Starting off this series, we will take a look at which rookie gives their respective team the best chance to contribute early and often. For some teams, the answer might be pretty obvious and straight forward, while others will need to be analyzed, discussed and are less certain than the those that are easy to see. There will be those who are facing an uphill battle to seeing some playing time and others who were handed the job the second they were drafted.
Though logic would tell that each team’s first round pick would garner these selections, it is important to take into account the situation the player was drafted into along with how they fit into the scheme that their coaches run.
Last year, rookies like Sheldon Richardson, Kyle Long, Kiko Alonso, Tavon Austin, and Desmond Trufant along with several others were all able to make an immediate impact. With this record breaking class of prospects to soon be hitting the fields themselves for their first action in the pros, we could see even more early production to come.
For our first look, we will focus on the rookie for the Houston Texans that offers the best opportunity to play early and often.
Entire Draft Class: Jadeveon Clowney, Xavier Su’a-Filo, C.J. Fiedorowicz, Louis Nix, Tom Savage, Jeoffrey Pagan, Alfred Blue, Jay Prosch, Lonnie Ballentine.
Best Immediate Impact Rookie: Jadeveon Clowney, DE: 6′ 5″, 266 lbs
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
The Texans could have had one of the best draft classes this year just by picking Clowney, but with guys like Su’a-Filo and Nix, they could turn out to have the top class in three years time.
Though Xavier Su’a-Filo is one of the best offensive lineman in this year’s class and will really help out the Texans front line, he will be competing for a spot as one of their starting guards and is not a lock to start week one, especially with him missing all of OTAs with school obligations still in need of finishing.
Another guy who some might think could see time early is nose tackle Louis Nix. Widely considered a potential first round pick, Nix was picked by the Texans in the third round. Though dealing with an knee injury during his first series of offseason workouts as a pro, I do expect the former Notre Dame standout to see plenty of early playing time. However, I do not see him having the same kind of impact as Jadeveon.
By picking Clowney with the first overall pick, the Texans got the best overall player in this draft and a guy who has the opportunity to really do something special in the NFL. Though best suited as a 4-3 defensive end, the South Carolina product will have to adjust to his new 3-4 outside linebacker role quickly, but both defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel and the rest of the coaching staff feel that his athleticism will help easily transition into the new position.
Statistically, it is hard for any rookie to have the type of numbers that many would expect from the veterans, but if there were any player who could have a 10+ sack season in their rookie campaign, it would be Clowney. However, a more realistic number, in my opinion, would be 8 or 9 sacks.
Not only will Jadeveon have an impact in the passing game, but the run game is another area where he will tremendously help out the Texans. His speed and quickness will allow him to rush the edge while also containing any outside run or option plays that come his way. In regards to stats, I envision anywhere from 5-7 tackles for loss with many more for plays that do not show up in the stat sheet.
That is another thing that will be huge for Houston. Normally lost in all of the fuss of statistics and accolades is how a player impacts the game in a way that doesn’t necessarily involve numbers. How a player eats up blocks or stretches the field are big aspects for their teams overall efforts, and Clowney will be in a position to wreck some havoc against opposing offenses, even without getting the big sack or tackle for loss. Like mentioned above, taking up multiple blockers is huge for linebackers and defensive backs who will then be allowed to fly around and make plays ay a much higher rate is big. Jadeveon is just the man for the job. His sheer size and strength will aid him in his ability to take on multiple offensive lineman at a time.
Whether it is with his hand in the dirt or standing up, expect Clowney to consistently wreck havoc all over the field. Teams will do all they can to run plays away from his area of the field as much as possible, but even then, it will be hard to keep him at bay for long.
As with Nix, Clowney has been dealing with an injury of his own, having surgery to deal with a sports hernia earlier this month. Though originally planned to make it back in time for the start of training camp, as reported by Brian T. Smith of the Houston Chronicle, there is now talk that he could possibly miss more time than many thought.
Though this is a setback, it is not one that I foresee holding him back from having the kind of rookie season that I predict. When all is said and done at the end of next season, look for Clowney’s name to be in the mix for Defensive Rookie of the Year.