NFL draft: 5 prospects that will make biggest impact as rookies

Editor's note: With Super Bowl LII in the books, draft season is here. analyst and former NFL scout Daniel Jeremiah of the Move The Sticks Podcast shares some of his scouting notes, including his take on the deepest position in this year's draft.

But first, we kick off this week's notebook with Jeremiah's look at the five prospects that he expects to make the biggest impact as rookies next season.

Click on a prospect's name for a full scouting report.

Over the past decade, we've seen several rookies jump right in and not only contribute immediately but lead the way for their team right off the bat. Take this past season for example. We saw rookies like Saints CB Marshon Lattimore and Chiefs RB Kareem Hunt emerge as some of the best players at their respective positions. So, who's next? Which prospects in the 2018 NFL Draft should we expect to make an immediate and big-time impact upon entering the league? Here are my choices, ranked 1-5, starting with the prospect I expect to make the greatest impact next season.

1. Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State

I had huge grades on Todd Gurley, Ezekiel Elliott and Leonard Fournette when they were prospects. I have an even higher grade on Barkley. Each of those three running backs delivered outstanding rookie seasons and I expect the same from Barkley. His route-running ability and natural hands are very rare for such a big, physical runner. He's a special talent and he'll be ready to roll right away.

2. Quenton Nelson, OG, Notre Dame

Nelson is the best run blocker I've ever evaluated and I would be very surprised if he isn't selected to the Pro Bowl following his rookie campaign. He has been very well coached at Notre Dame and adjusting to the next level shouldn't be an issue. Look for him to start road-grading opposing teams immediately at the next level.

3. Bradley Chubb, DE, N.C. State

It's normally tough for pass rushers to come into the league and produce immediately. That being said, I believe Chubb will make his presence felt right away because of his advanced skill set, physical strength and motor. He has several ways to win as a pass rusher and he'll hold up just fine against the run. It's rare to see a rookie record double-digit sacks, but I think Chubb could pull it off.

4. Vita Vea, DT, Washington

Vea will step right in and emerge as one of the NFL's best run defenders immediately. He dominates interior offensive linemen and his lateral range is special for a man his size (6-foot-5, 340 pounds, per school measurements). His pass-rush technique needs some development but his impact against the run will be felt as soon as he steps foot on a NFL field.

5. Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M

Some teams have Kirk as a late-first-round player, while others view him more as a second-round option. Almost everyone agrees that he's one of the most polished players in the draft. He's a refined route runner and should quickly emerge as one of the league's most effective slot receivers. Cooper Kupp made a big-time impact as a rookie for the Rams working out of the slot last fall, and I expect similar results from Kirk in 2018.


I've spent the past few months combing through college tape and studying players for the upcoming draft. I still have plenty of players left to watch, but I'm starting to get a good feel for the depth of talent at each position.

While I love this group of quarterbacks, interior offensive linemen and cornerbacks, the deepest position in the draft is running back.

I have 6 running backs listed in my initial ranking of the draft's top 50 prospects, including 3 in the top 15, and I think there are several other starting-caliber players at the position. San Diego State's Rashaad Penny and Arizona State's Kalen Ballage are both big, versatile backs and they boosted their draft stock with outstanding performances in the Reese's Senior Bowl.

One player who's been mentioned a bunch in my talks with NFL evaluators is Miami's Mark Walton. He missed a lot of time last season due to injury, but his skill set is very intriguing to NFL scouts. He's drawing comparisons to Devonta Freeman.

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