Every season there are rookies drafted that make an immediate impact for their teams. Teams expect this from their first-round picks, but it's the best talent evaluators who find the diamonds in the rough in the later rounds of the draft. (The Seattle Seahawks have done an excellent job of this the past couple of years.) Of course, it's easiest for rookies to impact the game at quarterback, and we saw that last year with Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson all leading their respective teams to the playoffs.
But without a rookie quarterback definitively starting Week 1, the most impactful rookies this season will come at the skill positions and on defense. It's a big adjustment from college, so look for several of these guys to really come into their own in the second half of the season after they've settled in to how the game is played at the highest level.
Here are five rookies I'm excited to see this season:
Tyrann Mathieu, CB/S, Arizona Cardinals
It will be very interesting to see how Bruce Arians decides to use this youngster. I love his playmaking ability, and he has terrific hands and eyes -- two crucial aspects to playing cornerback. From what I've heard it sounds like the Cardinals may try him at safety to let him roam a little more and maximize his ability as a playmaker, but I worry about his ability to hold up -- and to make tackles consistently. At 5-foot-9, 186 pounds, he isn't even built like a Bob Sanders, and if they try to get him to put weight on, it could slow him down. If the Cardinals do play him at safety, they'll probably either keep him high or bring him down into the box to blitz. I see him more as a guy who should play 25-plus plays a game at the nickel spot and help on special teams this season. I think he has a chance to be a good player in this league.