With the combine and draft over and now the free agency period just simmering away, I will be looking at the most promising rookies for the 2016 season. These are the players I feel will be instant contributors to their team and might be reaching the Pro Bowl. Recent examples of this would be Zac Martin for the Cowboys, Tyler Lockett for the Seahawks and Marcus Peters for the Chiefs. This isn’t a ranking for each of these players, just a list.
My first player is Ezekiel Elliott who went 4th overall to the Cowboys from Ohio State. He is in line for a promising rookie season mainly due to the supporting cast around him in Dallas. There has been a long string of failed running backs drafted in the first round recently eg Trent Richardson, David Wilson and Jahvid Best, to name a few, but this to me doesn’t seem like a gamble by Jerry Jones because, during his time at Ohio State, Elliot had total 4410 yards and 44 touchdowns, and was labeled as the best,most complete back to enter the draft since Adrian Peterson. So drafting him with a supporting cast ofTony Romo, Dez Bryant, Jason Witten and the best offensive line in the NFL I believe can only lead to success for Elliot, who can show people that he can break the recent curse of 1st round running backs.
Another player with a promising rookie season ahead of him is Offensive Tackle Laremy Tunsil from Ole Miss, who went 13th overall to the Miami Dolphins. Before the draft and the trades, Tunsil was the best player on many people’s boards. So after the Rams and the Eagles moved up, many people assumed he would go 3rd overall as he was the best player in the draft. But literally minutes before the Draft, a video on Twitter was posted of him smoking marijuana through a gas mask. It went viral, causing his draft stock to crash going from a top 5 pick down to 13. I feel this will give Tunsil much-needed motivation this season to prove those 12 other teams that they were missing out on a star when they didn’t pick him. He will be working on a line with such notable names as Branden Albert, Jermon Bushrod, and Mike Pouncey, who between them have 7 Pro Bowl appearances, so he will be in good hands to show us all his potential this season.
A defensive rookie I believe will have a breakout season is Defensive Tackle Robert Nkemdiche from Ole Miss. He, like former teammate Tunsil, slid down draft boards, but this was due to an incident where in December 2015, Nkemdiche fell from a 4th-floor window, walked 15 feet and climbed over a wall then fell 15 feet. He was conscious and in a stable condition but the police found marijuana in his room and charged him with drug possession. It was this horror show that caused teams to flee from the 6’3, 296lbs defensive tackle until the Cardinals selected him with the 29th overall pick. He will have a breakout season due to his incredible speed and strength combo with Head Coach Bruce Arians saying “ He was killing people in the walkthrough and I had to slow him down,” “It’s walkthrough and he’s bench-pressing linemen already.” With that in mind, look out for him and Chandler Jones to be causing havoc down in Arizona.
And finally, in order to balance it out, another defensive player to have a breakout rookie season will be Vernon Hargreaves Cornerback who was taken 11th overall by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from the university of Florida. During his time in Florida, Hargreaves had 10 interceptions, 121 tackles and 17 passes defended. He was named 2x All-American and 3x All-SEC as a Gator, so coming onto a team with only Brent Grimes seen as a starter, Hargreaves will be getting plenty of snaps and seeing a lot of the ball with Grimes on the opposite side. Due to his excellent reading of the game and NFL Draft Analyst Mike Mayock saying “ He’s got the best feet of any cornerback coming out if the draft in the past 2 or 3 years”. Look out for him to be making plays this season in Tampa.