NFL Rookies in the Best Position to Succeed for 2013 Season
After months of doing everything in their power to position themselves to be selected early in the 2013 NFL draft, league rookies now must turn their focus to preparing for the 2013 NFL season.
Hundreds of rookies drafted and signed as undrafted free agents will have a chance to contribute immediately this season, but not every player finds himself in an ideal position for rookie success, whether it be talent blocking the way, a lack of talent around him or a need for continued development to make the jump to the NFL game.
The following 10 rookies, however, all project to make an immediate impact in their rookie seasons. Each of them has the talent to stand out quickly, is in a position where he should receive immediate playing time, is in a system that fits him well and has the talent around him to succeed immediately in his role.
No. 1 overall draft choice Eric Fisher should immediately become an anchor of the Kansas City Chiefs offensive line, but it remains unclear exactly what his role will be on their offense. He could take over at left tackle immediately but is expected to remain on the right side of the offensive line in his rookie season if Branden Albert is not traded.
Former North Carolina guard Jonathan Cooper is as good as any player coming out of the 2013 draft class and will be an immediate starter for the Arizona Cardinals offensive line. The No. 7 overall pick, however, will face the task of leading an offensive line that gave up the most sacks in the NFL last season and is still very much a unit rebuilding.
Bjoern Werner is the draft class' most polished pass-rusher, and the No. 24 overall selection out of Florida State should make an immediate impact for the Indianapolis Colts. That said, he is likely to face growing pains in his rookie season as he makes what could be an unnatural transition for him to outside linebacker from defensive end.
Robert Woods is as polished and skilled as any wide receiver in the 2013 draft class and should become an immediate go-to target for the Buffalo Bills passing offense. The No. 41 overall pick's rookie production, however, will rely directly upon the performance of his team's quarterback, which could be shaky whether that quarterback is fellow rookie EJ Manuel or veteran free-agent addition Kevin Kolb.
10. Barkevious Mingo, OLB/DE, Cleveland Browns
Barkevious Mingo should immediately slot into a role with the Cleveland Browns that fits him perfectly: situational pass-rusher.
Mingo's value to 4-3 teams was hurt by his lack of bulk and point-of-attack run defense ability. However, he is a great fit to transition to outside linebacker in the Browns' new hybrid scheme, which will be based in the 3-4 alignment.
While he will have to learn the ins and outs of the outside linebacker position, having played defensive end at LSU, he is an explosive athlete with great length and pass-rushing moves, and he could immediately make a huge impact in that area.
The No. 6 overall pick will eventually be expected to develop into a three-down starter, but as a rookie, he is likely to come off the bench and replace Jabaal Sheard in the lineup in pass-rushing situations. In this role, in which he will likely play at both outside linebacker and defensive end in sub-packages, he could approach double-digit sacks even if he plays a limited number of snaps.
9. Jarvis Jones, OLB, Pittsburgh Steelers
While Jarvis Jones' subpar length and speed limit his upside, he is as ready as any 2013 NFL rookie to play immediately. He joins a team that presents a perfect scheme fit for his game and has an immediate need for him to contribute.
The No. 17 overall selection is an instinctive edge-rusher who fits the hard-hitting and versatile playmaking profile of a Steelers outside linebacker. He is a natural fit to replace James Harrison in the starting lineup.
Jones had tremendous productivity (28 sacks, 44 tackles for loss) over the past two seasons in Georgia's 3-4 defense. He can be a three-down asset as both a pass-rusher around the corner and an edge-setting run-stopper who is also a very skilled open-field tackler.
8. Johnthan Banks, CB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
A poor 40-yard dash time at the NFL Scouting Combine (4.61 seconds per NFL.com) may have moved Johnthan Banks away from being viewed as a No. 1 cornerback, but he is a terrific fit to play as a No. 2 corner opposite a standout.
When he fell to the No. 43 overall pick, he got drafted into the perfect situation to play opposite superstar cornerback Darrelle Revis in Tampa Bay.
Coming out of Mississippi State, Banks is as polished as any cornerback in the draft class. He has terrific length (6'2", 33 7/8" arms) for the position, and he is an instinctive, physical defensive back with great ball skills. He has the overall coverage skills and technique to make up for his subpar speed.
He is ready to start immediately for the Buccaneers and should be an immediate upgrade over Eric Wright. If so, he will have plenty of playmaking opportunities on his side of the field opposite "Revis Island."
7. Tyler Eifert, TE, Cincinnati Bengals
The Cincinnati Bengals already have one very good in-line receiving/blocking tight end in Jermaine Gresham, so they did not need Tyler Eifert when they drafted the Notre Dame product with the No. 21 overall pick. That shouldn't stop Eifert from making a big impact in his rookie season.
Eifert is a big, athletic tight end who is terrific at making plays with the ball downfield. He should make an immediate impact as a target who can stretch the middle of the field and make challenging catches for big yardage.
The Bengals' decision to draft Eifert in Round 1 indicates that they plan to use many two-tight-end sets, and on an offense deep with passing weapons, including Gresham and star wideout A.J. Green, he should have many opportunities to get open for Andy Dalton to connect with him for key plays.
6. Chance Warmack, RG, Tennessee Titans
While Jonathan Cooper was the top guard drafted and has higher upside than Alabama alum Chance Warmack, the latter is in a better position to excel in his rookie season.
Warmack is more polished than Cooper, and while Cooper will have to lead a still-shaky, rebuilding offensive line, Warmack joins what now looks to be a very strong offensive line across the board. While Cooper has to be a star for the Cardinals right away, Warmack will play opposite one of the NFL's elite guards in Andy Levitre.
With the free-agent signing of Levitre and No. 10 overall draft selection of Warmack, it might not be long before the Titans have two elite guards. Warmack's combination of run-blocking power, efficient footwork, pass-protection ability, size and quickness gives him All-Pro potential.
5. Eddie Lacy, RB, Green Bay Packers
There may not have been any team that needed a feature running back more than the Green Bay Packers going into the 2013 NFL draft, and they got the draft's most complete running back at great value at the No. 61 overall selection.
Lacy is a bruising power back with great size (5'11", 231 lbs), and he also has good moves to make defenders miss in the open field. This makes him a dangerous running threat both between and outside the tackles.
Lacy does not have great speed, but he runs hard throughout the course of a game and can wear out defenses with his running style. The Alabama product is immediately the best running back on the Packers roster and should be in good position to not only start as a rookie, but put up big numbers in the Green Bay offense.
4. DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Houston Texans
DeAndre Hopkins got drafted into the perfect situation with the Houston Texans as the No. 27 overall selection. The door is open for him to immediately start as the team's No. 2 wideout opposite one of the NFL's best wideouts, Andre Johnson. Plus, he has a very solid quarterback throwing him the ball in Matt Schaub.
Hopkins does not quite have the big-play ability that Johnson does, but he is a very polished receiver who will be a reliable target immediately. A big, physical wideout who has great hands, does a terrific job getting open with his route-running and is great at going up to catch the football, he will force defenses to account for him immediately and not focus all their outside attention on Johnson.
That said, the presence of Johnson on the opposite side will prevent teams from using double coverages against Hopkins, which will allow Hopkins to get open often with his routes, size and quickness. He should have immediate production on one of the NFL's best offenses.
3. Dee Milliner, CB, New York Jets
While Johnthan Banks is in a great position to excel playing opposite Darrelle Revis next season, Revis' replacement on the New York Jets may be in an even better position to succeed.
The No. 9 overall pick out of Alabama, Dee Milliner is a very skilled cornerback prospect who has a great combination of size and athleticism, has very good ball skills, is physical with opposing receivers and has strong coverage instincts.
He has the potential to develop into the No. 1 cornerback the Jets need, but he will not have to take on that role immediately. Expected to start opposite another very talented cornerback in Antonio Cromartie, who stepped up sufficiently as the No. 1 corner when Revis was lost last season to a torn ACL, Milliner will not have to be the immediate leader of the secondary but should have plenty of playmaking opportunities.
2. Luke Joeckel, OT, Jacksonville Jaguars
Luke Joeckel was arguably the best all-around prospect in the 2013 draft class, but his long-term potential to play left tackle may be stifled with the Jacksonville Jaguars, where he will have to start out at right tackle lining up opposite a fantastic left tackle in Eugene Monroe.
Being selected with the No. 2 overall pick, however, does put him in a terrific position to have immediate success in his rookie season.
Playing right tackle for the Jaguars won't be easy—he will have to go up against J.J. Watt twice and Von Miller once in his rookie season—but playing opposite Monroe will make his job somewhat easier on a week-to-week basis.
While he may not be Blaine Gabbert's blindside protector, his combination of length, footwork, pass-blocking technique and run-blocking strength should enable him to be one of the NFL's best right tackles as early as his rookie season. The Jaguars may not be an excellent team in 2013, but Joeckel should be excellent individually.
1. Star Lotulelei, DT, Carolina Panthers
If there is one rookie in a position and with the talent to become an immediate star for his team in 2013, Carolina Panthers defensive tackle Star Lotulelei looks like a good bet.
The No. 14 overall pick is as talented as any prospect in the draft class, and he should make an immediate impact on the Panthers' defensive-tackle-needy 4-3 defense.
Lotulelei has the size, power and gap-filling ability to be an outstanding nose tackle, but also has the explosive quickness and interior pass-rushing ability to be an excellent 3-technique.
Lotulelei should quickly become a star of what is now a very strong defensive tackle rotation with veteran Dwan Edwards and fellow rookie Kawann Short (No. 44 overall selection). He can line up at both defensive tackle spots in the Panthers' four-man front and should make a huge impact both in shutting down the run and in bringing interior pressure against opposing quarterbacks.
Dan Hope is an NFL draft featured columnist at Bleacher Report.