Which NFC East 2010 first-rounder will have the largest impact this season?
I would expect Redskins OT Trent Williams to get the most snaps as a rookie and the physical abilities of both Giants DE Jason Pierre-Paul and Cowboys WR Dez Bryant are simply superb, but when considering ability and opportunity, I will select Eagles DE Brandon Graham. In fact, I am strongly considering Graham as my defensive rookie of the year pick. He’s a heck of a football player.
With the exception of Williams, cracking the lineup probably will not come easily to this group. There are three quality defensive ends in front of Pierre-Paul. Bryant has Roy Williams in front of him, who obviously has not lived up to expectations, but Dallas does have a lot invested in him. Bryant might be quick to surpass Williams, but in the pecking order of Dallas receivers, it seems unlikely that he will catch more balls than Jason Witten or Miles Austin. The Eagles have a plethora of undersized defensive-end types. But with the exception of Trent Cole, I think Graham quickly will surpass all of those players.
But Cole is the key here. Although rarely recognized as such, he is among the best players in the NFL at his position. He will demand a ton of attention from every pass-protection scheme that the Eagles face. And in the NFC East, the left tackles Cole will face (Doug Free, David Diehl and Trent Williams, who played left tackle for only one year in college) appear to be overmatched against him in the passing game. Offenses will keep extra blockers in to help protect their quarterback’s blind side against the Eagles -- which sets up Graham perfectly for a monster rookie season.
Graham doesn’t have Pierre-Paul’s physical gifts, but he is more NFL-ready than any defensive end in this rookie class. He is tenacious and is very adept at using his shorter stature to his advantage as a terrific leverage player. Graham is pretty stout when teams run right at him, but because of the other defensive ends on Philadelphia’s roster, he probably will not be in a situation where he will wear down from teams running right at him. He also is very good in pursuit on running plays away from him.
As a pass-rusher, he can bull rush with leverage and power. He can use his speed around the corner and dips his shoulder low without losing speed. For such a young player, Graham is excellent at going to a second move and he simply never gives up on a play. To me, this combination gives him the best chance to provide the most immediate impact of these four promising NFC East first-round selections.