As a rookie, Justin Bethel failed to make much of an impact outside of special teams, where he showed flashes of athleticism.
Shortly after drafting him, the former coaching staff decided to move him from his original position of cornerback to safety, which, in turn, will lengthen the learning process for the young rookie. So, it was expected that it would take time for him to develop.
As the 2012 season progressed, Bethel progressed with it. He saw situational time in the nickel package and some time at safety when trailing opposing teams. Bethel also managed to accumulate 13 tackles with his limited play. While it may not seem like much, the 2012 season should be a confidence-builder for the 2013 season.
However, the new coaching staff has told him he will be playing his natural position, cornerback, in 2013. They want him to stick to it and develop there, which should be a good thing for him. Albeit, Bethel will join a crowded defensive backfield with returning star Patrick Peterson, the new additions of Antoine Cason and Jerraud Powers, as well as fellow draft mate Jamell Fleming.
Bethel must prove that he can play corner in the NFL this year. With a coaching staff that isn’t married to him by way of draft, his chances will be limited and tested. Without injury or a significant undervaluing of his talents, Bethel will not see the field much this year.
Because all four of those corners have much more experience than Bethel, he will most likely be at the bottom of the depth chart. If he can beat undrafted rookies for a spot on the roster this year and prove that he was meant to play corner in the NFL, 2014 could be a break out year for him.
Cason signed a one-year deal with the team and may not be brought back if he performs at the high level he’s expected to, he will cost way too much. Flemming needs to equally impress as Bethel does this year, last season he was a step behind on most plays.
If all works out for Bethel he could find himself the fourth corner by season’s end and the third or second corner next year. Until then, he should continue to impress with tenacious special teams play, making sure that the fans and coaching staff doesn’t forget his name.
Hopefully Bethel proves me wrong and out plays everyone. He has all the athleticism in the world to do so. If you haven’t seen his crazy 60 inch vertical, check it out; it is absolutely insane. With the physical tools he has, don’t be surprised if you see him on the field.