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Arizona Cardinals

NFL Top-10 Rookies with Positive Upsides/Impacts

By Chris Madden

Ezekiel Elliott– Dallas Cowboys

It is safe to say that the Dallas Cowboys were in need of a running back after letting Demarco Murray go to the Eagles. Elliott is by far the best running back in this draft, providing not only exceptional running and cutting ability, but also has soft hands for great out of the backfield catches.

Elliott promises to be a great addition to the Cowboys team, and could easily have a 1000+ yard season behind that incredible offensive line. The only questions about him have surrounded his trust in coaching staff and play calling. I imagine he will be able to be a team player and work well with the Cowboy’s organization. In my mind he will be the difference between who wins their division. If everyone stays healthy and he provides the work-load he is capable of, it could be a very good year for Cowboy fans.

 Ryan Kelly– Indianapolis Colts

There may be no safer bet with a first round pick than an Alabama offensive lineman. They are grown men to say the least, and if you pay attention to college football at all; you know they can block like it’s their jobs, literately. The Colts were one of the bigger disappointments last year considering their star quarterback Andrew Luck and offensive power of TY Hilton and Andre Johnson. It is expected that the Colts will do better this season, but that starts with the offensive protection. Kelly can provide the protection Colt fans were used to seeing from greats like Jeff Saturday; back in the Peyton Manning glory days.

His time at Alabama was obviously great, considering he was the leader of an offensive line that lead a running back to win a Heisman Trophy as well as a National Championship. He very well could be a franchise type offensive lineman and will make a huge impact this season with the Colts.

Joey Bosa– San Diego Chargers

The highly anticipated defensive lineman is the optimal draft pick for any team in need of stability on the defensive side of the ball. Bosa’s career at Ohio State was nothing short of exceptional, but his future looks to be even brighter.

Joey is known as having a strong work ethic and a heavy drive in his abilities on the field. In an organization like San Diego, which hasn’t really seemed to find its stride, it opens the door for someone like Bosa to absolutely shine. His production could be very promising given their weak division and his personal ability to shutdown star offensive players.

Roberto Aguayo– Tampa Bay Buccaneers

If there was a kick that needed to be made, I would put my money on this kid every single time. At Florida State, Aguayo was “Mr. Dependable” considering he was practically perfect during his collegiate career. His sole miss in the 2015-16 season was a block from Georgia Tech to lose the game.

Aguayo will make an immediate impact in Tampa because of his absolute powerhouse of a leg. He has the ability to sink kickoffs to the back of the end zone, as well as consistently hit high pressured field goals. He is an obvious pick for any team that doesn’t have a stud kicker, and Tampa has their kicker locked in for the next 10+ years I believe.

Shaq Lawson– Buffalo Bills

Lawson has had a fantastic collegiate career at Clemson and didn’t shock anyone when he went off the draft board in the first round. His size is perfect for filling holes and shooting gaps against offenses in just about any formation. His strength will allow him to match up well against the NFL’s best linemen as well.

Lawson looks to be an immediate impact player with a Buffalo Bills team that is desperate for improvement. Sitting in a lull in their division, the Bills are in need of several guys, like Lawson to step up this season and provide sold production. Shaq has the ability to have a double digit sack season and with the right attitude and work ethic could find his way on the AFC All-Pro team.

Cyrus Jones– New England Patriots

Like any other Alabama defender, it isn’t a wasted pick. Jones is a freak athlete with the ability to shut down anyone in his way. His unbelievable speed matched with his incredible size makes him a nightmare for the teams he will face.

On a team like the Patriots, who arguably have the best coached defense in the league, can use someone with his skill-set in so many different ways. Not only is he great in coverage, man or zone, he can also blitz with the best of them. I expect he will have a decent role in their defensive scheme as well as special teams in the coming season.

 Jared Goff– Los Angeles Rams

The good thing about this pick is that Goff is ready to play from day-1. The rams have a decent running game and defensively seem to be getting it together. This is the perfect situation for Jared Goff because he has less things to worry about. His pocket presence and awareness are going to allow him to perform well in a Rams offense that he already fits fairly decent. His quick release will also allow him to be prepared to play on opening day, where some other first round quarterbacks are going to need help adjusting to the game.

Goff may not be the franchise, all in all quarterback, the Rams are hoping for. But he has potential to be a solid quarterback for this team as well as provide their offense with some direction as they take on the return to Los Angeles.

Robert Nkemdiche– Arizona Cardinals

At one time he was projected to be the first overall pick in the draft, but now shows the potential to have been the biggest late 1st round grab in recent memory. He is ready to start as soon as he laces those cleats up, and with an Arizona defense that is about one player away from being the best in the league, Nkemdiche is most likely that guy.

His size and speed will help fill the holes and he also provides an exceptional pass rush that will be a nightmare for non-mobile quarterbacks. His only red flags are his off the field decisions. Hopefully someone like Dwight Freeney or another veteran around the organization will keep him in line and help him develop not only as a player but as a man in the crazy world that is professional sports.

 Will Fuller– Houston Texans

It is no surprise that the Texans need help scoring, and with the trade of their former franchise receiver Andre Johnson, it didn’t look as though they were going to move forward anytime soon. A first round pick of Clemson wide out DeAndre Hopkins has turned out to be a phenomenal pick, as he has emerged as one of the more consistent receivers in the league and the clear franchise favorite in Houston. But like any good offensive scheme there needs to be another wide out to balance the offensive approach; and they have found that in Will Fuller.

Fuller, who played at Notre Dame, shows a solid amount of NFL promise as well as the work ethic needed to be an above average receiver at the next level. I can see Fuller providing quite the offensive production as teams are going to look towards doubling Hopkins this coming season.

Eli Apple– New York Giants

Apple had a great career with the Ohio State Buckeyes and can be an immediate impact player at the next level. His unmatched ability to shut down receivers puts him on a fast track to make offensive coordinators shake in their shoes.

On a “rebuilding” Giants defense, there is plenty of room for someone with Apple’s experience and skill to step in on day-1 and snag a starting role. He is also going to help tremendously with the Giant’s special team unit, providing speed and aggressiveness that every coach dreams of.


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