With the NFL Draft over, now it’s time for some speculation. Evaluating winners and losers in fun, but the real draft winners can only be determined 5 years from now (remember when everyone said former Texans DE Mario Williams was a bust after 1 season?). What it’s easiest to determine is which 5 rookies will have the most impact on their team’s success. I will leave out quarterbacks, because the starting QB’s success is usually directly correlated with their team’s success.
- Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia/ St. Louis Rams.
Austin was picked by the Rams in the first round of the draft. He was widely regarded as the most dynamic/ explosive player in the whole draft (and all of college football last year). He will fill the need of the Ram’s slot WR, but he can do so much more and the Rams will find exotic ways to get the ball to Austin in space. Austin is number 1 on my list for a reason, he will have such a great impact on the Rams that the Rams’ success will be contingent upon how well Austin plays (bold prediction, I know).
- Johnathan Franklin, RB, UCLA/ Green Bay Packers
Surprise, Surprise. My top rated RB is not the first RB taken. In fact, this RB went in the 4th round. Additionally, this Franklin was not even the first RB selected by the Packers this year. But he will have a bigger impact. Sometimes it’s better to have an RB that fits the system rather than having a much more talented RB that doesn’t. The Packers took Alabama RB Eddie Lacy (widely regarded as the best RB in the draft) in the 2nd round, a much more talented and well-rounded running back. But, Franklin fits the system so well, that most analysts project him to make more of an impact than Lacy. Franklin fits the one-cut scheme the Packers like to run and can even be a cornerstone for that offense along with QB Aaron Rodgers and WR Randall Cobb.
- La’Veon Bell, RB, Michigan State/ Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers have been lacking a legitimate running threat in recent years. That’s why they drafted Bell (who was surprisingly the first RB taken this year). Bell is a bigger RB but also is surprisingly fast for a man his size. Also with his size comes great power, and goal line situations are when Bell excels. Bell is also a good receiver out of the backfield.
- Kenny Vaccarro, S, Texas/ New Orleans Saints
Vaccarro was on of my favorite prospects coming into the draft. He was the first safety taken in the draft and was selected by the Saints, who are in dire need of secondary help. Vaccarro will be the perfect complement to FS Malcom Jenkins. Vaccarro can also play CB if needed. He will be a staple in a struggling, rebuilding defense for years to come.
- Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford/ Philadelphia Eagles
Okay, this may be me being overly optimistic, but I think that Ertz can make a huge impact this season. He was arguably the best TE in the draft and the second one taken, in the early second round. Ertz is a high-effort player that works very hard blocking. He excels in the passing game, where he is sure handed and a good route runner. He has a very unique skill set (drawing comparisons to New England’s TE Aaron Hernandez) and it will be very interesting to see how Head Coach Chip Kelly will use him.
I know that 4 of these 5 players play on offense, and I do realize that these 5 may not have the biggest impact on their teams next season, but these players will have the greatest quantifiable impact on their teams (and offensive production is easy to evaluate). Players like Chiefs’ Eric Fisher, Jaguars’ Luke Joeckel, and Eagles Lane Johnson will have the biggest impacts, but it will be hard to quantify because they all play line positions. Regardless, for fantasy purposes, if nothing else, these 5 listed players will have the biggest impact.