Commentary

Early returns from NFC rookies

What recent acquisitions will mean for certain rookies' playing time in the NFC

Originally Published: August 19, 2011
By Mel Kiper Jr. | ESPN Insider
Cam NewtonSam Sharpe/US PresswireNothing the Panthers have done in free agency is a sure sign Cam Newton will play less.

With the bulk of big free-agency moves behind us, I was asked to reassess what kind of rookie impact we can expect. As we saw for teams such as the Vikings, deals that took place will have a dramatic impact on what you'll see from rookies in the short term.

So let's take a look at the rookies most affected by free agency and trades in the NFC. If you want to catch up on my look at the AFC from last week, that can be found here.

Dallas Cowboys

While the Cowboys surprised me a little bit with their second- and third-round picks, given other needs, I do expect Bruce Carter and DeMarco Murray to help the team as soon as this season, and nothing done in the trade market or free agency changes that. The issue so far is neither has been healthy. So for the real rookie impact, you have to go with No. 9 overall pick Tyron Smith. There was a fear that if Doug Free wasn't kept in the fold, Smith could be forced into immediate duty on the left side, but he'll instead start on the right. He should protect well there, but will need to improve his leverage as a run-blocker.


To read more about how free agency affected this year's NFC rookies and which ones will be seeing lots of early playing time, you must be an ESPN Insider.

Mel Kiper Jr.

Football analyst