Impact rookies: Catch 60 passes, with a five-catch bonus for every touchdown
Impact rate: 31%
Jermaine Gresham, Dustin Keller, Heath Miller and Jeremy Shockey all had excellent rookie seasons as first-round picks. Of course, for a tight end to merit a first-round selection, he is usually a pretty special athlete.
Impact rookies: Start at least 10 games as rookies, then hold onto their starting jobs for at least one more season.
Impact rate: 70%
Yes, 70 percent of all first-round rookie tackles not only earn starting jobs more-or-less immediately, but hold onto them for at least one more season. The impressive list includes Jake Long, Joe Thomas, D’Brickishaw Ferguson, Jordan Gross, Ryan Clady and many others. It also includes some weaker choices, such as Alex Barron (a penalty-plagued Rams tackle who slowly lost his starting job) and Mike Williams (a huge Bills lineman who ballooned over 400 pounds).
There is only so much we can do, statistically, on the offensive line, and this impact rate would be lower if we could eliminate some of the borderline players. Still, these figures are an eye-opener for people who think rookie linemen are yanked in and out of the lineup because they allow easy sacks or jump offsides. A tackle is more likely to start right away, and play well, than a first-round pick at just about any other position.
Impact rookies: Start at least 10 games as rookies, then hold onto their starting jobs for at least one more season
Impact rate: 76%
Guards and centers are rarely drafted in the first round. When they are selected, they are outstanding prospects whose teams have an immediate need. This data does not tell us much.
Impact rookies: Record at least eight sacks, with a one-sack bonus for every 25 tackles.
Impact rate: 19%
Defensive ends are like wide receivers. If we lower our standards to four or five sacks, we get a lot of guys who help the cause, including Jason Pierre-Paul types on the verge of greatness. But Aldon Smith types (really a linebacker, but we will get to that) are much harder to find. The list of first-rounders who fit the bill in the last decade: Smith, Ryan Kerrigan, Kamerion Wimbley, Tamba Hali, Will Smith, Julius Peppers, Dwight Freeney and Charles Grant.
As the list above shows, some defensive ends may be lumped in with our linebackers, and vice versa. Don’t worry: No truly great rookie season is going to slip through the cracks.
Impact rookies: Record at least six sacks, with a one-sack bonus for every 25 tackles
Impact rate: 12.5%
Our impact players here are Ndamukong Suh, Marcel Dareus, John Henderson and Kevin Williams. We might be icing out some top run defenders with our criteria, but the list of non-qualifiers is full of players such as Ryan Sims, Marcus Tubbs, DeWayne Robinson and Justin Harrell, who washed out of the league pretty quickly, plus Jimmy Kennedy-types who stuck around as journeymen. Draft a defensive tackle early, and you must be ready for a development period and the possibility of a major bust. Dontari Poe should get a tattoo which says just that.
ProFootballTalk: Patriots QB Tom Brady addressed Wes Welker’s decision to head West to Denver. Brady says he isn’t surprised by anything after being in the league for so long and hopes that Welker has a great season with the Broncos.
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