SO WHICH ROOKIES chosen after the first round will rise quickly to the top? Last year angular wideout Anquan Boldin, who was taken 54th by the Cardinals, ranked third in the league with 101 catches. Picked 101st by the Texans, rugged running back Domanick Davis finished 15th in rushing yardage with 1,031. Here are five first-year players with a chance to have a similar impact.
Chris Snee, G, Giants (second round, 34th pick). One NFL East scout says he is already the best offensive lineman on the team. The 6'3", 314-pound Snee--who married New York coach Tom Coughlin's daughter in July after the two had had a child while at Boston College--earned the starting right guard spot early in camp with his strong run blocking and skill at pulling. In the second preseason game he neutralized veteran Panthers tackle Brentson Buckner. "I know people give him stuff about being Coughlin's soninlaw," Buckner says, "but he's going to be good, really good. He brings the quickness and intensity on every play."
Dontarrious Thomas, OLB, Vikings (second, 48th). He'll start on the weak side of the defense behind end Kenechi Udeze, the first-round choice out of USC. Thomas had only 5 1/2 sacks in four years at Auburn, but Minnesota believes he's strong enough at 241 pounds to bust up pass blocking and get to quarterbacks.
Keary Colbert, WR, Panthers (second, 62nd). He'll battle veteran Ricky Proehl for playing time as a third receiver. But after Colbert caught eight passes for an average of 34.6 yards and three scores during the preseason, coach John Fox said he has to find snaps for USC's alltime leading receiver.
Darnell Dockett, DE, Cardinals (third, 64th). At 301 pounds he was chosen as a tackle, but because of his ability to pressure the quarterback and injuries on the line, Arizona shifted him to end midway through the preseason. "He's the best guy I ever played against in college," says Chargers rookie quarterback Philip Rivers, who, while at North Carolina State, faced Florida State's Dockett four times.
Bobby McCray, DE, Jaguars (seventh, 249th). The 6'6" 245-pounder from Florida was so impressive in training camp that Jacksonville cut former AllPro Hugh Douglas to ensure McCray playing time. "I don't know how he lasted that long in the draft," says Douglas. "He's going to be something else." --Peter King