by Craig Paulson
Training camps are underway and the pre-season games will be here in a matter of days. Pro football is back but trying to figure out the top NFL rookies prior to the season isn’t easy.
Some players may have reached their peak in college, while others are still continuing to get better. The talent of the players around them can also be a factor in their success and a good rookie year can propel players you never heard of to NFL stardom.
Collectors know, however, that predicting the ‘picks to click’ is best done before the games kick off for real, when bargains can still be found by identifying the best candidates to shine.
Here’s a look at some rookies who could have the biggest impact in 2010 and beyond:
RB Jahvid Best/Detroit Lions
Kevin Smith isn’t a bad player, but he is far from the talent that many of the top teams have at running back. That is why the Lions selected Best in the draft. He comes to the NFL with the ability to make big plays and can also be a receiving threat out of the backfield.
With quarterback Matthew Stafford feeling more comfortable in year two and Calvin Johnson at receiver, the running game still has to contribute more to the offense for them to improve. Early indications are that the Lions are finally on the right track. Best may be not only a solid rookie of the year candidate, but a player who could be very special.
WR Marcus Easley/Buffalo Bills
With Lee Evans being the only WR that has shown any kind of consistent production over the last few years, Easley could prove to be a valuable number 2 receiver not only this season, but for years to come. He may not be lightning quick but runs a 4.46 40, which is fast enough to create space. He is also a very agile athlete and is one of those players that seems to still be peaking. Although having Trent Edwards at QB may be a detriment, Easley has long term potential.
TE Jermaine Gresham/Cincinnati Bengals
It’s been a long time since the Bengals have had a tight end that was any kind of receiving threat, but Gresham may be able to put an end to that. Although he was injured for the 2009 season, he showed at the NFL combine that he was fully recuperated and ready to play.
With a receiving corps that now includes Chad Ochocinco, Terrell Owens, Antonio Bryant, and the under-rated Andre Caldwell at wideout and a healthy Carson Palmer at quarterback, Gresham may be the secret weapon the Bengals have been looking for. If Gresham stays healthy, he just may be one of the top NFL rookies.
RB Ryan Matthews/San Diego Chargers
Stepping into the shoes of Ladainian Tomlinson is no easy task, but that is the fate of Ryan Matthews. While Darren Sproles will likely see his share of snaps as well, Matthews will likely be the starter in San Diego.
With a potent passing game hurt by the holdout and suspension of Vincent Jackson, the Chargers may be forced to run the ball more, meaning Matthews could have a chance to be a rookie of the year candidate in 2010. How well Matthews performs this season could be an indicator of what to expect from him in the future.
If you’re into NFL betting, Matthews, Best and the injured Cowboy, Dez Bryant, are listed among the current favorites to win Rookie of the Year.
Other Rookies To Watch
RB C.J. Spiller/Buffalo Bills
S Eric Berry/Kansas City Chiefs
RB Montario Hardesty/Cleveland Browns
RB Ben Tate/Houston Texans
LB Sean Weatherspoon/Atlanta Falcons