Predicting the Top Rookie Performer at Every Position for 2013

Ryan McCrystalFeatured ColumnistJune 30, 2013

Predicting the Top Rookie Performer at Every Position for 2013

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    Relatively few rookies will enter training camp with guaranteed starting jobs, which will make for some interesting battles throughout the summer. 

    But there are a number of rookies with the talent to make some noise this season, and the 2013 draft class should make a significant impact on the upcoming season. 

    The following slideshow predicts the top rookie performer at each position, with two honorable mention candidates.

    These rookies aren't necessarily the most talented or the ones who will make the most significant long-term impact, but the ones best positioned to excel in their rookie year. 

Quarterback: E.J. Manuel, Bills

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    In terms of immediate success, not much is expected for the 2013 quarterback class. 

    E.J. Manuel and Geno Smith are the only rookies with a legitimate chance to open the season as the starter, but neither is viewed as anything more than a developmental prospect. 

    Manual is most likely to find immediate success, if only because he will be surrounded by the most talent. 

    The Bills have a formidable offensive line, anchored by Cordy Glenn and Eric Wood, and Manuel will benefit from a running game featuring C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson. 

     

    Honorable Mentions

    Geno Smith, Jets; Mike Glennon, Buccaneers

Running Back: Eddie Lacy, Packers

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    No running back is guaranteed a starting job this year, but with five coming off the board in the second round of the draft, a number of rookies will have an opportunity to earn a job in training camp. 

    Eddie Lacy is the most likely to win a starting job immediately due to the limited competition around him. Fellow rookie Johnathan Franklin is Lacy's closest competition, but the Packers are likely to use Lacy as the power runner with Franklin stepping in as a third-down back.

    In terms of fantasy value, Lacy is also the most likely to be among the top rookies, as he should be the Packers' only legitimate goal-line option. 

     

    Honorable Mentions

    Giovani Bernard, Bengals; Montee Ball, Broncos

Wide Receiver: Tavon Austin, Rams

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    This is a talented crop of rookie receivers, but only Tavon Austin is almost certain to have a significant role in his first year.

    Austin will likely line up all over the field for the Rams, similar to how the Vikings used Percy Harvin in recent years. 

    While he may not put up overwhelming numbers in any one category, Austin will change the way defenses game-plan for the Rams and open things up for Sam Bradford.

     

    Honorable Mentions

    DeAndre Hopkins, Texans; Cordarrelle Patterson, Vikings

Tight End: Tyler Eifert, Bengals

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    The 2013 season will likely begin without a single rookie starting at tight end, but a number of prospects will make an impact as a second option. 

    Jermaine Gresham is blocking the way for Tyler Eifert in Cincinnati, but the Bengals didn't grab him in the first round to let him sit on the bench all season. 

    Teams such as the Patriots, Ravens and 49ers have found success in recent years utilizing two tight end sets, with both tight ends serving as weapons down the field.

    The combination of Eifert and Gresham will create mismatches for opposing defenses and adds a new dimension to the Bengals offense.

     

    Honorable Mentions

    Travis Kelce, Chiefs, Zach Ertz, Eagles

Offensive Line: Eric Fisher, Chiefs

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    There are a number of great options for this selection and you really can't go wrong with any of the top linemen selected in the 2013 NFL draft. 

    Eric Fisher is a prototypical left tackle with the strength and athleticism to excel immediately. And the fact that the Chiefs are easing him into the league by lining him up at right tackle, which could help him find immediate success.

    With Fisher and Branden Albert serving as bookend tackles, the Chiefs offensive line should be one of the more formidable units in the league in 2013.

     

    Honorable Mentions

    Luke Joeckel, Jaguars; Jonathan Cooper, Cardinals

Defensive Line: Star Lotulelei, Panthers

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    The 2013 draft class was full of elite prospects along the defensive line, but many are developmental prospects who may not win starting jobs as rookies. 

    Star Lotulelei is one of the few who will likely be plugged into an immediate starting role. He should help anchor the Panthers revamped defensive line. 

    Lotulelei has the power and athleticism to be a true three-down lineman for the Panthers, anchoring the line against the run and providing a solid pass rush from the interior. 

     

    Honorable Mentions

    Sylvester Williams, Broncos; Ziggy Ansah, Lions

Linebacker: Arthur Brown, Ravens

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    Rookies such as Jarvis Jones and Barkevious Mingo may have more long-term upside, but Arthur Brown is one of the few rookie linebackers who should be plugged into an immediate starting role. 

    Brown will likely step into Ray Lewis' spot in the Ravens starting lineup and will, I believe, provide a fairly significant upgrade over what Lewis offered in his final season. 

    Brown's elite coverage ability will give the Ravens' defense a new look and dramatically improve its ability to handle teams with elite weapons at tight end. 

     

    Honorable Mentions

    Alec Ogletree, Rams; Barkevious Mingo, Browns

Cornerback: Dee Milliner, Jets

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    Teams drafting a cornerback in the top 10 are usually desperate for help at the position and immediately throw that prospect to the wolves, pitting them against the NFL's top receivers.

    But the Jets have the luxury of easing Milliner into the league due to the presence of Antonio Cromartie. 

    Milliner will compete with Kyle Wilson for a starting job, but should see significant playing time regardless of who wins the initial battle in training camp. 

    The combination of Cromartie, Milliner and Wilson gives the Jets a strong trio at cornerback, and all three should also benefit from the overall talent of the defense.

     

    Honorable Mentions

    Desmond Trufant, Falcons; Jamar Taylor, Dolphins

Safety: Eric Reid, 49ers

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    Eric Reid wasn't the top safety on many draft boards, but he landed in the perfect situation in San Francisco. 

    The pressure brought by the 49ers front seven makes life easy on the 49ers secondary, especially for a ball-hawking free safety like Reid. 

    Reid will step into an immediate starting role opposite Donte Whitner at free safety and should make the 49ers quickly forget about Dashon Goldson, who departed for Tampa Bay this offseason.

     

    Honorable Mentions

    Matt Elam, Ravens; Kenny Vaccaro, Saints