Fins' Jordan leads rising rookies

Early struggles should give way to success for several first-rounders

Updated: September 30, 2013, 4:52 PM ET
By Mel Kiper Jr. | ESPN Insider

Dion Jordan AP Photo/Alan DiazDolphins rookie Dion Jordan just needs more time to get adjusted to the NFL.

Last week, when I put out my most recent Rookie Rankings, I of course got a lot of feedback about who was missing. But what also surprised some people was how many of the top picks in the draft aren't yet near the top of the rankings. As I look at that group, I think a big reason is these guys are being asked to take on key roles early. While DeAndre Hopkins is playing for a good team in a key role, he's also still splitting targets with Andre Johnson. He's in a great position to succeed.

Meanwhile, while I've heard people say Eric Fisher is "struggling," I think you can only say that based on the expectations placed on a No. 1 overall pick. In fact, Fisher has been just fine and will continue to get better. And remember, he's still getting used to playing on the right side. Same deal for Luke Joeckel.

The important thing is to not let a few early hiccups get blown out of proportion. Teams are still working in rookies -- even the top picks -- and trying to define roles.

Here are five first-rounders who have started quietly but will play bigger and bigger roles. Note that these are all guys not listed on my Rookie Rankings yet.

Dion Jordan, DE, Miami Dolphins

Why a slow start: When Jordan was drafted at No. 3 overall after the Dolphins traded up, it was pretty clear they had some good ideas about how to use the athletic pass-rusher out of Oregon. But, as my colleague Jon Gruden noted (I'm pretty sure with a scowl), Jordan still had to prove he could be a more physical player, particularly against the run. Well, Jordan got only 27 snaps in the first two games, as he was called on as a pass-rusher only.

Why he'll get better: Last week Jordan doubled his snap total, and it did good things for the Miami pass rush. He notched a sack and got after the QB a handful of times. Jordan is simply too quick for some tackles, and he'll have to be the kind of guy you need to hold if you want to stop him. I expect to see the Dolphins use him a lot more, particularly if teams have to play more catch-up against this improved Miami squad.


Mel Kiper Jr.

Football analyst