Here’s our early look and predictions for potential top rookie performers in the 2010 season:
QB Jimmy Clausen, Carolina Panthers
Not only is Clausen the most NFL-ready of any rookie quarterback coming into the league, he also comes into a great situation in terms of team/talent. I expect him to win the starting quarterback job early in his rookie year – if not right out of camp — and instantly complete a high percentage of throws behind a capable Carolina run game. Clausen should be an instant upgrade at the QB spot for the Panthers.
RB Jahvid Best, Detroit Lions
A dynamic open-field runner who showcases impressive vision and patience when asked to run between the tackles. Should be the Lions’ lead back on opening day.
FB John Conner, New York Jets
A tough, powerful lead blocker who’s a team-first guy. Conner should pave the way for one of the league’s best running games in 2010.
WR Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys
Say what you want about Bryant and his immaturity, but he’s one of the most talented wide receiver prospects to come along in years and should be an instant impact guy in the Cowboys’ high-powered passing game.
WR Eric Decker, Denver Broncos
He’s smart and savvy and is a much better athlete than given credit for. I don’t think he has the long-term upside of some of the other top-tier wideouts in the class, but he should be able to come in and quickly be productive working the middle of the field.
TE Aaron Hernandez, New England Patriots
Hernandez couldn’t have found a better home. He’ll consistently be asked to line up off the line, get down the field and create mismatches in the pass game. Should end up being one of the most productive pass catchers to come out of the class, regardless of position.
<p> OL Russell Okung, Seattle Seahawks
Starts what should be a very good career anchoring the blind side of the Seahawks’ O-line.
OL Maurkice Pouncey, Pittsburgh Steelers
Looks like an instant starter for the Steelers inside. Could end up playing at a very high level early in his NFL career.
OL Mike Iupati, San Francisco 49ers
Might have some growing pains early but has a skill set that’s second to none. Once the light goes on, watch out.
OL Rodger Saffold, St. Louis Rams
An instant starter up front for the Rams. He should quickly mature into one of, if not their most, efficient offensive linemen.
OL John Jerry, Miami Dolphins
It’s only a matter of time before he starts at guard for the Dolphins and paves the way for their run game inside. Looks like one of the real gems of the offensive line class.
DL Terrence Cody, Baltimore Ravens
He might not produce eye-popping stats at any point in his career, but Cody is a guy who will eat up blocks inside and make everyone else’s job that much easier.
DL Brandon Graham, Philadelphia Eagles
The draft’s most NFL-ready pass rusher. Graham should be able to come in, win a starting job on the Eagles’ D-line and create havoc on third downs.
DL Lamarr Houston, Oakland Raiders
I love the idea of moving Houston outside to play the end spot in the Raiders’ 4-3 defense to help against the run. He has the ability to anchor on first and second downs with the first step and power to create a push vs. the pass.
DL Ndamukong Suh, Detroit Lions
Sure, he’s going to attract a ton of attention inside. However, the presence of a guy like Suh will help lead the revival of the Lions’ defensive line.
LB Rolando McClain, Oakland Raiders
A massive, instinctive downhill backer who would be my bet to lead all rookies in tackles in 2010.
LB Jason Worilds, Pittsburgh Steelers
His first-step burst and overall athleticism will make him an instant threat on the Pittsburgh defense off the edge.
LB Jermaine Cunningham, New England Patriots
Cunningham is one guy who really flew under the radar all draft season. However, he’s an explosive, coordinated athlete who should be able to step in and instantly improve the Pats’ ability to reach the passer on third downs.
DB Eric Berry, Kansas City Chiefs
How could we leave this guy off the list? He’s got the skill set needed to redirect and track the football in space, plus he’s one of the most instinctive defensive backs to come along in years.
DB Nate Allen, Philadelphia Eagles
Possesses the footwork and body control of a cornerback and is a real ballhawk in the secondary.
DB T.J. Ward, Cleveland Browns
A small, but mighty striker who loves to throw his body around and should mature into a sound three-down safety in the NFL.
DB Devin McCourty, New England Patriots
He may lack elite quick-twitch ability when asked to get back up to speed, but he’s technically sound, physical off the line and knows how to play the football, which makes him a great fit in New England’s secondary.
Follow me on Twitter: @WesBunting