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2011 NFL Draft: Finding day-one contributors in the draft

The St. Louis Rams have had some real surprises lately finding rookies in the NFL Draft capable of starting and contributing as rookies. The most obvious example is QB Sam Bradford, but players like Rodger Saffold and James Laurinaitis both made big contributions as rookies. That isn't always the case.

I stumbled across this Big Board at the Sporting News thanks to 2Cents. Yes, it's another 2011 NFL Draft prospect measuring stick, but the info they have for each of the players is pretty interesting, at least a little different than some of the scouting reports that are beginning to sound the same...and are the same in some cases.

Looking at some of the Rams potential picks, i.e. first or second round picks, it got me thinking about which ones might be able to make an instant impact with the team. Let's take look at some of the players the Rams have shown some interest in or linked to in mock drafts ad nasuem that might be better able to contribute as rookies. Obviously, a team needs its first round picks to contribute from day one, but thanks to the uncertainty around the lockout, grace periods might be shorter with other avenues to upgrade rosters blocked. 

DT Corey Liuget: From SN: "His play merits top-10 consideration and he should be an immediate impact starter as a rookie, as Liuget is a rare complete defensive tackle prospect." SN is really high on Liuget, and has him ranked sixth on their big board.

WR Julio Jones: Debate rages about whether or not Jones or A.J. Green is the better receiver, but both sides seem to agree that Jones is better prepared to make an impact on day one. His size and style of play gives him an advantage against physical press coverage that most rookies lack. The Anquan Boldin comparison at SN says it all, Boldin racked up 1,300+ yards as a rookie. Would the Rams current receivers be enough to keep teams from smothering Jones?

DE Da'Quan Bowers: I still have my doubts that he slips to #14, but if he does it'd be a great way for the Rams to instantly beef up their DL. Bowers wouldn't really need to be a three-down starter as a rookie, with James Hall likely to have that spot in week 1...whenever week 1 is. He has a good football IQ, and can play inside as well...sounds like a Spagnuolo pick to me.

DE Aldon Smith: Smith is another DE that wouldn't need to start right away. The SN big board thinks much more of his run defense than some scouts. Either way, he looks like he'd be a fit right away as a third down pass rusher, but his relatively short college career might require some adjustment time in my opinion. He'd be a great pick at #14 because he has that kind of talent and no pressure to put up numbers as a rookie.

RB Mikel Leshoure: The SN piece comments on his ability to start right away as a third-down back. To me, that's not so much the advantage for the Rams since they have one of the best third-down backs in the game. Their knock on Leshoure is that he'll need to learn to use is size and strength better as an inside runner...he'd have the perfect coach in Sylvester Croom, the Rams' RB coach. 

RB Mark Ingram: For a pure inside runner, Ingram might be a better fit. His draft stock will be one of the most interesting side shows of the Draft. If he were to fall into the second round...nah, it's not going to happen. 

WR Torrey Smith: A guy who can really stretch the field, but one who'll need some development time. Remember, the Rams' WR coach worked him out at his pro day.