Denver and Baltimore gave us a good lesson Thursday night in the difference between big rookie names and NFL rookie reality. Baltimore added Matt Elam and Arthur Brown in the draft, and both will eventually become key players, Elam at safety and Brown at linebacker. Many assume we'd see a big impact right away, but they contributed little and neither started. Denver drafted Montee Ball to be a threat in the run game, where they lack explosiveness. But it's clear Ball will be brought along at a slow pace. He had eight carries Thursday night, and he isn't close to being the bell cow in Denver.
But this is how it should be for above-average teams. The phrase, "I really hope we get to use our rookies!" doesn't exist in the NFL. Yes, there will be impact, but you don't want to rely on it if you don't have to. Teams who expect a ton of rookie impact generally aren't battling for playoff spots.
But in 2013, some teams need the help.
Next week, I'll deliver a first batch of rookie rankings. But for now, we're taking a look at teams with key rookies.
Below, I'm ranking teams based on how much they'll rely on rookies in 2013. As a rule, this isn't merely about the total number of rookie starters. Positional value matters. So a rookie quarterback starting clearly outweighs a rookie right tackle. Let's line it up.