by Rob Joyce
Partially because the majority of us are desperate for football and partially because it’s usually against third- or fourth-string opponents, we tend to overhype the preseason. The final score isn’t at all indicative of regular season success, and positive individual performances are often overhyped. For rookies getting their first taste of professional football, though, training camp and preseason success is a decent indicator that they could make an impact come Week 1.
Whether it’s a high first-round pick or a mid-round guy turning heads, here are the five rookies that, come September 10th, could have a big impact for their respective teams:
5) Mitch Trubisky, Bears:
Chicago traded close to a king’s ransom to move up and nab the UNC product with the No. 2 pick in April, and the early returns are positive. After signing Mike Glennon for $14 million to be the gateway at quarterback, Trubisky is making the decision tough for Bears’ coach John Fox. Through three games the rookie is completing 71 percent of his passes (34-of-48) with three touchdowns to no interceptions. Glennon looks like the Week 1 starter in Chicago for now, but it appears to be only a matter of time before the reins are handed to Trubisky.
4) Haason Reddick, Cardinals:
The 13th overall pick out of Temple, the inside linebacker has been getting first-team reps for the entirety of training camp with Arizona. An edge rusher in college, Reddick has a learning curve to face moving to the inside, but he’s held his own with his speed and quickness. As he grows into the position, he could make an immediate impact on a defense that already finished second in yards allowed last season.
3) Christian McCaffrey, Panthers/Dalvin Cook, Vikings/Kareem Hunt, Chiefs/Joe Mixon, Bengals:
At this stage it’s nearly impossible to differentiate each one from the other. First round picks McCaffrey (8th overall) could be Le’Veon Bell-lite, showing an ability to run between the tackles while also being a major threat in the passing game for Cam Newton and Carolina. Second-round pick Dalvin Cook is the heir-apparent to the now-departed Adrian Peterson in Minnesota, clearly jumping past Latavius Murray on the depth chart as he gets rave reviews from teammates.
Fellow second-rounder Joe Mixon is perhaps the most talented of the bunch, but his off-the-field issues dropped him to 48th overall to Cincinnati. He has to beat out incumbent Jeremy Hill, who is decent, not great, and Gio Bernardi. Lastly, third-rounder Kareem Hunt was named the starter by the Chiefs after Spencer Ware went down with a PCL injury, but the status isn’t a hand-me-down. Hunt has shown to be an awfully tough runner to bring down (3.6 yards after first contact this preseason), making up for a lack of top-line speed (he ran a 4.62 40 at the combine).
Noticeably absent from this list is Leonard Fournette, the fourth overall pick to Jacksonville who has been dealing with a lingering foot injury that’s held him out of the last two preseason games.
2) Myles Garrett, Browns:
Clearly the best player available coming out of Texas A&M last spring, the top overall pick has drawn nothing but praise from Cleveland’s staff. His talent is obvious, but he combines that with a willingness to learn and an attitude of which coaches dream. Considering his skillset is considered to come only once or twice in a generation, that’s a scary combination for the AFC North quarterbacks to deal with.
1) DeShone Kizer, Browns:
Garrett looks awfully good so far, but in a quarterback league, it’s Kizer who will make the ultimate impact on this team. In being named the Week 1 starter over Brock Osweiler and Cody Kessler, the second-rounder out of Notre Dame becomes the 27th different starting quarterback for the Browns since 1999. With a monster arm, Kizer’s ceiling is considered to be as high as anyone’s in his draft class, but he also holds a much higher bust potential. If he lives up the potential, Cleveland could, at long last, have their franchise quarterback. If he doesn’t, it could be another two- to three-year setback for the Browns. As the old saying goes: 27th time’s the charm!