Which rookie will have the biggest impact?


The debate will rage all offseason, into training camp, through preseason games, and finally will be decided once the Patriots strap on the helmets to play the Bengals in Week One. Which rookie will have the biggest impact for the New England Patriots? You have 12 rookies to choose from, and that’s not counting any undrafted rookie free agents that may make the team. On Friday of last week, Eric Scalavino and Paul Perillo of Patriots Football Weekly debated the question with Scalavino arguing for first-round pick CB Devin McCourty and Perillo arguing for second-round pick TE Rob Gronkowski. Here’s a piece of Scalavino’s argument for McCourty:

McCourty will be a force on several special teams units, and he’ll be pressed into action on defense (even if only in a reserve role) to help guard the big-time receivers on the many improved passing offenses the Patriots are scheduled to face this fall. That means McCourty will have plenty of opportunities to showcase his talent.”

Here’s a piece of Perillo’s argument for Rob Gronkowski:

The big tight end plays a position that’s in bigger need of improvement than cornerback and he should fit right in. His combination of size and speed, as well as his ability to contribute as a blocker and pass catcher, should allow him to factor into the plans immediately. He’s a playmaker with the ability to impact games from a position that allows him to do so more easily than the secondary, and Tom Brady obviously has the ability to make life awfully easy on pass catchers when they prove they have the skills to make plays.”

Andy Hart of PFW chimed in today ranking the rookies’ potential impact. In his number one spot, he also has TE Rob Gronkowski. Here’s his opinion of Gronkowski’s impact:

He’s a beast, with the versatility to contribute as a blocker and a pass catcher at a position of need. Tom Brady will love his soft hands. The running backs will love his big blocks. Fans will love his total package. I say G-Force could be a rookie of the year candidate.”

Here’s how he ranks the rest of the rookies’ potential impact:

2. Punter Zoltan Mesko

3. Linebacker Brandon Spikes

4. Wide Receiver Taylor Price

5. LB Jermaine Cunningham

6. CB Devin McCourty

7. TE Aaron Hernandez

8. Tackle Thomas Welch

9. Defensive lineman Kade Weston

10. DL Brandon Deaderick

11. OL Ted Larsen

12. QB Zac Robinson

I’m torn between Gronkowski and Brandon Spikes making the biggest impact this season. I fully expect Spikes to be starting Week One, and if not, no later than Week 4. However, Gronkowski likely will be a Week One starter and, as Perillo stated, fills a bigger need than any other player. Alge Crumpler was the only legitimate starter on the team at TE before the NFL Draft. However, once Welker returns by mid-season, Gronkowski may see less opportunities if Wes is back to being Wes. I think Spikes will get better as the season goes on as he becomes more comfortable in the defense. If I had to pick one, I’d say Gronkowski for now. I can’t wait to see these guys during training camp this summer and in the preseason games. In an ideal world, most of the rookies would have a positive impact on the team. The Pats will need more than one to make an impact in order to stay in the hunt this season.