The 2011 NFL Draft is months gone, and rookies are getting their first taste of the NFL as they begin practice in their respective team’s training camp. Just a few weeks stand between now and the start of the regular season which is when they will get first real action on the gridiron.

Every year, we witness rookies make a fluid transition from the college ranks to the pro game and have an immediate impact on their team. Last year we witnessed the top two overall picks, quarterback Sam Bradford and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, claim the Offensive and Defensive Rookie of the Year awards after impressive performances. At the same time, 7th round pick Marc Mariani was selected to the Pro Bowl which just goes to show that anyone can make a name for themselves.

That being said, here’s a look at whom I believe the Top 8 Biggest Impact Rookies will be.

8. RB Mark Ingram, New Orleans Saints

Mark Ingram may have to split time with Pierre Thomas, but he’s always injured and his future with the team is uncertain.

Nevertheless, what we do know is that the Saints want to get back to running the ball like they did in 2009 when they ranked 6th in rushing yards and ultimately won the Super Bowl.

Ingram will be given his shot and he’s talented enough to capitalize on it.

7. G/C Mike Pouncey, Miami Dolphins

The bloodline is great here as his twin brother Maurkice Pouncey was a Pro Bowl center for the AFC Champion Pittsburgh Steelers last season.

Moreover, just take a look at what the Dolphins did in the last time they drafted an offensive lineman in the 1st round. Jake Long, who was taken with the first overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft, is already one of the best in the business.

I think they could train Pouncey similarly and turn him into a cornerstone of their interior o-line.

6. OT Gabe Carimi, Chicago Bears

Going into the draft, Gabe Carimi was widely considered one of the most pro ready offensive lineman in the class because while he may not be the greatest athlete, he does have the technique needed to be a starter in this league.

He will provide a major upgrade for an offensive line that surrendered a league-high 59 sacks last season. With that being so, there’s no way that he doesn’t make a huge impact.

5. RB Daniel Thomas, Miami Dolphins

Daniel Thomas may be overshadowed by Reggie Bush, but don’t be surprised if he’s named the starter and is given the majority of the carries. He’s proven that he can be a workhorse in college, and with a massive 6’1″ 228 lbs. frame, he should carry that over with the Dolphins. Especially with major questions at quarterback, expect head coach Tony Sporano to continue his run-heavy gameplan.

4. WR A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals

A.J. Green is one of those unique wide receivers that possess the rare combination of physical skills and natural receiving ability. He will be catching balls from a rookie quarterback, but take a look at the past three receivers taken in the Top 5 and their rookie campaigns.

Calvin Johnson: 756 yards, 4 TD

Larry Fitzgerald: 780 Yards, 8 TD

Andre Johnson: 976 Yards, 4 TD

There’s no reason that Green can’t replicate that.

The only reason I don’t have him higher is because wide receiver is already the toughest position to learn, and the lockout makes it even more challenging.

3. WR Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons

Green will have to deal with rookie Andy Dalton which could limit his rookie season. Julio Jones, on the other hand will be catching passes from Pro Bowler Matt Ryan and won’t have all the coverage on his side with All Pro Roddy White opposite him.

Jones reminds me of the situation that Dez Bryant went into last year with the Dallas Cowboys as Miles Austin was the primary option. Remember, he hauled in 45 receptions for 561 yards for six touchdowns and did so in only twelve games six of which were with Jon Kitna.

Barring any major setbacks I could see Jones put up even better numbers.

2. CB Jimmy Smith, Baltimore Ravens

Despite being drafted 22 spots lower, Jimmy Smith is just a notch below Patrick Peterson.

The reason he fell was because of character issues but on a team that includes respected veterans such as Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, Smith won’t even think about stepping out of line so it should be a non-issue.

1. CB Patrick Peterson, Arizona Cardinals

Maybe it’s just me but Patrick Peterson reminds me a lot like Deion Sanders with his shutdown cover skills and his threat to score in the return game.

In fact, he may be the most complete overall prospect in this year’s draft class and he should begin making plays from Day One.

The Cardinals wanted a player who could make an ‘immediate impact’ and they certainly got that here.


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