Commentary

McFadden has chance to be instant star in Oakland

Originally Published: July 7, 2008
By Bill Williamson | ESPN.com

Darren McFadden, Keith Rivers and Glenn Dorsey  went fourth, ninth and fifth in the draft, respectively.  Getty ImagesDarren McFadden, Keith Rivers and Glenn Dorsey went fourth, ninth and fifth in the draft, respectively.
With the start of NFL training camps just weeks away, one of the most intriguing storylines will be how the rookie class develops.

Camp schedules
Opening, closing and first practice dates. Schedule
Several rookies appear primed to make an impact right away. The following is a look at 10 rookies who have a chance to be stars right away. The players are listed in expected order of impact in 2008:

Darren McFadden, Oakland running back


The Oakland tailback has a chance to be a star as a rookie. He might not have an Adrian Peterson-like impact as far as yardage goes, but the No. 4 overall pick from Arkansas will give a much-needed boost to Oakland's anemic offense because of his great versatility. Raiders coach Lane Kiffin spent minicamp devising ways to use McFadden. Kiffin even said he might need to temper himself and not overuse the potential game-breaker. McFadden was working at receiver at minicamp and will surely get a chance to play there some during the season. McFadden will also get a chance to return kicks in addition to running the ball several times a game. It seems the only thing McFadden will not do in Oakland is paint the faces of Raider Nation prior to home games.

Glenn Dorsey, Kansas City defensive tackle


The former LSU defensive tackle is arguably the most talented player to come out of this draft. Miami considered taking him with the No. 1 overall pick. Dorsey has been compared to Warren Sapp and has a chance to make an instant impact for the Chiefs. The team is in a rebuilding phase and could turn it around quickly on defense with Dorsey eating up the middle of the defensive line. Defenses revolve around tackles, and Dorsey has a chance to be a franchise player. If Kansas City gets back to form quickly, it will likely be because of Dorsey's fast development.

Keith Rivers, Cincinnati linebacker


The USC product will be given every opportunity to become an instant contributor in Cincinnati. Rivers' stock rose as the draft approached, and the Bengals jumped on him with the No. 9 pick. Cincinnati is hungry for impact defensive players, and the smart, athletic Rivers might be the answer. Bengals coach Marvin Lewis is a defense specialist; he is licking his chops to work with Rivers.

Rashard Mendenhall, Pittsburgh running back


Mendenhall is a perfect fit for the Steelers. With Willie Parker returning from a broken right fibula, the Steelers have a potentially great 1-2 punch with these two running backs. Mendenhall was expected to go much earlier in the first round, and the Steelers were thrilled to get him at No. 23. With McFadden and Fargas sharing the load in Oakland, and with Carolina's Jonathan Stewart coming off a toe injury, Mendenhall has a chance to be the leading rusher among all rookies. The Steelers have to be considered a contender in the AFC, and Mendenhall makes them better.

Jake Long, Miami offensive tackle


The Dolphins chose Long as the first piece in their rebuilding project, and for good reason. He is NFL-ready. If you don't think a left tackle can make a major impact on the team right away, you weren't paying attention to Joe Thomas in Cleveland last year. He was a big reason for the Browns' resurgence. Long has a chance to be just as good in Miami.

Joe Flacco, Baltimore quarterback


It's a hunch here that Flacco will have a bigger impact than the other quarterback who was a first-round pick, Atlanta's Matt Ryan. Even though Ryan was taken with the No. 3 pick, Flacco's supporting cast is better. Both players have a chance to be good, but Flacco might be the player who has more of an impact early.

Matt Forte, Chicago running back


No second-round pick has a better chance at instant success than Forte. The tailback from Tulane is in a terrific position. He is headed to training camp in Chicago as the No. 1 tailback after the Bears released Cedric Benson last month. The Bears fell in love with Forte, the No. 44 overall pick, during the offseason workouts and they believe he is ready to take over. With so few offensive weapons in Chicago, Forte will be given every chance to make a huge contribution for the Bears.

Sedrick Ellis, New Orleans defensive tackle


The Saints traded up to get Ellis at No. 7 and they are going to use him extensively right away. Ellis has a chance to be a rookie-of-the-year candidate. Like Dorsey, this defensive tackle is strong and smart enough to be ready to handle NFL offense lineman. He's extremely quick and productive. The Saints are in need of a defensive boost and Ellis should provide it.

Chris Long, St. Louis defensive end


The No. 2 overall pick will make the Rams' defense better. Long is too productive, athletic and bright not to have early success in the NFL. He might not put up gigantic sack numbers, but he will be a presence in St. Louis and will prove to be more than just Howie Long's son.

Jerod Mayo, New England linebacker


Mayo has a chance to be the next household name among New England linebackers. It wouldn't be a surprise if he made a strong run for rookie of the year. Coach Bill Belichick craves athletic linebackers and he will find a way to make Mayo a playmaker right away. This is simply a great pairing of talent and team.

Honorable mentions


Dallas running back Felix Jones, New York Jets tight end Dustin Keller and Pittsburgh wide receiver Limas Sweed.

Bill Williamson covers the NFL for ESPN.com.

Bill Williamson | email

ESPN San Francisco 49ers reporter

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