Predicting the best NFL rookie on every team

From the No. 1 overall pick to small-school third-rounders, our NFL Nation reporters predict the rookie on every team who will have the biggest impact in 2017.

AFC East | AFC North| AFC South | AFC West
NFC East | NFC North | NFC South | NFC West


Buffalo Bills

WR Zay Jones

The No. 37 overall pick, Jones has a chance to make an immediate impact at a position of uncertainty for Buffalo. With Sammy Watkins' recovery from foot surgery likely to sideline him until training camp, Jones should get plenty of time with Tyrod Taylor in OTAs to develop chemistry and accelerate his transition to the NFL. -- Mike Rodak

Miami Dolphins

LB Raekwon McMillan

Considering the Dolphins' recent track record of linebacker injuries, McMillan likely will find himself getting plenty of snaps. The second-round pick is a natural middle linebacker who could move outside and eventually take Koa Misi's starting job this season. -- James Walker

New England Patriots

DE Derek Rivers

The team's top draft pick (third round, No. 83 overall), Rivers projects as a situational pass-rusher and special-teams contributor from Day 1, with the hope that he grows into a larger role. His 41 career sacks at Youngstown State are a school record. -- Mike Reiss

New York Jets

S Jamal Adams

This isn't an outside-the-box choice, but sometimes you can't ignore the obvious. Adams has the talent to make an immediate impact, and he's a lock to be a Day 1 starter. When talent meets opportunity, it usually produces positive results. -- Rich Cimini


Baltimore Ravens

LB Tyus Bowser

The second-round pick should be an immediate starter at outside linebacker opposite Terrell Suggs. Bowser can play the run, drop back in coverage and, most importantly, get after the quarterback. He had 8.5 sacks in eight games for Houston last season. After Baltimore signed veteran cornerback Brandon Carr in free agency, first-round pick Marlon Humphrey can be brought along more slowly and used in a rotation at cornerback. -- Jamison Hensley

Cincinnati Bengals

RB Joe Mixon

The Bengals took a lot of criticism for the selection of Mixon, whose draft status plummeted due to character concerns. However, Mixon will likely get a heavy dose of playing time right away. And he can be used in a variety of ways, whether it's as a traditional running back or as a pass-catcher. He could also be the Bengals' kick returner. While wide receiver John Ross could make an impact, Mixon is poised to get the most playing time as a rookie. -- Katherine Terrell

Cleveland Browns

DE Myles Garrett

He had better be the Browns' best rookie, or Cleveland once again made the wrong choice at No. 1 overall. Garrett should be a huge boost for a Browns defense that finished tied for the second-fewest sacks in the league last season, with 26. He totaled 32.5 sacks in his three seasons at Texas A&M. Cleveland also will receive strong contributions from its other two first-round picks: Jabrill Peppers, who is expected to play safety and return punts; and David Njoku, widely thought to be the second-best tight end in the draft. -- Jamison Hensley

Pittsburgh Steelers

WR JuJu Smith-Schuster

First-round pass-rusher T.J. Watt should have a big impact on the Steelers, but Smith-Schuster can make one more quickly. Playing behind James Harrison and Bud Dupree at outside linebacker might limit Watt's first-year snaps. There are more plays available on offense, even if wide receiver Martavis Bryant returns from conditional reinstatement. Smith-Schuster has the size, toughness and attitude to win over coaches early in camp. -- Jeremy Fowler


Houston Texans

QB Deshaun Watson

None of the Texans' draft picks are expected to start right away, but Watson is the only one who will really challenge for the starting job and could have an immediate impact. Head coach Bill O'Brien said Tom Savage is the starting quarterback right now, but by trading up to draft Watson in the first round, the Texans ensured that there will be competition at the position during training camp. -- Sarah Barshop

Indianapolis Colts

S Malik Hooker

General manager Chris Ballard wants defensive players who can force turnovers. Hooker does just that. The former Buckeye will get every opportunity to be the Colts' Week 1 starter because of his ball-hawking ability. The Colts didn't return a single interception for a touchdown last season. Hooker returned three of his seven picks for scores at Ohio State in 2016. -- Mike Wells

Jacksonville Jaguars

RB Leonard Fournette

The Jaguars want to base their offense on ball control and play-action, and for that to be effective, they need a workhorse back. Fournette is the perfect fit. At 6-foot and 228 pounds, he's a powerful runner who thrives on contact. He'll get every opportunity to surpass 1,000 yards as a rookie. -- Mike DiRocco

Tennessee Titans

WR Corey Davis

The fifth player and first receiver selected in the 2017 draft, Davis brings the Titans a combination of size and explosiveness that they haven't had. He should have an immediate impact as a Marcus Mariota target and affect the way defenses cover the rest of the Titans' weapons. -- Paul Kuharsky


Denver Broncos

WR Carlos Henderson

First-round pick Garett Bolles is expected to start at left tackle, and if all goes as planned, defensive end DeMarcus Walker will be in the pass-rushing rotation. But if you're talking potential impact, Henderson could be the team's No. 3 receiver and top kickoff returner. He's a powerful player with the ball. His game should translate quickly to the NFL. -- Jeff Legwold

Kansas City Chiefs

RB Kareem Hunt

Spencer Ware is the likely starter and might get the majority of work as the featured back, but the Chiefs like Hunt, a third-round draft pick, and he will earn playing time with a strong showing in training camp and the preseason. Hunt's playing time could well increase over the course of the season as he becomes more familiar with the offense -- Adam Teicher

Los Angeles Chargers

OL Forrest Lamp

The Chargers haven't said where Lamp will play along the offensive line, but the team's second-round selection should provide a significant upgrade to the team's interior offensive line. The athletic Lamp is expected to provide better pass protection for veteran quarterback Philip Rivers and clear some running lanes for explosive back Melvin Gordon. -- Eric D. Williams

Oakland Raiders

CB Gareon Conley

The Raiders believe Conley will be cleared after being accused of rape but not charged or arrested, which is why they used their first-round pick on him. If he is cleared, Oakland got a steal. Conley could presumably start at right cornerback in base defense and move inside to the slot in nickel, which would allow Sean Smith to go to the outside and pick up safety help deep. -- Paul Gutierrez


Dallas Cowboys

DE Taco Charlton

The Cowboys' biggest need entering the draft was pass rush, and they believe Charlton will help solidify a rush that has not been effective enough since DeMarcus Ware's departure following the 2013 season. Second- and third-round cornerbacks Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis have playmaking abilities, but Charlton will have more opportunities because of the need at his position. -- Todd Archer

New York Giants

DT Dalvin Tomlinson

I passed on first-round selection Evan Engram because rookie tight ends rarely thrive. I almost went with fourth-round pick Wayne Gallman because of the opportunity that is available at running back. But Tomlinson is the choice because he gets to slide favorably into a stacked defensive line. Although he won't produce gaudy numbers, Tomlinson should start and make the biggest impact as a rookie run stuffer on a defense that will be among the league's best against the run. -- Jordan Raanan

Philadelphia Eagles

DE Derek Barnett

After parting with veteran Connor Barwin this offseason, the Eagles have an opening at one of the defensive end spots opposite Brandon Graham. Even if Vinny Curry or Chris Long winds up claiming that role, Barnett will get his share of opportunities in a Jim Schwartz scheme that frequently rotates its defensive linemen. The Eagles hope that Barnett, who averaged double-digit sacks during his time at Tennessee, will make an immediate impact as a pass-rusher. -- Tim McManus

Washington Redskins

DL Jonathan Allen

Allen, who has top-five talent but fell to pick No. 17, shows good quickness and pass-rush ability, which will help both in base and nickel, where he can rush inside. He's strong and can hold the point of attack in the run game. The Redskins had not drafted a defensive lineman in the first round in 20 years, but selecting him was the easiest decision they've made in many years. Allen should make a big impact as a rookie as long as his shoulder remains healthy. -- John Keim


Chicago Bears

S/KR Eddie Jackson

There isn't an obvious answer here. The Bears drafted three players from below the FBS level and a quarterback who isn't expected to play in 2017. Chicago's front office probably feels Division II tight end Adam Shaheen is the most likely to contribute, but Jackson -- coming off a broken leg at Alabama -- fills an immediate need on special teams. The Bears are desperate for positive plays in the return game, and Jackson might provide that if he's healthy. Chicago also wants better safety play alongside veteran free-agent pickup Quintin Demps. To win a job on defense, Jackson needs to beat several safeties already on the roster, but the free safety position is wide open. -- Jeff Dickerson

Detroit Lions

LB Jarrad Davis

The No. 21 overall pick has the best chance to be an immediate rookie starter for the Lions. That might require relaying all the calls to the defense and making instinctual plays from Day 1. -- Michael Rothstein

Green Bay Packers

CB Kevin King

The Packers don't have anyone like him. In fact, not many teams do. That's why at 6-foot-3 and with 32-inch arms, King could turn into the shutdown cornerback the Packers' 31st-ranked pass defense lacked last season. King has a rare combination of size and speed, which should give the second-round pick (No. 33 overall) the chance to be their No. 1 corner right away. -- Rob Demovsky

Minnesota Vikings

RB Dalvin Cook

He'll get a chance to play a big role right away, as the Vikings try to revamp their backfield after parting ways with Adrian Peterson. The Vikings, who had the league's worst running game last season, are in dire need of a playmaker. They'll give Cook opportunities to fill that need, both as a running back and as a receiver in an offense in which backs get plenty of passes thrown their way. -- Ben Goessling


Atlanta Falcons

DE Takkarist McKinley

The Falcons took a chance on McKinley, who is coming off major shoulder surgery, but the team thinks he can still have an immediate impact. The Falcons are hoping to pair McKinley with fellow speed rusher and reigning NFL sacks leader Vic Beasley Jr. The film shows just how relentless McKinley is. He plays angry but just needs to channel that emotion in the correct manner: toward sacking opposing quarterbacks. -- Vaughn McClure

Carolina Panthers

RB Christian McCaffrey

Second-round pick Curtis Samuel will play a big role as a slot receiver who also can line up in the backfield, but McCaffrey will have the biggest impact. He can play running back, slot receiver and wide receiver, and he also returns punts. His flexibility will keep him on the field and create big-play opportunities on short passes. That is much needed for an offense that has ranked 29th in the NFL in yards after the catch over the past two seasons. -- David Newton

New Orleans Saints

CB Marshon Lattimore

The obvious choice -- for good reason. The Saints were thrilled when Lattimore fell to them with the 11th pick in the draft, because they had him graded among their top four overall prospects. Plus, he filled one of their two most glaring needs (cornerback and edge rusher). Lattimore had just one year of full-time starting experience at Ohio State after he battled hamstring issues early in his career, but he is a blazing-fast cover corner who should give this defense a boost. Honorable mention: third-rounder Alvin Kamara, a pass-catching running back the Saints liked so much, they traded next year's second-rounder to get him. They envision him as a Darren Sproles/Reggie Bush type. -- Mike Triplett

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

TE O.J. Howard

Recent history doesn't favor tight ends to have highly productive rookie campaigns. Of the 23 tight ends drafted in the first two rounds over the past decade, the Seattle Seahawks' John Carlson (second round, 2008) had the most receiving yards in his rookie season, with 627. (Hat tip to Jordan Raanan for the great stat.) That isn't a great figure. It's usually the second year when great tight ends make the jump, as was the case with Rob Gronkowski, Jason Witten, Antonio Gates and Jimmy Graham, who all reached 900 yards in Year 2. What might be the real difference-maker is Howard's ability to serve as a run-blocker, and the Bucs have a definite need for that right now. We'll say he bucks the trend on this one. -- Jenna Laine


Arizona Cardinals

S Budda Baker

If the Cardinals' second-round pick can pick up the multiple defenses that coordinator James Bettcher likes to call, Baker should find himself on the field early and often this season. According to Bettcher, the Cardinals run sub-packages on 79 percent of their defensive snaps, which will give Baker plenty of opportunities to play either slot corner or safety. Baker has the size and quickness to be impactful, but the biggest question is whether his ball skills can translate to the NFL. -- Josh Weinfuss

Los Angeles Rams

WR Cooper Kupp

Gerald Everett, a pass-catching tight end out of South Alabama who was selected 44th overall, is the most talented rookie on the Rams' roster. But by the end of the year, Kupp, a third-rounder out of Eastern Washington, might end up with the best numbers. Kupp is a more polished receiver who operates best out of the slot and is primed to establish himself as something of a security blanket for Jared Goff. Kupp joins the Rams after a record-breaking collegiate career in finishing with 6,464 yards. He knows how to put up numbers. -- Alden Gonzalez

San Francisco 49ers

LB Reuben Foster

Operating under the assumption that his shoulder holds up for the full season, Foster will start from the get-go and should instantly improve the league's worst run defense. Foster will probably begin at weakside linebacker next to NaVorro Bowman in the middle, but he'll eventually become the middle linebacker and center of the defense (though maybe not this year). Foster's ability to stay on the field for all three downs gives him a slight edge over fellow first-round pick Solomon Thomas. -- Nick Wagoner

Seattle Seahawks

OL Ethan Pocic

He certainly isn't the most prominent name on this list, but the Seahawks drafted Pocic in the second round with the expectation that he'll compete for a starting job at right guard or right tackle. The Seahawks' struggles up front have been well-documented, and the outcome of the 2017 season rests largely on the team's ability to improve along the offensive line. Pocic's providing an immediate upgrade will be critical. -- Sheil Kapadia