Instant Impact Rookies

By Pasha Hashemzadeh

Ezekiel Elliott (RB/DAL) – Jerry Jones isn’t messing around. He selected Elliott fourth overall in this year’s draft to be the workhorse the Cowboys have been looking for since DeMarco Murray left town. He comes in as a speedy, powerful runner with ideal size and excellent pass protection ability. He’ll also be running behind the league’s best offensive line. Come draft time, he’ll surely be a first round selection.

Keith Marshall (RB/WAS) – Marshall comes into the league as the fastest rookie running back with a great opportunity ahead of him. Second year man Matt Jones hardly established himself as a lead back last year, dealing with ball security and health issues. Marshall’s speed comes with ideal size (5’11”) and he’ll look to seize the opportunity and beat out Jones in training camp and preseason for the lead back role. The Redskins are coming off a division championship, and look to have an improved offense. Their passing attack will be more potent with the addition of Josh Doctson and another year of experience under his belt for Jordan Reed. Marshall will look to balance the attack with a good running game, and he certainly is a special talent to target later in drafts.

Wendell Smallwood (RB/PHI) – Ryan Mathews is made of glass and Darren Sproles is merely an aging change of pace back. Smallwood has the talent despite his small frame to seize backup duties heading into the season and would be a must-handcuff for Mathews drafters.

Kenneth Dixon (RB/BAL) – Baltimore’s running game situation is currently a big question mark. Justin Forsett is aging and coming off an injury and Javorius Allen was awful last year. With a good showing this offseason, Dixon could be in the mix for some carries early on and the Ravens could potentially ride the hot hand at running back.

Sterling Shepard (WR/NYG) – The WR2 spot in NYG is up for grabs with Victor Cruz still ailing from his 2014 patellar tear and Rueben Randle out of town. Shepard is small in stature, somewhat like Odell, but is an intriguing talent with the ability to play the slot right off the bat.

Tyler Boyd (WR/CIN) – The Bengals went into the draft very thin at the wide receiver spot with Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones shipping out of town. Tyler Boyd will have the opportunity to start opposite A.J. Green and will certainly see his share of targets behind Green and tight end Tyler Eifert.

Will Fuller (WR/HOU) – The Texans traded up in the draft to snag their man and the first wide receiver on the board. Second year man Jaelen Strong is his competition for the WR2 spot heading into the season. Strong did not have a good showing his rookie year as he dealt with health issues and did not perform much on the field. Fuller is small in stature, though has the hands and speed to make his name known. DeAndre Hopkins will see a lot of double teams, leaving Fuller with a decent amount of targets in sight.

Josh Doctson (WR/WAS) – The Redskins landed a gem with the 6’2” rookie with great hands, leaping ability, and vertical speed. Doctson was the top receiver prospect in the draft and should have an instant impact with the Redskins. They seemingly have a crowded wide receiver corps with DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon in town, along with Jordan Reed gobbling up targets, but Jackson has had a hard time staying on the field and Garcon has only dwindled the past couple of seasons. Doctson will look to make his name known in training camp and preseason.

Michael Thomas (WR/NO) – Many view this pick as a steal for the Saints and Thomas has a great opportunity to see targets off the bat. Brandin Cooks is the WR1 in New Orleans with no special talent opposite him at the moment. Thomas will fight for the WR2 spot in training camp and preseason and is a name to keep an eye on heading into drafts.

Hunter Henry (TE/SD) – San Diego coaches are already raving about their rookie tight end and have said they aren’t afraid to play him immediately and often. Antonio Gates will be a good mentor and is far from the years that cemented his HOF status. Outside of Keenan Allen, Rivers doesn’t have too many options, leaving Henry as an intriguing late round add in drafts.

Paxton Lynch (QB/DEN) – It is only a matter of time before Mark Sanchez implodes. There is far too much talent between Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders for Lynch to not at least put up QB2 numbers. It’s a pretty good situation to be thrown into the fire and, after all, he wasn’t drafted in the first round to be Sanchez’s understudy for any extended period of time.