Soon to be stars: Gerald McCoy

Scouts Inc.’s Matt Williamson looks at NFC South players on the verge of a breakout in 2011.

McCoyMcCoyA biceps injury cut Gerald McCoy’s rookie year short in 2010, and comparisons to 2010 Defensive Rookie of the Year and All-Pro Ndamukong Suh of Detroit probably have overshadowed just how promising McCoy’s rookie season was. However, I think McCoy is going to be a superstar who Tampa Bay can build its entire defense around.

The Bucs used the third overall selection in last year’s draft on McCoy, and adding in other young players like fellow defensive tackles Roy Miller and Brian Price, and 2011 draft picks Adrian Clayborn and Da’Quan Bowers at defensive end, Tampa Bay’s defensive line is loaded with talent. Make no mistake, though, it’s McCoy who is the most special player of the bunch.

The transition to the NFL is difficult for many rookie defensive tackles, in large part because they can no longer whip most players across from them with raw natural ability the way they did in college. McCoy has physical gifts but took some time to learn patience and to read and feel blocking schemes before his injury, and he is still a work in progress from that standpoint, but he did record four sacks in the last three games he played in 2010.

Overall, though, he is one of the quickest, most explosive and most athletic defensive tackles in the league. McCoy has a long linear build that should gradually fill out over the next few years, better enabling him to deal with the double teams and extra attention that he is sure to attract, and taking on multiple blockers will free up his teammates to get to the ball. McCoy has the ability to disrupt on his own and make the players around him better, which is exactly what you want from a 3-technique in a 4-3 defense.

Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com.