Prior to the NFL Draft 2021, when trying to predict the rookie that will have the biggest impact this year, it would be easy to go a bit avant-garde, trying to select a late third-round nose tackle with a juicy time at a behind-closed-doors combine somewhere.
But the reality is that the best and most productive players tend to go off the draft board in the first round, and typically within the top 20.
But which of the superb talents available in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft has the skill-set, attitude, and personality required to make the biggest impact of them all in his rookie year?
Well, to answer that, kindly brace yourself for a plethora of hypotheticals based on the most recent PFF Mock Draft...
But let's take a look at some honorable mentions first:
NFL Draft 2021: Honorable mention 1 - OT Penei Sewell (Oregon)
Most analysts reckon that Penei Sewell will be taken off the board by the Cincinnati Bengals with the No.5 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
The Bengals need to strengthen their offensive line and do a much better job of protecting sophomore and former Heisman-winning QB Joe Burrow.
Burrow spent much of last season motoring away from oncoming defensive ends and then spent a stint on IR after going down with a torn ACL in Week-11 -- one sack too many is how most pundits framed it back in November.
The 20-year-old Sewell averages a 94.8 career run-block grade, first among all linesmen in the 2021 class, and he didn't give up more than two QB pressures in any of his 21 college games either.
If things play out as expected and Sewell is drafted by the Bengals, the young Oregon lineman has the ability required to make a huge impact for Cincinnati: Sewell's ability to steer pressure away from his signal-caller would mean that the Bengals' Heisman-winning QB would have more time in the pocket, allowing him to go through his repetitions; the playbook suddenly opens up, and fans would get to see a better-version of Joe Burrow.
NFL Draft 2021: Honorable mention 2 - WR Rashod Bateman (Minnesota)
University of Minnesota WR Rashod Bateman opted out of the 2020 campaign amid concerns over the Covid-19 pandemic but had already showcased his superb skillset during the Gophers' 2019 season, amassing 1,123-yards through the air to go with 11 TDs.
More than a few analysts believe Bateman will be the No.1 receiver in this year's draft, and not the likes of Freeman, Waddle, or Chase.
In my most recent Mock Drafts, Bateman has slipped down to No.19 (Washington) and No.28 (New Orleans). Both of these teams are in big need of a new wideout and, if drafted to either side, Rashod Bateman's could be set to make a big impact in the NFL.
In New Orleans in particular, Bateman would share the backfield with gung-ho QB Jameis Winston, as well as one of the NFL's elite (hopefully fit again) receivers Michael Thomas. With opposing coverage units concerning themselves with Thomas, Bateman would find plenty of space out on the turf and this would potentially lead to big yardage and some scores; same as it would in Washington with Fitz and Terry McLaurin.
For my money, wherever he ends up, Rashod Bateman looks set to ruffle a few feathers in the hen house.
And the rookie superstar likely to have the biggest impact of all in the upcoming 2021-22 season is...
NFL Draft 2021: QB Trevor Lawrence (Clemson)
No shocks here. The Jacksonville Jaguars are expected to pluck for Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence with their No.1 overall pick in this year's 2021 NFL Draft. Lawrence likely makes a huge difference to head coach Urban Meyer's offense, and I'm willing to go on record stating that I think Lawrence will make the biggest impact of all rookies in this year's draft, possibly even winning himself the much-coveted Rookie of the Year trophy.
The 6"2, 21-year-old dominated his pro-day event a fortnight ago, cementing his position as the consensus top pick in the 2021 NFL draft.
Lawrence finished the 2020 college season with 3,153 passing yards, 24 TD passes and just five interceptions. His height gives him a real presence in the pocket and assists him in making difficult throws that shorter QBs just can't make. Lawrence displays incredible awareness and has a keen sense of what’s going on around him out on the turf; he's patient; buys himself time in the pocket and remains poised under pressure; able to play safe football but has the propensity and arm required to go big when it's optimal to do so.
Lawrence looks every bit the NFL franchise quarterback in the making and will have had the biggest impact on all rookies in the NFL come the end of next season.
What do you think of our picks? Sound off in the comments section below: