Which rookie will make the biggest impact?
It would be easy to say Jonathan Cooper or Tyrann Mathieu. Indeed I think they will contribute immediately and make waves, but to me, Stepfan Taylor will make the most-felt impact on the field.
Mathieu is hyped coming in as a playmaker, and he was wildly successful at LSU in 2011. If he did not come with such off-the-field baggage, he would have been a first-round pick. That said, how much impact can he really make in a defensive secondary at a position he has never played before? Game-changing plays will be his calling, and he may even see some punt return duty. How many game changing-plays are needed to be the most impactful rookie?
Cooper, the number seven pick overall, should make a big impact. Every first-round pick should. However, Cooper can’t do it all himself. The entire offensive line unit will need to improve drastically to see a real change, which is where I get to Taylor.
Taylor completed an illustrious career at Stanford this past year wherein four years; he rushed for 4,300 yards, 40 touchdowns, and averaged over five yards per carry (YPC). He is a three-down back, has great pass protection skills, intelligent football IQ and only fumbled once in his college career.
Taylor has the potential to be the biggest steal for the Cardinals in the fifth round, and in my opinion, the NFL. He is the strongest competitor to Rashard Mendenhall for immediate playing time. If Mendenhall continues to have ball security or injury issues, expect Taylor to step right in and make an impact.
A lot of rookies will make impacts at their position, but if Taylor can impact the running back position, a position of weakness, it will be the biggest game-changing aspect of the Cardinals offense. More importantly, the biggest benefactors will be Carson Palmer, Larry Fitzgerald and the entire wide receiver corps.
The only negative factor hampering Taylor at this point is that he cannot rejoin the Cardinals now until training camp due to NFL rules.
As a Stanford graduate, I expect Taylor to dive into the playbook and pick it up easily. The beginning of training camp will force him to catch up, but Taylor is highly intelligent, obviously. He will be good to go by the end of training camp and preseason, and I for one cannot wait to see him in Cardinal red.