Commentary

Top 20 rookies of 2011

It was a battle between Cam Newton, Von Miller and Aldon Smith at the top

Originally Published: February 2, 2012
By Mel Kiper Jr. | ESPN Insider
Cam Newton & Von MillerUS PresswireCam Newton and Von Miller justified their draft selections as the No. 1 and No. 2 picks.

The 2011 NFL draft class thus far has its sleepers, but is also a testament to the fact that players picked high are picked there for a reason. Seven of the top 10 players on this list were off the board before the 12th pick. Of course, those players also have an edge -- you don't get taken high just because you're good, you also are taken with a very specific void to be filled in mind. Stars deeper on the 2011 draft board will continue to emerge for several years.

While Matt Williamson maintains his Rookie Watch all year, it's been a tradition for me to line up my top rookies, so I will. Some keys I look at:

• Overall production
• Presence as a key to winning
• Positional value, or responsibility in the system

I'll also add a note on potential upside. With all that said, here are the top 20 rookies of 2011:

Mel Kiper Jr.

Football analyst