- Mel Kiper Jr., Football analyst
More Kiper NFL draft content:
Yesterday I looked at players I feel can have an early impact after being taken in Round 1. My guess is that sent off a torrent of eye rolls. Of course a guy taken in the first round will have an early impact, you said.
But this is a progression, so let's look at Rounds 2 and 3. As a comparison, last year 17 of the 32 picks from Round 1 appeared or started in at least 15 games. From Rounds 2 and 3, the number was 22 players. So while the percentage per round dips sharply, there's still a lot of impact to be found.
Andy Dalton, Torrey Smith, Jabaal Sheard, DeMarco Murray, Greg Little, Brooks Reed and a number of others provided solid impact as rookies after being taken in these rounds last season. Here's a look at players from this year's draft who could see action and help teams early on:
TE Coby Fleener, Colts
The thought was this pick would define which direction the Colts were going in the draft. Would they be satisfied with Andrew Luck as the new face of the offense and then get back to helping a leaky defense? Or would they wait on defense and find help for Luck? The Colts clearly figured: (A) They wouldn't get a second chance to get Luck off to a good start; and (B) as a team they had the ball a league-worst 43.7 percent of the time in 2011. The defense isn't good, but the offense was as bad as any team's but St. Louis last year. If the offense can stay on the field, the defense will look better. More than a possession tight end, Fleener has sub-4.5 speed, and he will be split out. It's a leap in levels, but he and Luck will have the advantage of familiarity. He also has a knack for staying on the field, having played in 51 straight games at Stanford. He could top 50 catches in 2012.
15hEric D. Williams