By: Keegan Hartman
The 2018 NFL Draft class was thought to be one of the most impressive quarterback draft classes since the 1983 class- which consisted of Hall of Famers like John Elway, Jim Kelly, and Dan Marino. From former 2018 Heisman Winner Baker Mayfield to Josh Rosen and Sam Darnold, this draft possessed the artillery for a team to invest in a possible future franchise quarterback, and, thus far, the class has yet to disappoint.
Aside from the quarterbacks, the draft also a plethora of talent in numerous other positions. From offense to defense, 2018 rookie class has displayed its talent in efforts to help boast their respected franchises. Here are the top five rookies so far:
T5. Phillip Lindsay, RB, Denver Broncos (UDFA) College: Colorado AND
Royce Freeman, RB, Denver Broncos (Round 3, Pick 71) College: Oregon
It wasn’t long before we would get to see what Lindsay and Freeman’s talents would bring to the table in regards to the run game for Denver’s new offensive scheme under offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave. Although the Broncos have had an ugly start to the season- at 2-4 through week 6,- Lindsay and Freeman have been bright spots.
Lindsay has accounted for the most carries of Denver’s running back rotation, accounting for 61 carries, 346 yards, and 1 rushing touchdown. Freeman has ran 58 with 272 yards, and rushing for 3 touchdowns. In a recent week 5 ranking from Pro Football Focus, the rushing duo made two of the top five spots in overall grades thus far on the 2018 season, with Freeman coming in second with a grade of 75.0, and Lindsay coming in fourth with a grade of 68.8.
4. Derwin James, S, Los Angeles Chargers (Round 1, Pick 17) College: Florida State
To say that James was a steal in terms of efficiency is an understatement. Through just six weeks, he has recorded 36 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 6 passes defended, an interception, and a partridge and a pear-tree. Had James accounted for just one more sack this past week against Cleveland, he would’ve became the first rookie defensive back to have reached single-season 4.5 total sacks in NFL history. He has accounted for more sacks this year than all but one safety had last year (New Orleans’ Vonn Bell). He leads all safeties thus far with stops in coverage, and in quarterback pressures. Thus far, James has played about 165 snaps as a deep safety and 190 snaps near the line of scrimmage so far as a Charger, showing that his intelligence of his positional responsibility in different scenarios is remarkable for such a young talent. Pro Football Focus ranked James as the third overall best rookie through week 5, as he chalked a grade of 85.8.
3. Denzel Ward, CB, Cleveland Browns (Round 1, Pick 4) College: Ohio State
Personally, I was on the Josh Jackson hype train going into the draft, because of his stature, speed, and ability to glue to opposing receivers, having the most deflected passes of any rookie cornerback coming out in the 2018 NFL Draft. However, Ward must tap phones on his free time- because all he does is intercept. He leads all rookie corners thus far with 3 interceptions and one fumble recovery through 6 games. He is a crucial part to the Browns’ secondary, because he ranks 6th of all corners in terms of opposing quarterbacks passer efficiency when targeting Ward, which is 51.5 passer rating. Out of 92 corners who have played 100 snaps or more, Ward ranks second in with a 83.1 in coverage. Pro Football Focus has Ward sitting at a solid 80 on the season, and he ranks No. 5 overall among his rookie class this season.
2. Baker Mayfield, QB, Cleveland Browns (Round 1, Pick 1) College: Oklahoma
Cleveland is sitting at 2-3-1 on the season, and Mayfield is living up to his draft stock as the No. 1 pick. This past Sunday was his worst performance of the season- going 22-46, for 238 yards, and 2 interceptions against the Los Angeles Chargers. Yet, Mayfield- who relieved then starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor in week 3- led the Browns to their first regular season win since 2016. Mayfield went for 17-of-23 for 201 passing yards, zero touchdowns and zero interceptions in that game against New York. In terms of overall grade, PFF has Mayfield ranked 5th of all QBs with a grade of 80.0. Mayfield thrives in throwing the deep ball category, posting the second best grade of all quarterbacks this season with a grade of 96.8 when throwing at least 20 yards in the air.
- Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants (Round 1, Pick 2) College: Penn State
Fantasy owners could kiss him, and opposing defenses try to tackle but miss him. New York’s offensive line is still oblivious, even with the addition of OG Will Hernandez out of UTEP, and the signing of free agent OT Nate Solder from New England. Nonetheless, Barkley continues to provide for the run game that was desperately needed these past few years. Barkley has been “red-ic-a-lus” (get it? Barkley? Charles? Nevermind…) in terms of helping the Giants’ once deprived run game. He currently ranks 6th in the NFL with 438 yards on the ground. In last Thursday’s loss against Philadelphia, Barkley rushed for 138 yards, as well as 99 yards receiving, scoring 1 touchdown. It was the first time in Giants’ franchise history that a rookie had accounted for a total of 229 scrimmage yards in a single game.The statlines that Barkley is putting up makes you wonder why the Giants are still struggling as bad as they are, but we will have to wait and see what transactions will be done with player/coaching personnel.
Edited by Garrett Jones | firstname.lastname@example.org