Right after the NFL draft ends every year, I release a trio of pieces in which I take a stab at picking players who seem bound to make an early impact. That can be a little tricky because we still see a number of personnel moves, but I think most hold up pretty well. Here are this year's from Round 1, Rounds 2 and 3 and Rounds 4-7.
For this, I'm doing something a little different.
The aforementioned lists of early-impact players is where I look at rookies stepping into massive personnel voids. Tavon Austin is a perfect case: St. Louis lost Danny Amendola and was desperate for that slot guy, someone who could create space. They dealt up to get Austin before the Jets could. Square void, square peg.
For this, I want to focus on two other key concepts:
1. The rookie has a good chance to start or get a lot of reps, but …
2. The rookie also has good support or players around him.
It's not just a void, it's a chance to succeed while learning on the job.
We talk about this all the time with QBs -- that the system you enter and the support you get are as important as the opportunity itself. Both go a long way in determining guys entering other systems, as well.
Here are some picks on offense and defense. And again, if it's purely about early impact, make sure to check those other pieces, as well. A few months later, most of it holds up.
Montee Ball, RB, Denver
It's easy to say Ball is just a classic "instant impact" player because Willis McGahee is no longer around and incumbents Ronnie Hillman and Knowshon Moreno aren't really complete backs, but I think the setting is particularly ideal. With the addition of Wes Welker, defenses can practically throw away the idea of sitting in a base look against the Broncos. And no QB in the league is smarter about checking into runs when the matchup suits than Peyton Manning. Yes, he's a thrower, but Manning can help maximize his rookie running back. And remember, this team should have the chance to play on some leads, so (fantasy alert!) you can see some yards coming there, as well.