My prediction is that Hargrove will have upwards of 5 sacks on the season, and be a huge part of the Saints' success rushing the passer in 2010. I still think the Ellis-Ayodele combination is what we'll see on 1st and 10, but the Saints will want to give Hargrove more time on the field based on how well he played last year.