Each year the draft brings optimism to each and every team around the National Football League. Fans love to ponder the potential of each pick, wondering how the new players might fit into their new environment and offer contributions to their teams.
In New England there are nine such possibilities to discuss, from first-round pick Dominique Easley to seventh-rounder Jeremy Gallon. In between the Patriots selected a quarterback, three offensive linemen, a running back, a defensive back and a pass rusher out of Division II.
Aside from Jimmy Garoppolo, who is expected to compete with Ryan Mallett for the right to back up Tom Brady, any of the other eight could carve out a role as a contributor in Year 1. Our task this week for our Samsonite Make Your Case is to determine which one will emerge.
So, our simple question this week: Which Patriots rookie will contribute the most in 2014?
PFW's Andy Hart says ...
Obviously Easley's health is a major factor. But I'm going to work under the assumption that he's ready to practice and play at a relatively early date. If that's the case, I think he's going to be a unique impact player on the interior of the defensive line unlike any the Patriots have had before.
He will be a rotational talent, but surrounded by the likes of Vince Wilfork, Tommy Kelly, Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich, I think Easley will create and take advantage of unique matchups on a weekly basis from the moment he hits the game field. He also enters the picture after playing for Will Muschamp, a guy Belichick has praised in the past for molding NFL-ready talent. That can't hurt Easley's early chances.
The Patriots have been trying to secure an interior penetrator and pass rusher for years. Now that they have one in the form of a first-round pick I expect them to put him to use as soon as possible. And if his knees cooperate, Easley has the talent to live up to the high hopes for him in Patriot Nation. Dominique will Easley be the Patriots top impact rookie!
PFW's Paul Perillo says ...
I believe White not only has the talent to compete immediately, he'll also have the biggest opportunity to do so among the rookie class. Bill Belichick likes to rotate his backs and employ the committee approach. White has the versatility to help out as a ball carrier as well as a pass catcher, and with at least one spot available from last year's crop, I expect White to chip in right away.
White comes from a solid program at Wisconsin where he was already part of a rotation, so he won't have to adjust to a smaller role. He also was extremely productive with the Badgers, and his coaches rave about his maturity and leadership – traits that will endear him to Belichick and the rest of the Patriots staff.
I don't expect White to land a starring role in his first season, but he will be a regular contributor and will emerge as the top dog in this talented rookie class.