Mocking the Draft has a look at five players from the 2011 NFL Draft that they predict could have a big impact as rookies. None of the St. Louis Rams' picks are on the list, though it's hard to argue that the Rams haven't gotten plenty of impact from their rookies lately in light of Sam Bradford and Rodger Saffold's performance last year and James Laurinaitis the year before that.
Three of their five picks are defensive players; the other two are offensive tackles. There's not a hard and fast rule as to how much impact any rookie or any position will have in their first year. You have to think Nick Fairley benefits from playing next to Ndamukong Suh. I'm still not sure how Von Miller works in Denver with their change to a 3-4 defense, but it's not my problem to figure out. So what about the St. Louis Rams' draft picks, which of the eight new players is likely to have the biggest impact in year one?
No offense to the late-round picks, but I'm going to rule them out. Some may contribute, but they won't have an impact per se. The leading candidates are:
DE Robert Quinn: The UNC product lands in a set of circumstances, studying under the master, playing behind James Hall and Chris Long, with no need to press his development. Quinn will get to be a situational pass rusher, with offensive linemen focused on the more established Long and Hall. A better Rams pass rush should spell big things for the team this year.
TE Lance Kendricks: Which of the offensive players is most ready to contribute right off the bat? It's hard to say from this vantage point. We have a sort-of point of comparison in New England's use of two TEs last year, with 4th round pick Aaron Hernandez playing the role McDaniels has in mind for Kendricks. Hernandez caught 45 passes for 563 yards and 6 TDs last year, and by all accounts Kendricks is seen as the better prospect heading into the league. No Rams receiver had more than 3 TDs last year, and Steven Jackson led the team with 6 total.
WR Austin Pettis: His size, hands and smarts make him a candidate to compete right away. Having a QB like Bradford throwing the ball should only make it easier.
WR Greg Salas: Some really saw Salas as the big upside pick in the draft, but outside of working the slot, he might need some seasoning at the other positions.
Van's take: I believe Pettis might have the biggest impact overall this year. If he lives up to his billing, he could be one of the team's top three receivers, and with enough targets around him on the field, he won't be relied upon too heavily either. Anyone of these guys could surprise you though.