With the NFL Draft in the books, the shape of each team’s roster looks a little clearer. And while some teams will not need to rely heavily on the first year players they just got done drafting, others will rely on those players to step in right away to fill a need. These five players in particular will be able to make a big impact on their respective clubs in their first years as professionals, and potentially change the futures of their franchises.
5. Deshaun Watson – QB – Houston Texans
The Houston Texans have come out and said that Tom Savage will be their starting quarterback to open the 2017 season. That’s fine for the early portion of the season, when Watson will be learning the offense and adjusting to being a pro. But it is hard to imagine a future in which Savage will remain the quarterback for the entire season due to how ineffective he was during his action last season, along with the Texans not wanting to waste another year of having an elite defense on a quarterback they know they can’t win with.
Watson should start getting game action in the second half of the season, as the team looks to make its playoff push, to get him ready for the postseason, which the Texans should qualify for with their elite defense in a division of also-rans. Once he gets in there, his pedigree as a guy who simply wins games should make him a contributor right away.
4. John Ross – WR – Cincinatti Bengals
Game planning for the Cincinnati Bengals offense has been pretty straightforward over the last couple of seasons: just stop AJ Green and Tyler Eifert when he’s healthy. The addition of John Ross adds another dimension to a passing offense that took a step back last season, with his blinding speed sure to force defenses to respect the deep ball. This should open things up underneath for Andy Dalton, and not allow defenses to commit quite as many players to Green.
3. Dalvin Cook – RB – Minnesota Vikings
Minnesota was able to wait until the second round to grab Dalvin Cook, a decision that should be beneficial for both the team and the player. Cook is an NFL-ready back straight out of college, and should be more productive than Adrian Peterson, who alternated between being ineffective and injured last season. Throw former Oakland Raiders running back Latavius Murray into the equation alongside Cook, and the Vikings should have a rushing attack that can help them mix things up and put less of the offensive burden on the less-than-stellar Sam Bradford.
2. Marshon Lattimore – CB – New Orleans Saints
Pass defense for the New Orleans Saints has been merely a suggestion, so the selection of Lattimore with the 11th pick of the first round is a nice sign that they are committed to fixing their biggest flaw. With a group of corners led by Delvin Breaux, who is okay but not spectacular, Lattimore is going to have to come in and see action right away, and should be able to do just that after being tested at Ohio State both in and out of conference.
1. Garett Bolles – OL – Denver Broncos
Blocking for a Utah offense that saw a decent amount of success despite not being a top-five destination in the Pac-12, Garett Bolles was a big reason that the Utes have been so good in recent seasons. On a Denver team that has a great defense, good wide receivers, and a quarterback in Trevor Siemian who looked decent in spurts, the offensive line is the one missing piece for the Broncos. Bolles has the talent to step in and help fill that void, which could help Denver get back to another Super Bowl.