NFL rookies come into the league with high hopes and high expectations. Until they take the field, every first-rounder is a perennial pro-bowler while each second and third can become a day one starter.
The truth generally comes up something short of expectation, that is especially true when additional factors add up to boost those expectations beyond the ordinary pressures afforded a rookie.
How many will fold under that pressure and how many will rise to meet it? That cannot be answered until the season has come and gone. In the meantime all we can do is identify who they are, and wonder just how they'll do.
There is always a tremendous amount of pressure when a player is the first overall pick in the draft. That increases tenfold when that pick is a quarterback. Bradford has the pressure of being one of the few (if possibly the only) draftees this year expected to be the face of a franchise.
Beyond the usual difficulties associated with being a first-overall quarterback, Bradford also will be forced to measure up against a player of a completely different position, having been chosen over the consensus top rated prospect defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.
If Suh proves a force in Detroit while Bradford struggles early, many impatient fans will find themselves blaming Rams management while dreaming of an Ndamukong Suh/Jake Locker tandem on offense/defense.
Selected just a few picks after Bradford, Williams was the first eye-raiser of a pick when the Washington Redskins made him the fourth overall selection. On draft boards Russell Okung and Williams were considered far above the rest of the offensive tackle class.
Yet most had Okung rated slightly ahead of Williams, and so the Redskins tackle will have to contend with not only the pressures of being a top five draft pick, but also will have to work to prove he was the correct choice over Seattle’s Okung.
The Redskins also hold the highest aspirations of any of the high drafting teams, with an eye cast for the playoffs over the simple respectability a team like Detroit or Tampa Bay strives for.
With a cast of veteran running backs and newly acquired quarterback Donovan McNabb lining up behind the line of scrimmage, Williams can’t afford to let those behind him take too much of a pounding.
Alualu was put in the unfortunate position of proving worthy of being considered the greatest reach of the draft when Jacksonville selected him with the 10th overall pick.
Alualu was rated a solid late first/upper second selection after an offseason surge surrounding his athleticism and playmaking ability. He was considered one of the leading 3-4 defensive end prospects over the tackle position he played in college because of his 6'3" 290 pound frame that is a little leaner and faster than the traditional NFL tackle.
Jacksonville will be keeping him inside however, alongside a completely reworked defensive line that carries the burden of being virtually the sole focus of the Jaguars draft.
If Alualu proves a solid rather than excellent player at the NFL level, then he will be considered a draft mistake for the Jacksonville team that could have traded down and still have easily selected him.
Though Tim Tebow garners much of the Denver Broncos media focus, the first player Denver selected in the 2010 draft will face a much greater demand for instant results.
Tebow has the luxury of learning behind Kyle Orton, benefiting not only from the time that offers, but from the relatively modest bar the blue-collar ex-Bears quarterback sets.
Thomas will be looked upon to be the day one leading wideout, taking the place of Brandon Marshall, a headache to be sure, but one of the top five wide active wide receivers following multiple 100 catch seasons.
If the pressure of replacing a great is not enough, Thomas will also be measured against the Dallas Cowboys newest wide receiver Dez Bryant.
Bryant was easily the top receiver on virtually all boards, but character issues dropped him to the later stages of the first while Thomas became the initial wide receiver entry of the draft.
The successes of both Dez Bryant and Brandon Marshall will be the ties to which Thomas will be compared, giving him perhaps the highest pressure of any skill position but quarterback.
The success of Tennessee Titans speedster Chris Johnson makes for a difficult measuring stick that sub-200 lb. running backs strive to compare with.
Without Johnson, would C.J. Spiller be selected ninth overall? It is possible; he is a uniquely dynamic big-play talent that can take a game over.
But the reality is that his skillset is probably better suited to teams with a certain core pieces already in place, teams that would be drafting in the mid-late teens rather than top 10.
Spiller is joining a Buffalo team that is sorely lacking in many of those aforementioned core pieces. Unless the rumored Jared Gaither trade comes to pass, Buffalo’s offensive line has to be considered a big question mark while the passing game could be one of the league’s worst.
Spiller pairs with 2009 rookie sensation as one of the only players on Buffalo’s roster who can put crowds in the seats, and some may look to him to bring far more to the team than should be expected of a 195 pound running back.
To a lesser extent Jackson is in a similar position to wideout Demariyus Thomas. Jackson will be tasked with replacing Houston’s top corner Dunta Robinson, while at the same time proving he was the proper choice over well regarded prospects Kyle Wilson and Devin McCourty.
Jackson has the added pressure of playing in an AFC South spearheaded by Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts passing attack for a Texans team with mounting expectations each year that they fail to make the playoffs.
The first second-round choice of this list, McCluster is facing some of the similar issues of Spiller, as an expected playmaker that can use his elusiveness to turn a struggling offense around.
McCluster also will be forced to prove he is not a reach or luxury pick for a Kansas City Chiefs team that was expected to address holes in the front seven or offensive line with this pick.
Listed primarily as a slot receiver over a running back, McCluster will have to also prove up to the task as a better receiving option than more traditional choices like Golden Tate or Arrelious Benn.
In a draft year where questions surrounded just about every potential nose tackle, Troup will likely be among the closest scrutinized.
Dan Williams was taken late in the first round as the consensus number one prospective 0-technique, but few had Troup pegged as the second nose tackle off the board over players like Terrence Cody, Linvall Joseph, and Cam Thomas.
Buffalo’s transition to the 3-4 means they will already be lean at players truly suited to that defensive alignment, giving a limited learning curve to the 315 lb. rookie.
Holding the position until Troup is ready will be Kyle Williams, a 306 lb. tackle that makes for a solid 4-3 starter, but lacks the physical strength or bulk to be a long-term option at the nose position.
Beyond how he performs for a Bills team desperate to make its way back to respectability, Troup will also spend the next few years being measured against the rest of the second-tier nose tackle crop.
Maintaining the thread of big-bodies in the middle, Terrence Cody had some pressure slip away by dropping to the back of the second round, but his wait will always be in discussion and something that will be used against him on any missed play.
He also has the added pressure of joining a Baltimore Ravens team that has built its reputation on front-seven dominance behind the likes of Haloti Ngata, Ray Lewis, and Terrell Suggs.
The aging unit will be relying more and more on the burgeoning offense, but for the time being Baltimore is still to be identified as a hard hitting defensive team. Cody will be looked to maintain that tradition.
When a team doesn’t have a selection until the third round of the draft a certain weight is given that player which is generally reserved for those taken in the first or second.
Chicago stepped to the plate as the last team to have a choice in the 2010 draft, biding its time through 74 picks before making Major Wright the team’s sole top 100 selection.
Beyond the added pressure of being the only player Chicago was able to take on the first day, Wright also will be expected to contribute right away given the glaring hole at free safety otherwise filled by Al Afalava.