Every Friday Mel Kiper looks at the NFL through the prism of the NFL draft.
I'm often asked what position faces the most difficult transition from college to the NFL. But becasue of complexity in the current game and the speed with which teams can alter their schemes and game-planning not just year to year, but week to week, there isn't one easy answer anymore. Consider...
• For years, we've said running back is the easiest position to transition. The holes and running lanes might close faster, but they look the same. But college running backs are rarely forced to help pick up blitzes coming at multiple angles while facing a system such as Dick LeBeau's. You'd be shocked how many good backs get stuck on the bench because of blocking questions.
• And it's often said how difficult the transition is for QBs, which is true, but there are years it looks easier than others. Ben Roethlisberger as a rookie was asked to throw 20 times a game becuase the Steelers were able to put up big yards on the ground and shut people down. Roethlisberger is a great QB, but many rookies could have thrived on that team.
• I've often said I think a pure pass-rushing 3-4 OLB has a relatively easy transition -- think Terrell Suggs, LaMarr Woodley or, for this year, Koa Misi -- because that position has historically been about "see quarterback, get quarterback," but not all 3-4's look the same. Those OLBs are often forced to be outstanding in coverage. A pure edge-rusher in college could be nightmarish in a coverage scenario.
The bottom line is they're all difficult transitions. Every one. As much as a head coach can draft a player and try to simplify things, the opposing coach is dead set on making life on the field as confusing as possible. And in a league built on reacting, it's about perpetually adjusting.
That said, let's look at some rookies that, for one reason or another, have had relatively slow starts but should be able to provide more in the second half.
The 3-4 defensive end out of Penn State is only on this list because he's been hurt, but I expect big things from him when he's 100 percent and in the lineup. He showed great flashes in the preseason, and at 6-5, 304 pounds with a tremendous workrate and a game built on disruption, he'll be perfect for that scheme.