Biggest Takeaways from Every NFL Team's 2018 Rookie Class
Los Angeles Rams running back Eric Dickerson had 933 yards from scrimmage and 10 touchdowns through six games of his 1983 rookie season.
One could have figured the draft's second overall pick would work out around that point of the season or even earlier. To no one's surprise, Dickerson enjoyed a Hall of Fame career, becoming a five-time All-Pro during his 11-year career.
That rookie takeaway was a layup, and we'll have some of those here as we go around the league to discuss every team's first-year class.
However, deciphering takeaways for all first-year players isn't as simple of a task sometimes. In some cases, a player may be underperforming if you look at the season as a whole, but are there circumstances that foreshadow future success?
Our focus is on what the players have done (and could do) and not what the front office should have done instead. For example, talk on the Denver Broncos focuses on defensive end Bradley Chubb (and others) and not whether the team should have picked a quarterback fifth overall.
We'll take a look at everyone who has played meaningful snaps with more analysis on those drafted early.
Despite early-season struggles, there's hope for Arizona Cardinals offense
Cardinals quarterback Josh Rosen has endured some tough obstacles to start his rookie year, including a midseason offensive coordinator change and a struggling (and injury-affected) offensive line that (among other injuries) just lost guard Justin Pugh to an MCL tear.
Rosen was thrown into the fire late in the fourth quarter of an eventual 16-14 loss to the Chicago Bears in Week 3. While his stats don't impress (eight interceptions, six touchdowns, 55.8 percent completion rate), he's also shown some significant promise, like when he led the Cards to an 18-15 win over the San Francisco 49ers after being down 15-3. He has all the physical tools to succeed in the NFL and should only get better with time.
Fellow rookie Christian Kirk has formed a solid connection with Rosen, as the ex-Texas A&M wideout has 21 catches for 297 yards and two touchdowns in six full games with the rookie under center. They apparently both like playing the San Francisco 49ers, as Kirk caught a 75-yard touchdown in their first game against their division rival before scoring the game-winner in the second contest.
Mason Cole has started eight games at center for Arizona. While he and the rest of the offensive line haven't fared particularly well, new offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich had some positive comments on him: "Mason's a smart kid. We all know besides quarterback, center's one of the most difficult positions to play in this league. ... They're growing together, they're on the same page most of the time and we're trying to build on that."
Elsewhere, a few other rookies have seen minimal playing time, largely because the starters haven't allowed it (e.g. former Fordham running back Chase Edmonds is behind star David Johnson).
Well-rounded draft class gives Atlanta Falcons bright future
Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley is the clear star of the 2018 class, although that was to be expected given his first-round selection. Through nine games, the Alabama product has 36 catches for 500 yards and seven touchdowns, three of which came against the New Orleans Saints in a breakout performance.
Ridley also sports an impressive 73.5 percent catch rate, which ranks 15th among qualified wideouts.
The Falcons are getting contributions across the board from their rookie class. Running back Ito Smith (four touchdowns, 303 yards from scrimmage, 17 catches) has done well alongside Tevin Coleman in the backfield after No. 1 back Devonta Freeman was placed on injured reserve. Ricky Ortiz has started seven games at fullback.
On defense, cornerback Isaiah Oliver just had a great game (four tackles, two passes defended) in a 38-14 win over the Washington Redskins. Linebacker Foyesade Oluokun has 42 tackles, and defensive tackle Deadrin Senat has added 20.
Long story short, the rookie class has significant potential moving forward given their early contributions.
Baltimore Ravens draft class off to uneven start
Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson hasn't been given an opportunity to show what he can do with Joe Flacco still calling the signals, but the 11-year veteran suffered a hip injury that may prevent him from playing on Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Until now, we've largely seen what the dual-threat rookie can manage on designed runs, as he has 139 yards and a score on 28 carries. He did take over for Flacco late in a 36-21 loss to the Carolina Panthers, completing four of five passes for 46 yards and a touchdown.
That score went to fellow first-rounder Hayden Hurst, a tight end out of South Carolina. Hurst's rookie campaign may end up being a lost year as a foot injury largely derailed the beginning of his 2018 campaign (four missed games). He hasn't seen the field much in his five appearances, catching just four passes for 57 yards and that aforementioned touchdown.
We can't judge Hurst's long-term prospects on a four-game sample, but right now, fellow rookie Mark Andrews is the team's top producer at the position with 21 catches for 244 yards and two touchdowns. It's possible he ends up being the team's No. 1 tight end.
Elsewhere, offensive tackle Orlando Brown has excelled and received praise for his recent work (Ryan Mink of the Ravens website reported that Pro Football Focus had Brown as the team's highest-rated player in Week 9 versus the Pittsburgh Steelers). Linebacker Kenny Young has also done well with 37 tackles and 2.5 sacks.
Other rookies simply haven't played much (e.g. wideout Jordan Lashley) due to some tough depth charts to crack.
Tremaine Edmunds highlights Buffalo Bills rookies
The post-draft highlight surrounded new quarterback Josh Allen and whether the Bills finally had a franchise quarterback, but the story this season has been the excellent play of fellow first-rounder Tremaine Edmunds.
Despite missing one game (and part of one other) due to a concussion, the 20-year-old linebacker out of Virginia Tech is first on the team with 70 tackles (49 solo). Edmunds has also forced two fumbles and defended seven passes.
While the 3-7 Bills haven't done well, the defense has been surprisingly good for the most part as they've held four offenses to 13 points or fewer four times. Edmunds has played a huge role there.
Allen gets an asterisk on this season as he's battled an elbow injury that has kept him out for four games. However, his accuracy issues in college have carried over to the pros, as he's connected on just 54 percent of his passes for just two touchdowns and five interceptions.
That being said, the Bills offense (sans the team's 41-10 win over the New York Jets) has not done well running, passing, receiving or blocking this year, so the offense feels like a teamwide issue as opposed to a problem Allen is creating.
Buffalo also acquired some good players for added depth right now, including defensive tackle Harrison Phillips and cornerback Ryan Lewis. But this rookie class will eventually be judged off Allen and Edmunds.
D.J. Moore, Donte Jackson look like Carolina Panthers cornerstones
Panthers wideout D.J. Moore has received more playing time of late with wideout Torrey Smith sidelined with a knee injury. While Moore has eclipsed 60 receiving yards once all year, he's made some big plays and posted notable performances, including 129 yards from scrimmage against the Ravens in a 36-21 win. A dual threat, Moore can also take handoffs around the end for big gains (122 rushing yards on eight carries).
Moore should be a longtime starter in Carolina, as should cornerback Donte Jackson. The 23-year-old out of LSU leads the team with four interceptions (two in a 31-21 win over the Cincinnati Bengals) and has 41 tackles. He's started all nine games at cornerback alongside James Bradberry.
Jackson notably struggled against Pittsburgh Steelers wideout Antonio Brown last Thursday, but that's a tough matchup for anyone, let alone a first-year player. Overall, Jackson has done plenty of good.
The rest of the rookie class has been relatively quiet in part because of a lack of opportunities. Of note, tight end Ian Thomas is playing behind starter Greg Olsen, and defensive end Efe Obada is behind starter Mario Addison. Obada did play well enough in one game to earn NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors as he had a sack and interception versus Cincinnati.
Chicago Bears nailed Days 1 and 2 of draft
The Chicago Bears drafted three rookies who have developed into key contributors as the 6-3 team vies for an NFC North crown.
Linebacker Roquan Smith has been as advertised, accruing 64 tackles and earning three sacks. He also has five tackles for a loss and 22 tackles over the past two games. It's not inconceivable to think that Smith could be the next great Bears linebacker, a la Brian Urlacher, Mike Singletary and Dick Butkus, if he continues his development.
James Daniels has started at guard over the past three games, all of them victories. Of course, the reasons for those victories go beyond Daniels' play, but offensive line coach Harry Hiestand offered praise in a Chicago Tribune piece by Colleen Kane:
"He's going to get beat at times, but the good news for him is he's a good learner. He knows why. He self-corrects well during series. He knows right away he leaned out too far or he took a bad target or bad step, so the next time the same thing comes up, he generally doesn't do that again. That's a good progression to be on.”
Wideout Anthony Miller has been a consistent target for quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, although it hadn't resulted in any gaudy numbers—until Sunday.
The duo connected five times for 122 yards and a touchdown against the Detroit Lions. Miller, who had five catches for 49 yards the previous week, looks like he's about to catch fire.
Overall, those three form an excellent rookie core.
Jessie Bates is real deal, but rest of Cincinnati Bengals class hard to judge
Bengals safety Jessie Bates was ranked sixth in ESPN's midseason rookie rankings, named Pro Football Focus' defensive rookie of the month for October and is second overall on PFF's rookie list through nine weeks.
The 21-year-old already has 71 tackles, three interceptions and a touchdown return, which proved to be crucial in a close 37-34 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Interior offensive lineman Billy Price suffered a foot injury and has only played three games. Defensive end Sam Hubbard is behind Carl Lawson and Michael Johnson on the depth chart, so he's had trouble finding playing time. He does have two sacks and a fumble return for a touchdown.
Running back Mark Walton, linebacker Malik Jefferson and cornerback Darius Phillips have seen the field, but none of those players has done much in limited action.
Overall, Bates is the clear star, although it wouldn't be a surprise to see someone else emerge from the pack with better health and/or more playing time.
Cleveland Browns draft class helping turn franchise's dismal stretch around
The Cleveland Browns may have three franchise cornerstones in quarterback Baker Mayfield, running back Nick Chubb and cornerback Denzel Ward.
Mayfield has posted excellent work in his past two games following the promotion of Freddie Kitchens to offensive coordinator, as he's completed 74.2 percent of his passes and five touchdowns. He also has the requisite confidence to boot, as noted by when he said he "woke up feeling dangerous" following his team's 28-16 win over the Falcons on Sunday.
Chubb may have woken up with the same attitude as he amassed 209 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns. The ex-Georgia star is now the man in the backfield after the Carlos Hyde trade, and he's responded with no fewer than 75 yards in any of his past four games.
Ward has three interceptions (two against the Steelers in a 21-21 tie) and 29 tackles. He's fought through a hip injury and is one of the team's best defensive players on a unit with plenty of individual talent.
The trio is so good that Hayden Grove of Cleveland.com posited the question as to whether this is the team's best rookie group since the Browns rejoined the NFL since 1999. As Grove wrote, the answer is "incomplete," but they're off to a great start and could form part of the perennial playoff-contending core.
With Leighton Vander Esch, Dallas Cowboys draft class a success even if other prospects don't pan out
Cowboys linebacker Leighton Vander Esch is tied for second in the NFL with 62 solo tackles, and that's with him playing fewer than 70 percent of his team's defensive snaps this season. He's been a tremendous addition to a Dallas defense that allows the third-fewest points per game.
Vander Esch is more than a stat compiler, however, as he proved in the big 27-20 win over the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday. He picked off quarterback Carson Wentz to immediately kill a first-quarter drive that started on the Dallas 44-yard line, and he also beat two blockers to knock running back Corey Clement back for a five-yard loss late in the fourth quarter to help preserve a lead.
The rest of the class has not shined as much. Guard Connor Williams, who has started eight games, has been up and down. Bryan Broaddus of the Cowboy website said there "has been more good than bad with him," although both he and Rob Phillips (also of the same site) agree he needs to add more strength.
Wideout Michael Gallup only has 15 catches for 275 yards and a touchdown. Defensive end Dorance Armstrong has rotated in at defensive end and has a half-sack and eight tackles.
Stacked Denver Broncos rookie class one of NFL's best
Here's a look at Broncos edge-rusher Bradley Chubb's stats over the past four games: 6.5 sacks, 18 tackles (eight for loss), one forced fumble.
After a slow start to the year, the fifth overall pick is now a man on fire and looking like one of the best pass-rushers in the game. He's started every contest and is second on the team in sacks and quarterback hits behind only linebacker Von Miller.
Chubb was expected to be a key contributor off the bat, but undrafted running back Phillip Lindsay was not. That's been the case from Week 1, however, as the ex-Colorado star has 751 yards from scrimmage and four touchdowns. He's also been remarkably efficient on the ground with 5.4 yards per carry. Lindsay's consistency is notable as well, as he averaged over four years per carry in every game until Week 9.
Other rookies have made solid contributions. Running back Royce Freeman has 4.4 yards per carry. Wideout Courtland Sutton (20 catches, 381 yards, two touchdowns) is now the starter after the Demaryius Thomas trade. Linebacker Josey Jewell has started the last two games and amassed eight tackles.
Overall, this is a well-rounded rookie class that's one of the NFL's better ones.
Small but solid draft class highlights lost Detroit Lions season
Although the 3-6 Lions are playing out the string, one of the season's positive moments has been the re-emergence of a long-dormant rushing attack.
The team can thank rookie left guard Frank Ragnow and first-yeat running back Kerryon Johnson for part of that effort. Ragnow has helped form an excellent run-blocking line that has helped Johnson rush for 5.4 yards per carry. Overall, Johnson has 757 yards from scrimmage (on just 133 touches) and three touchdowns.
Ragnow received a midseason "B" grade for his work from Lions Wire's Jeff Risdon, who noted that Ragnow's run blocking was excellent but that there was room for improvement in his pass protection. The entire Lions line has struggled on that front lately, with quarterback Matt Stafford taking 19 sacks in his past three outings.
Ragnow and Johnson aren't the only rookie contributors, as defensive lineman Da'Shawn Hand has done a fantastic job. The ex-Alabama star has started seven games and posted 24 tackles and three sacks. Pro Football Focus ranked him as the league's top rookie through nine weeks.
Others like cornerback Tracy Walker have made smaller contributions, but the three listed are clear success stories right now.
Green Bay Packers
Green Bay Packers' Jaire Alexander is a star, and Marquez Valdes-Scantling may not be far behind
If you want to see how well Packers cornerback Jaire Alexander has done, check out his highlights against the potent Los Angeles Rams offense from Week 8.
Alexander nearly led the Packers to an upset road win over the now-9-1 Rams as he amassed seven tackles and five passes defended in a 29-27 defeat. For the season, the first-rounder out of Louisville has 35 tackles and nine passes defended.
Fellow cornerback Josh Jackson hasn't found as much success in the pros. He did show flashes in an excellent preseason (which included a pick-six), but that hasn't translated to the regular season. Peter Bukowski of Acme Packing Company provided more information:
"Josh Jackson clearly isn’t ready to be an every down man corner, as evidenced by his struggles against the Dolphins on Sunday. Remember, this is a player with just one year of starting collegiate experience, albeit an outstanding campaign where he led the country in interceptions. But Iowa played almost exclusively zone coverage principles and Jackson struggled in college to tackle consistently, something still plaguing him in the NFL."
The Packers may have obtained the steal of the draft, however, in wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling, who has emerged as the team's No. 2 wideout. The fifth-round pick out of South Florida has 22 catches for 399 yards (18.1 yards per reception) and a pair of touchdowns in six starts.
Green Bay also got its punter (JK Scott) and a backup linebacker (Oren Burks) from its rookie class.
Houston Texans draft class making significant impact despite zero first- and second-rounders
The Texans gave away their 2018 first-round pick in 2017 for the right to trade up and grab quarterback Deshaun Watson.
Not only did the Texans clearly make the right move, but they also managed to find some significant contributors despite not having a first- or second-rounder in this year's draft.
In particular, safety Justin Reid looks like a secondary stalwart for years. The Stanford product has 49 tackles despite not being named a full-time starter until six weeks into the season against the Buffalo Bills. He's had 19 tackles and an interception in his last two games and helped the Texans allow just 15 points per game in their last four contests (all Reid starts).
Wideout Keke Coutee has battled injuries this season, but the Texans likely would not have won their game against the Indianapolis Colts without his 11-catch, 109-yard effort or versus Dallas sans his six-catch, 51-yard, one-touchdown night. Tight end Jordan Thomas caught two touchdowns against the Miami Dolphins in a 42-23 win, and offensive tackle Martinas Rankin has played more than half of Houston's offensive snaps.
This is one of the better rookie classes in the league, which is a remarkable accomplishment given that Houston didn't pick until 68th overall (Reid).
Indianapolis Colts draft class just might catapult team to playoffs
The league leader in solo tackles (64) and combined ones (96), Colts linebacker Darius Leonard has been remarkable after being chosen 36th overall out of South Carolina State. He also has three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, four sacks and eight tackles for a loss.
While the rest of the defense has not fared particularly well (18th in yards allowed per play), the offense has been dominant of late thanks in part to a line that has not allowed Andrew Luck to get sacked since Week 5.
Rookies Quenton Nelson and Braden Smith play a big part in that effort, as both players have started every game since the streak began. They've done a mostly good job of run blocking lately as well, as running back Marlon Mack recently enjoyed a three-game stretch when he had 6.2 yards per carry.
Three other rookies (running backs Nyheim Hines and Jordan Wilkins and tight end Mo-Alie Cox) have also played roles in the team's success this year.
The Colts are 4-5 after starting 1-5 and sit just one game back of the wild-card spot. If the defense steps it up a notch, they could make the playoffs. Another rookie (edge-rusher Kemoko Turay) could be an X-factor, as he's amassed three sacks and started the last three games.
Jacksonville Jaguars draft class not making an impact
The 3-6 Jaguars have dropped five straight. Numerous reasons explain why the Jags have struggled of late, but one of the concerns involves the lack of production from its rookie class.
Through Week 10, Jags rookies have started a combined total of 10 games, with five of those coming from safety Ronnie Harrison. The ex-Alabama star has had a quiet year (24 tackles, one pass defended), although he has plenty of time to develop and the potential to do so.
Otherwise, the contributions have been minimal. Linebacker Leon Jacobs has 15 tackles, wideout DJ Chark Jr. has 12 catches for 159 yards, and defensive lineman Taven Bryan has averaged one tackle per game.
While the Jags rookies haven't received much playing time, it's clear they've been affected by the entire team's downswing. They can certainly make impacts down the road, but at the moment, Jacksonville is getting less from its first-year pros than nearly every other team in the league.
Kansas City Chiefs
Even after Patrick Mahomes deal, Kansas City Chiefs found contributors in draft class
The Chiefs traded up to select quarterback Patrick Mahomes in the 2017 NFL draft. While that's looking like a stroke of genius, Kansas City had to part with its 2018 first-rounder.
The Chiefs were left with just six picks in the draft, but three are making impacts on defense.
Defensive end Breeland Speaks has played 10 games (starting four) and has 22 tackles and 1.5 sacks. Linebacker Dorian O'Daniel has received more playing time in the past four games and garnered 16 tackles (two for loss). Defensive tackle Derrick Nnandi has started the past six games and has 21 tackles.
All three have played more significant roles of late, and perhaps that's played a large part in the team allowing just 17 points per game in their four-game win streak.
Los Angeles Chargers
Derwin James will make Los Angeles Chargers class a success even if no one else pans out
Strong safety Derwin James somehow slipped to the Chargers at No. 17, and the Bolts are reaping the benefits as the former Florida State Seminole has 64 tackles and 3.5 sacks. A full-time starter since Week 1, James has also broken up seven passes.
Overall, the Bolts defense has been tremendous since Week 5, and it has allowed just 13.2 points in the past five games.
James started alongside fellow rookie safety Kyzir White for the first three weeks, but White suffered a knee injury and is out for the season. Offensive tackle Trenton Scott is the only other Chargers rookie to start a game, although he hasn't played since Week 6.
Linebacker Uchenna Nwosu, who was the team's second-round pick, has 16 tackles and 1.5 sacks in a reserve role.
Ultimately, James has been so good (e.g. he's had a pressure on a third of plays he's been called upon to blitz, per Pro Football Focus) that this class will be a win even if no one else works out. However, that's not to say that will happen.
Los Angeles Rams
Not much to take away from the Los Angeles Rams rookies
The Rams more or less punted on the 2018 draft as they rebuilt through trades and free agency.
The team only had one pick in the first three rounds and used it on offensive tackle Joseph Noteboom, who was taken 89th overall. Noteboom is stuck behind talented tackles Andrew Whitworth and Robert Havenstein on the depth chart.
There's really just not much to report here, as the Rams are the only team in the league where a rookie hasn't started at least one game. Defensive end John Franklin-Myers is the team's most notable producer with a sack and eight tackles.
Minkah Fitzpatrick leads Miami Dolphins' solid rookie core of defenders
The Dolphins procured three impact players for their defense in this year's draft. While no one is saying they'll form the core of a defense akin to the No-Name Defense of the undefeated 1972 team, they've each shown potential as the team stays in the wild-card hunt.
First-rounder Minkah Fitzpatrick has been excellent despite starting only half of the team's games. He's amassed 52 tackles (26 solo) and an interception. The safety/cornerback has been excellent in coverage lately, per Pro Football Focus, as he "has allowed a total of 4 receptions for 22 yards in coverage over the last 5 weeks." He's also No. 1 (by far) in passer rating in coverage allowed (48.5), per PFF.
Linebackers Jerome Baker and Raekwon McMillan have combined for 108 tackles. Baker made an excellent play in coverage by intercepting Sam Darnold and running it back for a touchdown in a 13-6 win over the Jets.
McMillan has been more inconsistent. Of note, he drew praise from Travis Wingfield of Locked on Dolphins for his performance versus the Jets, while Dave Hyde of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel said he was "chasing too many plays for a middle linebacker."
Tight end Mike Gesicki has put forth a disappointing season (17 catches, 151 yards), but like all rookies, he has time to improve and make a better impact. In Gesicki's case, his excellent athleticism (he was a three-sport star in high school and has a 97th percentile SPARQ score) that could eventually vault him to greater heights.
Brian O'Neill and Mike Hughes could be future stars for Minnesota Vikings
Vikings rookies have only started a combined 10 games, if you include kicker Daniel Carlson's two appearances in Weeks 1 and 2. He was released after missing three field goals in a 29-29 tie versus the Packers.
First-round pick Mike Hughes only played five games before suffering a torn ACL that ended his season. As Ben Goessling of the Star-Tribune noted, Hughes filled many roles for the Vikings, including cornerback, safety, punt returner and kickoff returner. Hughes also made 22 tackles and returned an interception for a touchdown.
He should make a sizable positive impact next year, but until then, offensive tackle Brian O'Neill is the Vikings rookie to watch. Nick Olson of Vikings Territory reported that the ex-Pitt offensive lineman was one of seven tackles to have "at least 200 pass blocking snaps this year and zero sacks surrendered." Adam Patrick of The Viking Age also noted he didn't allow a pressure in his last game, a November 4 battle versus the Lions.
Other rookies haven't seen much time, but if Hughes gets back 100 percent and O'Neill keeps this up, the Vikings will have succeeded by grabbing two high-quality starters.
New England Patriots
Injuries hindering New England Patriots rookie class' progress
No team's rookie class has been hit harder by injuries than the Patriots.
First-rounder Isaiah Wynn, a versatile offensive lineman, was placed on injured reserve with a torn Achilles. Running back Sony Michel, the No. 31 pick overall, has missed three games, and cornerback Duke Dawson, a second-rounder, has been on injured reserve with a hamstring injury. Linebacker Ja'Whaun Bentley played three games before landing on injured reserve with an undisclosed injury.
Thankfully, Michel is back healthy. He's done well with 484 yards from scrimmage and four touchdowns. While he hasn't been a threat in the passing game (that work goes to veteran James White), Michel has also been efficient on the ground with 4.3 yards per carry.
A few other rookies have made some contributions. Cornerback J.C. Jackson has two interceptions, and defensive lineman Keionta Davis has three starts (seven tackles).
It's hard to judge this class when two first- and second-rounders have suffered significant injuries and a third hasn't played the entire season.
New Orleans Saints
Marcus Davenport, Tre'Quan Smith lone highlights in New Orleans Saints rookie class
The only two players to report on here are defensive end Marcus Davenport and wideout Tre'Quan Smith, and that's because everyone else the Saints picked up either got released or hasn't seen any action.
New Orleans gave up a future first-round pick to trade up with the Packers and get Davenport at 14th overall. He's responded with four sacks in his last five games, but a toe injury has kept him out since Week 9. He'll likely be out through November.
Smith has received more playing time since Ted Ginn landed on injured reserve. He's done well when called upon with 11 catches, 196 yards and three touchdowns over a four-game stretch. Smith did not get targeted versus the Bengals on Sunday, but that's not a big deal considering the Saints steamrolled Cincinnati 51-14 and didn't really need all hands on deck for that win.
Although the Saints aren't getting contributions from a lot of players, Davenport and Smith should continue to be key contributors throughout their rookie deals at minimum.
New York Giants
Saquon Barkley leads solid core for New York Giants
Debates about whether the Giants should have taken a quarterback second overall aside, running back Saquon Barkley has been phenomenal this season thanks to 1,116 yards from scrimmage and seven touchdowns through nine games. One of the game's greatest talents, Barkley has done well despite a struggling offensive line. Barkley has touched the ball 16 or more times in each contest.
Offensive guard Will Hernandez has helped open up some lanes for Barkley. He received honorable mention status on Pro Football Focus' top 10 list of the best rookies through Week 9.
The defensive duo of end B.J. Hill and linebacker Lorenzo Carter has also made some noise. Hill has started six games and amassed 28 tackles and two sacks, while Carter has come on with 11 tackles (four for loss), three quarterback hits and one sack in his past three games.
Quarterback Kyle Lauletta has not been active this season. Defensive tackle R.J. McIntosh has battled a thyroid issue and was on the non-football injury list, but the team has activated him.
New York Jets
Sam Darnold has shown promise, but injuries and regression have hurt New York Jets
The Jets rookie class (and the team's season, really) has been about rookie quarterback Sam Darnold, who was the team's starter from Week 1.
While Darnold has shown flashes of the quarterback he can become (perhaps a perennial Pro Bowler), his first year has been marred by inaccuracy.
He has completed just 55.0 percent of his passes and leads the league with 14 interceptions. His last three games have been particularly rough, with seven interceptions (to just two touchdowns) and a 47.3 percent completion rate.
He has been dealt a tough hand, as five of the Jets' top seven yards-from-scrimmage leaders have missed time. That includes running back Bilal Powell, who is on injured reserve with a neck injury.
As losers of four in a row (including a season-crushing 41-10 loss to the Bills on Sunday), the Jets have been wilting team-wide, not just in the passing game. That's probably had a domino effect, and the team—including Darnold—seems to be struggling to reach the finish line.
Rookie tight end Chris Herndon has made the biggest impact outside Darnold thanks to 19 catches for 257 yards and three touchdowns. Defensive tackle Nathan Shepherd (five) and cornerback Perry Nickerson (two) have started a combined seven games.
One bright rookie light, incomplete marks in Oakland Raiders' otherwise lost season
The Raiders are playing out the string and looking toward the future at this point. They can likely count on at least one rookie to be part of the long-term plan, as defensive tackle Maurice Hurst has been one of the league's best first-year players.
A fifth-round selection out of Michigan, Hurst is tied for first on the team with three sacks. Per Pro Football Focus, that mark ranks tied for first with fellow rookie interior defenders. As noted by PFF, he's also tied for third in that group with eight quarterback pressures.
Left tackle Kolton Miller, who was the team's first-round pick, has struggled.
Granted, he's been placed in a no-win situation on a rebuilding team that has traded or released its best assets as it looks toward the future. He's also had various ailments (he was listed with knee and elbow injuries on the Week 10 injury report).
Miller could certainly get better when healthier, but Austin Gayle of PFF reported "Miller has allowed 34 pressures (most by any OL in that span) across 224 pass-block snaps."
Fellow rookie offensive tackle Brandon Parker has been thrown into the fire and made five starts on the right side. While he and the rest of the line have not fared well of late (quarterback Derek Carr has taken 20 sacks in his past five games), Parker shouldn't be harshly judged given his team's situation.
Edge-rusher Arden Key is the last notable rookie on the roster. He's first on the team in quarterback hits (eight), though that hasn't translated to sacks (one). The team needs a strong pass-rusher, and Key can develop into that player.
Philadelphia Eagles rookie class may include three big-time players
The Eagles traded their first-round pick, but they still came away with three players who seem like they could help the team long-term.
Tight end Dallas Goedert doesn't see the field too much with starter Zach Ertz in front of him on the depth chart, but he's done well with his limited opportunities, catching 18 passes (on just 21 targets) for 188 yards and three touchdowns. His efficiency has led to an 85.7 percent catch rate.
Running back Josh Adams might be the best active player at his position on the roster. The question is whether he gets the chance to prove himself more. A rookie out of Notre Dame, Adams has 16 carries for 108 yards in his last two games. That's 6.8 yards per carry.
Defensive back Avonte Maddox was drafted as a corner but moved to safety because of injuries to Rodney McLeod and Corey Graham. He has 21 tackles and a forced fumble in five starts. He even played some slot cornerback Sunday. Paul Domowitch of the Philadelphia Daily News and Philadelphia Inquirer wrote Maddox "has made impressive improvement in each of his four starts."
We'll see how those three develop, but the trio may need to make huge contributions just for the 4-5 Eagles to make the playoffs.
Pittsburgh Steelers don't have much to report besides Terrell Edmunds
Strong safety Terrell Edmunds stepped in as the team's starter after Morgan Burnett suffered a groin injury that kept him out for six weeks.
Despite Burnett's return in Week 8, Edmunds has kept his job. For the year, he's amassed 34 tackles and three passes defended.
Reviews on Edmunds' performance have been mixed.
On the plus side, Shannon White of Behind the Steel Curtain wrote he "is already a solid pro, and improving each week."
Of the minus side, Tom Kislingbury of Dynasty League Football reported Edmunds' tackling efficiency rate is under five percent.
Regardless of your take on Edmunds' play, it's important to keep in mind he wasn't slated to start, so the Virginia Tech product was thrown into the fire.
Elsewhere, wideout James Washington may be third on the team's depth chart, but the Steelers rarely throw to him as Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster get the vast majority of the wideout looks. Quarterback Mason Rudolph could be a replacement for Ben Roethlisberger down the line, though second-year pro Joshua Dobbs is between those two right now.
Offensive tackle Chukwuma Okorafor has played eight games but started only two and played just 10.0 percent of snaps. Running back Jaylen Samuels looked good spelling James Conner versus Carolina on Thursday.
San Francisco 49ers
San Francisco 49ers may have two longtime players in their rookie class
Right tackle Mike McGlinchey, who was picked ninth overall, has received much positive press for his work.
Of note, Pro Football Focus ranked him sixth-best among all rookies, and Brian Baldinger of NFL Network noted how well McGlinchey blocked on a 52-yard Raheem Mostert touchdown run versus the Raiders. The ex-Notre Dame star ran all the way to the end zone as a lead blocker.
McGlinchey has been a fantastic fit, and third-round pick Fred Warner has been excellent at linebacker. He's the team leader in tackles (77) and passes defended (five). The BYU product has a lot on his plate as the man calling defensive signals for a young defense, but he has done well.
Other rookies haven't made as much of an impact. Wideout Dante Pettis, the team's second-rounder, has missed three games with a knee injury and been buried on the depth chart behind Marquise Goodwin, Pierre Garcon and others. He did show promise in catching three passes for 96 yards and a touchdown in his first two games, however.
All other rookies have started just two games combined.
The best Seattle Seahawks rookie is a punter, but that's not necessarily a bad thing
Michael Dickson might be better at his job than anyone else in the league, and he's just nine games into his career.
The ex-Texas punter has received much praise, including from ex-Colts punter Pat McAfee, who said Dickson is "changing the game." That remark was in reaction to Dickson's performance against the Rams on Sunday, when he uncorked a 68-yard punt and later a 40-yarder that was downed at the 3-yard line.
First-round pick Rashaad Penny was the most notable name from this draft class in April, but his pro career got off to a slow start because of a broken finger.
Penny had notched just 3.5 yards per carry until Sunday, but he broke out with 108 yards and a touchdown on just 12 carries in the 36-31 road loss. After the game, head coach Pete Carroll said Penny "looked just like the guy we thought he would look like when we drafted him."
We'll see if Penny has broken through for good in the second half, as his performance could be the difference between a playoff appearance and another postseason at home.
Cornerback Tre Flowers has also made a big impact, starting all eight of the games he's played. While he hasn't picked off a pass, Flowers is part of a unit that allows the fifth-fewest adjusted passing yards per attempt in the league.
Shaquem Griffin has played the seventh-most special teams snaps and amassed 11 tackles.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tampa Bay Buccaneers rookies have work to do
The Buccaneers draft class may be the most disappointing in the league through 10 weeks.
Of course, it's still early in all rookies' careers, and no one's NFL biography has been written yet.
However, the 3-6 Bucs' first-year pros have struggled. Second-round pick Ronald Jones has been a healthy scratch for five games and active for just four others, amassing only 42 yards on 19 carries.
Rookie defensive backs M.J. Stewart, Carlton Davis and Jordan Whitehead are part of a pass defense that has allowed the most adjusted passing yards per attempt in the league. The Bucs are also No. 1 in points allowed per game.
First-round pick Vita Vea missed the first weeks games with a calf injury, and he's only accrued three tackles and a sack in six games. Offensive guard Alex Cappa hasn't dressed yet.
It's a disappointing start, but the defensive backs in particular have been dealt a bad hand and asked to do a lot. There's plenty of time for a turnaround.
Tennessee Titans rookie defenders have shown promise
The Titans only had four draft picks, but two of them are making notable impacts on a defense that has allowed the fewest points in the league.
While second-round pick Harold Landry has had injuries, the edge-rusher out of Boston College has played well when it's mattered most. Notably, he's produced huge games in two key wins, amassing four tackles and a sack in a 26-23 overtime win against Philadelphia and the same stat line in a 28-14 victory at Dallas. He's a big reason the defense has been so successful, though he's played just 49.5 percent of the snaps.
First-round pick Rashaan Evans got off to a slower start (just four tackles and zero quarterback hits or tackles for loss in the first four weeks), but in fairness, he had a hamstring injury.
He's done better in his last five games. Mike B. Herndon of Music City Miracles noted Evans (and the rest of the inside linebackers) were "playing at a very high level." Evans also posted a two-game stretch with 12 total tackles (nine solo).
Defensive back Dane Cruikshank has been a valuable special teams member, even catching a 66-yard touchdown pass on a fake punt to help his team to a 20-17 win over the Texans. Quarterback Luke Falk was waived.
Washington Redskins nose tackle Daron Payne is a team-changing talent
With 28 tackles and three sacks, Redskins nose tackle Daron Payne has helped his team to a 6-3 record and two-game lead in the NFC East. A starter for all nine games, Payne has helped the defense improve from tied for 27th in points allowed per game to tied for fourth. The run defense in particular has improved tremendously, as it allowed the fourth-most yards per carry in 2017 but is 14th this season.
The rest of the rookie class hasn't made much of an impact, but that's partially because of injuries. Running back Derrius Guice received much early praise from numerous sources (including John Keim of ESPN.com), but he tore his ACL in Week 1 of the preseason.
Offensive tackle Geron Christian Sr., who only played two games, suffered a torn MCL on Sunday and is out for the season as well.
However, seventh-round pick Greg Stroman has been a pleasant surprise. The cornerback has started two games in addition to his special teams work. Of note, he had two passes defended in a 20-13 win at the Giants and registered his first interception in a 16-3 win at the Bucs.
Stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference unless otherwise noted.