Secret Superstars: 2012 In Review

Looking back on the Secret Superstars we've named over the years, Gordon McGuinness reviews the 2012 selections.

| 3 years ago

Secret Superstars: 2012 In Review

SSreview-2012It’s getting to the time of year when we roll out our Secret Superstars to watch out for in the 2014 season for each of the 32 teams in the league. The series highlights one player from each team who we feel performed better than the credit he was given, or a player who looks poised to impress further this year with a bigger role.

With that in mind, and with three years of the series under our belts, we thought it would be a good idea to look back on our picks from each year and see how we did. As you will have seen from last week’s recap of our 2011 series there have been some impressive hits, and some wild misses, and that continues as we look at 2012.

Arizona Cardinals – David Carter, NT – MISS

As a sixth-round rookie in 2011, Carter finished his first season strong, showing some solid play against the run after flashing some skill as a pass rusher earlier in the year. However, while Carter was a solid choice that year, his career didn’t take off like we’d hoped. His play dipped slightly in 2012 and he saw just 51 disappointing snaps in 2013 with the Dallas Cowboys.

Atlanta Falcons – William Moore, S – HIT

Moore showed big strides as a player from 2010 to 2011, leading to him being our Secret Superstar heading into the 2012 season. While he may not be an elite player in the league, he’s developed into a solid starter in Atlanta, and you would expect him to bounce back from a down year in 2013.

Baltimore Ravens – Pernell McPhee, DL – MISS

Definitely a player who falls into the “what if” category. Heading into the 2012 season McPhee had some issues with his knees which meant he didn’t follow up an impressive rookie season quite like he could have. The Ravens shifted him to outside linebacker last season which further limited his impact — a shame after he showed such promise as an interior rusher as a rookie.

Buffalo Bills – Andy Levitre, G – HIT

2012 would be Levitre’s final season in Buffalo, but he wouldn’t disappoint. Our ninth-highest graded guard that season, he hasn’t finished lower than 13th in each of the past three seasons. Now with the Tennessee Titans, he’s still young enough that we can expect him to perform at this level for some time yet.

Carolina Panthers – Greg Hardy, DE – HIT

Up there with some of our biggest hits from the past three years is Hardy. Back in 2011 he actually finished with a negative grade, but we saw enough of him in flashes to believe he could develop into something special. 2012 and 2013 have seen him become one of the best all-around defensive linemen in the league.

Chicago Bears – Tim Jennings, CB – HIT

We’re willing to forgive Jennings for a subpar second half to 2013, especially after he followed up 2011 with an even better 2012. Like Charles Tillman he’s an excellent fit for what the Bears want to do defensively, and his nine interceptions in 2012 led all cornerbacks.

Cincinnati Bengals – Carlos Dunlap, DE – HIT

A year after naming Geno Atkins the Bengals’ Secret Superstar, we again opted for a defensive lineman in Cincinnati, this time on the edge in Carlos Dunlap. He hasn’t had the same impact as Atkins, but he’s graded out inside the Top 10 4-3 defensive ends each of the past two years, performing well against the run and as a pass rusher.

Cleveland Browns – T.J. Ward, S – HIT

Though he departed for Denver this past offseason, Ward was a fantastic player for the Browns these past two seasons. He has his limitations, but you’ll struggle to find many safeties in the league as good as him near the line of scrimmage.

Dallas Cowboys – Sean Lissemore, DL – MISS

A miss may be a touch harsh on Lissemore, who performed solidly as a reserve for the Chargers in 2013, but he has failed to reach the height of his 2011 season where he excelled against the run. He saw time at both nose tackle and defensive end for Dallas in 2012, but failed to impress at either spot.

Denver Broncos – Chris Harris Jr., CB – HIT

Another big hit from our 2012 class is Harris. His injury late in the 2013 season may hurt him going forward but before then he had quietly become one of the better cornerbacks in football. Comfortable on the outside or in the slot, he’s been amongst our 10 highest-graded players at the position each of the past two seasons.

Detroit Lions – Willie Young, DE – HIT

We might have missed on fellow Lions edge rusher Lawrence Jackson the year before, but Young is much closer to a hit if you look at his 2013 season. Grading positively against the run and as a pass rusher, he should help an ailing Chicago front seven after making the switch to the divisional rival Bears this offseason.

Green Bay Packers – D.J. Smith, LB – MISS

A strong finish to his rookie season saw us opt for Smith as our Secret Superstar in 2012, but a slow start to the season was worsened when he went down for the year after Week 6. Only seeing action on special teams for the Houston Texans in 2013, we can chalk this up as a miss.

Houston Texans – Brice McCain, CB – MISS

If you want a good example of proof that a player’s performance can change rapidly, McCain is your guy. Our 25th highest graded CB in 2011, he fell to 104th in 2012 before tumbling to dead last at 110th in 2013. No longer in Houston, the Pittsburgh Steelers have given his the chance to resurrect what looked like a promising career.

Indianapolis Colts – Samson Satele, C – MISS

Satele sprinkled in some positives during a streaky run as a member of the Oakland Raiders, but that doesn’t stop this from being one of our biggest misses. His best ranking amongst centers in terms of his PFF grade from the past two seasons has been 31st, definitely not what you want from a starter.

Jacksonville Jaguars – Derek Cox, CB – MISS

Cox started just six games in 2011, but flashed some real skill that gave us hope for the future. Sadly, that hasn’t materialized into much since then, with the occasional flash in 2012 outweighed by more poor play, and a really poor 2013 season all around.

Kansas City Chiefs – Tyson Jackson/Glenn Dorsey, DL – HIT

Viewed as busts by many early in their careers, both had really strong seasons against run in 2011, leading us to name then Secret Superstars as a pair. 2012 saw both players performance dip, but Jackson was excellent against the run again in 2013. It was a similar story for Dorsey, who did it with the 49ers after moving to San Francisco last offseason.


Click over to Page 2 for the rest of the 2012 Secret Superstar Reviews…

| Analyst, Lead Special Teams Analyst

Gordon has worked at PFF since 2011, and now heads up the company’s special teams analysis processes. His work in-season focuses on college football, while he is also heavily involved in PFF’s NFL draft coverage.

  • Jason King

    You may feel like Isaac Redman was productive, but obviously the Steelers didn’t – and since none of the other 31 NFL teams signed him, no one else thought much of him either. I can’t see how you count that one as a “hit.”

    I do enjoy the series though and thought you made a lot of nice picks.