Impact Player: Josh Jones, OT
Based on value alone Josh Jones is going to be classified as a steal. Many experts had Jones as their 5th rated tackle, so sliding all the way to the 3rd round for the Cardinals to pick up was a huge victory. It’ll be even sweeter when Jones helps Arizona lower their 50 sacks which was 5th-worst in the NFL. Whatever side of the line Jones ends up on, he’ll be a marked improvement and play a valuable role in keeping franchise cornerstone Kyler Murray upright.
Impact Player: A.J. Terrell, CB
I very much disliked the reach for the player at the position but regardless of my opinion, Terrell will be getting a whole bunch of snaps. With Desmond Trufant gone to Detroit there’s an opening for a starting spot and Terrell will get the first crack at it along with returning players Isaiah Oliver and Kendall Sheffield. Terrell was wildly inconsistent in college and wasn’t great on tape, but his height alone should help him gain an advantage at times.
Impact Player: Devin Duverney, WR
The Ravens needed another wide receiver badly and even though they didn’t get the cream of the crop in this draft, they did get a very dependable player in Devin Duverney. Duverney will mainly play out of the slot and has a chance to be a top receiver for the Ravens along with Hollywood Brown. The Ravens had the best rushing offense in the NFL last season by a wide margin but were 6th-worst in passing yards per game. Duverney should step into a starting role immediately and help take some pressure off of his MVP quarterback.
Impact Player: A.J. Epenesa, EDGE
Don’t get me wrong, the Bills needed a lot of help on offense and did well to address their issues with Zack Moss and Gabriel Davis, But Epenesa has a chance to make this defense really, really good. The Bills sacked opposing quarterbacks 44 times last season which was decent and even with Jordan Phillips gone to Arizona, they’re still solid. Whether Epenesa slides into the right or left side of this line, he’ll instantly make an impact and get to the quarterback with regularity. We saw the 49ers wreak havoc with a great defensive line last season and this season the Bills have a chance to try and replicate it with Ed Oliver and Epenesa.
Impact Player: Cole Kmet, TE
Chicago gained the second lowest number of receiving yards from tight ends last season with just 416. Cole Kmet should be able to eclipse that number on his own this season. By no means will he be the sole answer to Trubisky’s problems, but he’ll be a great starting point. He’s a large target who moves well with very good hands. He isn’t a very good blocker but the Bears have other tight ends to suit those needs.
Impact Player: Derrick Brown, DT
The Carolina Panthers had seven selections in the NFL draft and walked away with seven defensive players. Why? Because of players who started a significant number of games as primary starters last season, only Shaq Thompson and Trey Boston remain. So choosing Derrick Brown might be a bit of a cop out, but the Panthers are probably going to have three rookie starters on their defense and Brown is the best of them. He’s a certified game wrecker and should be clearing up space for the rest of the defense to elevate their play as well.
Impact Player: Joe Burrow, QB
There’s no reason to try to be fancy here. Burrow had one of the best statistical seasons in college football history to pair with his Heisman and National Championship trophies. With the Bengals hitting reset on the quarterback position, Burrow has a chance to turn the franchise around.
Impact Player: Grant Delpit, S
Trust me, I love that the Browns got Jedrick Wills with their first round pick, but Grant Delpit is going to make a difference this season. Cleveland had a very good secondary last season and Delpit is only going to make it better. He has a chance to help Greedy Williams and Denzel Ward become shutdown corners while soaking up tackles in the second level. Wills is going to be impactful, but Delpit will be the difference maker.
Impact Player: Trevon Diggs, CB
I very much wanted to go with CeeDee Lamb for this pick since he was such a great value, but that isn’t what this list is about. It’s about rookies who will have the greatest impact and that’s going to be Diggs. Lamb has a chance to be great but the odds of him having great production while Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup maintain their numbers is very low. Diggs is stepping into Bryon Jones’ role as a shutdown corner which gives him a bigger gap to fill and this more chance to make an impact. It should be close but I have to go with Diggs for this pick.
Impact Player: Jerry Jeudy, WR
This is another pick where it’s just no use being cute. Jeudy is the best route runner I have ever seen and next to Courtland Sutton, he has a chance to be great. Fantastic size, great hands, and good speed also combine to make Jeudy the best receiver in this class. Whether he gets top cornerbacks or not, Jeudy is likely to be the best pass catcher on this team, especially with distractions like Sutton, K.J. Hamler, Albert Okwuegbunam playing next to him.
Impact Player: Jeff Okudah, CB
I’m hesitant to pick Okudah since rookie corners get picked on so often, but I believe that Okudah is of a different breed. He does everything well. He can play in any type of coverage and has the size and strength to stick with the top physical receivers in the league. He’s likely going to be put on the best receivers the Lions face so he’ll have plenty of opportunities to become a household name.
Green Bay Packers
Impact Player: Kamal Martin, ILB
This was a close call between Josiah Deguara and Martin, but I’m giving the edge to Martin because of the hole to fill. Blake Martinez led the team in tackles and dominated the inside linebacker position for the Packers. Rodgers does need receiving help and Deguara can provide a bit of that, but he just isn’t good enough of a player to make that type of impact. Martin can soak up tackles and should start a decent number of games this season.
Impact Player: Jonathan Greenard, OLB
Whether it’s containing a run, dropping into coverage, spying the quarterback, or rushing on pass plays, Greenard is going to be making some sort of impact. Greenard has a ton of ability and the Texans need help along the line. Ross Blacklock will also have a chance to make a good impact at nose tackle but Greenard just does too much to be counted out of this race. He may have to fight for snaps but he won’t lose them once he gains enough trust.
Impact Player: Jonathan Taylor, RB
The Colts have one of the best offensive lines in the NFL, hands down. Michael Pittman is going to be very valuable in Indianapolis, but Taylor is going to win this argument. Taylor was the best pure runner in this draft class and Indy opens up some of the biggest holes in the league. He has sure hands and is going to make Indianapolis a true dual threat team with his legs. I’m very excited to watch him run.
Impact Player: C.J. Henderson, CB
Last season the Jaguars intercepted just 10 passes and allowed 11.6 yards per completion, good for 28th in the NFL. Those numbers should improve dramatically despite the exodus from the defensive side of the ball. Henderson has shutdown potential and even though he’ll be picked on, he’ll be able to hold his own. K’Lavon Chaisson was another candidate for the Jags but corner has much more space for growth.
Kansas City Chiefs
Impact Player: Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB
No one really anticipated the Chiefs going for Edwards-Helaire but when they did it should have seemed more obvious. The Chiefs only real positional need was a solid running back and Edwards-Helaire isn’t just a positional fit, he’s a perfect stylistic fit too. He excels at coming out of the backfield and catching passes and can run between the tackles well enough for this offense. He’s going to be one of the most used rookies this coming season and it shouldn’t surprise anyone if he wins OROY.
Las Vegas Raiders
Impact Player: Henry Ruggs III, WR
WE’re on a bit of a run of top picks here, but Ruggs is the only right choice for the Raiders. Damon Arnette isn’t a very good player and Las Vegas is going to be drawing up a ton of plays for Ruggs to beat his man and catch touchdown passes. He won’t need to be a top-10 receiver this season to be the best rookie for the newly relocated Raiders.
Los Angeles Chargers
Impact Player: Kenneth Murray, ILB
The Chargers lost 112 tackles when Thomas Davis left for Washington and the team made it clear that Murray is a player they want to replace him by trading back into the first round for him. Murray is going to start immediately and should have a shot to be the Chargers leading tackler. Justin Herbert could also vye for this position but I believe he’ll struggle early on as he acclimates to the quicker game.
Los Angeles Rams
Impact Player: Terrell Lewis, OLB
The Rams are going to be a very interesting team this season considering what they lost from last season and the regression from their Super Bowl appearance. There was a lot to consider here but Lewis is going to have the best chance to succeed now. All three of the Rams starting linebackers are gone and Lewis is going to have a lot of responsibility from the jump. He’s very versatile which will help him do many things in many different packages, but the point is that he’ll always be out there.
Impact Player: Robert Hunt, OG
Really? Yes, really. The Dolphins were one of the worst teams in the NFL last season at protecting the quarterback, giving up 58 sacks. That’s bad as it stands, but with an expensive quarterback with lower body issues, it becomes even scarier. The Dolphins went heavy on protection in this draft and Robert Hunt is the best offensive lineman of the group. He’s going to step in immediately and make an impact next to whoever is lined up beside him.
Impact Player: Cameron Dantzler, CB
I know what you’re thinking, “But Jeff Gladney was drafted before Dantzler and is a better player!” Correct, but remember, rookie corners are targeted mercilessly, and with Gladney playing on better receivers, he’ll draw more of the attention. Dantzler is going to excel covering secondary and tertiary routes while Gladney has to soak up shot after shot from top wide receivers. If he can do that it’s great for the Vikings, but Danztler will benefit either way.
New England Patriots
Impact Player: Josh Uche, DE
The Pats are having to reset a bit and actually have a lot of needs for the first time in a while. One of the biggest needs was a solid pass rush, so going after Uche, one of the most talented rushers in the draft, was one of the best calls they could have made. The Patriots are great at dialing up pressure and Uche is going to be a huge part of maintaining that pressure, especially with all the players that left New England this offseason. There’s a lot of production to be made up and Uche is a good place to find some of it.
New Orleans Saints
Impact Player: Adam Trautman, TE
One of the biggest targets for the Saints coming into this draft was thought to be a wide receiver, but instead they decided to beef up their line and pass rush. To suffice the pass catching need, they snagged Adam Trautman late in the third round. Trautman has fantastic size and hands and will start immediately for the Saints. Drew Brees loves tight ends and Trautman will be a secondary priority behind Michael Thomas so he should get plenty of love. Look for Trautman to snag a whole bunch of touchdowns this season.
New York Giants
Impact Player: Xavier McKinney, S
I didn’t need to do much research to choose McKinney for this pick. I’m not sure any players the Giants picked will be regular starters apart from McKinney and Andrew Thomas, and I felt that Thomas was easily the most raw tackle from that upper echelon in the draft. McKinney was a great center fielder for the Tide and Alabama always puts out great pro defensive backs. He’s going to get a lot of snaps and I’m confident he’ll produce well in that time.
New York Jets
Impact Player: Braden Mann, P
Look, I really like Sam Darnold as a prospect and I believe that the offense got significantly better with Becton and Mims, but I don’t see the Jets tearing teams up this season. There’s still going to be a lot of kinks to work out. Mann is the best college punter I’ve seen in a while and he’s going to be a great weapon for the Jets to utilize. A good punter can keep a team in games and I think Mann is going to be doing that a lot this season.
Impact Player: K’Von Wallace, S
With Alshon Jeffery still on the team alongside DeSean Jackson and Marquise Goodwin, I don’t think any of the rookie receivers are going to be making a huge impact. On the other hand, Malcolm Jenkins is gone to the Saints and there’s a very convenient role to fill for Wallace. Wallace is obviously experienced coming out of Clemson and has the skill to succeed right away. The Eagles only picked off 11 passes last season so Wallace should be aiming to raise that total.
Impact Player: Chase Claypool, WR
JuJu Smith-Schuster took a clear step back last season and the leading receiver for the Steelers was James Washington with 735 yards. Chase Claypool is immediately the biggest wide receiver in the corps and probably one of the most athletic as well. If the Steelers use him correctly Claypool could be the best receiver on the team already. Alex Highsmith also has an opportunity to be a very impactful player as he fills Mark Barron’s position on the outside.
Impact Player: Darrell Taylor, EDGE
The Seahawks biggest need was in the pass rush and although it might have been a bit of a reach for Taylor, he’s still going to get snaps. It wouldn’t be a surprise for the Seahawks to go get another edge rusher before the season starts, but Taylor fills the position for now. I also don’t see many of the other picks the Seahawks made having an impact very soon.
San Francisco 49ers
Impact Player: Brandon Aiyuk, WR
With the 49ers losing Emmanuel Sanders in free agency and trading Marquise Goodwin away, there’s a clear opening for the number two receiver in Santa Clara. Aiyuk has the best chance of taking that position and could even overtake Deebo Samuel for the top wide receiver on the team. I doubt he’ll be able to overtake Kittle this season but there’s plenty of catches to go around so look for Aiyuk to pull down a bunch of them.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Impact Player: Tristan Wirfs, OT
The biggest knock on Wirfs is that he played right tackle throughout college, and while it is a difficult task to switch sides of the line, he may not have to. The way the Bucs and Brady play, there should be plenty of quick passes out of the shotgun or pistol. Wirfs is also going to excel in getting downfield to block on screens and run plays considering he ran a blazing 4.85 at the combine. He’s big and long and has the makings to be in this league for a very long time.
Impact Player: Isaiah Wilson, OT
This is a tough call for me since Kristian Fulton is very good and should have opportunities to break into the starting team this season, but I believe Wilson will be starting at the beginning of the season. With Malcolm Butler and Adoree’ Jackson still on the team, Fulton likely won’t start right off the bat which gives Wilson the edge. I felt getting Wilson this early was a reach but he should be able to hold his own alongside a pretty good line and a great back in Derrick Henry.
Impact Player: Chase Young, EDGE
No doubt. Chase Young is a fantastic edge rusher and breaks games. Take a look at the Bosa brothers, those are his likenings, he came from the same source. Young is more athletic than either of them. Now, that doesn’t mean he’s going to be better or even as good as them just yet, but it does lay out a blueprint for his growth, and if he follows that course he’s going to be the best player on Washington’s line this season.