20 rookies chosen by veteran NFL scout and Playmaker Mobile correspondent Dave Razzano, all of whom Razzano has identified as having a very good chance to be very productive as rookies, and all of them were picked AFTER the first round.
Razzano says, "Some rookies have positive impacts their initial season, others have to wait their turn. Depth chart health is key in terms of young players getting early opportunities. Some are just too good to keep off the field. For these reasons, I have identified twenty players with a very good chance to be very productive as rookies, and all were picked AFTER the first round."
ROB GRONKOWSKI: TE, 2nd Rnd, #42 overall, New England Patriots: After losing both Ben Watson and Chris Baker to free agency, this kid should have every opportunity to become an instant favorite of QB Tom Brady. Was a big play ‘clutch’ receiver his entire career at Arizona, displaying outstanding hands and consistently winning in “compete” situations down the seam. Also a physical blocker, he really has a chance to shine as a rookie.
JAVIER ARENAS: CB, 2nd Rnd, #50 overall, Kansas City Chiefs: This undersized high energy player should see the field early as a sub-package DB, with a chance to become the Chiefs primary returner as well. He will prove his doubters wrong with his consistent desire to make plays, and he competes with the same football mentality as new teammate Brandon Flowers.
TOBY GERHART: RB, 2nd Rnd, #51 overall, Minnesota Vikings: After losing Chester Taylor to free agency, the Vikings landed the perfect complement to Adrian Peterson. Should be a red zone threat his rookie season after rambling for 29 TDs his senior season at Stanford.
MONTARIO HARDESTY: RB, 2nd Rnd, #59 overall, Cleveland Browns: This player’s combination of power and elusiveness make him the Browns number one running option as a rookie. Look for him to start early and be the type of “bell cow” runner the team has needed. A 1,300 yard season is not out of the question for the former Tennessee Volunteer.
EMMANUEL SANDERS: WR, 3rd Rnd, #82 overall, Pittsburgh Steelers: Lightning quick rookie with outstanding hands will be difficult to keep off the field early. Can beat single coverage on the outside and work intermediate zones underneath. Expect big plays from this player as he works himself into the wideout rotation. Should compete for primary punt return duties.
JORDAN SHIPLEY: WR, 3rd Rnd, #84 overall, Cincinnati Bengals: Absolute third round steal here. Has first round skill to go with being the most productive receiver in the draft. His desire to get open is what sets him apart. Has “sneaky” deep speed and his ability to work the underneath zones led to his school record 248 catches and 33 tds. Having a QB with the accuracy of Carson Palmer will certainly help his cause as an early producer. He will also give the Bengals a legitimate punt return threat as well.
ERIC DECKER: WR, 3rd Rnd, #87 overall, Denver Broncos: Slowed by a foot injury latter part of senior season and still left as his schools all time leader with 227 catches. Wins one-on-one wars due to size, effort and a pair of velcro hands. Big time history of 3rd down grabs. Also a top special team performer for the Gophers. Though the Broncos have some quality depth at receiver, expect Decker to see the field and make his presence felt in year one.
MARDY GILYARD: WR, 4th Rnd, #99 overall, St. Louis Rams: Slid to the 4th round due to maturity questions but this is a steal if he keeps his head straight. Made game-changing big plays as both a receiver and returner throughout his entire career at Cincinnati. With the Rams lack of depth at the wideout position, don’t be surprised if this player bags 50 plus catches and a couple return TDs as a rookie.
DARRYL SHARPTON: LB, 4th Rnd, #102 overall, Houston Texans: Versatile and athletic playmaker could take advantage of Brian Cushing’s four game suspension and see action early for the Texans. Posted over 100 tackles for the Hurricanes last season and his natural explosion should allow him to rise up the Texans depth chart sooner rather than later.
ALTERRAUN VERNER: CB, 4th Rnd, #104 overall, Tennessee Titans: The lightly scouted west coast is a “hotbed” for sleepers and this is one of the latest examples. Might not have the prototype HWS traits the NFL covets but he left UCLA with rare playing stats including 56 passes broken up, and 13 INTs, returning four for TDs. Watch this kid play and he leaves no doubt about his playmaking ability and man-to-man cover skill. Should see significant play time his first season with the Titans.
COREY WOOTTON: DE, 4th Rnd, #109 overall, Chicago Bears: Another early round talent who slid to the 4th due to the injury bug. With the Bears lack of depth on the outside, could find himself starting opposite Julius Peppers as a rookie. This massive long limbed base de recorded 10 sacks as a junior prior to an injury marred senior year. His ability to explode off the ball is unusual for a big man, which allows him to win more than his share of edge battles.
DENNIS PITTA: TE, 4th Rnd, #114 overall, Baltimore Ravens: Joins a talented te group in Baltimore with veteran Todd Heap along with fellow rookie Ed Dickson. By mid-season, don’t be surprised if this gifted pass catcher is Joe Flacco’s favorite 3rd down target. He amassed 142 catches his final two seasons at BYU, displaying an uncanny knack for getting open and making big catches on a consistent basis. Looks like another in a long line of TEs the Cougars have produced for the NFL.
WALTER MCFADDEN: CB, 5th Rnd, #138 overall, Oakland Raiders: Non combine invitee fell to the fifth round due in part to issues with run support. Everyone knows Raiders owner Al Davis loves speed and this kid can flat out fly. One of the better pure cover guys in the Draft, McFadden can shadow opponents both short and deep. Looked like an Olympic sprinter during his 100-yard INT return vs. Northwestern in the Outback Bowl. The Raiders don’t have much depth after starters Nnamdi Asomugha and Chris Johnson so expect McFadden to see playing time early in the defensive rotation.
RILEY COOPER: WR, 5th Rnd, #159 overall, Philadelphia Eagles: Came on strong his senior campaign with 961 yards receiving and 9 TDs. This Ed McCaffrey lookalike has a ton of upside and should see action early in the Eagles wideout rotation. His size and route savvy make him a gem as a red zone threat. Loves to compete downfield as a blocker. Though Philly has very good depth at receiver, I see this player finding a niche his rookie season. The fact that he was drafted in MLB speaks volumes of his overall athletic skill.
ANTHONY DIXON: RB, 6th Rnd, #173 overall, San Francisco 49ers: Another Draft steal who dropped to late status due primarily to a poor 40 time of 4.70 at Indy. Anyone watching SEC football the past few seasons knows all about this bruising runner from Mississippi State, who left as the school’s all time rushing leader with 3,994 yards and 42 TDs. Should thrive in Mike Singletary’s smash-mouth system as a ‘between the tackles’ pounder while being the perfect complement to Frank Gore.
JONATHAN DWYER: 6th Rnd, #188 overall, Pittsburgh Steelers: Ask any scout one year ago and many thought this player was destined to be a top round pick in the 2010 Draft. This 2008 ACC player of the year left Georgia Tech after his junior season with 36 TDs to his credit. With the departure of Willie Parker via free agency, Dwyer has the ability to unseat journeyman Mewelde Moore this season as the number two RB on the Steeler depth chart. Though not flashy, Dwyer is a natural runner who gains yards with ease and should get many opportunities to shine as a rookie.
JAMES STARKS: RB, 6th Rnd, #193 overall, Green Bay Packers: A size/speed runner who missed his senior season due to injuries, causing his sixth round slide. Has an upright style similar to Packer teammate Ryan Grant and possesses the speed to hit the crease and go the distance. More talented than Brandon Jackson, who sits number two on the Green Bay depth chart. Expect Starks to get every opportunity to turn heads early.
SCOTTY MCGEE: Return Specialist, 6th Rnd, #203 overall, Jacksonville Jaguars: A good bet to be the Jaguars primary return man on opening day. Had 6 return TDs during his career at James Madison. Explosive and natural, good college return men don’t change and some find even more production at the pro level with better schemes in place. McGee has the ability to be a game breaker from day one.
MARC MARIANI: WR, 7th Rnd, #222 overall, Tennessee Titans: Not known for having NFL caliber wideouts, this player should break the mold as he left Montana as the school’s all-time pass catcher with over 3,000 yards receiving and 29 career TDs. Also a prolific punt return man, Mariani is coming to a team with a very average group of receivers and could become an early favorite of QB Vince Young with his knack for clutch third-down receptions.
SYD QUAN THOMPSON: CB, 7th Rnd, #225 overall, Denver Broncos: Most of these late steals have a poor 40-yard dash on the books. Ran in the 4.65-4.70 range at his school workout with an injured leg. Similar 40 time and skill set of former Bear Nathan Vashar, who came out of Texas in 2004 and had a nice career in Chicago. His outstanding quickness and ball react skill make up for his lack of stopwatch speed. With Denver’s lack of depth on the outside, Thompson is a good bet to see action early in nickel packages and compete for punt return duties as well.