The 2007 NFL season is underway and it's an exciting time when curiosity strikes the hardcore fans. We all know about the top prospects like Calvin Johnson, Adrian Peterson, and Ted Ginn, Jr., but what about the lesser-known prospects, the players that come from nowhere and make a name for themselves in the NFL? Here are my top five rookies out of the players who were drafted on Day 2 back in April that you should keep an eye on this season.
1. Chinedum "Nedu" Ndukwe (Notre Dame), SS - Cincinnati Bengals (7th round pick, 253rd overall)
The former Notre Dame standout, Ndukwe possesses a lot of talent -- albeit raw talent. But that won't stop him from making an immediate impact on the Bengals defense and special teams. Athletically, he's outstanding. Anytime you have a 6-foot-2, 218-pound safety that runs a 4.5-forty and can cover and defend the run, it's an intriguing combination that can benefit your team. Ndukwe is currently listed second on the Bengals' depth chart at strong safety, backing up starter Dexter Jackson. Cincinnati has been impressed with Ndukwe's play during the preseason and it appears, at the very least, that he will be a big part of their special teams' plans. One thing to consider is that the Bengals have the makings of a very good young secondary. They addressed the cornerback position in the first round in both 2006 and 2007, selecting Johnathan Joseph (24th overall pick in 2006) and Leon Hall (18th overall pick in 2007). The Bengals also have third-year pro Madieu Williams (2nd-round pick in 2004) at free safety. Adding Ndukwe full-time to this young secondary gives Cincinnati one of the most talented and athletic defensive backfields in the NFL.
2. Brent Celek (Cincinnati), TE - Philadelphia Eagles (5th round pick, 162nd overall)
Celek was an unknown entering the 2007 NFL Draft and a player I thought was destined to be an undrafted free agent. But the Eagles knew something about the former Cincinnati Bearcat that not many were aware of -- the kid can play. In the preseason, Celek has displayed great hands and the ability to run after the catch. He's been the Eagles' biggest surprise through the first few weeks of the preseason, and it's a good thing for Philadelphia, since their starting tight end L.J. Smith has been hampered by injuries. It's unknown if Smith will return to the lineup when the Eagles travel to Green Bay to face the Packers this weekend, but if he isn't available, Celek will be ready to take advantage of the situation. Smith is in the last year of his contract and all signs point towards him departing at the end of the season. The emergence of Celek is huge for the Eagles future at tight end.
3. Legedu Naanee (Boise State), WR - San Diego Chargers (5th round pick, 172nd overall)
A player that teases you with his talent and skills, Naanee has a huge upside and the potential to contribute to the Chargers offense this season. The Chargers have a lot of great weapons on offense, but they always seem to be lacking at wide receiver. Vincent Jackson, Malcolm Floyd, Kassim Osgood and 2007 first-round pick Craig Davis are all young players competing for starting jobs. Naanee has a tough journey ahead of him, but if he develops the way his talents show he will, he'll be a steal for the Chargers and a possible star in the making.
4. Desmond Bishop (California), MLB - Green Bay Packers (6th round pick, 192nd overall)
Bishop is a very instinctive player who has excellent read and react skills that make him an intriguing player for the Packers. Green Bay has a young defense with a bright future and Bishop has tremendous upside to become a very good player. With 2006 third-round pick Abdul Hodge on injured reserve, Bishop is now the team's backup middle linebacker behind Nick Barnett. Expect Bishop to be a key contributor on special teams and a situational player on defense this season for the Packers.
5. Prescott Burgess (Michigan), OLB - Baltimore Ravens (6th round pick, 207th overall)
When the Baltimore Ravens didn't re-sign Pro Bowl outside linebacker Adalius Thomas, many wondered about his possible replacement. The Ravens addressed the need for a replacement in the draft, selecting two players on day two: Antwan Barnes from South Florida (4th round) and Prescott Burgess from Michigan (6th round). With a lot of attention surrounding Barnes, Burgess has been the one that's impressed me so far. At 6-foot-3, 240 pounds, Burgess presents with a big body that is excellent at tackling and he's always around the ball. Coming out of Southern Mississippi, Thomas wasn't a highly-touted prospect as he was also a sixth-round pick, but he excelled in the Ravens defense, and Burgess will do the same.
A member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Football Writers Association of America, Chris Steuber has provided his analysis of the NFL and NFL Draft prospects on the web and on the radio since 1999.