Zack Martin will certainly be a starter for the Dallas Cowboys in 2014. Will he be the best rookie in the NFC East? That question was recently taken up by ESPN. Four writers, one covering each of the four NFC East teams, discussed who they thought would be the best rookie in the NFC East. Todd Archer for the Cowboys, Dan Graziano for the Giants, John Keim for the Redskins and Phil Sheridan for the Eagles all gave opinions. The top candidates that came out of the discussion were Martin, Odell Beckham (Giants), Josh Huff and Jordan Matthews (Eagles). Other candidates mentioned were DeMarcus Lawrence, Marcus Smith (Eagles), Trent Murphy (Redskins).
BTW, the article has a few other NFC East questions in it so you should check it out, including one on Scott Linehan.
Who will be the best rookie in the division?
Archer: Best or most impactful? It's hard to say a guard will be the best rookie in the division, but I think the Cowboys' top pick, offensive tackle Zack Martin, will be the most impactful. He is the third first-round pick on the line and will be a day-one starter. If he plays well, Tony Romo will have more time, DeMarco Murray will have more room and indirectly the defense will be better because it will be on the field less. But if we're looking for the best, I'd go with Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. or Eagles wide receiver Josh Huff. They will get plenty of opportunities. If Eli Manning is to bounce back, Beckham will do things Hakeem Nicks didn't do. I think Huff will benefit from playing for Kelly at Oregon and will make a smooth transition into the offense. Why didn't I mention any Redskins? I was underwhelmed by their top three picks and they didn't have a first-rounder thanks to the Griffin trade.
Graziano: I'll go with Philadelphia's Jordan Matthews, because the idea of a 6-foot-3 slot receiver in Kelly's offense is a scary one for defenses to ponder. I considered Beckham of the Giants, but I think he's going to struggle more with press coverage than the Giants anticipate. I considered Demarcus Lawrence of the Cowboys, because SOMEBODY has to rush the passer in Dallas, and opportunity could help Lawrence pile up the sacks. And the easy answer likely would have been Martin. But it's hard to imagine getting to the end of the year and proclaiming a right guard the best rookie in the division. I'm betting on Kelly finding ways for Matthews to shine as the Eagles pile up points again.
Keim: I was all set to pick Matthews because I love the total package there: speed, size, smarts, work ethic. He'll be a good one, but the Eagles also have several weapons, and that could detract from his ability to make an impact. I really like linebacker Marcus Smith in Philadelphia; he and Washington's Trent Murphy will have opportunities, too, as pass-rushers. But the guy I'll go with is Martin. At No. 16, Martin should make the most impact. But his presence gives Dallas one of the best offensive lines in the NFL. Eventually he could shift outside, but Martin should be a solid player up front for many years, and he'll help immediately.
Sheridan: The easy answer is Beckham. He is the only first-round pick in the division who is likely to make a major impact as a rookie. Even if Martin and Smith have good seasons, they won't show up on the stat sheet the way a wide receiver will. That's what makes the dark-horse candidate Matthews, the Eagles' second-round pick. A wide receiver from Vanderbilt, Matthews is likely to start out playing in the slot. The Eagles almost always had three receivers on the field under Kelly last season. If Matthews can earn the playing time, he'll get some exposure.
I think that to the observant football watcher, Martin would have to be the lead candidate. Now, over time some of these other guys could move up. But the wide receiver position is notorious for slower transitions from college to the NFL, although that piece of conventional wisdom is starting to break down more and more. The receivers on this list will also be sharing time with established vets or be the #2 to another receiver, while Martin is locked into a starter's role. The pass rusher's on the list, including DeMarcus Lawrence, will also likely go through a learning curve. And they could also end up in rotations with veterans.
For my money, I'll take Martin in this equation. How about you? Hit the poll below then yak it up in the comments.