2011 NFL Draft: 5 Prospects That Will Have a Surprise Impact This Year

Alex BrooksCorrespondent IApril 9, 2011

2011 NFL Draft: 5 Prospects That Will Have a Surprise Impact This Year

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    The NFL draft is here once again and unlike the rest of the upcoming season, this will definitely be happening.

    The draft this year is filled with talent that we haven't seen since the 2008 Draft which produced instant stars like Joe Flacco and Matt Ryan. With the likes of Cam Newton, Marcell Dareus, Patrick Peterson and Von Miller among talk to be the number one pick by the Carolina Panthers. However, with the Matt Ryans and Joe Flaccos there will always be your Desean Jacksons and Steve Slatons. Guys that will be drafted after round one, but will give immediate dividends to the team that drafted them. The drastic difference between the two though was that Slaton was unable to sustain the Rookie brilliance and Jackson was.  

Colin Kaepernick, QB, Nevada

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    Despite being projected for a late first to early second round pick, Kaepernick is fairly unknown to a lot of people who don't follow the Combine and Senior Bowl and he fits perfectly on this list. The shifty quarterback out of Nevada played from the shotgun his entire career and starting at the Senior Bowl he began working on taking snaps from under center, but his sheer athleticism will help him make an immediate impact if he is drafted to a team with a need at the QB position.

    Projected Impact Teams

    Bills—If the Bills can't get Cam Newton and go defense in Round 1, Kaepernick would be a more than admissible consolation prize that would contend for the starting job instantly.

    SeahawksIf the Hawks still think Charlie Whitehurst is there answer for the future than they need more help than I thought. They may go Locker in Round 1, but Kaepernick has shown his willingness to learn and adapt to an offense quickly and Pete Carroll may not want to pass up potential. 

    BengalsSame situation on as the Bills, if they don't go Newton or Gabbert then Kaepernick would be the next best thing to end the Carson Palmer era. 

Da'Rel Scott, RB, Maryland

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    Da'Rel Scott is one of those running backs with the scary combination of some size and a lot of speed; however, his lack of vision with the ball drops his projection to the middle rounds (4 or 5). Scott was on and off during his college career as a Terp and will have to take his game to the next level in order to really breakthrough in the NFL. Yet somehow, judging by what I saw of him in college, I think he can and will overcome his weaknesses to make an impact somewhere even if only for a year like Steve Slaton.

    Projected Impact Teams

    DolphinsDespite being projected as taking Mark Ingram in a lot of mock drafts, more recent reports have them going in a different direction. If that's the case, then Scott can come right in and try to prove himself.

    CardinalsThe Cards have Hightower and Wells, but neither of them have yet to distinguish themselves as a franchise runner. This leaves the perfect opportunity for the Cards to take a mid-round shot at Scott and if anything he'll make an impact returning. 

    SeahawksMarshawn Lynch may have had the best run in postseason history against the Saints, but the fact of the matter is that he didn't really do anything for them other than that after he was dealt from the Bills. Also, the Hawks other back, Justin Forsett, couldn't make a difference in the starting role when he had it to start the season. Scott is the perfect man to place here because he will either light a fire under Lynch and Forsett and they'll get going or he'll get his chance to shine.

Casey Matthews, ILB, Oregon

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    Casey Matthews can't seem to shake the comparisons to his brother, Clay, but if he can create his own legacy then maybe all of those comparisons will just disappear.

    He is projected to go in the late second to third rounds. Unlike his brother, Casey will enter the draft as a ILB and has incredible ball instincts. It seems like a lot of those instincts can be shown in one play, when he forced a fumble by knocking the ball out of Cam Newton's arm from behind. This gave Oregon an opportunity to tie and take it into overtime in the National Championship, so clutch may be an understatement. He lacks some fundamentals, but his knack for the ball whether it be on INTs or forced fumbles is special and definitely NFL noteworthy. 

    Projected Impact Teams

    RavensRay Lewis isn't getting any younger and the Ravens need to find someone to replace him sooner rather than later and Matthews is a great candidate. With the Ravens stout defense, everyone makes an impact eventually throughout the year. Who's to say Matthews will be any different?

    LionsThere is a good chance the Lions will look to improve their secondary in the first round, but a move to put someone as talented as Casey as the starting ILB behind Ndamukong could give the Lions one of the best young defenses in the league. Plus, a Clay vs. Casey matchup would definitely be something worth watching for years to come.

    RedskinsThe Skins defense in the middle isn't incredibly impressive with Rocky McIntosh who is just serviceable and London Fletcher who turns 35 in May. This is the perfect time for them to put someone next to Orakpo to free him up a little on pass rush situations. 

Kendric Burney, CB, North Carolina

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    Burney was as impressive as anyone in the Senior Bowl and this undersized corner could take the NFL by storm if he can keep pace with pro receivers. He is excellent in zone coverage and his time at the Senior Bowl showed that he can be effective in man coverage as well. Burney definitely doesn't lack ball skillsover his college career he accumulated 9 INTs and 12 pass deflections.

    Projected Impact Teams

    RaidersThe loss of Asomugha leaves an open spot for the taking and if he doesn't return to the Raiders, Burney can be that man with a lot of upside to boot. Burney could be an effective number two behind Sanford Routt and could help cushion the big loss.

    ChiefsA lot like the loss of Asomugha just on a smaller level, the Chiefs could lose Brandon Carr to free agency and they need someone to fill the vacancy he left behind. Burney can do that and learn from young up and coming corner Brandon Flowers who is the same size.

    TexansEveryone knows of the woes that followed the Texans pass defense around all last year and the more help they can get the better. Burney is the perfect fit to fall in line with Kareem Jackson and Glover Quin Jr.; they can help slowly turn around the Texans D in 2011. 

Leonard Hankerson, WR, Miami

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    Leonard Hankerson may be the best player on this list and he will likely be the highest player drafted as well. Hankerson from the U has a ton of talent and is one of the best, if not the best possession receiver in the draft.

    He draws a lot of comparisons to Anquan Boldin and is projected to go in the late first to mid second rounds. Hankerson performed excellently in the Senior Bowl and performed fairly well in the combine as well. He is prepared to make an impact in some way on any team he lands on.

    Projected Impact Teams

    PatriotsHankerson would be a perfect fit for the Patriots and give them a good possession target for Tom Brady other than Wes Welker. Plus, with Brandon Tate on the one side as a deep threat and Welker in the slot where he belongs, Hankerson will be targeted early and often in games to get the flow going.

    BrownsColt McCoy needs a big target to look for other than Benjamin Watson and Hank can fit in that role immediately. This would give the Browns a good pass game to go along with an excellent run game with Hillis and solidify their offense for the first time in years.

    BillsIf the Bills land a QB like Gabbert or Newton in Round 1, then why not give that guy someone to throw to? Hankerson could grow with whomever they select and build a solid foundation for the Bills to look forward to in the future.  

Conclusion

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    Everyone on this list is ready to make an impact with whatever team drafts him, but if the right team does they can catch lightning in a bottle whether it ends up being in 2011 or 2012. So, with the NFL season still in jeopardy, the only thing fans have to look forward to is the NFL Draft and these prospects.

    Please comment and let me know if you think I missed anyone or if there are others that should have been considered.