The NFL season starts in 8 days with a Thursday Night matchup. This season, as is always the case, there are hundreds of rookies hoping to find a way onto an NFL team’s final 53-man roster.
Once there, they hope to make an impact in some way. Even fewer have the confidence and ability to make that impact from day one and have a change of being rookie of the year.
Besides having the determination and talent to prove how good they can play, rookies need the luck of being in the right place at the right time with the right team needing them to fill a need.
If a talented quarterback is drafted to back up a Drew Brees or Aaron Rodgers, they will get very little opportunity to prove their talent. However, if a good early round pick at running back is given the opportunity to back up a player who is injury prone, then he might get his chance to shine.
Many talented rookies are on NFL rosters, but these five will shine above the rest.
- Giovanni Bernard. The Cincinnati Bengals running back was the 37th player drafted overall. In the draft, he was the first running back chosen and will be used often from the start by the Bengals. He will give quarterback Andy Dalton another target out of the backfield and his running skills will help the Bengals become more of a two-pronged offense. He eventually should become the Bengals No. 1 back. With a strong passing game, led by A.J. Green, the Bengals running game could benefit from a spread defense and Bernard will be the benefactor over the long term.
- Jarvis Jones with the Pittsburgh Steelers is a talented linebacker ready to make an impact. He recorded 28 sacks over his last two seasons in college and will be an impact player on defense from the first game. Jones could have a half a dozen or more sacks this season and is the favorite for many to win the defensive rookie of the year honors.
- Eddie Lacy will have an opportunity to shine at running back for the Green Bay Packers. The offense for the Packers is pass first run second, but with a successful aerial game, the running game should benefit and Lacy could be the Packers eventual No. 1 back. He has had an injury or two already in the preseason, but the bruising back who weighs 230 pounds is tough to bring down. He was penciled in early to be the starter, but with the injuries, he may see limited action early in the season.
- Kenbrell Thompkins could become one of Tom Brady’s best targets at wide receiver as the season progresses. Thompkins was not drafted out of Cincinnati and has had attitude and legal problems, but has played well to start the preseason. He did not have many yards receiving his junior and senior seasons but has impressed thus far in New England’s first three preseason games. He could step into the No. 2 receiver role from the start.
- Datone Jones is a defensive end drafted by Green Bay who will help the defense of the Packers from day one. He should start, as his speed is something the defense needs. As offenses key on other Packers such as Clay Matthews and B.J. Raji, Jones will be able to take advantage and shine. Jones has had an ankle injury in camp, but should overcome that to start in game one against San Francisco. His size and speed will make him a threat against any offensive lineman in the league.