By Connor Fulton @ConnorFultonRS on July 20, 2014
NFL rookies come in all shapes in sizes. Some are projects, some are media favorites and a select few are poised to make an immediate impact for their respective teams in 2014. Here are the most NFL-ready rookies of the 2014 draft class.
Shazier led all rookies at the combine with a 42-inch vertical jump and recorded a sizzling 4.4-second time in the 40-yard dash. Needless to say, he offers the physical attributes needed for the modern NFL linebacker. With that type of speed, Shazier will be useful in covering tight ends — especially in a division that has Jordan Cameron, Jermaine Gresham and Dennis Pitta.
As long as he has a quarterback who is competent enough to get him the ball, Amaro should be a main contributor as a rookie. He compares to elite tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham in his ability to consistently gain yardage after the catch.
The New England Patriots pulled off one of the draft’s major heists by nabbing Stork in the fourth round. Captain of national champion Florida State, Stork was considered a top center in the country last season. He is as good at picking up blitzes as any rookie offensive lineman and could unseat veteran Ryan Wendell for the starting job.
Forget Johnny Manziel — Bitonio is a very exciting player for the Cleveland Browns. He has a quick burst in running plays and can also quell fierce pass rushers, as he demonstrated against Anthony Barr last season. He can play both guard and tackle, so look for the Browns to employ his services early and often in 2014.
Hyde is a bruiser of a back at 6-foot, 230 pounds. He compares to LeGarrette Blount in his ability to always squeeze out another yard while being tackled. But what makes him truly pro-ready is his pass-catching talent. In an offense that features Stevie Johnson, Michael Crabtree, Anquan Boldin, Brandon Lloyd and Vernon Davis, defenses will lose track of Hyde in the passing game — look for him to capitalize.
Clinton-Dix ought to be a plug-in starter as a rookie because he plays as mistake-free as any defensive back. He rarely misses tackles, and he has excellent range on the back end. Not many ball carriers get by Clinton-Dix and not many passes get lofted over his head.
Often compared to Richard Sherman, Jean-Baptiste is a defensive coordinator’s dream. He has a large frame at 6-foot-4, 218 pounds, which will help him cover big-man receivers in the NFC South like Julio Jones, Kelvin Benjamin and Vincent Jackson.
Producing top-level athletes is nothing new to the Beckham family. Odell’s mother was an All-American sprinter at LSU and his father played on the Tigers’ football team. In addition to his favorable genetics, Beckham Jr. is considered one of the best route-runners to come out of the draft in the past few years.
It’s not exactly an insult when Mike Mayock calls you the most NFL-ready cornerback in the entire draft. Look for the Virginia Tech product to make an impact right away, at least as a nickel corner. Having started 42 games in college, Fuller is physically prepared for the grind of the NFL season.
Speaking of bloodlines, let’s talk about Jake Matthews. His dad Bruce is a Hall of Famer, his uncle Clay Jr. played almost two decades in the NFL and his cousins Clay III and Casey are currently in the league. If Matthews is anything like his relatives — as his top-ten draft status suggests — then he will be a fixture in the Atlanta Falcons’ offensive line right away.
Thought by many draft whizzes to be the best overall defensive back in the 2014 class, Dennard fell into the Cincinnati Bengals’ lap at 24th overall. He brings expertise in both run defense and coverage to an aging Bengals secondary. Dennard is expected to compete with veterans Adam Jones, Terence Newman and Leon Hall in training camp and make a run at a starting position.
Not only did Martin start every game in his Notre Dame career, but he can also play any position on the offensive line. Durability and versatility are a desirable mix for an NFL offensive lineman; the fact that Martin has displayed these traits throughout his collegiate career means he is prepared for the next level.
You don’t get drafted first overall without being ready for the NFL. Clowney has the highest ceiling of any rookie pass rusher in recent memory. He is a matchup nightmare for opposing offensive lines with his combination of size and speed and will be quite the dance partner for J.J. Watt.
Evans will be playing second fiddle to Vincent Jackson, providing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with an intimidating duo of big receivers. Evans fits the description of the Calvin Johnson-type receiver that many teams like to have these days; his 6-foot-5 stature makes him a monster in the red zone.
Where does one start? Mack excels at getting into the backfield and tackling for losses on running plays. His instincts are phenomenal in both phases of the game. The fifth overall pick is a hammer of a hitter and a real game changer of a player. Not only is he ready for the NFL, but Mack is ready for the Defensive Rookie of the Year award as well.
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