Zack Martin Among NFC’s Most Impactful Rookies
By Kevin “KT” Turner
DALLAS (105.3 THE FAN) — On Tuesday, we broke down the AFC, identifying one rookie from each team that could have the biggest impact in the 2014 NFL season.
C.J. Mosely, Jadaveon Clowney, and Sammy Watkins are candidates to have huge seasons. They made the list.
Today, we turn our eyes to the NFC. Which Cowboys draft pick made the list?
ARIZONA CARDINALS: DE Kareem Martin (3rd Round, 84th Overall)
To me, one of the worst drafts in 2014 was the Arizona Cardinals. Obviously, that’s unfair until the players play themselves out, but one pick that I really liked was their 3rd round selection Kareem Martin. Martin will likely open up the season as a 2nd string defensive end, spelling Calais Campbell, and honestly Campbell isn’t a bad comparison for Kareem Martin. He’s huge at 6’6” 275, although he’s bulked up a little bit more. He was a little stiff on his college tape, but I think the flexibility and bend could project out. He’ll help their defense this year.
ATLANTA FALCONS: RB DeVonta Freeman (4th Round, 103rd Overall)
I’m very tempted to go with Jake Matthews here, since he’ll now be starting at left tackle due to the injury of Sam Baker. But I’m sticking to my guns. DeVonta Freeman may be may favorite player in this entire draft class. He was so fun to watch. He absolutely refuses to go down. I predict a short career, because this is a stubborn guy who just puts his head down and bowls down the lane. He’s the definition of a bowling ball. He looked so confused at the combine. He didn’t even know where he was. At one point, he accidentally wandered into the wide receiver deep ball drills. Then we watched the game tape and he was amazing. I’m so high on this kid, and if Stephen Jackson is injured or ineffective early, then he’s a clear rookie of the year candidate for me. I love this player.
CAROLINA PANTHERS: WR Kelvin Benjamin (1st Round, 28th Overall)
I always liked Benjamin quite a bit. He was the cause of great debate in the meetings I had with Jeff Cavanaugh and Bryan Broaddus. Early word out of Carolina camp is that he’s becoming Cam Newton’s security blanket and he’s not dropping any balls. He’s pretty stiff, but he’s just flat bigger than everyone. He’s got work to do in route running technique, but I look for him to have an immediate impact, maybe one of the biggest impacts of the entire wide receiver draft class.
CHICAGO BEARS: DT Will Sutton (3rd Round, 82nd Overall)
Sutton was a guy I was hoping the Cowboys would consider. He’ll open the season as a 2nd stringer, but he’ll likely get starting reps sooner than later because he backs up Jeremiah Ratliff (you know him as Jay). To me, Sutton would have been a great fit here in Dallas to play either the 3 or the 1 technique defensive tackle, but he was swiped away in the 3rd round by Chicago, who also runs a 4-3 most of the time. I had a 2nd round grade on Sutton, and see him really contributing in 2014.
DALLAS COWBOYS: OL Zack Martin (1st Round, 16th Overall)
We know this would have been Ryan Shazier had Pittsburgh not selected the Ohio State linebacker one pick before at 15. Zack Martin makes a lot of sense though. He’s a really good player, and I strongly debated ranking him over Jake Matthews in my offensive tackle rankings. He ended up being my 4th favorite offensive tackle, but it was close. He’ll do a great job at guard, and will be instrumental in this offense being one of the best offenses in the league. He also projects as a guy that can move outside to tackle, whenever that becomes convenient for the Cowboys. A truly safe, but good pick for the Cowboys.
DETROIT LIONS: TE Eric Ebron (1st Round, 10th Overall)
Detroit has a large array of weapons, which is why it was a little odd that they ignored defense and selected Eric Ebron at #10 overall. Don’t get me wrong, that’s a fine pick. I think they were a little shocked he was still there at #10. He’ll join an offense that already has Megatron, Golden Tate, Reggie Bush, Joique Bell, Kris Durham, and more. If used correctly, this offense will be very scary. A lot of his immediate impact will fall on the Lions and how they game plan with him in their offense that’s already full of weapons.
GREEN BAY PACKERS: TE Richard Rogers (3rd Round, 98th Overall)
For the last few years Jermichael Finley has held down the fort at the tight end position for the Packers. It appears that Richard Rogers, the TE from California has grabbed on to this spot. He’s a guy that I never got to study film on, so I’m not real familiar with his college game, besides the fact that he had weight fluctuation issues. The Packers have been happy with how he has came in and blocked well, been a target for Aaron Rodgers, and has adapted to the Packers no-huddle style of offense. He’ll definitely be a red zone threat for a team that’s looking to fill Finley’s absence.
MINNESOTA VIKINGS: LB Anthony Barr (1st Round, 9th Overall)
This is a special player. Deep down, I was hoping he would somehow slide to the Cowboys at 16, but I knew that wasn’t realistic. Minnesota’s base is a 4-3 defense. I always thought he was more suitable for a 3-4 defense, but he’s impressed everyone at Vikings camp with the ability to rush standing up, and also sometimes with a hand in the ground, coming around the end. They will move him around, and he will be a force, rushing passers in the NFL.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS: WR Brandin Cooks (1st Round, 20th Overall)
What a great draft pick by the New Orleans Saints. This guy will fit the offense so well, and can do so many things from a variety of positions on offense. I look for him to be in the backfield sometimes as well, to kind of help compensate for the loss of Darren Sproles. This is a strong rookie of the year candidate. He’ll get a ton of touches in an offense that’s destined to be one of the best in the NFL.
NEW YORK GIANTS: WR Odell Beckham (1st Round, 12th Overall)
One of the safest picks in the draft, Beckham should contribute immediately in New York. There’s no pressure to be the #1 guy as they have Victor Cruz, as well as Rueben Randle. Beckham is a snatcher, catching everything with his hands. He’s an elite route runner already, and the only thing that could hold him back is the Giants overall inability to adjust to a new offensive system.
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES: WR Jordan Matthews (2nd Round, 42nd Overall)
This is a big bodied wide receiver that will compliment Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin well in Philadelphia’s offense. Maclin is penciled in as the #2 wide receiver right now, but look for Matthews to take over that moniker if Maclin isn’t able to get back to full speed after missing all of last season. With two big WRs in Cooper and Matthews primarily playing on the outside, it allows Maclin to play inside, and Chip Kelly to have a lot of fun with this offense. Matthews has already been impressing coaches and teammates so far this preseason.
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS: RB Carlos Hyde (2nd Round, 57th Overall)
Hyde was a tough runner at Ohio State, and although he’s not a quicker style of back to compliment Frank Gore, he’ll actually fit perfectly in San Francisco with their power running game strategy. You really have to wrap up and gang tackle Hyde, and he should help wear down defenses while Frank Gore is getting a breather. A relentless power running game with Gore and Hyde could cause a lot of problems.
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS: OT Justin Britt (2nd Round, 64th Overall)
Not many players get drafted and immediately start for the Super Bowl champs, but that’s the case for Britt, who will be the right tackle in Seattle. He held up nicely against DeMarcus Ware in their first preseason game, and is currently holding off veteran Eric Winston. At 6’6” 325, he’s an extremely smart player who has shown the ability to make in-game adjustments so far in camp and the preseason.
ST. LOUIS RAMS: OT Greg Robinson (1st Round, 2nd Overall)
I’ve already had a chance to watch him in a full preseason game and he was very impressive. He had multiple pancake blocks, and simply didn’t give up ground when pass rushed. He’s as good as they get.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS: WR Mike Evans (1st Round, 7th Overall)
I do think this offense will struggle, because the offensive line is not going to be able to block for Doug Martin or be able to protect Josh McCown. Mike Evans can contribute immediately, if they are able to get the ball out. Playing across from Vincent Jackson will make the Bucs kind of a Chicago Jr. as they’ll compare favorably to Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffrey. He still has some work and maturing to do. He’s still not a great route runner, but he should be able to stretch the field just like he was able to do at Texas A&M.
WASHINGTON REDSKINS: WR Ryan Grant (5th Round, 142nd Overall)
For a team that added DeSean Jackson and Andre Roberts in the offseason, you wouldn’t expect another WR to be able to step in and make an immediate impact, but he’s impressed everyone at ‘Skins training camp. He’s come across as a very established route runner, and a guy with great hands. On the depth chart, he’ll be behind Garcon, Jackson, Roberts, and Santana Moss, but I really look for him to get a lot of reps.
Kevin “KT” Turner is the producer of the Ben and Skin show, heard 3-7 pm Monday-Friday on 105.3 The Fan. He’s also a host of Fan Jam, heard weekends on 105.3 The Fan. You can reach KT by email at email@example.com and on twitter @ktfuntweets. KT wants you to know that he loves you.
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