The 2013 NFL Draft wasn't loaded with big-name prospects but it was one of the deeper pools of talent we've seen in the last decade. There was very little drop-off from the first to the second round and there were plenty of starting-caliber players still available in the middle rounds.
Many of these rookies have been thrust into the action and are playing key roles for their NFL teams. With that in mind, I reached out to five NFL executives to get their take on which rookies have surprised them with their play, and where they might have missed in their evaluations of these players coming out of college. Here are the results:
"This one is easy to answer: E.J. Manuel. I thought the game would be too big for him. So far, it's not. He's way more poised than I ever imagined when I studied him at Florida State."
"Jordan Mills is playing much better than I anticipated. I didn't think he'd be ready to start and play well right away. He's been solid."
"It's very early but I've been very impressed by Kyle Long. I really liked him but he only played one year at Oregon. I thought he would need more time to develop. He's been very impressive and I think he could play any position on the line."
"I liked DeAndre Hopkins coming out but I am a bit surprised at how much production he's had right out of the gate. Generally, it takes time for these rookie receivers but he's burst onto the scene big time."
"I was shocked at how poorly Aaron Dobson caught the ball the other night. I thought his hands were reliable on college tape. That was very surprising."
Verdict: The executives provided five different answers to this question. However, the Chicago Bears could be considered the winner of the poll because two of their rookies were chosen as pleasant surprises.
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Conclusion: Every executive made a point to mention how early we are in the process. Things can change very quickly in this league and a rookie can go from "flavor of the month" to "what's wrong with him?" status in a matter of weeks.
Personally, I've been most surprised by the play of Manuel. I listed him as my second quarterback (behind Geno Smith) in the 2013 NFL Draft but I had him valued outside of the first round. I thought he struggled against pressure and he needed time to develop as a pure passer. He's been much better than I anticipated, and it looks as though the Bills might finally have their franchise quarterback in place.