10 NFL Rookies Who Will Make Waves in 2013
2013 NFL Season: 10 NFL Rookies Who Will Light It Up
Teams spend the entire year watching, evaluating and debating which player will give them the best opportunity to improve towards the ultimate goal of a Super Bowl. When draft day finally arrives, the war room's of each team are abuzz. Even though they've put in so much work and have their big boards assembled and awaiting their time on the clock, emotion can sometimes get the best of them because they all know that no matter how much work is done, it's a bit of crapshoot on if the player is going to be successful.
Teams reach for players all the time, while the smart organizations pick the player with the highest value at their selection. Ultimately, though, where a player gets drafted doesn't matter. Whether the player's the No. 1 pick or "Mr. Irrelevant," they all go into camp trying to prove they deserve not only a roster spot, but playing time on Sundays, the only difference is the amount of pressure to succeed for the individual.
Over the next 10 slides, I offer 10 rookies who are going to start at some point, some obvious and some not, and really exceed expectations when that opportunity is given.
For my purposes, offensive lineman, despite being three of the first four picks in the draft, will be excluded because even though Luke Joeckel or Eric Fisher could end up being the best players from this rookie class, it's hard to define what an O-lineman needs to do to "light it up."
Keenan Allen, WR, San Diego Chargers
Keenan Allen was drafted in the third round of this year's draft, however, he was at one time thought of as a first round talent. Over the past two seasons at the University of California, Allen caught 159 passes for 2,080 yards and 12 touchdowns. Also, at 6-foot-2 and 206-pounds, he has significant size over most corners. Considering the Chargers only have Malcolm Floyd and Robert Meachem as their top two targets, it shouldn't be long before Allen gets his opportunity to shine.
Eddie Lacy, RB, Green Bay Packers
Eddie Lacy fell much further than most projections had him. Going near the end of the second round has to put a chip on his shoulder. The best thing going for him in this situation, though, is that he was drafted to a team that not only has the best quarterback in the game, Aaron Rodgers, but is also in desperate need of a consistent running back. Lacy can be that guy from day one with the kind of talent he brings to the table. He's also a perfect fit for the Packers because of his solid ability in the passing game as a receiver and blocker.
Arthur Brown, ILB, Baltimore Ravens
Arthur Brown comes into a situation where he really is the only option as the No. 1 inside linebacker on the Ravens. Ray Lewis retired, Dannell Ellerbe went to Miami and Jameel McClain is just recovered from a serious back injury. Again, Brown is another player who many projected to go as high as the teens in the first round, but ended up falling into a great place just like Lacy. The defending champs filled a hole when they drafted Brown, and he won't disappoint.
Geno Smith, QB, New York Jets
The pre-draft consensus was that Geno Smith was the top quarterback prospect. Halfway through Round 1, the Buffalo Bills changed that with the surprise drafting of E.J. Manuel. Smith fell to the second round and was drafted by the Jets. Not that playing for a team without a good offensive line, running game and receivers is a good thing, but they also don't have a good quarterback. That will give Smith the opportunity, even if it isn't on day one of the season. His legs bring big-play ability that Mark Sanchez certainly can't supply, expect a Michael Vick-esque rookie year from Smith -- passing numbers-wise, that is -- as he isn't quite the runner Vick was.
Tyler Eifert, TE, Cincinnati Bengals
Up until the Bengals pick at No. 21, they didn't really have a second option for Andy Dalton after receiver A.J. Green. Because of his size and athleticism, Eifert could very well become that guy in a very short time for Cincy. Eifert and Green will benefit from each other, especially in the red zone. Having two big, athletic options will open the field up a lot for the Bengals' second-year quarterback.
Eric Reid, FS, San Francisco 49ers
Getting Eric Reid was clearly a high priority for the 49ers, as evidenced by their trading up 13 spots in the first round. With the departure of Dashon Goldson this offseason via free agency, Reid is definitely the guy at free safety. Playing behind perhaps the most dominant front seven in the NFL, he'll get a plenty of chances to show how good he can be.
Jarvis Jones, LB, Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers were flat out lucky that Jarvis Jones fell all the way to pick 19. James Harrison was picked up by the rival Bengals and they were in need of shoring up that level of their defense. Having the combination of Jones, LaMarr Woodley and Lawrence Timmons as three of their four starting linebackers will be just as frightening as before for opposing offenses. Jones is in position for a monster 2013.
E.J. Manuel, QB, Buffalo Bills
E.J. Manuel was one of the biggest surprises of the draft. Not only was he selected in the first round, which no one saw coming, but he was the first quarterback taken when most projected him as the No. 4 or 5 signal-caller at best in the 2013 class. Manuel is a physical specimen. He stands 6-foot-4 and 237-pounds, and also ran a fantastic 40-time at 4.7 seconds. He was also immensely successful at Florida State. The Buffalo Bills options at QB are terrible, Kevin Kolb or Tarvaris Jackson. My guess is that Manuel gets the keys to the ship from day one and has a lot more success in his first season than some people think. He's a proven winner and has all the physical tools you want in an NFL quarterback.
Tavon Austin, WR, St. Louis Rams
Tavon Austin is one of my favorite players in this year's draft. He's in the mold of Randall Cobb and Percy Harvin. Can he be just as successful? The answer: yes. Austin has big-play capability at all times. The only question mark that stands in the way is will Sam Bradford improve with him or continue to disappoint as the Rams starting QB? Only time will tell, but with Jake Long now his left tackle, protection will be much improved and he'll have a fair shot to prove himself. Ultimately, that is a major plus for Austin in his initial season.
Dion Jordan, OLB/DE, Miami Dolphins
Dion Jordan is undersized at only 248-pounds. However, he's an athletic freak. Whether he lines up at outside linebacker or defensive end won't matter, he'll be too quick on the outside for lineman, and quarterbacks will hate playing Miami this year. Him and Cameron Wake will make one the most terrifying pass rushing duos for the next few seasons at least, and that begins this September.
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