This year's rookie class won't make the same impact as last year. That's a function of the quality of the group and who was taken early last year. While the 2012 draft started with franchise quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, the top two picks this year – Eric Fisher and Luke Joeckel – will start their career as right tackles. So will fourth overall pick Lane Johnson. Third overall pick, pass rusher Dion Jordan, was injured most of the preseason.
That means he's made no impact, the worst kind of impact of them all. This year's rookies may not have franchise-changing impact like Luck, Griffin or Russell Wilson a year ago. But they will make different types of impact. Here are several I made up for the sole purpose of this entry:
The Rams used a top 10 pick on wide receiver Tavon Austin, which forces impactfulness upon him. That is what happens to wide receivers picked that highly. Think Justin Blackmon, A.J. Green, Julio Jones or Calvin Johnson. Except compared to them, Austin is considerably smaller. But he could do just as much to change his team's offense. Head coach Jeff Fisher ominously said recently that the Rams have a good idea of how versatile Austin will be "but we haven't shown it yet." Receptions, handoffs, trick plays, returns, impact, impact, impact.
Forced impact doesn't just occur for high first-round picks. In Chicago, free agent signing D.J. Williams hasn't played a preseason snap. In an effort to find a replacement for the retired Brian Urlacher, the Bears will look toward Jon Bostic. Considering Bostic has perhaps the impact play of the preseason, and the $21,000 that accompanies it, he seems ready. So does first-round pick Kyle Long. One of the bigger talking points from the first round was the Bears taking the relatively inexperienced Long. But he's making the kind of decleating blocks at right guard that would give superfan Todd O'Connor another heart attack.
Of all types of impact, false impact is the most dangerous. It's deceiving, like the attractiveness of a co-ed after four pitchers of beer. Like in Baltimore, some outsiders are of the belief second round linebacker Arthur Brown was brought in to replace future Hall of Famer Ray Lewis. False! Not only is Brown not replacing Lewis, he plays a completely different position. Veteran Daryl Smith is the unfortunate trivia answer at middle linebacker for the Ravens. Brown is competing with Josh Bynes for the weakside linebacker job, which may only be held warm until Jameel McClain returns from injury. Brown may make an impact, especially on pass downs, but Ray Lewis 2.0 he is not.
Expected unexpected impact
Expected unexpected impact is one of the best types of impact. It's reserved for undrafted rookies who become the favorites of fans. The expectation grows and grows with each preseason snap. This sort of impact is most prevalent in New England. No Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Brandon Lloyd or Wes Welker? No big deal, draft a couple wide receivers in Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce. Bigger deal? Turning undrafted wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins and tight end Zach Sudfeld into fantasy football favorites.
More expected unexpected impact - Undrafted offensive lineman Alvin Bailey has been playing tackle for the Seattle Seahawks after being a stellar guard at Arkansas. He could become a valuable depth piece for the Seahawks. That's right, the Super Bowl contending Seahawks even find impact in undrafted players.
Sudden Impact may be the name of the second-best Dirty Harry movie, but it also properly defines San Francisco 49ers first-round pick Eric Reid. If you've stuck around past that terrible introduction, thank you. The rangy Reid is expected to do big things on a many think will make a Super Bowl run. He was named a starter and will face Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers in Week 1. Speaking of those Packers, they have a sudden impact rookie of their own in running back Eddie Lacy. The Packers haven't had a running back top 1,000 yards since 2009 (Ryan Grant), but Lacy could break that streak. The powerful runner is getting the starting job in Green Bay, so watch for his patented and surprisingly effective spin move.
More sudden impact - As long as he figures out how to pass block, Montee Ball should be the lead running back for the Denver Broncos. Considering it only takes 62.5 yards per game, Ball could be a 1,000-yard rusher as a rookie and help balance Denver's offense.
The New York Jets are a mess. This is the type of Jets news national media will drown you in this year:
- Whether Rex Ryan will be replaced during or after the season. Just yank that Band-Aid now general manager John Idzik.
- Awful quarterback play. As of this writing, the Jets just hilariously signed Brady Quinn. They now have four quarterbacks, none seemingly better than the other. That includes second-round pick Geno Smith, who unfortunately seems to be taking ball placement tips from Mark Sanchez.
- Mark Sanchez hair band analysis.
- "Hey, remember the butt fumble? Yuck, yuck, yuck."
All of this means no one may notice the quiet impact of first-round pick Sheldon Richardson. The best chance the Jets have of not getting the No. 1 pick in next year's draft is their defensive line. Muhammad Wilkerson has quickly become one of the league's best linemen and that should benefit Richardson. Physics (and probably psychics) would suggest a 300-pound man shouldn't be able to move as fluidly as Richardson. But he will be a one-man pass rush and at the least give the Jets one more player to put on next year's media guide cover (it won't be Mark Sanchez).
Fast-forward to Sunday night of Week 1 of the regular season. Did you miss Manti Te'o's routine tackle four yards up the field? Don't worry, because highlight shows will replay it, over and over and over and over again. Coming soon, look for the Manti Te'o chip to implant directly into your brain for the latest news and spectacularly ordinary plays Te'o will make for the San Diego Chargers. Stay tuned for the Tyrann Mathieu and software update. It is a football lobotomy and you don't have a choice.
More over-analyzed impact - Matt Barkley watch 2013: When will the Southern Cal signal caller get the nod in Philadelphia? We don't know now, but if he does, beacons will be lit to announce it.