In the NFL, as most of us know, most rookies do not come in and make an immediate impact on a football team, with some obvious exceptions (i.e., Andrew Luck). It's even rarer to see on-field contributions from players not taken in the first round or top half of the second round. However, I think several Colts rookies will have an opportunity to make an impact for the Colts this season.
Jack Mewhort - OG
Mewhort has been an interesting player from the moment the Colts drafted him. A punishing tackle for most of his Ohio State career who is being transitioned to the familiar position of guard. Most people project Mewhort to start the season as a backup, as most rookie offensive lineman do. However, Mewhort has a very real opportunity to play and play a lot early and often.
He's shown the skills and intelligence through off-season workouts to be a realistic answer to the interior line problems that have plagued the Colts for the past two years. Not only that, but it's my prediction that projected starting OG Donald Thomas will begin the season on the PUP list, which would immediately ignite a battle for the starting spot between Mewhort and Lance Louis. This is a battle Mewhort could easily win, despite Louis's starting experience. I also do not believe Mewhort will struggle in the same way Hugh Thornton did when he was inserted, very much unexpectedly, into the starting lineup due to the freak injury to Thomas.
Needless to say, I expect Mewhort to play more than people will initially think and play well for the Colts this upcoming season, helping to solidify the interior of the offensive line.
Donte Moncrief - WR
Moncrief will have a much more difficult time seeing the field than Mewhort will. The wide receiver position is absolutely stacked for the Colts, and how the Colts weren't rated to have one of the top two best receiving corps in the NFL, with only the Broncos as being better in my opinion, is beyond me. But I digress.
With former Colt LaVon Brazill's predicted misstep, Moncrief will likely open camp as the fourth or fifth wide receiver, fighting it out with one of the guys I screamed for the Colts to draft late last year Da'Rick Rogers. Moncrief has a much higher ceiling and is a better overall receiver than Rogers and will likely take over the fourth wide receiver role. However, cracking the top three will be difficult unless Reggie Wayne is not 100% returned from injury or an unforeseen injury occurs. Grigson did not pay Hakeem Nicks to sit on the bench and from a future compensation standpoint, it would behoove the Colts to let Nicks excel. T.Y. Hilton is already a home run threat every time he touches the ball and is solidified in the second wide receiver slot.
Moncrief will likely see the field more later in the season in four or five wide receiver sets. The Colts will likely take it slow with Moncrief and work to strengthen his route running before sending him on the field. Moncrief will be a force in years to come, especially paired with T.Y. and Da'Rick, but this year he's unlikely to make a significant impact on the offense. Despite his limited return experience, Moncrief may see the field on kick and punt returns to get him more acclimated to the speed of the NFL game
Jonathan Newsome - OLB/DE
Newsome is a very interesting guy to predict. Prior to the Robert Mathis suspension, he wouldn't have even sniffed the field on defense. But with the suspension, yes, I'm saying there's a chance.
Newsome's scouting report basically reads like Mathis's coming into the draft so that's a huge thing in his favor. However, it will all depend on if he is ready and willing to work as hard as Mathis has over his career. He has the pass rushing ability to make an impact but lacks the experience or a plethora of pass rushing moves to really fool an NFL offensive tackle.
A more realistic way for Newsome to see the field is the same way Mathis did. Be a monster on special teams and come in on obvious pass rushing downs. With Mathis out for the first four games, Newsome will get a chance to showcase the skills Ryan Grigson raved about immediately after the draft. If he can make an impact, he'll likely see more time as the year progresses. Never the less, Newsome will relied upon as a key special teams contributor and as a pass rush specialist, just like Robert Mathis was early in his career.
Andrew Jackson - ILB
Looking at the roster, this may be one of the harder rookies to predict how and when he will see the field. The inside linebacker position is fairly flush with talent.
Jackson will likely see the field only if there's an injury to one of the starting inside linebackers, and even then Jackson will likely only see the field as a backup on obvious run downs. He's not a fast linebacker but can maneuver well in tight spaces despite being 255 pounds. He can really pack a wallop when he lays out a ball carrier though.
Jackson's lack of straight line speed will limit his ability to play special teams so he'll likely only be an asset to the defense. With several high quality players at the inside linebacker position, it's like that Jackson will be fifth on the depth chart behind D'Qwell Jackson, Jerrell Freeman, Josh McNary and Henoc Muamba. Andrew Jackson likely won't see the field much this season unless there are a few injuries to the inside linebacker position.
Ulrick John - OT
John is quite clearly a developmental prospect who will not come close to playing a meaningful snap for the Colts this season. He needs the benefits of an NFL weight regiment and training plan. He's too small to take on NFL defensive lineman and likely needs to work on his technique. Unless there are several injuries at the offensive tackle position John will likely not be on the active roster this season at all. John will most likely be a practice squad player for the entirety of the year but may get called up if an injury arises.
There are some interesting opportunities for the 2014 Colts rookie draft class this year. I'd expect Mewhort, Moncrief and Newsome to actually see the field and possibly make a difference. I doubt Jackson or John will play any meaningful snaps and believe John will be relegated to the practice squad for most, if not all, of the upcoming season. That all being said, I look forward to a solid year from the 2014 drafted Colts players and hope they come out strong to make us all proud.