NFL Draft 2013: First-Round Picks Who Will Make the Biggest Impact This Season

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistApril 29, 2013

MORGANTOWN, WV - NOVEMBER 03:  Tavon Austin #1 of the West Virginia Mountaineers catches a forty three yard touchdown pass against the TCU Horned Frogs during the game on November 3, 2012 at Mountaineer Field in Morgantown, West Virginia.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Every player selected in the first round of the NFL draft is expected to make an impact at some point, though some will come through sooner than others.

This year, there were a number of highly rated prospects who will be too raw to succeed early on in their careers. Players like Ezekiel Ansah and Barkevious Mingo have the athleticism to be productive at some point, but their rookie years will be mostly learning experiences.

In other cases, good players will not make much of an impact in the win column, like Luke Joeckel with the Jacksonville Jaguars. This was a smart pick, but he will not help the team much in his first year.

On the other hand, the following prospects should hear their names called a lot right away and will make the most impact in the league right out of the gate.


Tavon Austin, WR, St. Louis Rams

In a sea of 300-pound linemen taken in the top 10, one of the smallest players in the draft became the No. 8 pick. With that, the Rams got an early favorite for the Offensive Rookie of the Year award.

The 5'8" receiver is not only one of the fastest players in the entire draft, but he is very quick in space and can change directions at the drop of a hat. He has the ability to turn routine slant routes into huge touchdowns with seemingly no effort.

Austin joins a team that lost its No. 1 target and did not have a single receiver total over 700 yards last season. While he is not a prototypical wideout, he will quickly become Sam Bradford's new best friend.

St. Louis has one of the more underrated defenses in the NFL, but there were few weapons on offense. Austin is now the team's biggest threat to score and he will help the team win a lot of games this year.


Star Lotulelei, DT, Carolina Panthers

There might not have been a more perfect fit in the first round than Star Lotulelei going to the Panthers.

The big defensive tackle saw his draft stock plummet from a potential top-five pick after teams heard about a possible heart problem, although that turned out to be a non-issue.

His loss turns out to be Carolina's gain, as Lotulelei is as solid as they come in the middle of the defensive line. He can penetrate into the backfield to shut down the run, or he can take on multiple blockers to free up space for teammates.

This will allow Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy to have even bigger years at defensive end, while Luke Kuechly will have more freedom to make plays at linebacker.

Although Lotulelei might not always get recognized for his contributions at the next level, his presence will make the Panthers defense much better.


Eric Reid, S, San Francisco 49ers

For better or worse, Eric Reid will have a huge role next season. The free safety is expected to take over right away for the departed Dashon Goldson, who was named All-Pro for the first time last season.

On an elite defense that went to the Super Bowl last year and is expected to contend again, people will notice if Reid plays poorly.

Fortunately, he has shown great athleticism in his career at LSU, as well as the knack for always being near the football. He can make plays on passes in the air as well as anyone in the class.

Additionally, his experience of playing high-level football with one of the best defenses in the country will help him make a quicker transition to the NFL. 

The 49ers have arguably the best front seven in the league, but the defense's success will come down to Reid's ability to play well in the secondary.


Tyler Eifert, TE, Cincinnati Bengals

While the Bengals might not have come into the draft thinking that tight end was the biggest need, Tyler Eifert instantly improves the offense.

The team was very reliant on A.J. Green throughout last season and that started to become a problem toward the end of the year. Eifert can become a very good secondary target for Andy Dalton and a matchup problem for defenses around the league.

Additionally, the tight end's presence will be felt near the end zone. His ability to go up and catch balls at the highest level will lead to plenty of touchdowns every year.

It appears that the Bengals' young offense is finally starting to catch up to the talented defense, which will make this a dangerous team next season.