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Posted May 6, 2010
Most Productive 2010 NFL Rookies
The most talented rookies don't necessarily translate to immediate NFL success. Instant production at the next level is reliant upon the team's depth chart (who does he have to beat out) and the players' skill set. Athleticism is great, but this isn't the Big XII. It's the NFL. These prospects not only are in the right situation, but they have the ability to translate to the NFL quickly.
Eric Berry, S, Kansas City Chiefs: Berry immediately upgrades the Chiefs playmaking ability in the back half. Berry is a thumper that rarely - if ever - makes mental mistakes in coverage or when taking angles. He plays with outstanding tackling technique and shouldn't have much of a problem taking down NFL ball carriers. Berry's best asset is his mental makeup - he's an elite competitor that finds a way to make plays.
Russell Okung, LT, Seattle Seahawks: Okung's biggest knock was that he didn't have elite athleticism, which is why I can't wait to see how his career pans out compared to the super-athletic Trent Williams from Oklahoma. Okung should be able to keep the blind side protected in a rookie season that I believe will rival Joe Thomas' 2007 campaign. Okung has a great work ethic and plays with tremendous technique. Also, don't discount his fierceness or power as a run blocker.
Rolando McClain, ILB, Oakland Raiders: Oakland moving to the 3-4 is a smart move considering the personnel they have acquired, and McClain is a huge part of that piece. My biggest complaints with McClain were his lack of speed and range, but this will be hidden in the 3-4. A cause for concern is now he has Oakland's defensive line in front of him as opposed to Alabama's, but he should have a solid rookie year.
Jerry Hughes, DE, Indianapolis Colts: I doubt Hughes beats out Robert Mathis to crack the starting lineup, but I expect the explosive pass rusher to have a big impact for the Colts. He is perfect for this scheme and his career will benefit from playing on the FieldTurf. When Mathis or Freeney get tired, Hughes will come in with a huge motor and amazing speed. Offensive lines: beware.
Nate Allen, FS, Philadelphia Eagles: Allen is a highly intelligent safety who is smooth in coverage with amazing range. He is a fluid athlete and was more of a playmaker than draftniks gave him credit for. I expect Allen to have a big rookie season on an extremely good Eagles defense.
Jimmy Clausen, QB, Carolina Panthers: There probably wasn't a better team fit in the NFL than Carolina for Clausen. They have an elite offensive line with two powerful, productive running backs. Not to mention, Clausen already knows 90 percent of Carolina's playbook word-for-word. Matt Moore is feeling the heat, and I expect Clausen to out-perform Matt Ryan's rookie year (3,440 yards, 16 TDs, 11 INTs) if he beats out Moore before the season starts.
Jermaine Cunningham, DE/OLB, New England Patriots: Many called me crazy and stupid (this happens daily, don't worry) when I graded Jermaine Cunningham over Carlos Dunlap on my big board. Then, Cunningham was selected one pick ahead of Dunlap in the 2010 NFL Draft. I love his motor and underrated athleticism. Obviously, the Pats saw the same things I did on tape.
Ben Tate, RB, Houston Texans: My vote for 2010 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. Multiple times I mocked Tate to the Texans in the second round before I moved Ryan Mathews up to No. 20 overall to Houston in my mock. Tate is simply a great fit for the zone-blocking scheme, and we see it every year how a second- or third-round running backs produces more than we anticipate. Tate gives this offense the power it needs.
Jon Asamoah, G, Kansas City Chiefs: The Chiefs need more power and athleticism up front, and that's why taking Jon Asamoah in the third round was their next-best draft pick to Eric Berry at No. 5 overall. Asamoah might have some trouble picking up an NFL scheme as Xavier Fulton did last year with Tampa, but he has the talent on a weak offensive line to be special.
Damian Williams, WR, Tennessee Titans: Williams reportedly will already be the team's return man, but I expect him to have a very big season receiving the football as well. He is an elite route runner with a tremendous work ethic and should become a favorite of Vince Young's.
Eric Decker, WR, Denver Broncos: Decker will beat out first-round draft choice Demaryius Thomas as a rookie barring injury. His game is simply far more polished and he should make an immediate impact for Josh McDaniels because unlike Thomas, he doesn't drop the football and he is a polished route runner.
Mike Williams, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: I've heard that Tampa likes Williams more than second-round pick Arrelious Benn. We will see if Williams can keep his nose clean in Tampa, but I think he'll put up better stats as a rookie. With Josh Freeman being a mainstay at Bucs headquarters this offseason, Williams could have WR3 potential in fantasy.
Zoltan Mesko/Brent Bowden, P, New England Patriots/Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Punters aren't drafted to ride the pine. I expect both prospects to win the starting jobs in camp.