The Top Ten Rookies To Watch During the NFL Preseason

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10. Mark Ingram, Running Back, New Orleans Saints (Round 1, Pick 28)

The Saints traded back into the first round to acquire the versatile running back from Alabama.  It is clear after watching Reggie Bush depart the Saints this off season that Sean Payton and company have big plans for Ingram and are hoping that he can make an immediate impact.  He will share carries in the Saints back field with veteran Pierre Thomas, but don’t be surprised if Ingram becomes their main work horse by mid season.

9. Jimmy Smith, Cornerback, Baltimore Ravens (Round 1, Pick 27)

Jimmy Smith slipped on draft day because of character concerns, but don’t be fooled by where he was picked because his talent should have had him chosen in the top ten.  Smith has the ability to play nickel corner right away on the Ravens defense and I am sure that they are dependent upon him filling this role and more during the upcoming season.  It is rare for corners to make immediate impacts in their rookie year but Smith has the talent to do so.

8. A.J. Green, Wide Receiver, Cincinnati Bengals, (Round 1, Pick 4)

Chad Ochocinco was dealt two weeks ago to the Patriots making Green the number one guy in Cincinnati.  Luckily for the Bengals Green has the ability to fill that role immediately.  Calvin Johnson is the only receiver in college football over the past five years who I would take over Green.  He has unbelievable talent and if he can stay healthy has the opportunity to make Bengals fans forget all about Ocho and become one of the elite receivers in the league.

7. Patrick Peterson, Cornerback, Arizona Cardinals, (Round 1, Pick 5)

When the Cardinals dealt their young Pro Bowl corner Dominique Roodgers-Cromartie to the Eagles for Kevin Kolb they were making it very clear that they have all the faith in the world in Peterson filling the vacancy.  You don’t just trade Pro Bowl players still in their prime at a position like cornerback unless you are sure that the guy waiting in the wings can take over.  Peterson has the ability to start right away for the Cardinals at both corner and as a punt returner on special teams.

6. Mike Pouncey, Center, Miami Dolphins, (Round 1, Pick 15)

The Dolphins are very confident that Pouncey can start for them right away.  Last year their offensive line was a mess and chosing Pouncey and not bringing in an established veteran to compete with him in camp is a clear sign that the starting job is all his.  Combine that with his twin brother Maurkice’s Pro Bowl rookie season at center for the Steelers last year and it is safe to say that expectations are very high for this former Gator.

5. Von Miller, Outside Linebacker, Denver Broncos, (Round 1, Pick 2)

Miller is an explosive pass rusher and when the Denver Broncos defense selected him second overall it was because they need all the help they can get after a disastrous 2010 season.  Miller will be placed on the opposite side of the Broncos current sack machine Elvis Dumervil and the two could develop into the best pass rushing tandem in the NFL.

4. Daniel Thomas, Running Back, Miami Dolphins, (Round 2, Pick 62)

The Dolphins traded back up into the second round to acquire Thomas on day two of the draft.  Once free agency began the team let both Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams- two players who have been fixtures in the Dolphins backfield- move on to new teams.  And although the Phins brought in Reggie Bush two weeks ago, the hope is that Thomas can become the power runner that they cherish.  They hope that his North/South style can compliment Bush’s East/West style.  The Dolphins are built to run the football, an area that they failed to achieve success in last year.  The pressure is on Thomas to help reestablish the run game in South Florida in 2011.

3. Andy Dalton, Quarterback, Cincinati Bengals, (Round 2, Pick 35)

Once Carson Palmer decided he did not want to be a Bengal anymore the franchise had to head in a new direction.  On day two of the draft they selected TCU quarterback Andy Dalton and handed him the keys to the offense.  They recently signed former Raiders quarterback Bruce Gradkowski but it still appears that the Bengals hope Dalton will be under center when the regular season kicks off next month.

2. Cam Newton, Quarterback, Carolina Panthers, (Round 1, Pick 1)

What does a Heisman Trophy and a National Championship give you? The opportunity to be picked by the worst team in the NFL.  Newton was the first player chosen on draft night and the Panthers hope that he lives up to the hype.  He has an abundance of talent and he will be given every opportunity to be atop of the Panthers quarterback depth chart this season.  The first pick always has pressure, especially when they are quarterbacks.  It will be interesting to see how Newton handles it.

1. Julio Jones, Wide Receiver, Atlanta Falcons, (Round 1, Pick 6)

There was no bigger move at the draft then when Atlanta traded their first round pick, second round pick, fourth round pick and a first round pick in 2012 for the right to select Julio Jones sixth overall.  When a contending team makes a move of that magnitude you can be sure that they plan on that player making an immediate impact.  The Falcons are set to contend in the NFC this season and the pressure will be on Jones to help take them to the next level.