With the NFL season fast approaching, it’s time to identify which rookies should be on your watch list. As well as those who you might be waiting a while to make a considerable contribution to your team. The NFC East will be one of the more compelling divisions this year, as the Cowboys seem to have fallen back a little to the rest of the division this offseason. The Eagles, who barely missed the playoffs a year ago will be looking to reclaim their perch, pun intended, at the top of the division. Big Blue and Washington will be looking to climb out of the cellar after a rough 2014 for both teams. Let’s start from the bottom up, the Washington Redskins.
Impact Rookie: Brandon Scherff, OT Iowa
Scherff was picked #5 overall, and will be one of the leaders on the offense this season. His tenacity and violent nature will serve the Redskins will in the running game, which must be improved for better Quarterback play, and in turn, improved play as a whole by the Skins. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Scherff end up in the Pro Bowl as a rookie, the kid is a natural.
Delayed Impact: Jamison Crowder, WR Duke
Crowder was picked very early in the 4th round, and the quickster out of Duke was a sexy pick, as his highlight reels are full of him juking defenders and leaving them chasing. Crowder’s diminutive stature could cause him to be beat up a bit early in his NFL days. Some time in an NFL weight room would definitely benefit him. I’m not saying he won’t contribute early, but I don’t anticipate it.
Diamond in the Rough: Evan Spencer, WR Ohio State
Maybe even more than Scot McCloughan likes selecting tough guys, he selects winners. And nobody won more last year than the Buckeyes. Evan Spencer was a key piece to them winning the National Championship, even if he wasn’t the flashy name. Spencer won’t be expected to do much as a 6th round pick, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he doesn’t become an excellent Special Teamer right away, and eventually work his way onto the field as a Wide Receiver.
New York Giants
Impact Rookie: Landon Collins, S Alabama
With the absense of Will Hill and Antrel Rolle in the past two offseasons, the Giants have seen a strength become a weakness in the back of the secondary. Widely regarded to be the best Safety in this year’s class, the Giants moved up to get him at #33. Look for Collins’ pedigree to make him a leader on the defense from Day 1. His in the box instincts will help slow down the running games of Philly and Dallas.
Delayed Impact: Ereck Flowers, OT Miami (FL)
I made some pretty outlandish statements after Day 1 of the draft on Twitter, but this pick still floors me. Flowers is a massive man who moves pretty well for his size, but he is so raw that I was shocked that he was picked in the 1st round, much less the Top 10. Flowers is not ready technique wise to play Tackle right away. He could see time at Guard, but unlike Scherff, you drafted him to play Tackle, not Guard. This pick astounds me, as Flowers is still a year or two away from any real contribution.
Diamond in the Rough: Bobby Hart, OG Florida State
Speaking of people who could contribute at Guard right away, Bobby Hart was selected in the 7th round, but it more likely to contribute immediately in New York. Hart played Right Tackle at FSU, but a combination of being heavy footed and a waist-bender, will kick Hart to the interior in the NFL. I expected Hart to be selected earlier than this, and wouldn’t be surprised to even see him win a starting spot at Right Guard this season.
Impact Rookie: Nelson Agholor, WR USC
I don’t know if there was a better “fit” in the 1st round than Agholor for Chip Kelly’s Offense. He will thrive in the slot, and reminds me a lot of Jeremy Maclin. I would almost be surprised if Agholor doesn’t lead the league’s rookies in receptions and yards. He’s a fluid athlete thrown into the machine that is this offense. Another Pac 12 piece for Chip.
Delayed Impact: Jordan Hicks, LB Texas
Hicks was a bit of a surprise 3rd round pick. He was a very impressive athlete at Texas, and an elite recruit coming out of High School, however injuries delayed his impact at Texas. His Senior season was the only year he was able to stay healthy for the full season. I also don’t know exactly where he fits in the Eagles’ 3-4 defense. Likely he’ll begin as a sub package, Nickel coverage Linebacker. If he doesn’t get playing time in that role, it could be a while before he makes a significant impact.
Diamond in the Rough: JaCorey Shepherd, CB Kansas
Shepherd stood out on a very porous Jayhawk defense. He has the height and length that Kelly looks for in his Cornerbacks. The Eagles have completely retooled their secondary, and Shepherd will be fighting for some of the time not occupied by Byron Maxwell and Walter Thurmond. Shepherd should have gone before the 6th round, and he should show that this season.
Impact Rookie: La’el Collins, OG LSU
This is the only undrafted rookie that I will write about in these previews, but this is a special circumstance. Collins would have been selected in the 1st round if not for the legal investigation that was going on during the draft. Collins is simply a supplement to the best Offensive Line in the NFL. The Cowboys got Byron Jones and Randy Gregory early in this year’s draft, but Collins was arguably their biggest addition. I’d be shocked if Collins’ rookie season isn’t very similar to teammate Zack Martin’s from a year ago; ending at the Pro Bowl.
Delayed Impact: Chaz Green, OT Florida
Chaz Green was selected in the 3rd round, a position where usually the player is expected to be pretty productive. However, with how good the Cowboys are up front, Green is simply a luxury pick. The ultra-athletic Tackle is really being groomed to take over for Doug Free when his contract runs out. So, barring injury, don’t expect Green to get much playing time outside of garbage time if the ‘Boys are up big late.
Diamond in the Rough: Ryan Russell, DE Purdue
At first glance, you see Greg Hardy and Randy Gregory as additions at Defensive End from this offseason, so a 5th rounder at that position might be an afterthought. However, with Hardy suspended for the first 10 games, and Gregory a relatively unknown commodity until he displays consistent weight, Russell could be a contender to make an impact early. He won’t overwhelm anyone as a pass rusher, but he’s a solid run defender who plays within himself. He was a nice value in the 5th.
The NFC East will be one of the more compelling divisions in football this season, and these rookies are part of the reason why. Keep your heads up, people. Only a month and some change until the Preseason starts.