Patrick Peterson – Corner back – Arizona Cardinals – Even though he did well at his position, Peterson’s return skills were more impressive than the rest of his game in 2011. Peterson was named to the 2011 NFL Pro Bowl.
Julio Jones – Wide Receiver – Atlanta Falcons – Jones finished the season with 959 yards, 54 receptions and 8 touchdowns. He was impressive in Atlanta as a rookie.
Aldon Smith – Outside Linebacker – San Francisco 49ers – Smith finished the season with 14 sacks and 2 forced fumbles. He was an impressive force on the San Francisco team that made it to the NFC Championship before falling short to the Giants.
Jake Locker – Quarterback – Tennessee Titans – Locker was injured early after the Titans turned to him as starter of the team. He was only able to play in three games but was able to throw for 542 yards, with 4 touchdowns and 0 interceptions.
DeMarco Murray – Running Back – Dallas Cowboys – Murray had one heck of a rookie season. He was impressive before getting hurt late in the year. He ended the season with 897 rushing yards and two touchdowns. He tacked on 183 receiving yards and had a run of 91 yards as well.
J.J. Watt – Defensive End – Houston Texans – The impressive rookie season and the salary cap situation of the Houston Texans are two of the reasons they were willing to not re-sign Mario Williams. Watt ended the season with 5.5 sacks.
Other potential great players from the 2011 NFL Draft:
Tyron Smith – Offensive Tackle – Dallas Cowboys
Ryan Kerrigan – Outside Linebacker – Washington Redskins
Adrian Clayborn – Defensive End – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Phil Taylor – Defensive Tackle – Cleveland Browns
Aaron Williams – Corner back – Buffalo Bills
Andy Dalton – Quarterback – Cincinnati Bengals
Jabaal Sheard – Defensive End – Cleveland Browns
Randall Cobb – Wide Receiver – Green Bay Packers
Greg Little – Wide Receiver – Cleveland Browns
Titus Young – Wide Receiver – Detroit Lions
I am sure I missed plenty of players who had a big impact as rookies and will continue to grow. Furthermore, plenty of players drafted in 2011 were injured or needed more time to have an impact. I am expecting a big season from a number of 2011 draftees. If I missed one, leave a comment and I will add them to the list. Nevertheless, this group of players sure impressed in 2011. The top 6 picks were the best first six picks I have ever seen.