1) Who will be the biggest impact rookie?
LeGere: Falcons WR Calvin Ridley or Panthers WR D.J. Moore
There’s a great chance it’ll be a wide receiver, either Ridley or Moore. Ridley was considered the most NFL-ready wideout in the draft, and he will benefit tremendously from the presence of Julio Jones across the way. Moore could easily emerge as one of the top targets among a group of wideouts that no longer includes Kelvin Benjamin, who was traded at midseason in 2017. The Panthers’ WR group is now comprised of solid-but-unspectacular veterans, and youngsters who have potential but have yet to produce.
Edholm: Buccaneers RB Ronald Jones
For as strong as the NFC South was a year ago, with the best combined division record in football, these four teams actually could feature quite a few instant-impact rookies. I actually consider six players to be likely candidates for this honor: Panthers WR D.J. Moore and CB Donte Jackson; Falcons WR Calvin Ridley; Buccaneers DT Vita Vea and Jones; and Saints pass rusher Marcus Davenport. I am picking Jones here out of talent, sure, but certainly out of need. With Jameis Winston facing a three-game (or more?) suspension, the Bucs have to run the ball and use Jones’ speed on screen plays to keep afloat. If he does that, Jones’ value will exceed that of his teammate, Vea, who might not be a 60-snap-per-game defender.
Gabriel: Falcons WR Calvin Ridley
The Falcons lost speedy Taylor Gabriel in free agency to Chicago. Ridley, who was arguably the best wide receiver in the 2018 draft, will more than make up for Gabriel's absence. He doesn’t have Gabriel's flat-out speed, but Ridley is bigger, with more length and good speed. He showed at Alabama that he is capable of making the big play at any given time and has played in a pro-style offense. Ridley should step in right away as a starter and give Matt Ryan another top target.
AA: Buccaneers RB Ronald Jones
It’s temping to choose Carolina’s D.J. Moore or Atlanta’s Calvin Ridley, but the Panthers welcome back from injury Greg Olsen and Curtis Samuel, and the Falcons’ No. 8 pass game is already well established. Conversely, establishing a run game in Tampa, where the Bucs ranked 27th and 29th in yards per play in Dirk Koetter’s first two seasons, is paramount to job security. Jones, he of the 6.1-rushing yard career average at USC, must breathe life, balance and big-play ability into Koetter’s offense, particularly early in the season when Jameis Winston's suspension means Ryan Fitzpatrick badly needs some layups.
HA: Falcons WR Calvin Ridley
I'm calling this one for the Falcons and their first-round pick, Ridley. He was the best wideout prospect in this draft and should have never slipped to the Falcons because of concerns about whether he was a 1A or 1B. Nobody doubts he's an excellent receiver, and in Atlanta, Ridley gets to be a No. 2 alongside the best in the league in Julio Jones. The Falcons' offense is as gifted as any in football, with Ridley across from Jones or even better, in the slot next to him.