7. Curtis Lofton, LB, Saints*
The Falcons didn't think enough of Lofton to bring him back to Atlanta, but the Saints* were quite happy (relieved?) to sign him to a five-year deal since starter Jonathan Vilma, one of the New Orleans players implicated in the bounty scandal, was eventually suspended for the season by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell (though the league has yet to rule on the bounty appeals).
Assuming that Vilma doesn't play in 2012, will Lofton be an adequate replacement? He had a career-high 147 tackles in Atlanta last season, but the Falcon reportedly let him walk because they considered him a two-down player who struggled in pass coverage. Turns out, he's an ineffective pass rusher, too, ranking in the bottom 10 among all middle linebackers in ProFootballFocus.com's "pass-rushing productivity" metric. It doesn't help that Lofton is in a new system and playing for a unit that will begin the season without two of its best players: Vilma and defensive end Will Smith.
9. Michael Turner, RB, Falcons
In his annual top 100 players list, CBSSports.com's Pete Prisco ranked Turner 95th noting that while "He continues to be a workhorse in the Atlanta backfield … is he starting to slow down because of all the carries?" To answer Pete's question: Yes, yes he is. In fact, you could've said that a year ago. Turner combined for 635 carries in 2010 and 2011 and even though he managed 4.5 yards per carry last season, 433 of his 1,340 total rushing yards came against the Panthers, Lions and Bucs, three of the worst run defenses in the league. Against that trio, Turner averaged 6.1 yards per carry. Against the other 13 teams, his YPC fell to 3.9. More perspective: he ranked 39th in Football Outsiders' total RB value metric behind Jackie Battle, Michael Bush and Ryan Grant. This might help explain the speculation about the Falcons' new pass-heavy offense
10. Andy Dalton, QB, Bengals
If not for Cam Newton, Andy Dalton would've been the unanimous choice for Offensive Rookie of the Year. He was that good. And unlike Newton, no one expected anything from Dalton, a second-round pick out of TCU. All he did was replace Carson Palmer and help lead the Bengals to the playoffs after a four-win effort the season before. Much of the credit has to go to offensive coordinator Jay Gruden, who did a masterful job of putting the quarterback we affectionately call Ginger Power in positions to succeed. But now that opponents have a season's worth of tape on Dalton, they will try to take away what he does well (anticipation and accuracy, to quote NFL Films' Greg Cosell) and exploit his weaknesses (which Cosell identifies as "his inability to drive the ball with velocity"). Then the question becomes: is Dalton good enough to overcome schemes designed to make him uncomfortable? He wouldn't be the first NFL quarterback to experience growing pains in Year 2 after a stellar start to his career.
CBS Sports: Eye on Football