Predicting Every NFL Team's Biggest Rookie Flop

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistMay 7, 2018

Predicting Every NFL Team's Biggest Rookie Flop

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    Being a rookie in the National Football League comes with many challenges. Rookies typically have to learn new systems, familiarize themselves with new playbooks, adjust to completely new training regimens, bond with new teammates and integrate themselves into new communities. 

    Rookies are also responsible for bringing fans hope.

    Fair or not (it's not), rookie players are expected to make NFL teams better from Day 1. Many rookies, especially those drafted early, are asked to franchise saviors or the missing pieces of championship plans. These are lofty expectations for players who have yet to play a down of professional football.

    When rookies fall short of these expectations, they can be viewed as flops in the eyes of fans, and often the media.

    With this in mind, we're going to take a look ahead and predict which rookie on each team is most likely to be a first-year flop. We'll be focusing on factors like skill set, scheme fit, supporting talent, fan perception and, of course, expectations.

    What we're not doing is saying that the players on this list won't become successful players or even stars beyond Year 1.

Arizona Cardinals: WR Christian Kirk, Texas A&M

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    Aside from veteran receiver Larry Fitzgerald and running back David Johnson, the Arizona Cardinals are devoid of big-time offensive weapons. This is precisely why Cardinals fans are going to expect former Texas A&M receiver Christian Kirk to be an immediate difference-maker.

    Kirk is a quick slot receiver with a solid build (5'11", 201 lbs) who could become Arizona's No. 2 receiver immediately. However, there are multiple reasons to believe he won't put up WR2 numbers as a rookie.

    For starters, the Cardinals are dealing with a regime change. Players will be adapting to the change from Bruce Arians' offense to new coordinator Mike McCoy's. They'll also be adjusting to new quarterbacks Sam Bradford, Mike Glennon and rookie Josh Rosen.

    It's going to take time for veteran players to build chemistry and find a rhythm. It's likely to take even more time for Kirk to find his place and become a consistent contributor.

    The reality is that rookie receivers haven't been especially effective in recent years. In 2017, three wideouts were taken within the first 10 picks of the draft (Corey Davis, Mike Williams, John Ross). They combined for 470 yards receiving. The deck will be stacked against Kirk as a rookie, even though he could go on to have a stellar career.

Atlanta Falcons: DT Deadrin Senat, South Florida

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    Former South Florida defensive tackle Deadrin Senat has the physical tools to become a longtime contributor in the NFL. He's a 6'0", 314-pound brick wall in the middle of the line. As a run-stuffer and block-eater, Senat has tremendous NFL value.

    Unfortunately, Senat has the unenviable task of joining a line that featured two-time Pro Bowler Dontari Poe last season. Poe, who had 39 tackles and 2.5 sacks, made a good defensive front even better, and many fans are going to view Senat as Poe's replacement.

    Realistically, Senat shouldn't be expected to compete for Poe's vacated starting role as a rookie. He's a third-round prospect who some, including NFL Media's Lance Zierlein, actually viewed as a fourth- or fifth-round talent.

    While Senat has plenty of size, he lacks height and length, which is going to be a problem against NFL talent. He is likely to struggle shedding blocks against longer NFL linemen early in his career. It's going to take time to adapt.

    First-round pick Calvin Ridley also has flop potential because of his expectations. However, he will see a significant offensive role and will be catching passes from an elite quarterback (Matt Ryan). He could make the kind of rookie impact we saw from Michael Thomas for the New Orleans Saints in 2016.

    Senat will likely be an afterthought on Atlanta's defense as a rookie. That's going to disappoint fans even if it should be the realistic expectation.

Baltimore Ravens: TE Hayden Hurst, South Carolina

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    The Baltimore Ravens drafted their quarterback of the future in Louisville's Lamar Jackson at No. 32, but this season will likely be one last run with Joe Flacco under center.

    The Ravens have done well surrounding Flacco with new receiving talent this offseason, and they drafted one of those weapons ahead of Jackson: former South Carolina tight end Hayden Hurst at No. 25.

    As a first-round pick, Hurst is going to come with high expectations, so Ravens fans may be disappointed.

    Hurst has the size (6'5", 250 lbs) and quickness to be an offensive weapon, but he isn't going to be a game-changer in the mold of Rob Gronkowski or Travis Kelce.

    Last season, Hurst grabbed 41 passes 518 yards and two touchdowns. That's the type of production Baltimore should hope for, at the most. Hurst is a 24-year-old rookie and isn't going to suddenly develop into a higher-end athlete.

    "He is who he's going to be physically so now we have to see how much better he gets as a football player," one NFC executive said of Hurst, per Zierlein.

    Hurst will be vying with Maxx Williams and Nick Boyle for reps at tight end. He may eventually be a security blanket for Jackson, but Hurst isn't likely to put up the kind of numbers expected of a first-round pick as a rookie.

Buffalo Bills: QB Josh Allen, Wyoming

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    Ideally, the Buffalo Bills won't need to rely on rookie quarterback Josh Allen this season. Unless AJ McCarron—who is very much unproven as a starter—plays like a top-10 quarterback, though, we're going to see the Wyoming product at some point.

    Buffalo traded away starting left tackle Cordy Glenn and a pair of second-round picks to move up for Allen. The Bills are going to want to see what the kid can do.

    As a rookie, Allen's results could be ugly. He has NFL size (6'5", 237 lbs) and all the physical tools to be successful. However, he's incredibly unpolished with poor footwork, and his accuracy issues have been discussed ad nauseam (completed just 56 percent of his passes in each of the past two seasons).

    Some will argue that Allen's poor completion percentage was a result of a lackluster supporting cast. The counterargument, however, is that elite quarterbacks elevate the talent around them. Allen didn't do that at Wyoming and is unlikely to do so as a rookie. This could lead to a painful first campaign.

    Let's not forget that Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff was a rookie flop—and he was a much more polished prospect coming out of California. We watched Goff make a big leap in his sophomore year; but if his rookie season was cringeworthy, Allen's could be similar.

Carolina Panthers: CB Donte Jackson, LSU

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    Pass defense has been an issue for the Carolina Panthers, who ranked just 18th (229.1 yards per game allowed) last season and haven't had a true No.1 cornerback since parting with Josh Norman two years ago.

    Any fans expecting second-round pick Donte Jackson to be that No. 1 corner as a rookie are going to be disappointed.

    Jackson has talent and top-tier athleticism. He clocked a blazing 4.32 40-yard dash at the combine to go with a 124-inch broad jump. However, Jackson is extremely undersized (just 5'11", 178 lbs) and lacks strength.

    This is going to be a problem for Jackson in the NFC South. He'll be facing large-framed receivers like Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Mike Evans and Michael Thomas twice each season. Carolina will obviously try to avoid giving him unfavorable matchups against bigger, more physical receivers, but that's going to cause schematic limitations.

    Jackson can develop into a very good pro, but he's likely to experience plenty of rookie struggles.

Chicago Bears: WR Anthony Miller, Memphis

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    The Chicago Bears are hoping that quarterback Mitchell Trubisky has a Goff-like second-year improvement in 2018. They've certainly gathered the assets to help him be successful.

    Chicago brought in an offensive-minded head coach in Matt Nagy and free-agent pass-catchers Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel and Trey Burton, and also added former Memphis wide receiver Anthony Miller in the second round of the draft.

    While Chicago's free-agent haul should provide Trubisky with an immediate boost, Miller is going to have a harder time helping out.

    We've already discussed how rookie receivers have struggled to adapt to the NFL in recent years, and Miller isn't likely to be an exception to that trend. While he is a tough competitor, Miller isn't an elite athlete and is on the shorter side at 5'11". He projects as a slot receiver, but Gabriel is likely to take that primary role in 2018.

    Miller also has an issue with drops, which will frustrate both Trubisky and Bears fans. He can develop into a significant piece of the Chicago offense in time, but he's going to struggle to move up the depth chart and produce numbers as a rookie. 

Cincinnati Bengals: C Billy Price, Ohio State

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    I like Billy Price as a player. The former Ohio State center is a mauler on the offensive line, adequate in pass protection and capable of creating big holes in the ground game. He'll eventually be a Pro Bowl-caliber player, but he's going to see some early struggles with the Cincinnati Bengals.

    College football simply hasn't been producing many linemen who are NFL-ready right out of the draft. It's going to take time for Price to adjust to life as a pro, and he's going to get off to a slower start because of a torn pectoral muscle.

    Price underwent surgery back in March, and according to ESPN's Adam Schefter, he'll likely be sidelined for four months.

    In addition to staring down a slow start, Price is looking at playing in the center of a below-average line. While Cincinnati did add Glenn to start at left tackle, this same line allowed 40 sacks and helped produce just 85.4 rushing yards per game, the second-lowest mark in 2017.

    Price won't have elite talent to prop him up and help mask his rookie mistakes. Don't be shocked if Price is viewed as a dud as a rookie and a stud by his sophomore campaign.

Cleveland Browns: G Austin Corbett, Nevada

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    Cleveland Browns rookie Austin Corbett is going to be surrounded by better talent than Price, but he's still walking into an unfavorable situation.

    Many view Corbett as a guard at the NFL level, but he played left tackle at Nevada, just like predecessor Joel Bitonio. Coincidentally, Bitonio is one of Cleveland's starting guards, as is Kevin Zeitler, who was signed a five-year, $60 million deal last offseason.

    It's unlikely Corbett unseats either Bitonio or Zeitler as a rookie.

    The Browns could try starting Corbett at left tackle, but that carries its own challenges. Not only is it difficult to be a successful rookie at left tackle, but Corbett would be in the shadow of recently retired star Joe Thomas.

    Fans may not positively view Corbett during his rookie year. He'll be seen as the replacement for Thomas—meaning every surrendered sack will be highlighted—or he'll be the wasted 33rd overall pick that the Browns sit on the bench.

    The only way Corbett wins his rookie season is if Cleveland kicks Bitonio out to tackle, Corbett plays guard and both play at a high level. While this scenario is possible, it's far less plausible than Browns fans taking a few years to fully embrace Corbett.

Dallas Cowboys: TE Dalton Schultz, Stanford

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    Former Stanford tight end Dalton Schultz will be tasked with replacing recently retired Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten.

    The 15-year pro may have lost a step toward the end of his career, but he was still a productive player and a big piece of the Cowboys offense. He totaled 560 yards and five touchdowns in 2017, which is roughly the same production as Schultz in his Stanford career (547 yards, five touchdowns).

    While Schultz does have good size (6'6", 244 lbs) for the tight end position, he is on the thinner side and lacks elite straight-line speed (4.75 40). While a lack of speed was rarely an issue for Witten, the longtime Dallas star made up for it with crafty route-running.

    Routes are not Schultz's strength.

    Opposing defenses also won't have to worry about doubling the departed Dez Bryant on passing downs. While Schultz may not draw teams' best coverage linebackers or safeties in man packages—Ezekiel Elliott is still on the roster—he'll face plenty of tough matchups. For a guy with less-than-ideal speed and limited route skills, that's going to be a challenge.

Denver Broncos: LB Josey Jewell, Iowa

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    The Denver Broncos signed a new starting quarterback, Case Keenum, in free agency. If the defense can return to 2015 form, Denver could be a dangerous team in 2018.

    The Broncos added some new defensive pieces in the draft, like pass-rusher Bradley Chubb, cornerback Isaac Yiadom and linebacker Josey Jewell. Of the group, Jewell appears the most flop-worthy as a rookie.

    Jewell was a productive linebacker at Iowa—he recorded 134 tackles in 2017—but his measurables are underwhelming: He is just 6'1", 234 pounds and ran a painfully slow 4.82 at the combine.

    It's going to be much more difficult for Jewell to be productive as a pro. He'll struggle to chase down faster ball-carriers like Kareem Hunt and to bring down bigger backs like Melvin Gordon and Marshawn Lynch, and he could be a liability in pass coverage.

    While Jewell can develop into a solid depth player, he won't excite fans as a rookie. He's similar as a prospect to former Arizona linebacker Scooby Wright III, who was a stat-racker in college despite a 6'0", 239-pound frame and below-average speed (he ran a 4.87 40 at his pro day).

    Wright has just seven tackles in his two-year NFL career. Jewell may be lucky to amass that many as a rookie.

Detroit Lions: RB Kerryon Johnson, Auburn

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    A Detroit Lions running back hasn't rushed for 100 yards in a game since 2013. While the streak may be broken in 2018, fans shouldn't expect Auburn product Kerryon Johnson to be the one to do it.

    It's not that Johnson lacks talent. He has good vision and enough burst to be a productive pro runner. However, he lacks top-tier strength (just 11 reps of the 225-pound bench press), which is problematic given his upright running style.

    Johnson will also need to find touches in a backfield also featuring Ameer Abdullah, Theo Riddick and LeGarrette Blount. New head coach Matt Patricia comes over from the New England Patriots, where a committee backfield is often par for the course.

    Can Johnson still be a productive piece of the Detroit offense? Of course, but he probably won't become the team's lead back as a rookie. This is going to be a disappointment for Lions fans who watched Detroit select Johnson with the 43rd overall pick—16 spots ahead of former LSU star Derrius Guice.

    If Johnson is only a part-time contributor, many are going to view him as a rookie flop—especially if Guice puts up a Rookie of the Year-worthy campaign in Washington.

Green Bay Packers: WR J'Mon Moore, Missouri

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    The Green Bay Packers parted with longtime standout Jordy Nelson this offseason. While they did bring in tight end Jimmy Graham to provide Aaron Rodgers with another top-tier target, they're still going to miss Nelson's presence.

    Fans expecting fourth-round pick J'Mon Moore to replace Nelson are going to be sorely disappointed.

    There are things to like about Moore. He was productive at Missouri—1,017 yards in 2017—and he has great size for the position (6'3", 207 lbs). But Moore is extremely raw, is a limited route-runner and has less-than-ideal speed.

    He ran a 4.6 at the combine and could be purely a possession guy at the pro level. Unfortunately, his poor route running will limit him in that role early. While fans may see Moore on the receiving end of a few Rodgers Hail Mary passes this season, they aren't likely to see him in a significant offensive role.

    Don't be surprised if Moore is a bigger rookie flop than wideout Equanimeous St. Brown, who the Packers selected two rounds after Moore.

Houston Texans: WR Keke Coutee, Texas Tech

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    Fourth-round pick and former Texas Tech standout Keke Coutee is not likely to buck the recent trend of wide receivers poorly transitioning to the NFL. 

    Coutee has good speed (4.43) but isn't a burner like new Houston Texans teammate Will Fuller. He's also undersized (5'10", 181 lbs) and limited as a route-runner.

    Coutee's best chance of making an impact as a rookie could come as a straight-line deep-threat. The problem is that Houston already uses Fuller in that role. DeAndre Hopkins serves as the team's No. 1 receiver, and Braxton Miller mans the slot, so Coutee will only see the field in four- and five-receiver sub-packages.

    This doesn't mean Coutee won't have some value or that he can't develop into a regular contributor down the road.

Indianapolis Colts: DE Tyquan Lewis, Ohio State

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    The Indianapolis Colts had more than a few holes on their roster. The lack of a legitimate sack artist was one of the biggest. They logged just 25 sacks in 2017, second-fewest in the NFL. Jabaal Sheard led the team with a mere 5.5 sacks.

    While no one can fault the Colts for scooping up guard Quenton Nelson in the first round, Indianapolis did pass on a top-tier pass-rushing prospect to do so. They came back in the second round and grabbed Ohio State product Tyquan Lewis.

    Lewis was a productive pass-rusher, totaling 23.0 sacks over the last three seasons, but he was only effective in a situational role. Though Lewis is a stout 6'3", 269 pounds, he isn't a strong run defender. He had just 12 solo tackles in 2017.

    While Lewis may record a handful of sacks and pressures as a rookie, he's going to be inconsistent as a pass-rusher and a liability against the run, which will frustrate defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus.

    Lewis will largely be seen as a first-year flop—especially in comparison to former Buckeyes teammate Sam Hubbard, should he thrive with the Bengals. Hubbard was taken 13 selections after Lewis.

Jacksonville Jaguars: WR D.J. Chark, LSU

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    Former LSU star D.J. Chark has the physical makeup of a future No. 1 NFL receiver. He has a long frame (6'3", 199 lbs) a large catch radius and tremendous speed (4.34). However, Chark's physical tools won't be enough to avoid the struggling-rookie-receiver trend.

    Chark relied on his size and his speed to make plays in college. He rarely beat defenders with quality routes or with superior effort. It's going to take time for him to adjust to the NFL and to learn a pro-style route tree.

    Expect Chark to sit behind Donte Moncrief, Marqise Lee and Dede Westbrook on the depth chart as a rookie. In Jacksonville's run-oriented offense, this is going to lead to few playmaking opportunities for the former Tiger.

    Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett favors receivers who can run-block on the outside, which allows the offense to feature running back Leonard Fournette even in three- and four-receiver sets. While Chark doesn't shy away from blocking, he is thin-framed and will struggle against stronger defensive backs, which could also hurt his chances to stay on the field.

    Chark should develop into an important part of Jacksonville's offense, but he isn't going to be one as a rookie. Some will wrongly view him as a wasted second-round pick during the season.

Kansas City Chiefs: S Armani Watts, Texas A&M

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    The Kansas City Chiefs 2017 pass defense was one of the league's most frustrating. While the secondary came away with 16 interceptions, it also gave up an average of 247.0 passing yards per game, fourth-most in the NFL.

    The Chiefs tried to remake their secondary this offseason. Gone is starting cornerback Marcus Peters, one of the team's biggest feast-or-famine corners. In are cornerbacks David Amerson and Kendall Fuller. Kansas City also parted with starting safety Ron Parker, who remains a free agent.

    The Chiefs have a couple of candidates to replace Parker, including fourth-round pick Armani Watts, who was a productive safety at Texas A&M. He racked up 87 tackles and four interceptions last season. However, he is on the smaller side for a safety (5'11", 202 lbs) and is extremely inconsistent in both coverage and run support.

    The Chiefs seem to be trying to move away from boom-or-bust pass defenders, and Watts is exactly that kind of player. He'll get too aggressive at times, which can lead to misjudged route coverage and whiffed tackles.

    While he could develop into a solid starter, Watts probably won't see a significant role as a rookie and will make his fair share of flop-worthy mistakes when he does get on the field.

Los Angeles Chargers: DE Uchenna Nwosu, USC

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    Former USC standout Uchenna Nwosu has the potential to develop into a quality pass-rusher. He is, however, both raw and inexperienced. That isn't a great recipe for early success.

    "He didn't play until late in his high school career, and he's only started for the last two-and-a-half years at USC," one NFC scout said, per Zierlein. "I guess you could argue it either way, but I think he's worth a pick on Day 3 because we haven't really seen what he's going to be yet."

    The Los Angeles Chargers weren't willing to wait until Day 3 to grab Nwosu. Instead, they scooped him up with the 16th pick of Round 2.

    Nwosu's draft status is going to lead to some lofty expectations, and the rookie will have a hard time meeting them. Not only does he need to develop more countermoves as a pass-rusher, but he also lacks the strength to anchor the edge in run support. This means Nwosu will primarily hit the field in passing situations.

    The problem is that L.A. already has two of the league's top pass-rushers in Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa. As a rotational defensive end, Nwosu is likely to provide a similar impact as Chris McCain had in 2017—20 total tackles and 5.0 sacks. That isn't the kind of production fans want to see from a second-day selection.

Los Angeles Rams: DE John Franklin-Myers, Stephen F. Austin

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    The Los Angeles Rams traded one of their top defenders, Robert Quinn, this offseason. While the addition of Ndamukong Suh will help them maintain a powerful defensive front, there is a hole at the end spot.

    Los Angeles used a fourth-round pick on Stephen F. Austin product John Franklin-Myers, who may one day take over for Quinn as a starting edge defender. At 6'4" and 283 pounds, Franklin-Myers has the size and build to be a load off the edge.

    The problem is he's unpolished as a pass-rusher. He relies heavily on power at the point of attack and is going to struggle against stronger linemen. It's not like he faced future NFL talent during his collegiate career.

    This could lead to Franklin-Myers being primarily a block-eating run defender early in his career. Even in that role, his lack of experience against top-tier talent could lead to some early struggles. We probably won't see a lot of him as a rookie, which is going to cause plenty of fans to view Franklin-Myers as a flop during his rookie campaign.

Miami Dolphins: LB Jerome Baker, Ohio State

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    One of the biggest problems with the Miami Dolphins last season was they didn't have an identity. The offense had nothing special to offer aside from Jarvis Landry and his bazillion short receptions. The defense, while effective between the 20s, surrendered too many points (24.6 per game) and lacked attitude.

    While the return of Ryan Tannehill and continued development of running back Kenyan Drake will help the offense, the defense will remain bland in 2018. Third-round pick Jerome Baker isn't going to do much to change that.

    Baker was a decent linebacker at Ohio State, and he possesses good speed for the position (4.53-second 40). But Baker is also undersized (6'1", 225 lbs) and isn't an aggressive, physical player.

    "He's fast and athletic and all that, but he just doesn't have much grit to his game," one AFC defensive coach said, per Zierlein. "He's just not tough. No dog."

    Baker is likely to only see the field on special teams and in specific defensive situations—possibly as a cover man. He is going to be a liability against the run until he learns to tackle better and play more aggressively. Even defensive coordinator Matt Burke may consider Baker a rookie flop.

Minnesota Vikings: TE Tyler Conklin, Central Michigan

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    The Minnesota Vikings have a top-tier receiving tight end in Kyle Rudolph, and new quarterback Kirk Cousins is going to enjoy throwing to him. But if Cousins is hoping fifth-round pick Tyler Conklin will be a pass-catching playmaker to complement Rudolph, he should think again.

    Conklin has good hands and can make tough catches. He'll only have value in short-yardage and goal-line situations, however. He ran a sluggish 4.8-second 40 at the combine, and he lacks the speed to separate from coverage on deeper routes.

    In addition, Conklin doesn't possess the large frame—he's 6'4", 240 pounds—and above-average playing strength to be a consistent blocking tight end.

    The reality is Conklin does a lot of things well but doesn't do any one thing great. He'll find himself buried on the depth chart early. He'll certainly be behind Rudolph and could be behind both David Morgan and Blake Bell as well.

    Until Conklin improves as a route-runner and run-blocker, he'll be an afterthought in the Minnesota offense.

New England Patriots: CB Duke Dawson, Florida

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    The Patriots said goodbye to No. 1 cornerback and Super Bowl XLIX hero Malcolm Butler this offseason. Actually, you could say they said goodbye to him before that, as he was benched for New England's Super Bowl LII loss.

    While Butler fell out of favor with Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, it will be difficult to replace him. Fans shouldn't expect second-round pick Duke Dawson to become the next Butler—at least not as a rookie.

    Butler was a feisty competitor and an aggressive man corer, but he didn't play much when he was a rookie. Rookie defenders rarely do for the Patriots, and this could be the case with Dawson as well. And even if he does earn a starting job, he's going to be a level below Butler.

    Dawson is on the shorter side (5'10"), and he may have more value against smaller slot receivers. He isn't a tremendous athlete, however, and has good-but-not-great speed (4.46-second 40). Against quick, shifty receivers such as former Patriot Danny Amendola, Dawson will struggle to keep up.

    While his physicality and press-coverage skills should allow Dawson to develop into a quality NFL corner—as was the case with Butler—fans are going to view Dawson as a flop compared to his predecessor.

New Orleans Saints: WR Tre'Quan Smith, Central Florida

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    Michael Thomas of the New Orleans Saints is one of the few receivers who have found rookie success in recent years. He was a second-round pick in 2016 and took off with 1,137 yards in his initial campaign.

    This year, the Saints spent a third-round pick on former Central Florida receiver Tre'Quan Smith. The Saints shouldn't expect him to be another Thomas.

    Smith has the size (6'1", 210 lbs) and speed (4.49-second 40) to be an NFL starter. However, he isn't the savviest route-runner and doesn't offer the big target his lengthy frame suggests. While he will certainly benefit from having Drew Brees on the other end of his passes, Smith is going to need time to develop.

    In addition, Smith is going to begin his NFL career looking up at Thomas, Ted Ginn Jr. and Cameron Meredith on the depth chart. He could also spend short-yardage and goal-line situations on the bench in favor of the 6'6" Brandon Coleman.

    The Saints were just a few pieces away from competing for the Super Bowl last season, so fans are going to want to see rookie players contribute immediately. It's going to be hard for Smith to be one of those guys.

New York Giants: LB Lorenzo Carter, Georgia

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    The New York Giants traded star pass-rusher Jason Pierre-Paul this offseason, which left the defense lacking a complement to Olivier Vernon. Former Georgia pass-rusher Lorenzo Carter may eventually be that guy, but it's going to take some time.

    Carter has the physical tools needed to be an NFL edge-rusher. He is big and tall (6'6", 243 lbs), has good bend around the edge and possesses the speed (4.5-second 40) to close on opposing quarterbacks.

    The problem with Carter is he's still raw. He doesn't have a variety of pass-rushing moves and lacks the bulk and strength needed to power rush. Despite his speed and athleticism, he amassed just 9.5 sacks over the last three seasons.

    Carter will need to bulk up if he's going to play defensive end in New York's 4-3 front, and he'll likely begin his career as an outside linebacker. This won't place him in the best position to succeed as a pass-rusher. The former Bulldog will make plays as a run-stopping linebacker in sub-packages, but don't expect him to be a rookie star.

    While he'll look like a smart pick in a couple of years, fans won't be happy with what they see from this third-rounder in 2018.

New York Jets: QB Sam Darnold

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    As is the case with many of this year's rookie quarterbacks, USC product Sam Darnold is likely to get a chance at some point in 2018. The New York Jets will enter training camp with Josh McCown—and possibly Teddy Bridgewater—ahead of Darnold on the depth chart. The Jets, however, are going to want to get a look at Darnold sooner than later and may even want to do so in Week 1.

    According to ESPN's Dianna Russini, Jets head coach Todd Bowles said Darnold will have a crack at the starting job.

    Darnold has a future in the NFL. He has all the physical tools and tremendous upside. His shortcomings, however, are going to lead to some early struggles. Ball security was a major problem for Darnold in college—he had 36 turnovers in two seasons—and while Darnold moves well in the pocket, he struggles to sense the pass rush.

    This is a combination that's going to create a lot of headaches as Darnold adjusts to the pro game. While Darnold is going to show flashes as a rookie, he'll also take a lot of unnecessary sacks and commit face-palm-worthy turnovers.

    Don't be surprised if the New York offense actually takes a step back from last season with Darnold at the helm. It will be a valuable learning experience for Darnold and his long-term development, but his rookie season is going to include some painful stretches.

Oakland Raiders: OT Kolton Miller, UCLA

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    The Oakland Raiders used the 15th overall pick on former UCLA offensive tackle Kolton Miller. While the franchise may have landed Derek Carr's future blindside blocker, it's likely to be criticized at various points this season.

    While Miller has the physical attributes teams look for in a starting left tackle, he's going to struggle as a rookie—if he hits the field at all.

    Miller is a big and tall (6'8", 309 lbs) tackle prospect who possesses above-average athleticism. He's unpolished as a pass protector, however, and is a below-average run-blocker at the point of attack. He's going to have his hands full against seasoned pass-rushers and against stronger run defenders.

    For now, the Raiders are going to allow Miller to compete for the starting right tackle job. If he develops well, he may one day take over for Donald Penn on the other side of the line. Fans, however, are going to be frustrated by his rookie struggles at times—and possibly with the fact Oakland selected a right tackle with a top-15 pick in the first place.

Philadelphia Eagles: CB Avonte Maddox, Pittsburgh

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    One big benefit to having a championship roster (aside from the championship) is that a team won't feel pressured to draft to fill needs. The Philadelphia Eagles aren't going to need rookies to be major contributors in order to contend for another Super Bowl this season.

    Some rookies, such as tight end Dallas Goedert, will contribute immediately. Fourth-round pick Avonte Maddox isn't likely to be one of those early contributors.

    Maddox has upside because of his speed (4.39-second 40), but he is an undersized cornerback (5'9", 180 lbs) who doesn't have the strength to excel in press or tight man coverage. He isn't physical, he can be baited into making coverage mistakes, and he's going to give up a lot of size to bigger wide receivers.

    It's going to take time for Maddox to refine his technique. Once he does, he can be a quality nickel corner with the skills needed to mirror shifty slot receivers. As a rookie, though, he's going to struggle.

Pittsburgh Steelers: S Terrell Edmunds, Virginia Tech

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    Former West Virginia safety Terrell Edmunds has the size (6'1", 217 lbs) and speed (4.47-second 40) to develop into a solid defensive back. However, the Pittsburgh Steelers reached for him with the 28th overall pick and are going to have to endure some growing pains.

    While Edmunds is a decent coverage safety and a willing tackler, he made plenty of mistakes for the Hokies. He is an inconsistent tackler who whiffed on several opportunities over the past couple of seasons. Against NFL running backs and receiver, that is going to be a problem.

    Edmunds will be vulnerable to be baited by veteran quarterbacks early in his career, too. He's an aggressive defender, but that can work against him.

    The Steelers signed safety Morgan Burnett in the offseason, too, so Edmunds may only get on the field in sub-packages as a rookie. For a team that has a playoff-caliber roster, this isn't necessarily a major problem. However, fans aren't going to like seeing the first-round pick being a part-time contributor and making mistakes when he's on the field—especially when some believe he was overdrafted.

San Francisco 49ers: LB Fred Warner, Brigham Young

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    The San Francisco 49ers have their franchise quarterback in Jimmy Garoppolo and an offense that showed a lot of promise at the end of 2017. If the defense—which ranked 24th overall (351.6 yards per game allowed) last season—can take a big step forward this season, the 49ers could be relevant in the NFC West.

    Former BYU linebacker Fred Warner is going to have a role in San Francisco's defensive rebuild, but he might not have a big impact as a rookie.

    He has the build of a large safety (6'3", 226 lbs) but the speed of a linebacker (4.64-second 40). San Francisco is going to have to develop a role for Warner in order to get the most out of him, and it's going to take time for him to flourish.

    In defensive coordinator Robert Saleh's scheme, Warner's best fit will probably be in a hybrid box safety role—similar to the one Deone Bucannon serves in Arizona. Don't expect Warner to be an every-down player right away. He amassed 48 solo tackles in 2017 but may have half that many this season.

Seattle Seahawks: DE Rasheem Green, USC

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    The Seattle Seahawks are going to miss defensive end Michael Bennett, who is now with the Eagles. He is a disruptive edge-rusher and an anchor against the run. Third-round pick Rasheem Green could replace him on the defensive line, but it's going to be later than sooner.

    Green has many physical gifts, but he's still learning to utilize them. Yes, he racked up 10 sacks last season, but those were largely the product of his physical prowess and not technique. While Green has good size (6'4", 275 lbs) and speed (4.73-second 40), he's raw and is also lacking in the strength department.

    This is going to lead to rookie struggles.

    "He's not strong enough to handle NFL guys yet, so this year may be a redshirt year for him," one AFC scout said of Green, per Zierlein.

    Green will show some flashes as a rookie, which will make things even more frustrating when he struggles.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: CB M.J. Stewart, North Carolina

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    Gregory Payan/Associated Press

    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers had the league's worst pass defense in 2017 (260.6 yards per game allowed). Part of the reason was a pass rush that produced a league-low 22 sacks. Part of the reason for that was a lack of elite talent in the secondary.

    Former North Carolina cornerback M.J. Stewart may one day be viewed as the kind of elite talent the Buccaneers have been lacking. It isn't going to happen in his rookie season, though.

    Tampa may have a hard time determining whether it wants Stewart at cornerback or safety. He's built like a short safety (5'11", 200 lbs) but doesn't have much experience at the position. He will spark cornerback interest because of his man-coverage skills. But Stewart doesn't possess elite speed for a cornerback (4.54-second 40) or the recovery speed to battle top-tier downfield threats.

    While opposing teams aren't going to be scared of the other cornerbacks on the Tampa Bay roster, they're going to challenge Stewart early and often until his technique improves and he adapts to the speed of the pro game.

    This is going to lead to some mistakes and some big plays at the expense of Stewart.

Tennessee Titans: S Dane Cruikshank, Arizona

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    Gregory Payan/Associated Press

    New Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Vrabel was a Pro Bowl linebacker and a defensive assistant. Along with defensive coordinator Dean Pees, Vrabel is going to reshape and improve the Tennessee defense, which ranked 25th against the pass (239.3 yards per game allowed) in 2017.

    Vrabel and the Titans have brought in players to help that pass defense, including Malcolm Butler and fifth-round pick Dane Cruikshank.

    Butler will have a big impact on the Tennessee secondary in his first year as a Titan. He'll be joining former running mate Logan Ryan and should become the team's No. 1 cornerback. Cruikshank, on the other hand, is likely to be a backup and a liability when he's on the field.

    Cruikshank has experience playing both cornerback and safety, and he possesses a good combination of size (6'1", 209 lbs) and speed (4.41-second 40), but he isn't a high-end cover guy. Opposing quarterbacks are going to pick on him whenever they get the opportunity.

    Cruikshank's positional versatility and physical attributes will give him a role and potentially a lengthy career. He's going to be a problem for the Titans, however, until he improves his coverage skills.

Washigton Redskins: S Troy Apke, Penn State

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    Gregory Payan/Associated Press

    The Washington Redskins prioritized run defense over pass defense in this year's draft, selecting defensive tackle Da'Ron Payne in the first round. Washington had a good reason to do so, as it ranked ninth in pass defense (213.8 yards per game allowed) and dead-last in run defense (134.1 yards per game) last season.

    Washington waited until Round 4 to add a pass defender, snagging former Penn State safety Troy Apke with the 109th pick.

    Payne should be a difference-maker as a rookie. Apke will be a coverage liability.

    Apke has a good combination of size (6'1", 200 lbs) and speed (ran a 3.34-second 40), but he lacks experience, is slow to react in coverage and has a penchant for missing tackles. Apke spent just one season as a full-time starter at Penn State and isn't likely to become a starter early in his pro career.

    While he has intriguing physical tools, he is a project, and he'll flop more often than not when he gets on the field.


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