Which rookie from the 2018 draft class will emerge as a star in the regular season?
With the NFL officially starting Thursday, will there be a rookie standout for fans to root for? Today we take a look at the top eleven picks in the draft and their potential for this year.
Baker Mayfield (QB) – Cleveland Browns
Cleveland isn’t quite ready to give the starting position to the first pick of the draft, but that hasn’t stopped fans from hoping. Baker Mayfield proved in this year’s preseason that he won’t be another first-round quarterback who will disappoint. His preseason numbers were solid with 501 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions. The University of Oklahoma will certainly be proud to see their Heisman winner succeed in the NFL. Although Tyrod Taylor will be starting for the Browns, it wouldn’t be surprising to see this rookie hit the field at some point.
Saquon Barkley (RB) – New York Giants
Unfortunately, Barkley only played in one preseason game after getting a minor injury against the Browns. However, New York fans have already boarded the hype train for this young rookie and are expecting great things. Based on practice and that first game, it looks like Barkley is the real deal and ready for the regular season. It’s clear the Giants are hoping he can revitalize their run game, especially because Jonathan Stewart has been such a disappointment during the preseason. He came out of his three years at Penn State with 3,843 rushing yards, 1,195 receiving yards, 672 carries, 43 rushing touchdowns, 8 receiving touchdowns, and 2 return touchdowns.
Sam Darnold (QB) – New York Jets
As far as rookie quarterbacks go, Darnold seems poised to have a decent season. To nobody’s surprise, the Jets announced he would be starting come opening day for the franchise this year. His preseason numbers won’t blow anyone away with 29 of 45 completions, 244 yards, 2 touchdowns, and an interception but he was solid enough to excite New York fans. The former USC Trojan has been involved in many sports analysts’ debates about whether he’ll live up to the hype. He certainly has plenty of talent and promise, which means he could be the best quarterback the Jets have had in a while.
Denzel Ward (CB) – Cleveland Browns
Ward is certainly talented but it will be interesting to see if injuries derail his career. The rookie cornerback’s most recent injury was from an attempt to tackle the Eagle’s, Zach Ertz. However, he also had a hip flexor injury during the early summer and suffered from problems with his ankles during training camp. This certainly could earn him a reputation for being “fragile” which will make it hard for teams to bet on his health. Defensive Coordinator, Gregg Williams, is confident Ward just needs to adapt his tackling style to stay healthy but only time will tell. His 47 solo career tackles in college definitely prove if he’s healthy, Ward is a strong cornerback to have on any team.
Bradley Chubb (OLB) – Denver Broncos
The Broncos looks slated to have a comeback year with the addition of Chubb and Royce Freeman. Even second-year quarterback, Chad Kelly, has the makings of being a beloved underdog this year. Bradley Chubb’s addition to the team is extremely important because he improves a pass rush which has proven to be successful in Denver. During his time at North Carolina State University, Chubb was known to be a leader on and off the field with an impressive stat line: 198 tackles, 25 sacks, and 1 interception. His presence will take a large amount of pressure off of Von Miller, Shane Ray, and Shaq Barrett. The four of them have the potential to be some of the most fearsome members of any defense this year.
Quenton Nelson (G) – Indianapolis Colts
Now that Andrew Luck is back at the helm for the Colts’ offense, rookie Quenton Nelson is poised with protecting the beloved quarterback. Nelson is one of the most impressive players from the 2018 draft class and many experts have picked him to be the best. No, he won’t be scoring any points like the beloved first-round quarterbacks or Barkley, but he still equally important. The Notre Dame offensive guard is a tank at 6 foot 5 and 330 pounds. When he’s not playing football he’s practicing Taekwondo, a form of martial arts which focuses on fast kicks. His flexibility will make it hard for the defensive lineman to make their way past Nelson and the Colts might have one year with a healthy Luck all season.
Josh Allen (QB) – Buffalo Bills
The Bills shocked their fans when they announced Nathan Peterman had won the starting job over rookie sensation Josh Allen. However, the young quarterback is more humble than ever and happy to use this opportunity to improve upon himself. Allen is a young success story and extremely easy to root for. He remained in his hometown of Firebaugh, California for high school rather than transfer into more elite programs. Attending Reedley College, it wasn’t until his junior that he received a scholarship offer from a Division I school. However, at the University of Wyoming, he proved just how talented he is and quickly ratcheted up attention. Allen will continue growing as a quarterback in the NFL, and when he makes his debut he will undoubtedly perform well.
Roquan Smith (ILB) – Chicago Bears
It’s hard to guess how Roquan Smith will do this year for the Bears because he’s been absent from so much. He hasn’t fully participated in practice because he had been in a 29-day contract hold-out, which has now blossomed into taking it easy due to an injury. His hamstring strain has prevented him from practicing at maximum capacity but it sounds like the rookie from the University of Georgia could be suiting up in the game against the Packers. If he plays, that will certainly allow fans and the Bears organization to see how he’ll mesh with the rest of the team.
Mike McGlinchey (OT) – San Francisco 49ers
Signing a whopping 18.3 million dollar rookie deal, Mike McGlinchey seems like he has the talent to back up the hype. He’s been playing on the right side, despite predominantly playing on the left throughout his college career at Notre Dame. McGlinchey played alongside another 2018 draft pick from Notre Dame, Quenton Nelson, and it makes you wonder what the Fighting Irish are doing to have such a strong O-Line. Football also seems to run in his blood, with McGlinchey’s cousin being the star quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons, Matt Ryan.
Josh Rosen – Arizona Cardinals
Everyone expected Rosen to be one of the top five players taken in the draft, but he was disappointed to find himself picked tenth in the draft this year. Nevertheless, the rookie quarterback from UCLA has been impressing his coaches with the Arizona Cardinals. He finished his college career with 9,341 yards, 59 touchdowns, 26 interceptions, and a 60.9% completion rate. While he’s projected to be the second string quarterback under Sam Bradford, many experts expect him to supplant the former Vikings’ quarterback pretty quickly. It wouldn’t be a surprise, Bradford is injury prone and Rosen seems ready to step in if needed. However, if he doesn’t, it will be a nice learning experience for Rosen to learn under the underrated Bradford.
Minkah Fitzpatrick (S) – Miami Dolphins
Why do the Dolphins love their rookie safety, Minkah Fitzpatrick? The young player isn’t playing football for his own ego, but because he genuinely loves it. Unlike a lot of other players who get swept up in some of the partying and the fame, Fitzpatrick is all about the business. He signed his rookie contract at the beginning of the summer (16.4 million dollars of guaranteed money and a 10.04 million signing bonus) and never took the time to have an explosive celebration. He gets to the Dolphins’ camp ready to work around 6:40 AM, and he’s one of the last to leave usually after 9:00 PM sometime. It’s easy to root for the University of Alabama alumni, and with his work ethic, he will probably have a long career in the NFL.
Are you excited for some of these rookies to make their debut this week? Tell us in the comments below who you think will stand out!