On top of preparing for the 2019 NFL Draft, I’ll also be keeping up with the 2018 NFL rookie class. Each week I’ll put out a column for the 2019 NFL Draft and a separate one tracking the rookie class. The rookie coverage begins with my 2018 NFL rookie spectacular, which includes quarterback grades, award predictions, my All-Rookie team and rookie stat projections.
Preseason Rookie QB Grades
- If you ignore the numbers and watch the tape, Josh Rosen was the most impressive rookie quarterback in the preseason. He looked like a seasoned vet going through progressions and making the correct reads. On multiple occasions he threaded the needle on tight window throws with perfect accuracy. Despite an awful offensive line in front of him, Rosen remained poised and took what he was able to from the defense. Most years a preseason like this from a rookie QB would earn them the starting job.
- Sam Darnold was the most poised of the rookie QBs in the preseason. His even-keel personality makes him the perfect QB to have in the New York market. Darnold consistently remained calm under pressure and held strong to make throws or keep plays alive with his legs. He was fearless in attacking the middle of the field and proved he’s ready to start in the NFL. It might be a bumpy rookie season, but he has the makeup of an NFL starter.
- No rookie QB was more fun to watch than Baker Mayfield. Mayfield was out there scrambling, making big throws and generally igniting the Browns offense. In most situations, he has done enough to start, but Tyrod Taylor didn’t do anything to lose the QB1 job. Mayfield showed off his consistent accuracy and strong velocity throughout preseason. He spreads the ball around like no other rookie QB. Mayfield is the perfect fit for the Browns offense with his style and swagger.
- What started as a rocky preseason for Lamar Jackson ended on a high note. He got better throughout the preseason and looked more and more comfortable. Early on he looked uncomfortable in the pocket and would get happy feet. By the Ravens’ fourth and fifth preseason games, he was able to sit in the pocket and pick apart the defense. Jackson’s ability to make plays with his leg adds a needed element to Baltimore’s offense. The longer he’s there the better he’ll get. If Baltimore builds its offense around his strengths, the sky is the limit.
- There’s no denying Josh Allen is an exciting QB to watch. He made several deep throws that few in the NFL can make, but at the end of the day he still looked like a huge project. Allen struggled with accuracy and touch throughout the preseason and never seemed to find a rhythm. He was under duress a ton because the Bills offensive line is awful. The biggest positive was Allen’s ability to move in the pocket while keeping his eyes downfield. He doesn’t look ready to start.
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants
- It’s tough to choose anybody else. Saquon Barkley is the most talented rookie in the NFL and should have every opportunity to put up huge numbers for the Giants. It’s not crazy to expect him to top 1,500 total yards and 10 touchdowns if he stays healthy.
Dark horse contender: Anthony Miller, WR, Chicago Bears
- A lot of the time, the height-weight-speed rookie receivers take longer to adjust to the NFL than the technicians. Luckily for the Bears, Anthony Miller is a technician. He’s a clean route runner who fights for every ball. With Matt Nagy calling the plays, Miller could put up impressive numbers.
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Bradley Chubb, EDGE, Denver Broncos
- Like Barkley, it’s pretty much impossible to pick against Bradley Chubb here. He’s a complete edge rusher and the most talented rookie defender. Chubb has multiple pass rush moves, grown-man strength and a hot motor. Oh yeah, he’s also playing opposite Von Miller, so he’ll rarely be keyed in on.
Dark horse contender: Fred Warner, LB, San Francisco 49ers
- Athletic linebackers are needed in today’s NFL, and Fred Warner is exactly that. At BYU he played an overhang defender role despite being a linebacker — that’s how athletic he is. Warner should play a lot and rack up tons of tackles. Sticking him next to Reuben Foster is flat-out awesome.
Best QB: Josh Rosen, Arizona Cardinals
Best RB: Saquon Barkley, New York Giants
Best OL: Quenton Nelson, Indianapolis Colts
Best IDL: Nathan Shepherd, New York Jets
Best EDGE: Bradley Chubb, Denver Broncos
Best CB: Denzel Ward, Cleveland Browns
Projected All-Rookie Team
|QB||Sam Darnold||New York Jets||1st/3rd|
|RB||Saquon Barkley||New York Giants||1st/2nd|
|RB||Royce Freeman||Denver Broncos||3rd/71st|
|WR||Calvin Ridley||Atlanta Falcons||1st/26th|
|WR||DJ Moore||Carolina Panthers||1st/24th|
|WR||Anthony Miller||Chicago Bears||2nd/51st|
|TE||Dallas Goedert||Philadelphia Eagles||2nd/49th|
|OT||Mike McGlinchey||San Francisco 49ers||1st/9th|
|OT||Brian O’Neill||Minnesota Vikings||2nd/62nd|
|OG||Quenton Nelson||Indianapolis Colts||1st/6th|
|OG||Connor Williams||Dallas Cowboys||2nd/50th|
|C||Billy Price||Cincinnati Bengals||1st/21st|
|EDGE||Bradley Chubb||Denver Broncos||1st/5th|
|IDL||Nathan Shepherd||New York Jets||3rd/72nd|
|EDGE||Harold Landry||Tennessee Titans||2nd/41st|
|LB||Fred Warner||San Francisco 49ers||3rd/70th|
|LB||Roquan Smith||Chicago Bears||1st/8th|
|LB||Tremaine Edmunds||Buffalo Bills||1st/16th|
|CB||Denzel Ward||Cleveland Browns||1st/4th|
|NB||Jaire Alexander||Green Bay Packers||1st/18th|
|S||Derwin James||Los Angeles Chargers||1st/17th|
|S||Minkah Fitzpatrick||Miami Dolphins||1st/11th|
|CB||Josh Jackson||Green Bay Packers||2nd/45th|
|K||Daniel Carlson||Minnesota Vikings||5th/167th|
|P||Michael Dickson||Seattle Seahawks||5th/149th|
|RS||Christian Kirk||Arizona Cardinals||2nd/47th|
|ST||Shaquem Griffin||Seattle Seahawks||5th/141st|
Rookie Stat Leaders
Rookie QB leaders:
|QB||Team||Completion %||Passing yards (YPA)||TD:INT||Rating||Ruhsing yards/TDs|
|Sam Darnold||New York Jets||62.2%||2,835 (6.3)||18:12||82.4||240/2|
|Josh Rosen||Arizona Cardinals||64.2%||1,848 (6.6)||12:6||88.5||26/0|
|Baker Mayfield||Cleveland Browns||64.9||1,414 (6.8)||10:4||92.5||160/3|
|Josh Allen||Buffalo Bills||53.7%||1,388 (6.2)||6:6||70.3||200/1|
|Lamar Jackson||Baltimore Ravens||57.6%||507 (6.5)||4:2||83.6||157/2|
Rookie RB leaders:
|RB||Team||Rushing yards (YPA)||Receiving yards||Total TDs|
|Saquon Barkley||New York Giants||1,120 (4.5)||384||10|
|Royce Freeman||Denver Broncos||800 (4.2)||240||8|
|Kerryon Johnson||Detroit Lions||720 (4.3)||288||6|
|Jordan Wilkins||Indianapolis Colts||672 (4.4)||215||5|
|Ronald Jones||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||512 (4.0)||145||3|
|Nick Chubb||Cleveland Browns||480 (4.2)||80||6|
|Sony Michel||New England Patriots||400 (4.5)||320||4|
|Rashaad Penny||Seattle Seahawks||352 (3.8)||150||4|
|John Kelly||Los Angeles Rams||320 (4.7)||120||2|
|Nyheim Hines||Indianapolis Colts||160 (4.4)||320||0|
Rookie WR leaders:
|Calvin Ridley||Atlanta Falcons||58||725||12.5||4|
|DJ Moore||Carolina Panthers||64||717||11.2||5|
|Christian Kirk||Arizona Cardinals||52||536||10.3||2|
|Anthony Miller||Chicago Bears||45||504||11.2||4|
|Courtland Sutton||Denver Broncos||30||420||14.0||5|
|James Washington||Pittsburgh Steelers||28||420||15.0||3|
|Michael Gallup||Dallas Cowboys||25||300||12.0||2|
|Dante Pettis||San Francisco 49ers||22||297||13.5||4|
|DJ Chark||Jacksonville Jaguars||15||270||18.0||2|
|Tre’Quan Smith||New Orleans Saints||20||268||13.4||3|
Rookie TE leaders:
|Dallas Goedert||Philadelphia Eagles||28||378||13.5||3|
|Mike Gesicki||Miami Dolphins||22||308||14.0||5|
|Hayden Hurst||Baltimore Ravens||24||252||10.5||2|
|Mark Andrews||Baltimore Ravens||20||240||12.0||1|
|Ian Thomas||Carolina Panthers||15||210||14.0||2|
Rookie IDL leaders:
|Nathan Shepherd||New York Jets||40||5||2.5|
|PJ Hall||Oakland Raiders||38||5||3.5|
|BJ Hill||New York Giants||35||4||0.5|
|Vita Vea||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||32||2.5||3|
|Mo Hurst||Oakland Raiders||24||4.5||3.5|
Rookie EDGE leaders:
|Bradley Chubb||Denver Broncos||72||10.5||5.5|
|Rasheem Green||Seattle Seahawks||45||6.5||3.5|
|Harold Landry||Tennessee Titans||30||7||6.5|
|Arden Key||Oakland Raiders||25||5||4.5|
|Marcus Davenport||New Orleans Saints||22||3.5||2.5|
Rookie LB leaders:
|Roquan Smith||Chicago Bears||104||4.5||2||2|
|Tremaine Edmunds||Buffalo Bills||94||6||3.5||1|
|Fred Warner||San Francisco 49ers||86||2.5||0.5||3|
|Darius Leonard||Indianapolis Colts||78||3||1.5||0|
|Rashaan Evans||Tennessee Titans||56||5||2.5||0|
Rookie CB leaders:
|Jaire Alexander||Green Bay Packers||52||2||8|
|Denzel Ward||Cleveland Browns||44||3||10|
|Mike Hughes||Minnesota Vikings||38||1||6|
|Josh Jackson||Green Bay Packers||36||4||8|
|Donte Jackson||Carolina Panthers||32||2||9|
Rookie S leaders:
|Derwin James||Los Angeles Chargers||77||2||6||4.5|
|Minkah Fitzpatrick||Miami Dolphins||68||1||8||5.5|
|Justin Reid||Houston Texans||56||2||5||2.5|
|Jordan Whitehead||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||52||0||4||3|
|Jessie Bates III||Cincinnati Bengals||45||2||5||1|
Best Rookie on Every Team
Arizona Cardinals- Josh Rosen, QB
- He might not play right away, but Josh Rosen is NFL-ready. He’s an accurate and poised passer who can make every throw. The Cardinals lucked out on getting him.
Atlanta Falcons- Calvin Ridley, WR
- Even as the third receiver in the Falcons offense, Calvin Ridley should have a major impact. He’s incredibly smooth with his footwork and adds a ton of playmaking ability out of the slot.
Baltimore Ravens- Lamar Jackson, QB
- If we’re lucky, we’ll see Lamar Jackson start some games at the end of the season. He might not play much, but he’s the future and finally gives Baltimore an offensive identity.
Buffalo Bills- Tremaine Edmunds, LB
- Sean McDermott had a ton of playmaking LBs in Carolina, now he has one of his own. Tremaine Edmunds is a freak with size, versatility and athleticism.
Carolina Panthers- DJ Moore, WR
- DJ Moore is what Carolina needed. He’s a feisty WR who loves to make plays after the catch. His athleticism is off the charts and finally gives them Steve Smith’s replacement.
Chicago Bears- Roquan Smith, LB
- Da Bears are known for monstrous linebackers, and Roquan Smith completes Vic Fangio’s defense. His instincts are incredible and he has sideline-to-sideline speed.
Cincinnati Bengals- Billy Price, C
- The Bengals OL needed a new identity and that’s why they took Billy Price. He’s a powerful anchor in the middle of the offensive line who finishes every play.
Cleveland Browns- Denzel Ward, CB
- Baker Mayfield wont start the season, but Denzel Ward will. He’s Cleveland’s top corner and his movement skills are elite. Ward was the missing piece for this defense.
Dallas Cowboys- Connor Williams, OG
- Adding a stud to an offensive line with three All-Pro’s is crazy. Connor Williams is a converted tackle moving to guard. He’s as mean as they come and has Pro Bowl ability.
Denver Broncos- Bradley Chubb, EDGE
- No question here. Bradley Chubb is going to change this defense. His power, motor and handwork are perfect compliments to Von Miller. Chubb and Miller are a scary pair.
Detroit Lions- Frank Ragnow, OL
- The Lions offense is shifting in a new direction and it starts with the OL. Ragnow is a plug-and-play lineman who will start at guard. He’s big, mean and technically sound.
Green Bay Packers- Jaire Alexander, CB
- Cornerback play is important in Mike Pettine’s defense and Jaire Alexander should shine. Alexander is feisty and can play inside at nickel or outside at corner.
Houston Texans- Justin Reid, DB
- It’s not everyday you get a DB in the third-round who can play everything from cornerback to linebacker. Justin Reid has a high ceiling and should play all over.
Indianapolis Colts- Quenton Nelson, OG
- Keeping Andrew Luck healthy is the Colts’ #1 goal and that starts with Quenton Nelson. Nelson is a freak who has no holes in his game. He makes the whole OL better.
Jacksonville Jaguars- DJ Chark, WR
- There’s no clear rookie that will play in Jacksonville. Marqise Lee’s injury opens up time for DJ Chark. Chark is a deep threat with impressive ball tracking ability.
Kansas City Chiefs- Derrick Nnadi, IDL
- It seems the Chiefs keep drafting developmental players. Derrick Nnadi is the only one ready to play as a rookie. He’ll do a good job as their starting nose when given the chance.
Los Angeles Chargers- Derwin James, S
- Gus Bradley has a stacked defense and now adds Derwin James as his newest weapon. James can play anywhere. He’s an elite athlete and a fierce hitter on the backend.
Los Angeles Rams- John Kelly, RB
- With a weak draft it’s hard to find a Rams rookie that will contribute. John Kelly is an ideal backup to Gurley. He’s a rugged bowling ball of a runner with receiving ability.
Miami Dolphins- Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB
- There’s no smarter rookie defender than Minkah Fitzpatrick. He’s the new QB of the Dolphins defense. Whether he plays safety or nickel, he’s going to be a tremendous addition.
Minnesota Vikings- Mike Hughes, CB
- A rich defense gets richer with Mike Hughes. Hughes is an ideal fit as the Vikings nickel. He’s a great athlete and an aggressive defensive back. Mike Zimmer will love his skill set.
New England Patriots- Sony Michel, RB
- No New England running back is safe, especially when they’re a rookie, but Sony Michel is dynamic. He has everything the Patriots like, he just needs a chance to be their top guy.
New Orleans Saints- Tre’Quan Smith, WR
- With few Saints rookies ready to make an impact, keep an eye on Tre’Quan Smith. He’s a big downfield threat and should make plays when on the field. He’s a future starter.
New York Giants- Saquon Barkley, RB
- This was easy. Saquon Barkley should hit the ground running for the Giants. He’s got the ability to be the best pass-catching RB in the NFL and a top-end runner.
New York Jets- Sam Darnold, QB
- He’s the youngest starting QB in NFL history and Sam Darnold looks damn poised. He’ll go through growing pains, but his ability to attack the middle of the field is impressive.
Oakland Raiders- Arden Key, EDGE
- The Khalil Mack trade paves the way for Arden Key to be the Raiders best rookie. With an explosive first step and the bend needed to rush the passer, Key should play a lot.
Philadelphia Eagles- Dallas Goedert, TE
- Philadelphia enjoys using two tight ends to create mismatches for defenses. Dallas Goedert is a big and athletic pass catcher who does his best work downfield.
Pittsburgh Steelers- James Washington, WR
- No team is better at drafting and developing non-first round receivers than Pittsburgh. James Washington should end up their third guy and be a big play threat all season.
San Francisco 49ers- Fred Warner, LB
- Again, John Lynch has a bunch of talented rookies, but this is about who will be on the field the most. Fred Warner is a super athletic LB who doesn’t shy away from contact.
Seattle Seahawks- Michael Dickson, P
- Yes, a punter. Michael Dickson is the best punter prospect ever. His booming leg and coffin corner accuracy will help Seattle win the field position game.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Carlton Davis, CB
- Tampa has a slew of rookies that should see the field, but none have a clearer role than Carlton Davis. Davis is a big outside press corner, the only one the Bucs have.
Tennessee Titans- Harold Landry, EDGE
- Nobody is sure how Harold Landry fell to the second round, but the Titans cashed in. He’s the most naturally gifted rookie pass rusher and should find a role early.
Washington- Da’Ron Payne, IDL
- Despite overdrafting Payne, Washington is using him correctly in a nose tackle role. He should anchor the middle of their defensive line and help clean up the run defense.
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