How Much Will Every 1st-Round Rookie Contribute in Year 1?

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistMay 14, 2018

How Much Will Every 1st-Round Rookie Contribute in Year 1?

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    There's a lot of uncertainty involved with the NFL draft. Everyone loves having a shiny new player on their team, but no matter how much due diligence and planning goes into selecting them, there's no telling exactly how much of a difference these incoming players will have in Year 1.

    This is true even for first-round prospects, who are generally expected to contribute right away. Coming out of the draft, fans tend to expect a first-round pick to be a star out of the gate. No matter a team's plans, though—and not every selection is made with immediate returns in mind—factors like NFL readiness, scheme fit, health and roster construction can affect how much a top draft choice actually contributes to his new team.

    This means that we're going to get both disappointments and surprises every year when it comes to the contributions of first-round rookies. Last year, for example, we saw No. 1 overall pick Myles Garrett impact 11 of a possible 16 games. 11th overall selection Marshon Lattimore, meanwhile, was a 13-game starter who went on to win Defensive Rookie of the Year.

    We're here to provide realistic first-year expectations for each 2018 first-round draft pick. With aforementioned factors considered, we'll try to determine the level of contribution each rookie will have in Year 1—be it low, medium or high.

    We'll be focusing more on role than statistics, and we won't be factoring in long-term potential—which will be high even for some players who go unnoticed in their inaugural campaigns. 


1. Cleveland Browns QB Baker Mayfield

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    The Cleveland Browns took another crack at finding their franchise quarterback in the April's draft at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. We've heard this story before, of course, but this is the first time the Browns have used the No. 1 pick on a quarterback since they took Tim Couch in 1999.

    This time around, they chose former Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Baker Mayfield.

    While some view Mayfield as an unconventional choice because of his height (just under 6'1"), there are plenty of reasons to believe Cleveland has finally gotten things right. Mayfield has a fantastic leadership presence. He is accurate (career 68.5 percent passer). He is careful with the football (fewer than 10 interceptions in each of his four seasons). And he is a playmaking passer (4,627 yards and 43 touchdowns last season).

    However, Cleveland has made it clear that it won't be rushing Mayfield onto the field. Instead, it will rely on veteran Tyrod Taylor, who helped lead the Buffalo Bills to the playoffs last season for the first time since 1999.

    "I'm not going to back off of this," head coach Hue Jackson said, per Mary Kay Cabot of "We can keep writing this narrative. Tyrod Taylor's the starting quarterback of this football team, and that won't change."

    Of course, this is Cleveland, where quarterbacks simply don't start a full 16-game slate. We'll probably see Mayfield at some point, either due to injury or after the Browns have fallen out of contention. However, while fans will get a look at the future in 2018, Mayfield is not going to have a large role.

    Contribution Level: Low

2. New York Giants RB Saquon Barkley

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    While the Browns are preparing for their future at the quarterback position, the New York Giants are going all-in to try to win with their current signal-caller. They acquired left tackle Nate Solder in free agency to help protect Eli Manning, and they used the No. 2 pick on former Penn State running back Saquon Barkley.

    The addition of Barkley is big. The playmaker has size (6'0", 233 lbs), speed (4.4-second 40) and can do pretty much everything well.

    Barkley rushed for 1,271 yards and added 632 yards receiving last season with 21 combined touchdowns. He also returned 15 kicks for 426 yards and two scores.

    "Whatever it takes. I want to be an athlete," Barkley explained, per Jordan Raanan of "I'm not just a running back. I play the running back position. I want to be an all-around back and all-around player."

    Barkley will be able to impact all facets of the offense. He's going to be the starting back, he can play a role on special teams, and he's going to take pressure off Manning. In Barkley and receiver Odell Beckham Jr., the Giants have two of the top offensive players in the league.

    Your early favorite for Offensive Rookie of the Year? It's Barkley—and then everyone else.

    Contribution Level: High

3. New York Jets QB Sam Darnold

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    The New York Jets took their shot at finding a franchise quarterback with the third overall pick. They scooped up USC product Sam Darnold, who many had pegged as the top signal-caller in this draft class.

    There's a lot to like about Darnold. He has prototypical size (6'3", 221 lbs). He's athletic. He moves well in the pocket. And he has the arm talent to make all the throws. He passed for 4,143 yards last season with 26 touchdowns.

    The issue is he has a turnover problem. He had 13 interceptions and 11 fumbles (eight lost) in 2017. He doesn't sense pressure in the pocket well and has an elongated release that leads to a lot of loose balls.

    Darnold has some things to work on before he can be a high-level NFL starter. Like most of the quarterbacks in this class, he shouldn't be asked to start right away. However, if the Jets aren't in playoff contention by midseason, they'll likely insert him into the lineup.

    Starter Josh McCown was steady last season. Unlike Taylor in Cleveland, however, he has virtually no chance of holding the starting job beyond 2018. The Jets will be quicker to turn the page on their veteran, who will be 39 at the start of the season, and hand the keys to their rookie.

    Expect about a half-season from Darnold, if not more. However, rookie mistakes will put New York's quarterback play a tick below where it was with McCown last year.

    Contribution Level: Medium

4. Cleveland Browns CB Denzel Ward

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    While Browns fans shouldn't expect much from the team's initial first-round pick, they should expect fourth overall pick Denzel Ward to make a big impact right away. The Ohio State product is the most NFL-ready cornerback in this draft, and the Browns desperately need a No. 1 corner.

    Not only does Cleveland play in a division with receivers like A.J. Green and Antonio Brown, it also plays in a division that features three playoff-caliber quarterbacks. While some would argue the Browns should have gone with a pass-rusher at No. 4 to harass those quarterbacks, Ward can help bring pressure with his presence.

    Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams believes Ward will help second-year pass-rusher Myles Garrett be even more impactful.

    "I've got a video of 28 snaps of Myles Garrett pass rushes last year where he gets within two steps or less of the quarterback when the ball comes out," Williams said, per Peter King of The MMQB. "Basically, we aren't covering long enough to let him get to the quarterback. Myles and others—especially [defensive end] Emmanuel Ogbah—will get more chances because of Denzel."

    Ward will battle opposing teams' No. 1 receivers, force quarterbacks to hold the ball longer and change the complexion of Cleveland's defense.

    Contribution Level: High

5. Denver Broncos DE Bradley Chubb

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    What happens when you add the draft's top pass-rusher with one of the league's best sack artists? The Denver Broncos believe they're about to find out.

    NC State's Bradley Chubb was widely believed to be the best pass-rushing prospect in the draft, and some think he's even better than Garrett, who was taken first overall in 2017.

    "I'm of the belief last year that if you were stacking him up, play for play, with Myles Garrett, I'm taking [Chubb]," ESPN's Louis Riddick said.

    Chubb had 23 tackles for a loss and 10 sacks last season.

    The Broncos will pair Chubb with edge-rusher Von Miller, one of the most feared defenders in the NFL. Miller also had 10 sacks last season, and he has produced double-digit sacks in six of his seven pro seasons.

    By adding Chubb, the Broncos immediately get one of the top pass-rushing duos in the league. He should have the same kind impact Joey Bosa had when he joined Melvin Ingram two years ago. Bosa had 10.5 sacks as a rookie, and that should be the floor for Chubb.

    Contribution Level: High

6. Indianapolis Colts G Quenton Nelson

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    When you have a franchise quarterback—as the Indianapolis Colts have in Andrew Luck—you should do everything you can to protect him. The Colts, however, have failed Luck over the past few seasons by surrounding him with lackluster offensive line talent and an inconsistent running game.

    That is why Luck has taken repeated hits, has suffered multiple injuries and missed all of last season.

    With Barkley off the board, there wasn't a running back worthy of the sixth overall pick. Therefore, it was an easy decision for Indianapolis to scoop up former Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson.

    Nelson is as good a guard prospect we've seen since Zack Martin. The Dallas Cowboys took him back in 2014, and Martin has since made four consecutive Pro Bowls and has made two first-team All-Pro teams.

    This is the kind of player Nelson can be. While fans might not get excited about an interior offensive lineman, Nelson is likely to lock down a spot on the line at a high level for as long as he's a member of the Colts. He'll immediately improve Indianapolis' run game, and he'll make the line in front of Luck better from day one.

    Contribution Level: High

7. Buffalo Bills QB Josh Allen

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    The Buffalo Bills made former Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen the third quarterback taken in the draft after trading up with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. While Allen may not have been Buffalo's first-choice signal-caller (we'll probably never hear anyone admit it), he does have intriguing physical traits.

    Allen is a big quarterback at 6'5" and 237 pounds. He has a howitzer of an arm, and he is quick for his size. He ran a faster 40 at the combine (4.75 seconds) than either of the quarterbacks taken ahead of him.

    He certainly looks like an NFL quarterback.

    The problem with Allen is he played a low level of competition at Wyoming and didn't thrive against it. He was inaccurate (56.3 percent completion rate) and is unpolished. If Buffalo rushes Allen onto the field, the team is likely to get several rookie mistakes and interceptions.

    At least one member of a rival team is already looking forward to seeing Allen.

    "Can't wait to catch passes from one of my favorite QBs," Jets defensive back Jamal Adams said of Allen.

    The Bills signed AJ McCarron in free agency, and if they're smart, they'll let him run with the starting job for as long as possible. Allen isn't ready to be an NFL starter, and fans shouldn't expect him to be one for much of his rookie season.

    Contribution Level: Low

8. Chicago Bears LB Roquan Smith

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    The Chicago Bears defense should be on the rise in 2018. It has a solid defensive front with pieces like Akiem Hicks and Eddie Goldman. Chicago re-signed starting cornerbacks Prince Amukamara and Kyle Fuller in the offseason. With the eighth overall pick, the team added former Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith.

    Smith is going to be the glue at the second level, connecting Chicago's two defensive strengths. He is a smart, rangy linebacker who can make plays from sideline to sideline. He has the speed (4.51) to chase down ball-carriers and to hang with most backs and tight ends in coverage.

    Last season with the Bulldogs, Smith racked up 85 tackles, 14.0 tackles for a loss, 6.5 sacks and two passes defended.

    Expect Smith to have the kind of impact Ryan Shazier had with the Pittsburgh Steelers when he first came into the league. The big guys up front are going to get a push at the line of scrimmage, and Smith will be able to clean up almost anything that gets beyond it.

    Chicago had a defense that allowed just 319.1 yards per game last season (10th), and the defense gets instantly better with Smith in the middle of it.

    Contribution Level: High

9. San Francisco 49ers OT Mike McGlinchey

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    Some folks will inevitably criticize the San Francisco 49ers for taking a right tackle with a top-10 pick. Yes, Notre Dame product Mike McGlinchey may eventually be able to take over on the left side, but he's going to start on the right.

    "Notre Dame will even tell you that McGlinchey is better on the right side than the left side," one AFC executive said, per NFL Media's Lance Zierlein. "He's just more comfortable and consistent there, so that's probably where you play him. I think everyone tries to beat him up too much. He's going to play in our league and be a decent starter."

    Here's the thing, though. Defensive coordinators don't just line up their best pass-rushers opposite left tackles anymore. Sack artists move around formations, and if a defense is lucky, it has book-end pass-rushers anyway.

    Protecting the quarterback's right is as important as it's ever been, which is why right tackles are starting to get high-end money in free agency.

    McGlinchey will be an immediate starter, and he'll help make the line in front of new franchise quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo better. However, he is going to have some growing pains, and fans shouldn't expect a Pro Bowl presence in Year 1.

    Contribution Level: Medium

10. Arizona Cardinals QB Josh Rosen

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    Former UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen has all the tools to be an immediate starter in the NFL. While he isn't the most mobile signal-caller, he sees the field well, has incredible arm talent and won't back down from the big moments.

    Of all of the first-round quarterbacks, Rosen should have the best chance of starting in Week 1.

    This is why the Arizona Cardinals traded up to get Rosen at No. 10, even after signing both Sam Bradford and Mike Glennon in free agency. Bradford will be the starter heading into training camp, but Rosen should immediately challenge him.

    "We're pushing everybody to start," head coach Steve Wilks explained on NFL Network. "I've stated this several times: Sam Bradford is our starter. We gotta go out there with 11 guys, and Sam's going to be the first guy out there. But everybody's fighting for a position, so I'm not going to hold [Rosen] back at all."

    Cardinals fans should expect Rosen to make a strong push for the starting job and should hope he wins it. Bradford has proved he can be a solid starter when healthy, but he is as injury-prone as quarterbacks come. Even if he opens the season as the No. 1, his injury history suggests he won't finish it there.

    Will Rosen be a Pro Bowler in his first season? Probably not, but fans should expect to see a fair amount of him as a rookie.

    Contribution Level: High

11. Miami Dolphins S Minkah Fitzpatrick

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    The Miami Dolphins might have taken a quarterback at No. 11 if one of the big four had been available. Instead, they'll roll into 2018 with Ryan Tannehill again under center and with former Alabama safety Minkah Fitzpatrick roaming the secondary.

    In terms of guys who can make an immediate impact, Miami got one of the best in the draft.

    Fitzpatrick has a combination of size (6'0", 204 lbs) and speed (4.46) that is rare for a safety. In fact, the Crimson Tide often played him in the slot and on the outside as a cornerback. Dolphins defensive coordinator Matt Burke will be able to do the same.

    Regardless of his position, Fitzpatrick is NFL-ready and should thrive right away. He is good in man coverage, diagnoses plays well, tracks the ball with ease and is a willing hitter in the open field or in the box.

    Last season, Fitzpatrick had 38 tackles, eight tackles for a loss, eight passes defended and an interception.

    No one should be shocked if Fitzpatrick is in the running for Defensive Rookie of the Year. Miami's pass defense gets immediately better with his addition.

    Contribution Level: High

12. Tampa Bay Buccaneers DT Vita Vea

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    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers had a horrendous defense last season (32nd, with 378.1 yards per game allowed), which is why the team has taken steps to remake its defensive front. The team added pass-rushers Jason-Pierre Paul and Vinny Curry and used the No. 12 overall pick on former Washington defensive tackle Vita Vea.

    Pierre-Paul and Curry should immediately improve Tampa's pass rush. Vea will eventually pair with Gerald McCoy to solidify the interior of the defensive line. The Buccaneers will soon have one of the better defensive lines in the NFL.

    Don't expect Vea to be a major force right away, though. He is both raw and inconsistent. He's going to make a few big plays as a rookie, but he needs to refine his technique before he can become an every-down tackle and a true impact player.

    "I'm still kind of bothered that he hasn't corrected some of the same issues he had last year. I think he's going to be a really good NFL player, and his issues are all correctable—he just needs to do it," one NFC scout said of Vea, per Zierlein.

    Vea should be part of the defensive tackle rotation immediately, but he isn't polished enough to be a three-down player out of the gate. Expect him to have much more of a consistent presence in Years 2 and 3.

    Contribution Level: Medium

13. Washington Redskins DT Da'Ron Payne

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    The Washington Redskins didn't have the worst defense in the NFL, but they did have the worst run defense (134.1 yards rushing per game). This is why they didn't hesitate to grab former Alabama defensive tackle Da'Ron Payne.

    Payne might not have the upside of Vea, but he is an incredible run defender who doesn't lack for energy or motor. He is also a quick player for his size (ran a 4.95-second 40 at 311 lbs), so he'll make some plays behind the line when he beats the man in front of him.

    Payne should win the starting job at nose tackle, and he should be on the field for most early downs and even some passing downs. He's going to be a handful for centers and guards, and he's going to make it difficult for teams to double defensive ends Jonathan Allen and Preston Smith.

    Because Payne is going to command attention, Washington's pass rush should improve a bit. However, it's his run-stuffing ability that is going to have the biggest immediate impact. As long as Payne remains healthy, the Redskins will no longer have the league's worst run defense.

    Contribution Level: High

14. New Orleans Saints DE Marcus Davenport

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    The New Orleans Saints saw their defense improve last season, thanks in large part to the presence of rookie first-round pick Marshon Lattimore. He immediately became the team's No. 1 cornerback and went on to win Defensive Rookie of the Year.

    Former Texas-San Antonio edge-rusher Marcus Davenport can have a similar impact as a rookie this season.

    New Orleans had one good pass-rusher in Cameron Jordan last season. However, the Saints didn't have a high-end complement for him. While the defense did amass 42 sacks, Jordan was the only player to log more than 4.5.

    This is why the Saints traded up to grab Davenport. He is a long (6'6", 264 lbs) and quick (4.58) edge-rusher with enough power to win with strength and enough bend to win around the edge. He had 8.5 sacks last season, and that should be the kind of production he has as a rookie, at a minimum.

    Having Jordan opposite him is going to help Davenport. The veteran is going to command most of the attention early in the season. Once Davenport does make a name for himself, it's still going to be difficult to double-team both him and Jordan.

    The Saints now have bookend pass-rushers, and their defense will be much better because of it.

    Contribution Level: High

15. Oakland Raiders OT Kolton Miller

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    The Oakland Raiders grabbed former UCLA offensive tackle Kolton Miller with the 15th pick of the draft. His level of impact is going to depend a lot on where the Raiders decide to play him early on.

    With Donald Penn on the roster, it would make sense for Oakland to start Miller at right tackle. However, Raiders head coach Jon Gruden sounds as if he wants to give him a shot to beat out Penn on the left side of the line.

    "That's where he has recently played," Gruden said of Miller, per Paul Gutierrez of "We like him at left tackle."

    The problem with starting Miller at left tackle is he isn't athletic enough to make up for his NFL inexperience. Miller isn't a high-upside prospect, and he isn't going to be a high-level player early on, either.

    "His tape tells you exactly who he is," one AFC scout said of Miller, per Zierlein. "He's big and he's got decent length, but he's an average athlete and he will always be up and down depending on the guy across from him. I think he'll start, but I don't see anything special."

    He can be a good player once he learns the nuances of the pro game, but having him protect Derek Carr's blindside as a rookie could be a recipe for disaster. If he does supplant Penn at left tackle, expect the line to take a step back. If he starts on the right side, he should provide a slight improvement over what Marshall Newhouse offered there last year.

    The Raiders should find a home for Miller somewhere on their line as a rookie.

    Contribution Level: High

16. Buffalo Bills LB Tremaine Edmunds

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    Tremaine Edmunds is a raw prospect, but he'll be able to have a big impact as a rookie because of his athletic gifts. Calling his combination of size and speed "rare" would be an understatement because you don't see many defenders run a 4.54-second 40 at 6'5" and 253 pounds.

    Think of Edmunds as a Rob Gronkowski who wants to hit people.

    What Edmunds lacks in football refinement, he makes up for with effort. Last season alone, he amassed 108 tackles, 14.0 tackles for a loss, 5.5 sacks and three forced fumbles.

    With Preston Brown out, Edmunds should step into the starting role at middle linebacker. However, he is a do-it-all player who can slide into any linebacker slot if needed and also rush the quarterback off the edge.

    Edmunds is only going to get better as he continues to develop his technique. However, he should get Defensive Rookie of the Year consideration this year.

    Contribution Level: High

17. Los Angeles Chargers S Derwin James

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    The Los Angeles Chargers should consider themselves lucky that former Florida State safety Derwin James was still on the board at No. 16. He's a hard-hitting, tone-setting safety who will be a force in the middle of L.A.'s secondary.

    James has a great combination of speed (4.47) and size (215 lbs). He will punish ball-carriers and pass-catchers who come within range, and he has good enough ball skills to make opposing quarterbacks pay when Melvin Gordon and Joey Bosa pressure them.

    Last season with the Seminoles, James amassed 49 tackles, 5.5 tackles for a loss, 11 passes defended and two interceptions.

    While James is capable enough to start right away, he has room to grow.

    "Physically, he's probably more talented than Jamal Adams, but Adams was more consistent as a player," an NFC scouting director said of James, per Zierlein. "Derwin is still learning, so he has a sky-high projection if his play can catch up to the talent."

    Expect James to affect the attitude and the efficiency of Los Angeles' secondary from Day 1. Also expect him to be an up-and-down starter this year and an All-Pro-type talent within a year or two.

    Contribution Level: High

18. Green Bay Packers CB Jaire Alexander

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    The Green Bay Packers had their 2017 season derailed when quarterback Aaron Rodgers went down to injury. However, this wasn't the only reason the team struggled. An inconsistent pass defense—it allowed 236.8 yards per game, 23rd in the NFL—often caused close games to turn into losses.

    One might even argue that poor pass defense led to Rodgers' injury in the first place, as it regularly put him in shootout situations and left him a target of the pass rush.

    Well, Green Bay took a big step toward fixing its secondary by grabbing former Louisville cornerback Jaire Alexander. The Packers need a No. 1 corner, and that's what Alexander can become.

    He has decent size (5'10", 196 lbs) and elite speed (4.38) for the position. He'll be able to go up against opposing teams' No. 1 receivers and win most matchups against all but the biggest and most physical players.

    Alexander also knows how to make plays on the ball when the opportunity arises. He wasn't healthy all of last season, but in 2016 he racked up nine passes defended, five interceptions and a forced fumble.

    Expect Alexander to immediately give Green Bay the top cornerback it has been lacking.

    Contribution Level: High

19. Dallas Cowboys LB Leighton Vander Esch

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    Leighton Vander Esch should join veterans Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith to give Dallas one of the most athletic linebacker groups in the conference.

    Smith and Lee are rangy linebackers who combined for 182 tackles last season. Vander Esch is a similar sideline-to-sideline player who will fit right in.

    Last season, Vander Esch racked up 91 tackles, 8.5 tackles for a loss and 4.0 sacks. He is also a smart defender who should quickly adapt to defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli's scheme.

    "He picks things up quickly. He understands what we are asking him to do and goes out there and does it comfortably," head coach Jason Garrett said of Vander Esch, per Clarence E. Hill Jr. of the Star-Telegram. "We did get to see him move around a little bit, and he looks like the guy we drafted."

    It's going to be difficult for opposing ball-carriers to get through the second level of Dallas' defense with Lee, Smith and Vander Esch roaming the middle. It will be difficult for opposing quarterbacks to find openings in the coverage there too.

    Vander Esch makes the defense immediately better and should play a major role this season.

    Contribution Level: High

20. Detroit Lions C Frank Ragnow

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    Fans don't always get too jazzed about drafting a center, but Detroit Lions fans should be excited about former Arkansas center Frank Ragnow. See, the Lions haven't had a running back rush for 100 yards in a game since 2013. Ragnow can help make that happen.

    He is a mauler at the interior of the offensive line and should be able to open some big holes for LeGarrette Blount and rookie second-round pick Kerryon Johnson.

    "He's a tough guy and a leader in that locker room. He's got the personality that you want your center to have, and he's got good strength," one NFC scout said of Ragnow, per Zierlein. "I see him as an early starter in the league."

    Ragnow should indeed be a Day 1 starter for the Lions. He'll help improve Detroit's rushing attack, and he'll help protect quarterback Matthew Stafford from the interior pass rush. He'll make the Lions offense better in both phases, which is what you'd want to see from a first-round pick.

    Contribution Level: High

21. Cincinnati Bengals C Billy Price

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    The Cincinnati Bengals also added a first-round center, scooping up Ohio State product Billy Price with the 21st overall selection. They deserve a lot of credit for using the first round to help rebuild their offensive line, as Cincinnati traded its original first-round pick, 12th overall, to the Bills for starting left tackle Cordy Glenn.

    It's going to be hard for Price to have as much immediate success as Ragnow, though. For starters, Cincinnati's line was one of the worst in the league last year—it allowed 40 sacks and helped the team average just 85.4 yards per game on the ground. Aside from Glenn, Price isn't going to have high-level talent supporting him.

    Price is also coming into the NFL at less than 100 percent. He underwent surgery for a torn pectoral muscle in March.

    "It is anticipated that he will be able to participate in the NFL training camp at the end of July without restriction," Dr. David Altchek, who performed the surgery, said, per Doug Lesmerises of

    Price should be healthy enough to start the season, though. He's going to miss some valuable reps during minicamps and OTAs, but that shouldn't prevent him from earning the starting role, even if he struggles early.

    Expect Price to improve Cincinnati's line right away, but he'll be a significantly better player in Year 2.

    Contribution Level: High

22. Tennessee Titans LB Rashaan Evans

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    New Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Vrabel knows a little something about what it takes to play linebacker in the NFL. He played the position for 14 seasons, made one Pro Bowl and earned three Super Bowl rings.

    Vrabel is going to love coaching first-round pick Rashaan Evans. In fact, he's already praised general manager Jon Robinson for trading up to grab him.

    "Jon did a great job of going up and getting a great player that we wanted," said Vrabel, per Joe Rexrode of the Tennessean.

    Evans is a true sideline-to-sideline playmaker. He is a tad thin (6'3", 232 lbs), but he is fast, agile and instinctive. The Alabama product also has the short-area quickness, bend and field awareness to pressure the quarterback. Last season, he produced 35 tackles, 13.5 tackles for a loss and six sacks.

    The Titans can use Evans in a variety of ways, and you can bet they will. Expect to see Evans on the field and making plays in a variety of situations.

    Contribution Level: High

23. New England Patriots OT Isaiah Wynn

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    The New England Patriots decided to draft for need with the 23rd overall pick, grabbing former Georgia offensive tackle Isaiah Wynn. The Patriots needed to bolster their offensive line after losing starting left tackle Nate Solder in free agency.

    While some may view Wynn as a guard at the pro level because of his height (6'3"), the Patriots are at least going to give him a shot to replace Solder.

    "Most of the league looks at him as a guard, but he fits what Dante Scarnecchia, the offensive line coach in New England, looks for," draft analyst Mike Mayock recently explained, per NFL Media's Herbie Teope. "He's a left tackle conversion for most of the league; however, in New England he might be a left tackle. He pops out of his stance, he fits a zone scheme. He's one of the best quick-set pass protectors I've seen in college football in years."

    We have to weigh out realistic expectations for Wynn without knowing what role he's going to play. If the Patriots like what they see from him at tackle, he'll likely be protecting Tom Brady's blind side in 2018. That would be huge. If they don't, however, he could be competing for a spot at guard or relegated to a depth role.

    Contribution Level: Medium

24. Carolina Panthers WR D.J. Moore

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    The Carolina Panthers have a three-time Pro Bowler and a former NFL Most Valuable Player in quarterback Cam Newton. Yet their passing game—which averaged 192.3 yards per game, 28th in the NFL—left a lot to be desired last season.

    That is why the Panthers grabbed Maryland product D.J. Moore. The former Terrapin has a good combination of size (6'0", 210 lbs) and speed (4.42); plus he is a dangerous option after the catch.

    Last season, Moore produced 1,033 yards and eight touchdowns while averaging 12.2 yards per reception.

    With Carolina also adding speedy wideout Torrey Smith this offseason, Moore will likely start the season as Newton's No. 3 wideout. Smith will be used to stretch the field. Possession receiver Devin Funchess will be Newton's go-to guy, along with tight end Greg Olsen.

    However, Moore is a more complete receiver than Smith and could quickly move up Newton's priority list. At least he'll make it difficult for opposing defenses to focus too much on one of Carolina's other pass-catchers or on the ground attack.

    Contribution Level: High

25. Baltimore Ravens TE Hayden Hurst

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    The Baltimore Ravens have a Super Bowl-winning quarterback in Joe Flacco, but they weren't able to field a high-level passing attack last season. They averaged just 189.4 yards per game through the air (29th in the NFL), and a lot of that had to do with a lackluster receiving corps.

    That is why Baltimore made it a point to add new pass-catchers this offseason. The Ravens signed Michael Crabtree, John Brown and Willie Snead. They then added former South Carolina tight end Hayden Hurst in the draft.

    Hurst will help replace the production of departed tight end Ben Watson, who had 522 yards and four touchdowns. He is big (6'5", 250 lbs), strong and will often survive first contact. He also has a habit of catching anything that hits his hands; however, Hurst does have his flaws.

    In part because he spent two years away from football to pursue a career in Major League Baseball, Hurst isn't as polished a route runner as some of the other tight ends in this class. He has decent speed (4.67), but he isn't going to shake a defender out of his shoes. At 24 years old, Hurst has probably reached his physical ceiling too.

    He will be an important piece of Baltimore's offense in 2018. While he'll be sharing time with Maxx Williams and Nick Boyle, he should be the primary pass-catching tight end.

    Contribution Level: High

26. Atlanta Falcons WR Calvin Ridley

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    The Atlanta Falcons came into the draft with one of the league's best wide receiver duos, comprised of Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu. The Falcons had one of the league's best trios but lost Taylor Gabriel.

    Well, Atlanta ensured the absence of Gabriel wouldn't be missed for too long after taking Alabama receiver Calvin Ridley.

    Ridley (6'1", 189 lbs) has enough speed (4.43) to be a downfield threat. He is a polished route runner and had the hands and catch radius needed to dominate on 50-50 balls. Even in a run-oriented offense, Ridley produced.

    Though he wasn't the first receiver off the board, Bleacher Report draft analyst Matt Miller ranked Ridley first at the position. There's a good chance he'll be Jones' running mate next season. Sanu will have two years remaining on his current contract after this season, but only $2.8 million of that is guaranteed.

    Statistically, Ridley is going to be a No. 3 receiver, but he's going to make it difficult for opposing defenses to find favorable matchups against three-receiver sets. Teams will have to pick their poison against the Falcons.

    Contribution Level: High

27. Seattle Seahawks RB Rashaad Penny

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    Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

    The Seattle Seahawks have done a poor job of keeping quarterback Russell Wilson upright in recent years. Shoddy offensive line groups and lackluster ground games have contributed to Wilson suffering 248 sacks in six seasons.

    While Seattle didn't address the offensive line in Round 1, the Seahawks did contribute to their backfield. They grabbed former San Diego State running back Rashaad Penny with the 27th overall pick.

    Penny wasn't getting a lot of first-round buzz heading into the draft, but the Seahawks obviously liked his playing style. He is a strong back (5'11", 220 lbs) with enough burst (4.46) and wiggle to make guys miss in space. Penny isn't much of a home run hitter, but he'll batter defenses and has the durability to do it for four quarters.

    Last season, Penny carried the ball 289 times for 2,248 yards and 23 touchdowns.

    Penny probably reminded the Seahawks brass a lot of Marshawn Lynch—and he'll serve a similar role. He'll give Seattle a reliable option in short-yardage situations, will keep defenses honest and will give the offense a way to grind out games when ahead.

    Hopefully, Penny will also ensure Wilson isn't subjected to as many hits in 2018.

    Contribution Level: High

28. Pittsburgh Steelers S Terrell Edmunds

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    Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

    The Pittsburgh Steelers defense wasn't the same after it lost linebacker Ryan Shazier to injury last season. Shazier had the speed, range and instincts to defend the run and the pass anywhere between the sidelines—and there's no guarantee the Steelers will ever see him on the playing field again.

    That is why drafting former Virginia Tech safety Terrell Edmunds made sense. He has a good combination of size (6'1", 217 lbs), speed (4.47), change-of-direction ability and instincts to eventually be a Shazier-type player.

    According to ESPN's Jeremy Fowler, the Steelers have already been introducing Edmunds to the linebacker position.

    It's going to take time for Edmunds to be a game-changing player, though. He is raw as a cover man, misses far too many open-field tackles and can be overpowered by stronger ball-carriers. Perhaps this is why Bleacher Report's Matt Miller ranked 10 other safeties from this class ahead of him.

    Edmunds is going to have to improve his tackling and his coverage instincts before he'll be an every-down player. His speed and athleticism will help him contribute in second-level coverage, but he isn't likely to be the complete defender Pittsburgh needs for another season or two.

    Contribution Level: Medium

29. Jacksonville Jaguars DT Taven Bryan

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    When you have one of the deepest rosters in the league, you can afford to spend a first-round pick on a position in which you're already deep. That's what the Jacksonville Jaguars did when they picked up former Florida defensive tackle Taven Bryan.

    With Marcell Dareus, Abry Jones, Malik Jackson, Dante Fowler Jr., Yannick Ngakoue and Calais Campbell in the group, the Jaguars have perhaps the best collection of defensive talent in the NFL. They essentially have two starting-caliber units, and Bryan is going to have a difficult time cracking the rotation early.

    This is OK, though, because Jacksonville will have the time to develop a player who could be a defensive star in the future.

    "He's starter-level talent, but I don't think that is going to be next year. He's out here getting by on his AA [athletic ability], but he doesn't have enough feel for the game yet," an NFC Scout said of Bryan, per Zierlein. "That doesn't happen overnight."

    Expect Bryan to see a significant role in the future, perhaps next year when it's more financially feasible to part with Dareus. For now, though, expect him to be a role player.

    Contribution Level: Low

30. Minnesota Vikings CB Mike Hughes

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    Jim Mone/Associated Press

    Not many teams can afford to use a first-round pick on a cornerback and then put him into a depth role. Not many teams have the cornerback talent of the Minnesota Vikings, though.

    Xavier Rhodes has developed into one of the NFL's best cornerbacks. Trae Waynes is a notch below Rhodes but is still a high-end starting corner. Minnesota also has 15-year veteran Terence Newman.

    As a team, Minnesota allowed just 192.4 passing yards per game last season, second-fewest in the NFL.

    Central Florida cornerback Mike Hughes is going to be a bonus. However, it is a smart move for a team looking to overcome the Eagles in the NFC.

    Despite having one of the best pass defenses in the NFL, the Vikings were torched by Eagles quarterback Nick Foles in the NFC title game. Foles completed 78.8 percent of his passes for 352 yards and three touchdowns.

    Hughes has the physical tools to develop into a starting outside corner. As a rookie, though, he'll probably play primarily in nickel and dime packages. He may not rack up the stats to get Defensive Rookie of the Year consideration, but he'll help ensure third and fourth receivers don't tear apart Minnesota's defense when he's on the field.

    Contribution Level: Medium

31. New England Patriots RB Sony Michel

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    The Patriots surprised plenty of people when they took former Georgia running back Sony Michel with the 31st overall pick. New England has recently utilized a committee approach to its backfield, which already had James White, Mike Gillislee, Rex Burkhead, Brandon Bolden and Jeremy Hill.

    Still, there's reason to like the idea of Michel sharing the backfield with Tom Brady.

    "He's a very physical guy for a guy who's really good in the open field," running backs coach Ivan Fears said, per Doug Kyed of "Most of those guys are scat-back guys. He's very productive in the open field. And he's also very productive inside, because he's got some stout to him."

    At 5'11" and 214, Michel is a physical runner. However, he has enough agility and quickness to hit the edge and pick up chunks of yards in open space. Last season, he compiled 1,227 yards rushing and an impressive 7.9 yards per carry.

    Michel should become New England's primary ball-carrier, with players like White and Burkhead serving in receiving and situational roles. Hie presence could be enough to push both Gillislee and Hill off the roster. If he does, he should have little trouble approaching 1,000 yards on the ground as a rookie.

    Contribution Level: High

32. Baltimore Ravens QB Lamar Jackson

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    While the earlier selection of Hayden Hurst was made to help put some receiving talent around Joe Flacco, the selection of former Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson is all about ending the Flacco era.

    Jackson has as high an upside as any signal-caller in this draft class. He possesses a rare combination of arm talent, field-general skills and elite athleticism. The perception that Jackson is a runner who can also throw is misguided—you don't pass for more than 3,500 yards in back-to-back seasons by accident—but he can decimate defenses with Michael Vick-like speed.

    While the Ravens aren't going to play Jackson at receiver (that's more misguided nonsense), we could see him in sub-packages. This would help bolster the Baltimore offense and help Jackson adjust to the speed of the NFL game.

    It is going to take time for Jackson to adjust too. He needs to work on his mechanics and is likely at least a year away from being ready to lead an NFL franchise. Fortunately, Jackson landed with a team that won't need to rush him into the starting role.

    In a couple of years, Jackson may be the best signal-caller from this draft class. As a rookie, though, he's going to give occasional flashes of what he can become and not much more.

    Contribution Level: Low


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