As much as we put into the NFL draft, there's certainly a misconception about the role rookies can play on really good teams. The jump in technical expertise is significant enough that even the top rookies struggle to contribute for months. Just spend a little time sifting through playoff roster depth charts sometime and you'll get a quick education.
That's why, when I looked at guys I felt could make an early impact from the first round of the recent draft, I had to qualify that Ndamukong Suh and Jahvid Best wouldn't just make an impact with the Detroit Lions because the team had so many holes, but because those are guys uniquely skilled and suited to make an impact in a lot of places early in their NFL careers.
With that in mind, here's a look at a handful of players who I think could help their teams very early in their NFL careers and were picked on the second day of the draft in Rounds 2 and 3:
1. Dexter McCluster
This pick surprised a lot of people. Here were the Kansas City Chiefs, drafting early in Round 2 (No. 36), with needs dotting their board. Then they take an undersized running back out of Ole Miss who I think could have gone closer to the late stages of Round 2. McCluster is really miscast as simply the next in a line of guys like Darren Sproles -- small, super-fast, change-of-pace players who break big plays but always seem in jeopardy of taking that one big hit. But the Chiefs can use this guy. And right away.
For one, McCluster can catch the ball. He caught 44 passes last year -- from the undrafted and often inaccurate Jevan Snead -- and can line up in the slot for the Chiefs. At about 175 pounds, he's not a drastically undersized slot guy. What's more, McCluster is tough. He piled up 181 carries last year, including 34 against Oklahoma St. So yes, he won't be used in the slot alone. Think Sproles with better receiving skills. Ultimately, McCluster tops this list because the Chiefs do have holes. In that sense, why take a guy at this stage if you don't plan to utilize him immediately? You can bet Todd Haley and Charlie Weis are already at the drawing board.