At this time of year, every first round pick in the NFL Draft looks the part. Quotes from coaches at rookie minicamps are positive. All the talk is about how bright the future of a certain player is.
In a few months, those draft picks become NFL players. The blinders will come off and those rookies will be subject to as much, if not more, scrutiny than any other players on the roster.
Still, not every rookie will be able to make an immediate impact in the NFL. Development happens at different rates, and some guys don't even pan out at all.
For some rookies, we expect that arrival on the big stage to happen sooner than for some others.
Eric Fisher and Luke Joeckel were the first two picks in the 2013 NFL Draft, marking the first time offensive tackles have been taken with the first two picks in draft history. Both will be opening day starters at right tackle, Fisher for the Chiefs and Joeckel for the Jaguars. These two were among the best available players in the draft and provide major upgrades for their respective teams. The right tackle position is becoming increasingly important, and tackles have made quick transitions to the pros in recent years. It's fair to expect both Fisher and Joeckel to excel from day one.
The Rams made a bold move up in the draft to select West Virginia wide receiver Tavon Austin. Sam Bradford has needed weapons since he entered the league, and Austin could be the most gifted playmaker he has ever had at his disposal. Austin's burst and ability in the open field should translate immediately to the next level. While rookie receivers have sometimes struggled, Austin can also impact the game in other roles, like running back and as a return man.
The Ravens wasted no time replacing Ed Reed and Ray Lewis in this year's draft, selecting Florida safety Matt Elam and Kansas State linebacker Arthur Brown with their first two picks. Linebackers have transitioned quickly to the NFL in recent years; Brown has the skill set and instincts to be the next example of that. With Lewis' retirement, Brown will have big shoes to fill, but he has the mentality to be a capable replacement right away.
The Packers running backs
The Green Bay running game was underwhelming in 2012. The revolving door at running back didn't help matters, so Ted Thompson finally addressed the position in the final two days of the draft. Alabama's Eddie Lacy and UCLA's Johnathan Franklin are among the most talented runners in this year's class and complement each other perfectly. With Lacy's bruising inside running style and Franklin's playmaking ability on all three downs, the Packers should finally have some balance on offense.
The Panthers finally addressed the defensive tackle position. Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei was the most talented defensive player available, and Carolina was able to snag him at No. 14. He has the strength and versatility to play all over the defensive line and impact the line of scrimmage. Some question Loutlelei's motor, but he was playing a high amount of snaps for the Utes as a senior. As part of a rotation in Carolina, he should be a difference maker right away, even if it doesn't show up on the stat sheet.
The Houston Texans got just what their offense needed in Clemson wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins. The most pro-ready receiver in the draft, Hopkins runs precise routes, shows terrific body control all over the field, and has consistent hands that Matt Schaub will love. Houston has long needed a legitimate weapon across from Andre Johnson, and Hopkins not only provides that, but also has the ability to fill Johnson's shoes when he begins to slow down in a few years. Expect him to push for rookie of the year.