The long buildup to the draft makes the payoff of finally seeing the team and player pairing that much sweeter. Here are six rookies I can't wait to watch take the field with their new teams, and some questions I'll be seeking answers to:
Wyche: Great expectations
•*Robert Griffin III, QB, Washington Redskins:* I live in Washington, D.C., and the excitement surrounding RG3's arrival is enormous. Griffin is an excellent athlete who made plays on the move in college, both running and throwing. He showed very good pocket awareness. He would stand in the pocket and not flinch when the rush came. He had a strong arm and was an accurate deep passer. The Redskins will take advantage of these traits by having him run the bootleg. He should be effective at that. I also see him being effective on the play-action passing game that the Redskins execute so well. What he did not have to do in college was read defenses. In the NFL, he will have to do this. If Griffin can play well, the Redskins can be a playoff contender.
- He had very little to do in the way of reading defenses. How will he do with that part of his game?
- How does he handle all the hype surrounding him?
- If Kirk Cousins plays well in preseason and he struggles, what does that do to his mind set?
•*Dontari Poe, NT, Kansas City Chiefs:* He has the ability to be a Pro Bowl nose tackle. The Chiefs had their pick of all of the tackles in the draft and chose him. In the games I watched, Poe played well and hustled. I saw a player who was strong and explosive in his play. He was disruptive. I saw him stuff the run and get pressure on the quarterback. There were times he lost sight but not often enough to cause me a problem. Other people did not see the same effort I saw, thus causing concern.
- Will Poe be a disruptive player or will he disappear in games?
- What will he do in their nickel defense? Will he even be in the nickel defense?
- Will he hustle and play hard to the whistle?
•*Bruce Irvin, OLB, Seattle Seahawks:* Irvin was mentioned to me by many teams as the best pass rusher in the draft. Yet even with that statement, most teams placed him in the second round or took him off the board because of off-field concerns. The Seahawks had their pick of all the pass rushers and took him. Irvin was most effective at West Virginia as an outside pass rusher. He was the most explosive defensive end in the draft. But I thought that if he could not beat the offensive tackle off the ball, he had trouble beating his man because of his size and lack of counter moves. I did not think he played the run well. He got engulfed by the offensive linemen blocking him. He does have the potential to be effective rushing the passer, especially at home in Seattle because of the incredible crowd noise that is there.
- How many pressures/sacks will he have at home versus on the road?
- Will he develop counter moves on his pass rush?
- How effective will he be versus the run?
Smith: Five rookie predictions
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•*Quinton Coples, DL, New York Jets:* He was the most scrutinized player this spring. Coples was one of the top seniors in the country entering the 2011 season. He primarily played defensive tackle in 2010 and was an impact player. In 2011, he moved to defensive end and was asked to play more of a sit-and-read style. He also was playing for new coaches. Whether it was because of the style of play or change in coaches, Coples was not nearly as productive. I thought when he was the most effective rushing the passer as a senior is when he played out wide in space. Even with the position and coaching change, his production should not have fallen off that much. The Jets' plan is to play him at defensive end in their base 3-4 defense, and use him as a defensive tackle over the offensive guard on passing downs.
- How will Coples play the run when lined up over the offensive tackle, something he did not do well in 2011?
- How effective will he be rushing over NFL offensive guards, who are much more skilled at pass protection than the ones he faced in college?
- Former first-round pick Aaron Maybin was not productive in Buffalo but had six sacks in New York. Will the Jets find the right button to push with Coples like they did with Maybin?
Lombardi: Best value picks
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•*Brian Quick, WR, St. Louis Rams/Rueben Randle, WR, New York Giants:* Who will be the better player? This is the decision the Rams faced, and they took Quick. I believe they saw more upside in Quick. Some teams had Randle ahead of Quick -- clearly the Rams did not. One team in the first round that had Randle rated ahead of Quick would have taken him if the player they ended up taking had been gone. Quick has a lot of raw talent. He has size, strength and good enough speed. He shows good hands and an ability to run after the catch. I thought he disappeared versus better opponents. In Randle's case, he is a physical player who catches the ball well. He is also savvy running his routes. The question on who is the better player might not be answered this year, because Quick should have more opportunities to catch the ball than Randle.
- The two most asked questions on Randle were whether he could beat tight coverage and was he tough enough to come across the middle?
- How soon will Quick emerge as the Rams number-one receiver? Will he struggle with the jump in the level of competition?