Right now, everyone thinks their team's Round 1 pick will be a Rookie of the Year candidate at the end of the season. Really though, some rookies simply find themselves in more advantageous situations than others based on the roster makeup of their respective new team.
So, which first-round picks from the 2020 NFL Draft are truly in "instant impact" situations?
Based on talent, fit, and situation, these are the five biggest instant impact rookies from this draft class. I've left out Joe Burrow. Too obvious. The same goes for Chase Young, Isaiah Simmons, and Jeffrey Okudah.
Patrick Queen, LB, Ravens
At LSU, Queen was "kept clean" often, meaning the Tigers defensive line did a marvelous job eating blockers to allow the linebackers to roam free and make impact plays close to (or behind) the line of scrimmage. That's exactly what LSU's defensive scheme asks of its trench players.
And it helped Queen amass 85 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, and three sacks. Not that the LSU defensive line was the only reason Queen produced in a major way, but given the freedom he had at the second level, he played with zero hesitation, read his keys, and attacked.
Actually, for a 6-foot, 229-pound linebacker, Queen is authoritative when offensive linemen do get to the second level, holding his own as a block-shedder. Yet his lack of size alone makes it nearly impossible for him to always quickly dispatch a block from someone significantly larger than him.
Given all that, Queen landed in an exquisite situation in Baltimore. The Ravens defensive line two gaps often, which, just like LSU, eases some of the block-defeating responsibilities for the linebackers. And Baltimore has some horses up front -- Calais Campbell, Derek Wolfe, Brandon Williams and Daylon Mack. Plus, they drafted defensive tackles Justin Madubuike in the third round and Broderick Washington in Round 5.
What's even better for Queen -- the Ravens used another third-round pick on hammer of a linebacker Malik Harrison, who's 6-3 and 247 pounds and was frequently used as the defender to take on lead-blockers at Ohio State because of his sturdy frame.
Queen is ultra-twitchy and has the athletic gifts to run with some running backs in coverage or make plays while sinking in zone. He's going to flourish as a rookie.
Laviska Shenault, WR, Jaguars
Even entering a somewhat crowded receiver room with D.J. Chark, Dede Westbrook, and Chris Conley, Shenault is primed for a big rookie season in Jacksonville, because the strength of his game perfectly blends with Gardner Minshew's main tendency.
For as much as Minshew liked to work the back-shoulder game with Chark and Conley last season, most of his attempts were in the quick game underneath. The 2019 rookie averaged 7.5 Intended Air Yards per NFL Next Gen Stats, which tied for the 10th-lowest figure among 38 qualifying quarterbacks. For more context, per Pro Football Focus, 68% of Minshew's passes were either behind the line of scrimmage or up to nine yards beyond it. Presuming he's the starter at the outset of the 2020 season for the Jaguars, the team's offense will need a wideout who can create after the catch.
That's where Shenault thrives. According to PFF's Draft Guide, Shenault forced 44 missed tackles over the past two years, the highest total of any receiver in the 2020 class, and he accomplished that in just 20 total games.
And for as pleasantly surprising as Chark and Conley were in 2019, they owned the two highest average depth of targets on the team (11.7 and 14.5 yards respectively) on throws from Minshew among the pass catchers with at least 30 targets. They're primarily outside vertical route tree receivers in Jacksonville, which will give way to Shenault working short routes as a slot complement with Dede Westbrook.
Willie Gay, LB, Chiefs
Gay was a role-player in 2018 and appeared in just five contests in his final year at Mississippi State. So he's somewhat of an enigma.
But the opportunity in front of him is glorious in Kansas City's (previously) speed-deprived linebacker group, and he has the natural talent to burst onto the scene almost immediately as a rookie.
At 6-1 and 243 pounds with 4.46 speed, Gay is cannonball on the field, and he flashed outstanding ability in coverage during his time at Mississippi State, even if we didn't see him for a long duration. He defended a pass and snagged two interceptions in 2018 in part-time duty and housed an interception on one of the seven targets thrown into his coverage area in 2019.
Anthony Hitchens (4.74) and Damien Wilson (4.77) do not have strangleholds on their starting gigs, and neither have the speed or coverage talents to run with tight ends or running backs down the field. Gay has both. And the Chiefs defense is bound to see plenty of pass attempts from its opponents given the dynamic nature of the club's offense. Last year, Kansas City faced the 10th-most pass attempts in all of football during the regular season (582) and allowed the third-highest amount of receptions to tight ends (96), per Pro Football Reference.
Sure, they won the Super Bowl last season, but Gay is precisely the type of the linebacker the Chiefs desperately need.
Jonathan Taylor, RB, Colts
Even with Marlon Mack --a big and talented back in his own right -- technically in front of him on the depth chart for the time being, Taylor landed in a luxurious situation with the Colts.
Indianapolis finished 12th in yards per carry in 2019 -- 4.5 -- and had the same finish in Football Outsiders' Adjusted Line Yards, an advanced metric that assigns responsibility to an offensive line for rushing gains.
The Colts have one of the best overall lines in the league and return all five starters from a season ago.
Taylor was my. He truly checked all the boxes. Vision, contact balance, dynamic cutting ability all in a 5-10, 226 frame with 4.39 speed. Goodness. Per PFF, Taylor forced a whopping 87 missed tackles in 2019, the third-best total among any back in college football with at least 100 carries. He also averaged 3.93 yards after contact in his final season at Wisconsin. Basically, Taylor is a boulder of a back running behind a rock-solid offensive line, and he possesses serious breakaway speed. For as much as I liked Mack when he came into the league in 2017 out of USF, Taylor is bound to erupt early as a rookie and ultimately take over starting duties in Indianapolis.
Javon Kinlaw, DL, 49ers
Kinlaw immediately steps into the vacancy left by DeForest Buckner being traded to the Colts this March and finds himself in a phenomenal situation to succeed instantly in the NFL.
The 6-5, 324-pound interior defensive lineman with nearly 35-inch arms has Nick Bosa and Dee Ford on the edges and Arik Armstead next to him. Can't forget about 2017 No. 3 overall selection Solomon Thomas on San Francisco's defensive line either.
And while Kinlaw's pass-rushing toolbox isn't as loaded as Buckner's was when he entered the league out of Oregon in 2016, he's larger and plays with more point-of-attack power. And with the studs around him, Kinlaw is unlikely to see many double teams throughout his rookie season.
Diving into the 49ers scheme, last year, San Francisco rushed with four 78% of the time, the third-highest rate in the NFL. And Kinlaw is the owner of the highest pass-rush win rate (15.4%) among interior defensive linemen in college football over the past two seasons, per PFF's Mike Renner.
Even if it takes time for Kinlaw to be able to consistently hang against the run, he was drafted at No. 14 overall to get after the quarterback. His pass-rushing move arsenal could still be developed, the moves he does lean on already along with his power and flexibility will be accentuated on a defensive line rotation that features four other first-round picks.