NFL Draft Predictions: Players That Can Contribute Immediately
by Trevor Whenham - 4/26/2011
Different teams have different priorities in the NFL Draft. Some teams are desperate for a player that can make them better right away, while others have the luxury of picking the most talented player even if it will require time and patience before the investment pays off. For the teams that are looking for an immediate impact, here my NFL Draft predictions for the five likely first round picks that are most immediately ready to contribute as soon as the season starts (whenever that is):
Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU — Patterson is attractive to teams for one big reason — he’s the best athlete in the draft. He’s also a diverse player who can fill a lot of roles. It can be tough for a cornerback to step right into the NFL and contribute immediately because of the athleticism and size of receivers and the complexity of offenses. Peterson may take a while to get up to speed at that position, but he’ll still make an impact literally form the opening kickoff. Peterson is by far the best kick returner in the draft, and has a good chance to be a true game changer at the position like we have seen in guys like Devin Hester. The change in kickoff location could have a bit of an impact on the significance of kick returners, but teams will still be in the market for a guy who can generate strong field position consistently. When that guy also has a chance to be a top-level corner then it’s a no-brainer for a lot of teams.
A.J. Green, WR, Georgia — It’s not often that a receiver is a contributor right away, but then it’s not often that a guy with the tools that Green has is available. Green has prototypical size and speed, and he already looks like an NFL receiver — both physically and in how he runs routes and deals with the ball. Green is going to be a gift to a team if they have a solid quarterback option for him to work with. He could be a No. 1 if he absolutely had to, but he’d be far better suited as a No. 2 option so the pressure on him isn’t as intense and he can get up to speed. He’s the only receiver in this draft who is very likely to look like he belongs from the start.
Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama — It’s a really lousy running back class, but as a Heisman Trophy winner Ingram obviously has some game. He’s likely to fall to the bottom end of the first round. That means he’s likely to wind up on a decent team. There have been concerns about Ingram’s speed, but he didn’t have blistering speed when he won the Heisman, either. There is no reason Ingram can’t be plugged in as part of a solid running game behind a good line and be expected to produce strong results. There’s another factor as well — he’s likely to be operating with a chip on his shoulder. Despite all he has accomplished, he’s all but a forgotten man in this draft. I think he’s capable of using that as a motivating factor.
Von Miller, LB, Texas A&M — Miller is a ridiculous athlete, but he has the accomplishments to match that potential as well. There isn’t a better pass rusher in the draft. Miller will likely line up as a pass rushing linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. There are slightly fewer other responsibilities there than there is for a rushing lineman, so it can be easier for Miller to contribute right away. Miller also has a good head for coverage, and it isn’t going to take long for him to get up to speed there. He can be disruptive form his first snap. It gets really interesting when you consider that Buffalo is looking more and more like his likely destination. Their defense was designed to have a rushing linebacker, but Aaron Maybin has been disappointing in that role. Miller could step right in the role, His teammates wouldn’t have to adjust, and the impact could be immediate and impressive.
Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama — Ndamukong Suh showed us last year just how much of an impact an outstanding DT can have as a rookie. Dareus may be just a touch behind Suh, but he has a whole lot going for him. He’s ridiculously athletic for his size, he’s very versatile in terms of schemes and roles, he has a strong football IQ, and he is almost entirely without baggage. Dareus is a guy who is going to play every down. That might not be the case right out of the gate, but there doesn’t seem to be any reason that he can’t be an important part of a rotation form stage one. He’s not going to be a liability against the run or the pass, and he’s talented enough to start finding holes in offensive lines from the start.
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