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NFL - US Sports: Five rookies to watch out for this season

16 June 2022 04:56:49 EST
Five rookies set for big years in the NFL

A total of 262 college prospects were drafted this year, but not all will make an impact in year one - here's five that can grab the limelight as rookies.

Jahan Dotson - 17.00 to be named Offensive Rookie of the Year

The new name to look out for on the newly-named Washington Commanders' offense, Dotson was the fifth wide receiver drafted on day one. A few teams with concerns over the Penn State flyer's size and strength passed on him, but he's quick and has great hands - described as the "best in the draft" by NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah. Dane Brugler of the Athletic gushed over Dotson's catch radius being "maybe the largest of any sub-5-foot-11 receiver I have ever scouted".

That last facet could be mightily useful when catching passes from the big-armed yet imprecise Commanders quarterback Carson Wentz while his proven ability to line up and perform at a variety of spots should be invaluable to offensive co-ordinator Scott Turner.

Penn State utilised the 23-year-old out of the backfield and on passing trick plays, where he completed both attempts for a total of 43 yards, so watch out for Turner dialling up his number on Washington flea-flickers this season.

Breece Hall - 10.00 to be Offensive Rookie of the Year

The 6ft1in 220lb tailback is a cousin of Roger Craig, a former three-time Super Bowl winner with the San Francisco 49ers, and possesses some of the same attributes as a three-down workhorse that catches the ball well out of the backfield and can make defenders miss in open spaces.

At Iowa, he ran for over 100 yards in eight straight games as a sophomore and finished the 2020 season as the FBS leader in rushing yards with 1,572 on 279 carries while adding 21 running and two receiving touchdowns. He went one better with 24 total TDs in 2021 and should be the go-to guy for the Jets in most short-yardage situations.

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Kayvon Thibodeaux - 2.10 to top 8.5 sacks

The Oregon product was the analysts' consensus pick as the likely first overall draft selection going into the 2021 season, but slipped to fifth and was only the third pass rusher to come off the board.

Whispers over 'character concerns' saw his draft stock fall in media circles, but Thibodeaux apparently gave all the right answers to a grilling from the New York Giants' top brass at the Combine as Big Blue spent their top pick on him a month and a half later.

He should become a big feature of blitz-happy new defensive coordinator Wink Martindale's Giants front and could attract some one-on-one matchups alongside veteran defensive tackle Leonard Williams, who has recorded 18 total sacks in the last two years, and Azeez Ojulari, who impressed with eight of his own as a rookie.

Matt Ariaza - Buffalo Bills 7.00 to win Super Bowl LVII

College punters can usually put their phones on the side table on draft day as they prepare for the upcoming trips to NFL facilities for tryouts as undrafted free agents, but Ariaza was probably expecting to hear his name called after attracting so much hype.

The 'Punt God' averaged 51.2 yards per punt for San Diego State in 2021 - the most yards per punt a player has ever averaged in a single NCAA season. His ability to flip the field was demonstrated by an 86-yard punt against San Jose State in October when he changed the line-of-scrimmage from the Aztecs' own 11-yard-line to the three-yard-line of the Spartans.

Clearly Buffalo Bills general manager Brandon Beane, no relation to legendary 'Moneyball' exponent Billy Beane of baseball fame, was taking notes as the AFC East champions snared Ariaza with the 180th pick of the draft. Time will tell, but it could be a lot of fun watching him nailing deep punts on a freezing cold Sunday in Buffalo behind the howling winds coming off Lake Erie.

Nakobe Dean - 21.00 to become defensive Rookie of the Year

Dean fell as far as the third round, but could be really fun to watch as he tries to prove most of the NFL wrong. The Philadelphia Eagles could reap the rewards of their faith in the former Georgia star if he performs as well as he did throughout the Bulldogs' national championship season, which earned him the Butkus Award given annually to college football's best linebacker.

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