2011 NFL Predictions: 5 Rookies Who Will Have an Immediate Impact on Their Team

HJ MaiCorrespondent IIAugust 11, 2011

2011 NFL Predictions: 5 Rookies Who Will Have an Immediate Impact on Their Team

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    After a long wait and uncertainty due to the league's lookout, rookies have finally joined their new teammates.

    Training camps are underway and the new season is about to begin. Studying playbooks and becoming adjusted to their new situations has to be a quick process for the 2011 rookie class.

    With the first preseason games starting on Thursday, many fans ask themselves: Which players will surprise and which will bust?

    The following five players have the opportunity to make themselves a name in the NFL this season. 

5. J.J. Watt, DE Houston Texans

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    The Houston Texans put another piece to its already playoff-caliber team by drafting DE J.J. Watt. The former Wisconsin Badger will add physical presence to the team's defensive line with his 6’6” and 292 pounds.

    The pass-rushing duo of Watt and Mario Williams will be able to put pressure on any NFL quarterback. Watt is supposed to play as the starting left end in defensive coordinator Wade Phillips’ new 3-4 defense. This should enable him to make plays and pick up some sacks along the way.

    By doing so he should have an immediate impact, and help the Texans to get over the hump and into the playoffs.

4. Aldon Smith, LB San Francisco 49ers

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    The 49ers’ linebackers around leader Patrick Willis are already one of the NFL’s best, but with the addition of Aldon Smith, they became even better.

    Smith, who was an outstanding pass-rusher at Missouri, provides speed and force at 6’4” and 263 pounds. He is a tremendous athlete, whose flexibility and speed will make him difficult to stop.

    In a weak NFC West division this could be the difference maker, and enable the Niners to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2002.

3. Cam Newton, QB Carolina Panthers

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    First overall draft pick Cam Newton has the most difficult job of all rookies this year—he has to become the face of a struggling franchise that went 2-14 in 2010.

    Despite all his off-field trouble during his Heisman season at Auburn University, Newton was the most outstanding quarterback in college football since Vince Young or even Payton Manning.

    He led Auburn to a national championship, and his leadership on the field seemed to have impressed the Panthers' front office, who see the organization's future in Newton.

    He has the athleticism and the skill to be a successful NFL quarterback. Newton only has to prove he also has the work ethic that is required as a professional, otherwise he will become the next Vince Young.

2. Patrick Peterson, CB Arizona Cardinals

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    Arguably the best athlete of the whole 2011 draft class, former LSU Tiger Patrick Peterson will have an immediate impact on the Cardinals secondary.

    He will have the opportunity to cover the game's most prolific deep threats, and make the life of quarterbacks even harder.

    He has great hands and a high football IQ—skills that will help him to come up with many interceptions and deflections. Peterson is expected to play a major part in the Cardinals rebuilding process that began with Kurt Warner’s retirement.

1. A.J. Green, WR Cincinnati Bengals

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    Fresh blood in Cincinnati—the time of veteran receivers Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco is over, and the time of A.J. Green is about to start.

    The former Georgia Bulldog might be as talented as Owens and Ochocinco, but much less of a diva.

    Green represents a big target at 6’4” and 211 pounds. He impressed scouts and fans with great hands, his ability to run strong routes and his ball instinct. Anything more you can ask of a rookie wide receiver?