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Dont'a Hightower, Doug Martin among leading rookies

It's early. We know it's early. But the first half-week of training camp meant more than the entire OTA and minicamp season combined. We can start to draw conclusions, especially about rookies that are making a quick move up the depth chart. Here are five rookies who stand out early:

1. New England Patriots linebacker Dont'a Hightower: As Albert Breer pointed out, Bill Belichick has lavished praise on Hightower. The last time we saw him praise a rookie this much was Jerod Mayo and that worked out well. Hightower is very intelligent and versatile, two qualities Belichick prizes most. Hightower should start right away and might make a quicker impact than buzzier rookie Chandler Jones.

2. Chicago Bears receiver Alshon Jeffrey: The Chicago Sun-Times reports the big-bodied rookie is "catching everything in sight" and "looking like he's done this before." If that continues, he should wind up being a bigger part of the offense than Devin Hester.

  1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Doug Martin: The Bucs position battle might be over before it started. LeGarrette Blount has been used sparingly. Everyone from the ball boy to the head coach to the beat writers are agog over Martin's ability.

We can't wait to see this kid on the field during the regular season.

4. Houston Texans running back Jonathan Grimes:Texans coaches love undrafted rookie running back Grimes, according to the Houston Chronicle. That's a nugget for fantasy owners to file away just in case. (The Texans know what to do with those undrafted runners.)

5. Patriots running back Brandon Bolden: Running back certainly is a position where you can make a quick impact. Bolden consistently has made noise early in camp. Some have suggested he looks more explosive than last year's second-round draft pick Shane Vereen.

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