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Impact or Irrelevant: Predicted Rookie Impact on 2018 Team Success

Which rookies have the chance to help the team immediately, in due time, or not at all?

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers Minicamp Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Won’t Likely Play A Role In Team Success

OG/C Scott Quessenberry

The moments following the Quessenberry pick were filled with questioning looks and a good amount of head-scratching. Telesco and the staff just double-dipped on guards in 2017 and had just signed veteran center Mike Pouncey from the Miami Dolphins.

At the time of the selection, Telesco and his staff raved about Q-Berry’s versatility to play guard and center and how much that aspect of his game raised his value as a prospect. I understand this thinking, especially with the lack of sustained health along the offensive line in recent years, but Quessenberry is likely the third-strong center behind Pouncey and Pulley while also being behind Michael Schofield at guard depth.

Unless there are a number injuries to the position group, the rookie out of UCLA will likely never see the field during the regular season.

Might Play A Small Role In Team Success

WR Dylan Cantrell

I was a big fan of the Cantrell selection. I vocally cheered at the pick while the staff and I were live for the draft show. This wasn’t because he was a big team-need or anything like that, but he was a draft crush and I really like the jump-ball/contested catch skills he displayed while at Texas Tech. I might actually go as far as to say he is who we wanted Mike Williams to be....

Okay I won’t go that far but he is the type of receiver you can trust to come down with the ball when you just have to throw it up. Besides him being adept at contested catches, he make some outstanding, highlight reel-type catches that stem from some phenomenal body-control.

In the crowded wide receiver room, there won’t be much room for Cantrell to see the field. Inside, however, is a different story. Hear me out. I would love to see the coaching staff put some weight on his chiseled frame and use him in a “move” tight end or H-Back role. He’s already a great run-blocker for his position and stands 6’4 and 225 pounds. It’s not that far out of the realm of possibility, but still unlikely.

RB Justin Jackson

The selection of Jackson near the end of the draft may be dismissed as just a dart thrown at the big board, but this pick could pay huge dividends were Gordon to find himself sidelined by injury.

Jackson is one of only nine players in Big Ten Conference history to run for over 1,000 yards in four consecutive season. That’s nothing to scoff at. When you pop on the film you can see a patient runner who knows how to use his blockers efficiently while maximizing his yardage on every run. The vast amount of starting experience is also a huge plus.

Some popular fantasy analysts actually have Jackson as the more valuable handcuff to Gordon. Many think he would get the majority of carries if an injury occurred and I can definitely see it happening.

Will Likely Play A Role In Team Success

DT Justin Jones

Throughout the draft process, I was a big fan of Justin Jones and his counterpart B.J. Hill in the interior of that North Carolina State defensive line. I had the opportunity to watch Jones down in Mobile at the Reese’s Senior Bowl and came away fairly impressed. Apparently, so were the coaches and staff for the event as Jones took home the Practice Player of the Week award for the defensive linemen.

It’s not entirely certain whether Jones will play the 1-tech or the penetrating 3-tech in Gus Bradley’s defense. He didn’t show much pass-rushing prowess during the season but showed a knack for winning one-on-ones on a consistent basis during the all-star showcase.

If he wins the starting 3-tech spot while Liuget sits out for his 4-game suspension, and plays well at that, don’t be surprised to see Jones become a heavy rotation player at both interior positions.

OLB/EDGE Uchenna Nwosu

The second-round selection of Nwosu was another pick that seemed a little rich for my liking. I thought there were better overall players available at that point of the draft but, as I began to put his skill-set and the Charger’s scheme together, it started to become clear.

Nwosu was chosen to provide competition for and possibly take over the OTTO role in the defense currently held by Kyle Emanuel. For those of you still unaware of this specific position in Gus Bradley’s defense, it is a hybrid position where you want a player to be able to handle run-stopping duties on early downs while being able rush the passer or drop into coverage horizontally. Nwosu proved he can be successful in both those aspects as a 6-foot-2, 251-pound EDGE rusher out of USC.

Emanuel always leaned closer to a true 4-3 defensive end, especially in college when he spent the majority of his time with his hand in the dirt. It was evident whenever he was tasked with covering a running back out of the backfield, as well. Specifically during the games against the Chiefs over the last two years, Emanuel was caught chasing Spencer Ware and Charcandrick West over and over again as they would gain 8-10 yards every time they ran a route to the flat.

Nwosu will look to erase that liability in coverage going forward as he’s a much stickier tackler and can better handle the dual-threat backs that are now the norm in the NFL.

Will Play A Role In Team Success

S/OLB Kyzir White

I was a MONSTER fan of the Kyzir White pick in the fourth-round from a draft-crush standpoint and from a value-standpoint. At the time, fans may have wondered why they just took another safety after we hit the jackpot with Derwin James in the first.

I don’t believe White will be playing one of the traditional free or strong safety positions. As Lynn hinted right after the draft, he expects to put some weight on White’s 6-foot-2, 220-pound frame in order for him to play weakside linebacker in Nickel and Dime packages.

Last year, safety Adrian Phillips was brought into the box in these packages in order to increase the speed and athleticism of the group. However, White will allow the defense to run the same packages (which we did the majority of the time) without sacrificing as much size and run-stopping ability.

And if you haven’t see White’s film from his time at West Virginia, go give it a look. He might already be the stickiest tackler on the team.

S Derwin James

What should come as the least surprising ranking on this list, Derwin James is by far the most important rookie when it comes to his ability to affect team success in 2018. The Chargers’ first-round pick will step into the starting lineup opposite of Jahleel Addae and make his presence felt from week one.

However, my first thought after imagining James and Addae on the field at the same time was, “Who is going to be the enforcer and who will be the guy playing single-high?” We all know that Addae does his best work up close to the line of scrimmage, but so does James. I think in the end, James will be the guy to use in single-high situations (his coverage skills were underrated through the draft process) but his versatility across the entire field of play can’t be underutilized if the team hopes to find its’ potential.

I expect Addae to keep doing his thing that got him paid in the first place while Gus Bradley continues to work his magic, getting different player personnel packages ready to take advantage of James abilities in coverage and off the edge, while maximizing the talents of the deep defensive back group that the Bolts have amassed over the last several years.

Will Play A PIVOTAL Role In Team Success


PLOT TWIST: Forrest Lamp is actually the most important rooki- er, “first-year player” to the team’s success in 2018.

Okay, okay, not really. But I couldn’t help myself. If there is any chance I can talk about Lamp whatsoever I am going to take it.

The second-year player, first-year starter will still be an immense upgrade over Kenny Wiggins at the right guard position after the now-Detroit Lion led the league in pressures allowed at his position in 2017. With incumbent right tackle Joe Barksdale returning once again, Lamp gives me much more confidence in the right side of the line than in recent years.

After allowing the fewest sacks (18) this past year, most analysts predict some regression in that category. However, with the additions of Pouncey and Lamp, it’s not that far-fetched to predict a repeat performance in that regard with an uptick in the ground game, as well.

How do you guys feel the rookies should be ranked? Who is too high? Too low? Let us know.