Why McCain, Klug are top prospects

Houston cornerback Brice McCain and Tennessee defensive lineman Karl Klug were both solid role players last season.

They could have even bigger seasons ahead.

Aaron Schatz of Football Outsiders put together this list of the NFL’s 25 top prospects. They had to meet these criteria: Have been drafted in the third round or later, entered the league between 2009 and 2011, have started four games or fewer, still be playing under their initial contract, be 26 or younger.

Sorting through such players, Schatz ranks McCain, the Texans' nickelback, 12th, and Klug, a pass-rush specialist, 15th.

I like both picks.

Schatz generally steers clear of nickel corners, because while they don’t start a lot of games, the number of snaps they play can amount to a starting position.

McCain’s his exception.

“McCain actually ended up first in success rate among all corners with at least 40 targets (he's listed as fifth in the Houston chapter of "Football Outsiders Almanac 2012" because of adjustments for the quality of the receivers he covered). He also finished 11th with just 5.7 adjusted yards per pass allowed. In retrospect, it's almost incredible that the Texans even bothered to try McCain on the outside in 2010. Freed from the oppressive regime of Frank Bush, McCain's reading and recognition skills were much better utilized, and he even made a couple of nice plays off the blitz in 2011. He's never going to be a shutdown outside corner, but you don't need to be one to be important in today's NFL.”

In Tennessee, Schatz finds Klug likely incapable of being an every-down tackle because of his size.

“Looking through his (seven) sacks, several were garbage sacks after the ends did the real work or the quarterback held the ball too long. However, he also made a couple of great plays on stunts, and sometimes he just ran through guards both unknown (Seth Olsen) and famous (Carl Nicks). Plus, there are the plays you won't find in his sack total, like four passes batted away at the line, or the tackles of Donald Brown and Jason Snelling that forced no gain on second-and-1. Klug has great hands, leverage and a nice repertoire of rush moves, and he should be bringing the pain on Andrew Luck for the next few years.”

Role players like McCain and Klug can be underrated -- though Klug’s rookie sack total probably set high fan expectations for him. The two are certainly the kind of guys every team needs to be successful.

And they now serve as perfect examples of guys who have specific skills and are being put in position to use them without overextending in different departments.