Pro Bowl Chances for Most Promising NFL Rookies
It's unrealistic to think all 32 first-round picks will succeed at the NFL level. Some players won't make it beyond their first contract, others will go on to become quality starters in the league and a select few will become Pro Bowl-caliber players.
Even though Pro Bowl success rarely comes to players during their rookie season, it does happen for a select few. Over the past few years, first-round offensive linemen and quarterbacks seem to have the hot hand in regards to rookie Pro Bowl appearances.
Now that the 2013 NFL draft has concluded, let's take a look at 10 of the most promising rookies and their Pro Bowl chances.
Eric Fisher, OT, Kansas City Chiefs
After spending extensive amounts of time on this year's offensive line class, it was clear to me that Central Michigan's Eric Fisher was the best left tackle the 2013 draft had to offer. He's an elite pass-protector who's athletic enough to play in both a man- and zone-blocking scheme.
Moreover, he provides a good anchor against bull-rushing defensive ends and consistently gets to the second level in the run game.
He sounds like the picture-perfect offensive tackle, doesn't he? Well, in theory, he is.
There are some that question Fisher's level of competition in college, but he put those questions to bed at the Senior Bowl when he dominated every pass-rusher that coaches threw his way.
Much like Cleveland Browns offensive tackle Joe Thomas, I fully expect Fisher to make the Pro Bowl as a rookie.
Pro Bowl chances: 50 percent
Barkevious Mingo, OLB, Cleveland Browns
When it comes to Barkevious Mingo, I haven't been shy in my predictions. I genuinely think he is the best pass-rusher that came out this year. He was also put in the right situation with the Cleveland Browns.
Defensive coordinator Ray Horton is one of the most creative minds in the NFL, and he knows how to maximize a player's talents. He showed that in Arizona; in two short years under his guidance, the Cardinals developed one of the league's top defenses.
I fully expect him to do the same for the Browns.
Mingo won't be used as an every-down player, but he will be used in a variety of roles as a sub-package player, much like Aldon Smith during his rookie season in 2011. Success in the NFL isn't about starts; it's about putting players in a position to succeed each and every snap.
With that being said, Mingo will be one of the only pass-rushers from this year's draft class to appear in the Pro Bowl.
Pro Bowl chances: 45 percent
Tavon Austin, WR, St. Louis Rams
In two short years, general manager Les Snead and head coach Jeff Fisher have totally remade the St. Louis Rams offense from the ground up. They have given Sam Bradford the playmakers he has yearned for since he entered the league in 2010.
The 2012 draft was a nice start when Snead added Brian Quick and Chris Givens, but 2013 has proven to be the mother lode. The Rams added Jared Cook at tight end during free agency, with Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey added in the first and third round of the draft, respectively.
Of the five names listed above, the biggest has to be Austin.
Even though the organization gave up a king's ransom to get him, he has the biggest upside of any offensive player on the roster. He has the elite speed required to stretch a defense, is a threat to score whenever the ball is in his hands and forces the opposition to keep at least one safety deep at all times.
In St. Louis, Austin will be used in a wide variety of ways. One can envision him as a wide receiver, a running back and a returner. His flexibility alone has me sold on the fact he will land in the Pro Bowl.
Pro Bowl chances: 40 percent
Luke Joeckel, OT, Jacksonville Jaguars
I know what you're thinking—back-to-back picks in the Pro Bowl? It seems unlikely, but that's just how good this year's left tackle class was. Eric Fisher and Luke Joeckel are very similar prospects who were interchangeable at No. 1 overall.
From the outside looking in, Joeckel's situation may not look ideal, but he will play next to an above-average right guard in Jacksonville. According to Pro Football Focus, Uche Nwaneri was one of the better run-blocking guards in the NFL last year. Having a quality player like Nwaneri next to Joeckel will only help him become a better player.
Let's not forget the fact that Jacksonville also has Eugene Monroe. This offensive line will open a few eyes this year; they are better than people give them credit for.
Joeckel's Pro Bowl chances are almost as good as Fisher's.
Pro Bowl chances: 35 percent
Eric Reid, S, San Francisco 49ers
LSU safety Eric Reid wasn't my top-rated safety in the year's draft class, but he was close. Even though I thought the 49ers didn't need to move up to get him, they didn't trade much to move up for him, and they drafted the player they wanted.
With that being said, Reid is the perfect fit for Vic Fangio's defense. He is a very similar player to Dashon Goldson, but his smarts triumph over Goldson's. San Francisco will give him the opportunity to start from Day 1, and with the plethora of talent surrounding him, he will succeed.
The consensus All-American and first-team All-SEC member is a hard hitter who excels especially against the run. Reid will need to improve against the pass before he becomes one of the league's best safeties, but he is coachable and willing to work.
Both of those traits are qualities that Jim Harbaugh covets. Expect Reid to progress as the season goes on. His hard work and dedication will give him a fair chance at earning a Pro Bowl selection.
Pro Bowl chances: 30 percent
Xavier Rhodes, CB, Minnesota Vikings
They often say wide receivers and cornerbacks face the hardest transition period from the collegiate level to the pros. I feel as if this is true because you see so many high-round selections at wideout and corner bust.
However, there are exceptions to the rule.
Casey Hayward, A.J. Green, Richard Sherman and Randy Moss were all blessed with success in their first season. This may come as a surprise to some, but the next name to add to that list after the 2013 season will be Minnesota Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes.
Even though Rhodes wasn't the top corner off the board on Day 1 of the 2013 NFL draft, he appears to be the most pro-ready cornerback. Additionally, the Vikings' strong pass rush will help hide some of his immediate flaws.
Rhodes will take over for Antoine Winfield at right cornerback while playing opposite of Chris Cook. Let's not forget that Minnesota defensive coordinator Alan Williams is highly regarded in league circles because of his ability to coach up defensive backs.
I will go out on a limb and say it right now: Rhodes will be among the league leaders with four interceptions and 13 passes defended.
Pro Bowl chances: 25 percent
Jarvis Jones, OLB, Pittsburgh Steelers
Aside from Barkevious Mingo, the only other rookie pass-rusher that has a high probability of making the Pro Bowl is Jarvis Jones. Even though Jones may not possess the best pass-rushing skills, he will be put in a position to succeed right away thanks to the Pittsburgh Steelers coaching staff and the talent around him.
As a member of the Georgia Bulldogs, Jones piled up some pretty impressive numbers. In two years, he sacked the quarterback 28 times, tackled ball-carriers behind the line of scrimmage 44 times and stripped the opposition clean nine times.
It's also worth mentioning he was a consensus All-American in 2011 and 2012. As they say, numbers don't lie. The only thing that caused Jones to fall so far in the first round was the medical red flag he received from USC's team doctors in 2009.
Jones will start at right outside linebacker and contribute immediately.
Pro Bowl chances: 20 percent
Matt Elam, S, Baltimore Ravens
When you talk about the biggest steals on Day 1 of the NFL draft, was there any bigger steal than Matt Elam to the Baltimore Ravens?
General manager Ozzie Newsome knew that Ed Reed would make his departure from the organization sooner than later, so one has to think he had scouted this year's safety class for some time.
Even though Elam is probably versatile enough to both play safety spots, he will start out in Baltimore as the Ravens' starting strong safety. From a skills standpoint, the first-team All-American is a very instinctive player who can deliver devastating hits from anywhere on the field.
Despite being pegged as a solid run defender, Elam has shown the ability to cover a tight end one-on-one or match up with a running back out of the backfield.
A position clouded with question marks after Bernard Pollard's departure has become an immediate strength again.
Pro Bowl chances: 15 percent
Star Lotulelei, DT, Carolina Panthers
Star Lotulelei's heart condition seemingly dropped him out of the top 10 as teams worried that the condition might crop back up. However, the Carolina Panthers didn't seem too concerned about the condition considering they selected him with the 14th pick.
Even if they worried about his condition, the need and value of the pick were simply too good to pass up.
Lotulelei was one of the most productive players in the Pac-12 last year. He notched 42 total tackles, five quarterback sacks and 10 tackles for loss. He also deflected four passes at the line of scrimmage and forced three fumbles. The pick of Lotulelei alone turned a weak defensive line into a strong defensive line.
On Monday, I predicted Lotulelei would amass 66 total tackles and five quarterback sacks as a rookie. Numbers of that nature should earn him a trip to Hawaii in his rookie season.
Pro Bowl chances: 10 percent
Chance Warmack, OG, Tennessee Titans
After a down season in 2012, running back Chris Johnson was quick to point the finger at his offensive line. So what did the Tennessee Titans do during the offseason? They blew up the existing offensive line and totally revamped it.
They added Andy Levitre, Chris Spencer, Rob Turner, Brian Schwenke and Chance Warmack through free agency and the draft. Levitre will get the nod at left guard, Schwenke should overtake Fernando Velasco at center and Warmack will be the starting right guard.
That means Johnson will have no excuses in 2013. If he doesn't produce, the organization can start pointing the finger at him. In my opinion, he will produce, and the Titans will have one of the best run games in the NFL.
The biggest contributing factor to their top-notch run game will be Warmack. In college, he was an elite run-blocker who displayed tremendous short-area quickness. Moreover, he has no problem getting to the second level in the run game.
As a player, Warmack is as textbook as it gets.
Pro Bowl chances: 5 percent