The 2011 NFL Draft is officially over and lot of intriguing selections, interesting trades, and overall bold moves have been made.
With that said, we've got a ton to process so far. Every year, there are a few players who really step up and shine in their rookie campaign while others take a little longer to develop and hide in the shadows.
In fact, from last year's draft class four players were elected to the Pro Bowl in their first year and all were taken in the 1st round.
With that said, who will those players be this year? Here's my evaluation and prediction on which rookies will have the biggest impact.
Note: List in no specific order/ranking
Before the criticism starts coming, I'm going to say something about Denver Broncos No. 2 overall selection Texas A&M outside linebacker Von Miller.
Von Miller is going to be a SAM linebacker in a 4-3 system. What that means is that his greatest assett which is rushing the passer will only be utilized once in a while in blitz packages. Moreover, if you thought it was tough for a 3-4 OLB to learn how to drop back in coverage or run sideline to sideline and stop the run, imagine how hard it'll be for a defensive end converted 4-3 OLB. This is when you have to follow the New England Patriots and draft to fit the scheme, not scheme to fit the draft. If that's not enough, just take a look at Aaron Curry who was the last 4-3 linebacker drafted this high. He's been solid and last season he registered 73 tackles, 3.5 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles but I'm sure the Seahawks were hoping for much more.
That's why he'son the outside looking in on this list.
Marcell Dareus may not put up the big numbers on the stat sheet, but he will have a immeasurable impact on the Buffalo Bills defense.
He's going to occupy multiple blockers, opening up opportunities for his teammates which is invaluable for a defense.
He's an explosive lineman who comes off the line with tremendous power at the point of attack, and he's surprisingly athletic for a man who's 6'3" 319 lbs.
With that being said, I can nearly guarantee you that they will not rank dead last in run defense again.
Mark Ingram may have to split time with Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush, and he may not since both of their future’s with the team are uncertain.
Nevertheless, what we do know is that the Saints want to get back to running the ball like they did in 2009 when they ranked 6th in rushing yards and ultimately won the Super Bowl.
Ingram will be given his shot and he’s talented enough to capitalize on it.
The biggest reach in the draft is on a list about the rookies who will make the biggest impact? How could that be?
Well, while he may not be the best quarterback out there he’s good enough for what the Vikings need.
They already have a dynamic receiving corp with Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin. Moreover, he’s got the luxury to hand the ball off to Adrian Peterson who’s one of the best running backs in the league. If that wasn’t good enough their defense is also amongst the top 10 in the NFL.
This is a perfect situation for any quarterback, and even Ponder should have some success.
The bloodline is great here as his twin brother Maurkice Pouncey was a Pro Bowl center for the AFC Champion Pittsburgh Steelers last season.
Moreover, just take a look at what the Dolphins did in the last time they drafted an offensive lineman in the 1st round. Jake Long, who was taken with the first overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft, is already one of the best in the business.
I think they could train Pouncey similarly and turn him into a cornerstone of their interior o-line.
This may be the biggest shocker on this list because he’s not the most refined prospect from a mechanics standpoint. But if he’s the day one starter then I think he could have a strong rookie season.
They all could relieve themselves of some of the burden by turning around and handing it off to a reliable rushing attack.
The Panthers have that in DeAngelo Williams and Jonathon Stewart who are one of the best one-two tandems in the league. Despite a 2-14 record, don’t forget they ranked 13th in rushing yards last season. Oh yeah, and Steve Smith can still play and their offensive line, when healthy, is solid. It may not be as bad in Carolina as some think.
Going into the draft, Gabe Carimi was widely considered one of the most pro ready offensive lineman in the class because while he may not be the greatest athlete, he does have the technique needed to be a starter in this league.
He will provide a major upgrade for an offensive line that surrendered a league-high 59 sacks last season. With that being so, there’s no way that he doesn’t make a huge impact.
Despite being drafted 22 spots lower, Jimmy Smith is just a notch below Patrick Peterson.
The reason he fell was because of character issues but on a team that includes respected veterans such as Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, Smith won’t even think about stepping out of line so it should be a non-issue.
You may ask why Prince Amukamara isn’t up here. Well, he’s going to the ninth best pass defense in the league and they’re already set in the secondary. So it’s not a knock at his talent because that’s undeniably. He may just not have a chance to show it this year.
Two dominant defensive tackles paired up right next to each other. Where have we seen that before? Oh yeah, don’t the Lions division rival Minnesota Vikings have that in the Williams brothers?Wow, guess it is a copycat league.
Just look at how well that strategy has worked for the Vikings and I’m sure Suh and Fairley will similarly be wreaking havoc in the backfield next year. And if you’re concerned about his work ethic, I’m sure Suh will be able to manage that.
Green will have to deal with rookie Andy Dalton which could limit his rookie season. Julio Jones, on the other hand will be catching passes from Pro Bowler Matt Ryan and won’t have all the coverage on his side with All Pro Roddy White opposite him.
He reminds me of the situation that Dez Bryant went into last year with the Dallas Cowboys as Miles Austin was the primary option. Remember, he hauled in 45 receptions for 561 yards for six touchdowns and did so in only twelve games six of which were with Jon Kitna.
Barring any major setbacks I could see Jones put up even better numbers.
Patrick Peterson may be the most complete overall prospect in this year’s draft class.
He has potential to be a shutdown corner and will start making plays both on the defensive unit and as a return specialist from day one.
The Cardinals wanted a player who could make an ‘immediate impact’ and they certainly got that here.
A.J. Green is one of those unique wide receivers that possess the rare combination of physical skills and natural receiving ability. He will be catching balls from a rookie quarterback, but take a look at the past three receivers taken in the Top 5 and their rookie campaigns.
Calvin Johnson: 756 yards, 4 TD
Larry Fitzgerald: 780 Yards, 8 TD
Andre Johnson: 976 Yards, 4 TD
There’s no reason that Green can’t replicate that.