It’s an appropriate question with rookie minicamp going on this weekend – which rookie will make the biggest impact on the Chicago Bears in 2012? Let’s run down the contenders.
Shea McClellin, DE
There’s been more than a little speculation about where McClellin will line up and what role he’ll have in this defense. The first round defensive end will most likely line up as a situational pass rusher opposite Julius Peppers. Can a situational pass rusher make an immediate impact? Ask Mark Anderson? He notched double digit sacks as a rookie, and he was a fifth round pick that helped lead the Bears to the Super Bowl.
McClellin will compete with Izzy Idonije and his playing time will have a lot to do with how well he can play the run. He’s a top-20 pick, so he should make an impact, but is he going to make an immediate impact? His value could be bigger in a year or two, when and if the Bears change schemes or move him around.
Alshon Jeffery, WR
The second round wide receiver should look really good opposite Brandon Marshall, but rookie wide receivers can be inconsistent to say the least. So far, Jeffery had done everything you’d hope a players whose draft stock pushed him out of the first round. He’ll need to know his playbook, work on defeating press coverage and get those routes nice and crisp. If Alshon were the only wide receiver joining the Bears, I’d be a little nervous, but with some other weapons like Brandon Marshall in the fold, the pressure isn’t as high.
Brandin Hardin, S
I’m a little more skeptical that Hardin will be able to make an immediate impact, but since the safety position has been a revolving door for Lovie Smith for the last few years AND since it’s such a critical position in the Cover-2, you’ve got to consider it. Here’s some more food for thought – consider Hardin’s combination of size and speed. The converted corner could be really valuable covering tight ends and big wide receivers that they Bears will see plenty in 2012. If Hardin lives up to some of hype and if that shoulder is really healed, he could be that missing piece to the Bears’ secondary.
Evan Rodriguez, TE
This 4th round draft pick is less likely to make a big impact (that’s what happens with lower round draft picks), but I’ll make a case for him. With Kellen Davis as the only real pass-catching tight end on the roster and tight ends emerging as the new weapon of choice, E-Rod could cause some mismatches in the red zone and challenge the seams of opposing defenses. That could spell some big touchdowns and those will have a big impact.