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Indianapolis Colts OTAs: Top Rookies to Watch for During Practices

OTAs are a time for new faces to come in and work with the team and get in sync with returning players. With a number of rookies participating, who are the top guys to watch?


The Indianapolis Colts are already in the middle of organized team activities, or OTAs. Things have appeared to be going well, with Andrew Luck appearing for his first OTAs after being absent last year while finishing up at Stanford.

This year, there are a number of rookies that should garner attention during these activities.

In another segment of "Brookey's Rookies", we'll point out some guys that fans should look out for in the comings weeks and months as the season gets started.

Bjoern Werner, OLB

Obviously, Werner is a guy that a lot of people will be looking at. The coaches were blown away with him during rookie minicamp, and he will be looking to impress even more in order to prove he is worth a starting position.

With that in mind, can Werner take a starting spot? Robert Mathis will likely stay where he is, but plenty of fans and media alike aren't sold on Erik Walden starting opposite Mathis. Walden exploded on to the scene with the Green Bay Packers in Week 17 of 2010 against the Chicago Bears, racking up 12 combined tackles and 3.0 sacks as the Packers were able to secure a playoff spot and eventually make it to the Super Bowl.

Still, Walden has been very inconsistent over his career. He looked particularly bad in the 2012 playoffs against the San Francisco 49ers, and there are a number of questions surrounding this guy.

Werner will be making his own case to start ahead of Walden. Even if he doesn't get the starting job, expect Werner to get plenty of playing time in 2013, particularly in passing situations.

Caesar Rayford, OLB

Brad mentioned a few days ago that the Colts brought in this monstrous outside linebacker, measuring at 6'7'' and 267 pounds. He spent his time in the CFL frightening opposing quarterbacks and blocking kicks.

Ryan Grigson took a chance with Jerrell Freeman last year, another former CFL player, and that seemed to pay off well for the team. Now, he's looking to strike gold for a second time with Rayford.

Rayford may not grab a job at outside linebacker, but the Colts should consider using him to block field goals.

This guy blocked a number of kicks in the CFL, and could potentially do the same in the NFL. While he works on becoming a better overall player, fans could see him going out against the opposing field goal unit during the regular season.

Justice Cunningham, TE

Mr. Irrelevant picks are usually guys that don't last long in the NFL. Chandler Harnish was able to make it at least one season as a backup to Luck, and now Cunningham is actually looking to find a place on this team.

The initial scouting report I had on Cunningham mentioned that he was a great blocker, but not the best receiver. He struggled to make catches and just looked too uncomfortable when going out for passes. I wasn't the only one that felt this way, plenty of other NFL scouts thought this as well.

Apparently, he's improved dramatically since college.

The media was impressed by Cunningham during the rookie minicamp, even as a receiver. To end the camp, the team reenacted the game-winning play against the Detroit Lions, and Cunningham was on the receiving end of the score.

Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen already have established spots on this team, but Cunningham could serve another purpose. He can come in and block on running plays close to the markers or near the goal line, and now it seems he could try and surprise opposing teams by going out on play-action plays.

This is a guy I'm really pulling for. He would be a useful player in certain situations, but the team will have to decide his future before the regular season begins.

Sheldon Price/Daxton Swanson (both CBs)

I'm grouping these two guys together because they are essentially fighting for the same spot on the roster as another cornerback behind guys like Darius Butler and Cassius Vaughn.

Both have supposedly looked good in minicamps and OTAs, with Swanson breaking up a pass from Luck during team activities.

Both of these guys already made it farther than Nigel Malone, another defensive back out of Kansas State. He was someone I thought was a nice addition, and the fact that these two were considered more valuable than Malone should say a lot about them.

Will one or both of these guys make the final roster? We will find that out in the near future.