Brent: Eric Kendricks
We’ve all seen what Zimmer can do with rookie linebackers and although Kendricks might not be as athletic or ready for the NFL as his UCLA counterpart Anthony Barr was as a rookie, I think Zimmer will find a way to put Kendricks in positions to have an impact on the defense. Some would argue that Trae Waynes will mean more to the secondary, but I’m not convinced he starts in week 1 and if I’m a QB, I’m going to pick on the rookie CB a little knowing what kind of defender Xavier Rhodes has become. Waynes will be a fine addition to this defense in the long term, but I think Kendricks adjusts faster and will make notable plays that will contribute to this impact on the defense.
Adam: Eric Kendricks
I’m in the slight minority in that I love, love, love the Trae Waynes pick. With that being said, I never have super high expectations for rookie cornerbacks, and he will probably get picked on a lot seeing as Xavier Rhodes is the guy lining up across from him. So, I’m going to go with linebacker Eric Kendricks, who possesses the ability to cover athletic tight ends and even some slot receivers in the passing game. Not only that, but he should be an immediate upgrade to a run defense that struggled plenty in 2014. If Kendricks is as talented and pro-ready as I think he is, then he will be the key that unlocks a lot of fun new wrinkles in the Mike Zimmer defense. I don’t see any of our other rookies as being able to positively impact such a broad portion of our game plan as Kendricks will be able to from Day One.