We expect first rounders to have an early impact, but what about the rookies who were taken in the rounds after them at the 2018 NFL Draft?
Every year, NFL fans give first-round rookies improbable expectations. It’s become a standard that they’ll play and contribute at a high level right from the first snap of the season.
But what about the guys who were taken on the second and third days of the NFL Draft? What about those we don’t expect to make the Pro Bowl, like Kareem Hunt? Or what about those who ended up being key roster pieces for playoff teams, like Marcus Williams?
Here are four rookies from this year’s draft class who could shock the NFL in 2018.
The least talked about rookie that slipped into the second round is easily Isaiah Oliver. That fall might just pay off for him, as he fell to the best possible situation. Oliver is built perfectly to play as a man-to-man press corner.
At 6’0″ with freakishly long arms of 33 and 1/2 inches, Oliver has the elite length to man up any receiver in the league. Oliver’s length also serves as a recovery blanket when he gets beat, which didn’t happen often.
While Oliver needs to improve in some aspects of his game, he can do so amongst one of the best secondaries in the league. Oliver likely won’t start over Robert Alford or Desmond Trufant, but he can be a dominating force as a nickel corner, making this Atlanta defense scary good.
Before the 2017 season, Harold Landry seemed to be a surefire first-round pick. Thanks to injuries and an influx of defensive talent, he slipped into the hands of the Tennessee Titans. Landry, in this case, will also profit off of a tumble into the second day of the draft.
The Titans finished 13th last year in team defense and only got better during the offseason. While veterans Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan sit in front of him, Landry will still serve as a great change of pace as a speed rusher.
Even if he fails to make it on the field early, it’s easy to assume Landry will be used as an important situational rusher.
Did someone say Alvin Kamara 2.0? Way before the draft process started back in January, scouts and analysts all over compared Ronald Jones II to Kamara. As athletes, they’re both shifty and sure-handed pass catchers, who when put in space will pick up big chunks of yards.
Now that Jones is on the Bucs, this comparison is even more accurate. With Doug Martin gone, Jones is going to be a go-to threat for Tampa Bay toting the rock. The Buccaneers are a pass centered offense with Jameis Winston at the helm, and with targets like Mike Evans, Desean Jackson, and O.J. Howard in the receiving corps.
Jones will be the Kamara they needed. He might not get a ton of carries, but expect him to catch a lot of passes and have a number of long runs.
Without a doubt, Kerryon Johnson can be one of this year’s rookie running backs to crack 1,000 rushing yards. The Lions were absolutely terrible last season at running the ball. After somehow managing to finish last in team rushing, Matt Patricia knew he needed to bring some juice to the run game in Detroit.
His first step was taking Frank Ragnow, who has been very impressive during minicamp. Along with Ragnow, the Lions offensive line is now strong enough to carry a three-down back like Johnson behind it.
With Ameer Abdullah’s injury concerns and LeGarrette Blount‘s lack of consistency, Johnson will be the lead back in 2018.
With a stout offensive line and an underrated passing attack, Johnson has the potential to provide the perfect change of pace in Detroit.