Commentary

Draft: Early-impact players in Round 1

Aldon Smith shouldn't be overlooked, and Cam Newton could be involved early

Originally Published: May 2, 2011
By Mel Kiper Jr. | ESPN Insider
Aldon Smith and A.J. GreenUS PresswireOne was called a steal, the other a slight reach. Both should make an early impact.

Fans' excitement about the NFL draft often elicits a question that can darken the mood: Even though my team had a great draft, if it has to use some of these guys right away, it's probably not too good, right? Plus, even the best picks, great players picked to fill need positions, face a difficult transition. People always talk about quarterbacks, but every NFL system offers levels of complexity.

You could be the best left tackle in college football, but you didn't face Dick LeBeau's calculated blitz schemes. And although he has some good young ones, Andy Reid has said it takes a few years for a wide receiver to truly grasp route-running at the NFL level. These kinds of examples dot the field. Still, we know some rookies will shine. Here are the guys from Round 1 who I think can make an impact early in their careers. We'll hit Rounds 2 and 3 on Tuesday and Rounds 4 through 7 on Wednesday.


OFFENSE


A.J. Green, WR, Cincinnati Bengals (Round 1, No. 4)

The impact: Say what you will about what Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco didn't do for the Bengals last year; the stat line says they caught 139 passes. Into that (almost-certain) void steps Green, the best wideout in the draft. Green can make all the plays and will draw bracket coverage early in his career as teams try to minimize what he does down the field. He's as ready as any player in the draft to help a team, but …

The hurdle: Who will throw him passes? If Carson Palmer is gone, will the Bengals have a quarterback who can get Green the ball? On one hand, Green is exactly the player who should make Palmer want to stick around; on the other hand, didn't the Bengals draft a successor with Andy Dalton in Round 2?

Mel Kiper Jr.

Football analyst