Predicting Every NFL Team's Biggest Rookie Breakout

Brad Gagnon@Brad_Gagnon NFL National ColumnistMay 6, 2019

Predicting Every NFL Team's Biggest Rookie Breakout

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    A team's highest-drafted rookie won't necessarily be its best.

    In fact, in terms of Pro Football Reference's approximate value (AV)—which is "an attempt to put a single number on the seasonal value of a player at any position from any year" the top picks on 12 of the NFL's 32 teams last season were outplayed by players selected later on. 

    So, while most teams should expect their biggest first-year breakout to be the first player they grabbed in the draft, our projections should throw some curveballs your way in this breakdown of potential rookie sensations ahead of the 2019 season.


Arizona Cardinals: QB Kyler Murray

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    Rookie wide receivers Andy Isabella and Hakeem Butler should have plenty of opportunities to make early impressions with the Arizona Cardinals, especially if new head coach Kliff Kingsbury uses five-receiver sets as often as he has suggested

    So those guys deserve a shoutout, but the only answer here is quarterback Kyler Murray, who is almost certain to start from the get-go after the team traded his predecessor, 2018 No. 10 overall pick Josh Rosen, during the draft. 

    In fact, Cards general manager Steve Keim has already stated (on the Rich Eisen Show, per a Reuters report in the New York Times) that the Heisman Trophy winner will be the guy in Week 1: 

    We didn't draft him No. 1 overall to ride the pine. I know it's a lot to put on his back, but that's why we drafted him. He's a fierce competitor, and that's what he did at Oklahoma this year. He put the team on his back. They didn't have a great defense, and he knew he had to score almost every series to give them a chance to win.

    Murray has just one year of starting experience under his belt coming out of Oklahoma, but that same program had Baker Mayfield ready as the top pick in 2018 (albeit after three years in a starting role). 

    Look for the exciting, incredibly athletic 21-year-old to experience a roller-coaster ride but ultimately excel as a rookie in Arizona. 

Atlanta Falcons: G Chris Lindstrom

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    The Atlanta Falcons spent two first-round picks on offensive linemen, both of whom could be tasked with playing major roles immediately. But No. 14 overall selection Chris Lindstrom looks to be much more developed than Kaleb McGary, and as the higher pick he's likely to get the first crack at stealing a starting guard spot from either James Carpenter or Jamon Brown. 

    Bleacher Report's Matt Miller called the Boston College product a "potential plug-and-play starter" thanks to his "smooth agility and movement skills." And, as a four-year starter in the ACC, he's certainly got the prerequisite experience.

    At an unpolished 6'7", 317 pounds, McGary could require some time to adjust to the NFL level and establish himself as a guard or a tackle, which is fine because the Falcons have options with veterans Carpenter, Brown and Ty Sambrailo on board.

    And since Atlanta didn't make a single pick on Day 2, Lindstrom is the top Falcons rookie to watch this summer. 

Baltimore Ravens: WR Marquise Brown

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    Not every team's top early-impact rookie will come from Round 1. But third-round Baltimore Ravens rookies Jaylon Ferguson (6'5", 271 pounds with weight concerns) and Miles Boykin (6'4", 220 lbs, 4.42-second 40-yard speed—but very raw as a receiver) are clear developmental projects. Baltimore's only other pick from the first three rounds was first-rounder Marquise Brown.

    So while Brown might also need time, he might be the only rookie who makes any immediate impact in Baltimore. 

    At 5'9", 166 pounds, the No. 25 overall selection out of Oklahoma is dangerously undersized, and there's some evidence he could be a one-trick pony as a speed-reliant deep threat if he doesn't add the weight to survive the middle of the field. That's far from ideal considering the state of Baltimore's offense as quarterback Lamar Jackson develops. The 2018 first-round pick completed just nine passes that traveled 15-plus yards in his rookie season. 

    Still, Brown should have plenty of opportunities right away in an offense that lacks talent at that position, and he certainly has the skill set to make plays in 2019. 

Buffalo Bills: RB Devin Singletary

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    The expectation is that top-10 pick Ed Oliver will do damage immediately at defensive tackle for the Buffalo Bills. And that could happen, but the physically tantalizing Houston product faces questions about his size (or lack thereof, at 6'2", 287 lbs), his lack of consistent production against top-level opposition in college and the knee injury which limited him in 2018. 

    With Star Lotulelei, Jordan Phillips and Harrison Phillips on the roster, the Bills could opt to bring Oliver along a little bit less quickly than many Buffalo fans are hoping. 

    Meanwhile, high-profile second-rounder Cody Ford was a starter for just his junior season in college, with Miller noting that the offensive lineman out of Oklahoma "must clean up his technique" in order to excel in the NFL. 

    So we're taking a flier here on Bills third-round running back Devin Singletary, who just might have a chance to become this year's Alvin Kamara. The Florida Atlantic product rushed for 4,287 yards, averaged 6.0 yards per carry and scored 67 touchdowns in three years with the Owls. 

    If Singletary can shine early this offseason with Buffalo, don't be surprised if the Bills unload LeSean McCoy's hefty contract and pair their under-the-radar rookie with old man Frank Gore. And if that happens, Singletary should lead the Bills in carries this season. 

Carolina Panthers: DE Brian Burns

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    In April, just a few months after Julius Peppers retired, the Carolina Panthers used a first-round pick on a pure pass-rusher for the first time since they drafted Peppers second overall in 2002. 

    And while No. 16 selection Brian Burns might never live up to Peppers' career, he does have the ability to step in and become the team's top edge-rusher right off the bat. 

    It's not as though he's facing a lot of competition. With Peppers gone, 31-year-olds Mario Addison and Bruce Irvin are the only established defensive ends of decent quality on Carolina's roster. Neither has been to a Pro Bowl in a combined 17 NFL seasons. 

    Burns is a versatile, well-developed rusher who has polished pass-rushing technique coming off a three-year run as a key contributor at Florida State. Look for him to lead the Panthers in sacks in 2019. 

Chicago Bears: RB David Montgomery

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    Riley Ridley's big brother Calvin scored 10 touchdowns as a rookie with the Atlanta Falcons. But with Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Anthony Miller and Cordarrelle Patterson already populating the Chicago Bears wide receiver depth chart, the less-heralded Ridley isn't likely to make a big impact as a fourth-round rookie in Chicago. 

    Among members of the Bears' 2019 draft class, running back David Montgomery is the only other player drafted before Round 6. But the third-round Iowa State product isn't listed here merely as a default. With Jordan Howard gone, the pro-ready Montgomery could step into a significant role right away. 

    Despite limited support, Montgomery excelled as both a rusher and a receiver the last two years in the Big 12, rushing for 24 touchdowns and catching 58 passes. Miller noted that he's "built like a starting running back with thick thighs and big shoulders" before comparing him to another successful third-round back, Kareem Hunt. 

    Tarik Cohen might be the centerpiece of Chicago's offensive backfield, but Cohen is more of a pass-catching back and the Bears have yet to burden his 5'6" frame with 100 carries in a season. With that in mind, watch for Montgomery to have an edge over Cohen and the injury-prone Mike Davis in the battle for Howard's former early-down role. 

Cincinnati Bengals: OT Jonah Williams

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    The Cincinnati Bengals have been revamping their offensive line the last two offseasons. So there's little doubt that No. 11 overall pick Jonah Williams is expected to contribute immediately—following in the footsteps of last season's first-round center, Billy Price, who started for Cincinnati from day one.

    Williams was a three-year starter at Alabama. And while he may lack the ideal length and athleticism for a tackle, Miller notes that his "tape is flawless from a technique standpoint." 

    He also has the skill set and football IQ to successfully move inside to guard, if that's what the Bengals decide to do. After all, they're paying Cordy Glenn and Bobby Hart starting money at the tackle positions. 

    Regardless, he stands out from the rest of Cincy's 2019 draft class, and he might be the only member of that group to play a substantial role right off the bat. 

Cleveland Browns: CB Greedy Williams

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    The Cleveland Browns find themselves in an unfamiliar position—one in which they have the luxury to let their draft class marinate before throwing anyone to the wolves. So don't be surprised if the deep and talented Browns bring along their top rookies slowly. 

    But if they find themselves needing second-round pick Greedy Williams early, the two-time All-SEC cornerback should be ready. After all, he intercepted eight passes in two years at LSU, and Miller ranked him 15th on his final big board.

    Williams was a steal midway through Round 2. Plenty of mock drafts projected he'd go in the first round, and he has the length, ball skills and coverage technique to contribute right now. 

    Still, the speedy 21-year-old could benefit from more coaching when it comes to his tackling, as well as more time in the weight room. And with Denzel Ward, T.J. Carrie and Terrance Mitchell on the Cleveland roster, he might have the opportunity to develop gradually. 

Dallas Cowboys: OL Connor McGovern

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    None of the eight players drafted by the Dallas Cowboys last week are guaranteed significant roles from the jump, but third-round offensive lineman Connor McGovern probably has the best chance at earning a starting job this summer. 

    The Penn State product is a big (6'5", 308 lbs), strong, versatile, NFL-ready 21-year-old coming off a three-year run as a starter for the Nittany Lions. That could put him in the mix to beat out Xavier Su'a-Filo and 2018 second-round selection Connor Williams for the left guard job opposite superstar Zack Martin. It's also possible they could kick Williams out to right tackle.

    There's still some uncertainty surrounding center Travis Frederick, who missed the entire 2018 season after being diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome. So, McGovern, who Miller figures could become "a high-level starter at either center or guard," might get a shot. 

Denver Broncos: OL Dalton Risner

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    Tight end Noah Fant and quarterback Drew Lock are easily getting the most attention among the six members of the Denver Broncos' 2019 draft class. But Fant might need time to adjust at a tough position for rookies and Lock isn't expected to factor in much with veteran Joe Flacco projected to start under center. 

    But fellow Day 2 picks Dalton Risner and Dre'Mont Jones could play larger roles. The former gets the edge here because he's extremely experienced coming off a four-year starting run at Kansas State and should have a shot at a starting job within Denver's interior offensive line after the Broncos lost Matt Paradis in free agency. 

    Jones has the ability to make an early impact at defensive tackle, too, but the Broncos already have Shelby Harris, Adam Gotsis and DeMarcus Walker inside. 

    At 6'5", 312 pounds, with 34" arms—the lengthy, versatile Risner can play all five spots along the offensive line, and it's likely only a matter of time before he earns reps somewhere. 

Detroit Lions: TE T.J. Hockenson

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    It's smart to exercise caution when predicting rookie success from tight ends, especially considering the struggles recent first-round tight ends Hayden Hurst, O.J. Howard, David Njoku, Tyler Eifert, Brandon Pettigrew and Eric Ebron encountered in their maiden NFL campaigns. 

    The last two dud rookie tight ends on that list were Detroit Lions, but we're still nominating T.J. Hockenson. 

    That has something to do with the fact Detroit's Day 2 picks, Jahlani Tavai and Will Harris, are projects who will need time to earn significant reps. But it's also possible Hockenson could be an aberration as a rookie. 

    The John Mackey Award-winning Iowa product is the third-highest-drafted tight end this century, and Miller believes he "should walk into the NFL as a high-level starter with the potential to become the best tight end in the game."

    That'll do.

Green Bay Packers: S Darnell Savage Jr.

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    The Green Bay Packers used a higher first-round pick on defensive end Rashan Gary than they did on safety Darnell Savage Jr.. But Gary is somewhat of a developmental pick—his production at Michigan didn't match his tantalizing measurables (6'4", 277 lbs, with a 4.58-second 40-yard speed), and he joins a defensive line that already features a multitude of well-paid veterans. 

    Meanwhile, the Packers dealt away two fourth-round picks in order to move up late in Round 1 for Savage, which is an indication they really love the guy. And there's a lot to love. He's a speedy (4.36-second 40), versatile three-year college starter who intercepted seven passes the last two seasons at Maryland and has the coverage skills to make a tremendous impact right away at the NFL level. 

    "He has the athleticism and experience to hit the field immediately in sub-packages," wrote Miller, "and could be a starter at free safety soon."

    How soon? Don't be surprised if he beats out Josh Jones to earn a starting role next to free-agent addition Adrian Amos before the 2019 season gets underway. 

Houston Texans: OL Max Scharping

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    This would have been a lot easier had the Houston Texans not been leapfrogged by the Philadelphia Eagles for pro-ready offensive tackle Andre Dillard in Round 1. But they settled for Tytus Howard instead, and the Alabama State product is extremely raw. 

    Instead, if anyone from Houston's draft class might make an impact in 2019, look to second-round offensive lineman Max Scharping, who also could need some development but is at least coming off a four-year starting career at Northern Illinois. 

    As Miller notes, Scharping has that rare, cherished combination of size (6'6", 327 pounds) and athletic ability, and he has experience playing guard. So he could have an early advantage over Howard in battles  for playing time with offensive tackles Julie'n Davenport, Seantrel Henderson, Matt Kalil and Martinas Rankin. But he could also have a chance to dethrone Senio Kelemete or Zach Fulton at guard after both struggled in 2018. 

    He's more likely to make a rookie impact than Thomas, as well as fellow second-round project Lonnie Johnson. 

Indianapolis Colts: WR Parris Campbell

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    Pass-rusher Ben Banogu looks quite raw and is joining a crowded defensive front, but the other two players drafted in the second round by the Indianapolis Colts have opportunities to contribute right off the bat in 2019. 

    There's cornerback Rock Ya-Sin, who Miller feels can be a "plug-and-play starter on the outside" after a strong solo season at Temple and an encouraging pre-draft process. But Ya-Sin might still require some development given his short run as a Division I corner. 

    Then there's wide receiver Parris Campbell, who made consistent progress in his four years at Ohio State—upping his receptions, yardage and touchdowns each season. 

    The Colts entered the offseason in need of depth at the receiver position, and Campbell immediately becomes the second-most-talented receiver on the team. He should excel from the slot from the jump, complementing outside weapons T.Y. Hilton and Devin Funchess. 

    Frank Reich is going to have a field day with this guy. 

Jacksonville Jaguars: OLB Josh Allen

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    High-value second-round selection Jawaan Taylor should compete for the starting right tackle job with the Jacksonville Jaguars this summer. Even so, it will be difficult for the Florida product to outshine Jacksonville's first-round pass-rusher Josh Allen. 

    The No. 7 overall pick is drawing Defensive Rookie of the Year odds within No. 2 overall selection Nick Bosa's range, and for good reason. He's coming off a dominant 17-sack senior season at Kentucky, with Pro Football Focus ranking him as the No. 1 pass-rusher in the country. 

    The win-now Jags wouldn't have used a top-10 selection on Allen if they didn't think he could make a difference immediately. And while he still has room to develop, the reigning SEC Defensive Player of the Year looks primed to benefit from the lineup protection provided by Yannick Ngakoue, Calais Campbell and a better Jaguars offense in 2019. 

Kansas City Chiefs: WR Mecole Hardman

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    With superstar wide receiver Tyreek Hill's future with the Kansas City Chiefs very much in doubt, the team used its first pick of the 2019 draft on a wideout who possesses eerily similar traits to those of Hill. 

    Georgia product Mecole Hardman has elite speed (4.33-second 40-yard speed, specifically) that can be tapped into in multiple ways. He's a receiver first, but he also experienced plenty of success in the SEC as a runner and a return man (finishing with 689 rushing and return yards over his last two seasons). 

    Sound familiar? 

    Hardman has some room to develop, but the Chiefs lack depth at receiver and they wouldn't have traded up to take him unless they believed he could help them continue contending.

    Miller agrees, noting that Hardman "could be scary to defenses from the first day of the season."

    So while fellow second-rounder Juan Thornhill could also earn early playing time at safety in Kansas City, Hardman is the leading candidate to break out. 

Los Angeles Chargers: DT Jerry Tillery

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    Each of the Los Angeles Chargers' four most prominent interior defensive linemen—Brandon Mebane, Corey Liuget, Darius Philon and Damion Square—hit free agency this offseason, and only Mebane is back. For a while, we wondered if that meant Bolts would be part of the Ndamukong Suh sweepstakes, but then L.A. used its first-round draft pick on pro-ready defensive tackle: Jerry Tillery. 

    Miller notes that the experienced Notre Dame product "offers instant-impact ability," and there's certainly room for him alongside the veteran Mebane. 

    Tillery should also benefit from the presence of stud pass-rushers Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, who hog plenty of attention in the front seven. 

    A tremendous pass-rusher from the interior, with three strong seasons as a starter for the Fighting Irish under his belt, Tillery is likely to play a major role right off the bat.

Los Angeles Rams: CB David Long

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    The Los Angeles Rams didn't have a first-round pick, and one of the most talented teams in the league was fortunate to be in a position to draft for insurance and the future. It's likely that none of their rookies will start in 2019, but third-round cornerback David Long might be best positioned to succeed early in L.A.

    Coming off two strong seasons at Michigan, Long crushed both the short shuttle (3.97 seconds) and three-cone (6.45 seconds) at the NFL Scouting Combine, earning the fastest times among defensive backs for both. He isn't particularly big or fast, but the man can simply cover. His advanced statistics in the Big 12 were off the charts, per Pro Football Focus, with Long allowing just 18 receptions on 60 targets over 595 coverage snaps. 

    He surrendered just one touchdown and zero 25-plus-yard receptions. 

    Top Rams corner Aqib Talib is 33 years old and coming off an injury-marred season, while fellow starter Marcus Peters struggled immensely in 2018. That could pave the way for Long to step in sooner than later.

Miami Dolphins: DT Christian Wilkins

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    The Miami Dolphins drafted just two players in the top 150. While third-round guard Michael Deiter has the polish and experience to earn a starting job by Week 1, there's still little doubt that first-round defensive tackle Christian Wilkins has the highest immediate ceiling among Miami's rookies. 

    Wilkins was a four-year starter at the defensive line factory that is Clemson. There, he was a consistent force as both as run defender and a pass rusher, amassing 192 tackles, 40.5 tackles for loss and 16 sacks. 

    He's a technically polished leader who immediately becomes the most talented member of the Dolphins' interior defensive line. It's doubtful he'll have much trouble supplanting projected starters Davon Godchaux or Akeem Spence, both of whom were middle-round picks earlier this decade and have yet to shine.

Minnesota Vikings: OL Garrett Bradbury

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    This could change if the Minnesota Vikings wind up trading veteran tight end Kyle Rudolph. But, for now, Rudolph is a Viking and that blocks the path for second-round pick Irv Smith Jr. to make a significant early impact at a difficult position. 

    So, first-round interior offensive lineman Garrett Bradbury has to be the rook to watch early on for Minnesota, which is in desperate need of a talent boost across the offensive line. 

    Good news. Miller calls Bradbury "a safe bet to be a long-term starter in the NFL" who "should walk into his rookie camp with a starting job in hand."

    The North Carolina State product has plenty of experience at both guard and center, which means he could start in the middle and force disappointing 2017 third-rounder Pat Elflein to guard, or he could compete with Aviante Collins, Danny Isidora and Dakota Dozier for the starting guard spot opposite Josh Kline. 

New England Patriots: DE Chase Winovich

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    Last time the New England Patriots took a wide receiver in the first round, 2019 first-rounder N'Keal Harry wasn't born. And so it's no surprise that the hyped Arizona State product is getting most of the attention among New England's draft class. 

    But Harry still has work to do in order to consistently gain separation with crisp routes outside, and the Pats have Julian Edelman, Phillip Dorsett and Demaryius Thomas on the roster. 

    So while Harry could come through as a rookie, we're instead looking at third-round pass-rusher Chase Winovich. The three-year Michigan starter is mature, polished and immediately fills a need on the New England's depth chart. 

    Miller calls Winovich an "athletic, productive senior player who overshadowed Devin Bush and Rashan Gary on a stacked defense," noting that he "has the look of an early contributor and longtime starter." And Michael Renner of Pro Football Focus named the two-time first-team All-Big 10 defensive end one of the steals of the draft. 

    He looks to be tailor-made for a Patriots pass-rushing rotation that lost both Trey Flowers and Adrian Clayborn earlier this offseason. 

New Orleans Saints: OL Erik McCoy

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    The New Orleans Saints are one of the deepest teams in the NFL and they picked just one player in the first five rounds of the 2019 draft. There's a good chance that player, center Erik McCoy out of Texas A&M, will spend his rookie season backing up veteran Nick Easton.

    Saints head coach Payton admited that's the case on the Rich Eisen Show, when asked if McCoy should be considered a Week 1 replacement for retired center Max Unger (via John Sigler of Saints Wire):

    Look that’s a fair question. One of the things we try to do in free agency is not put yourself in that position [to force a rookie to start]. We signed Nick Easton, from Minnesota, who started a whole season for them at center and also played guard for them. So, we feel like with the addition of Nick and then also the opportunity to select Erik, all of a sudden it goes back to (being) a position of strength.

    Easton is an injury risk after missing the entire 2018 season in Minnesota as a result of neck surgery, and guard Andrus Peat struggled at times last season. If problems arise anywhere along the interior offensive line, the Saints would likely call on McCoy, who was a versatile three-year starter in the SEC. 

New York Giants: CB Deandre Baker

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    The New York Giants have already made it clear that No. 6 overall pick Daniel Jones will hold down the bench as a rookie, and No. 17 overall selection Dexter Lawrence may have to develop stronger pass-rushing skills to become an every-down contributor. 

    But the Giants traded back into the bottom of Round 1 for a player who should make an immediate impact. 

    That's former Georgia cornerback Deandre Baker, who intercepted seven passes and improved steadily over the course of three active seasons in the SEC. Miller called the No. 30 overall selection "a potential rookie starter," and the strong-tackling 2018 Thorpe Award winner could beat out Sam Beal for the outside starting spot opposite Janoris Jenkins in New York. 

    In that role, Baker could have a chance to show off his well-developed press coverage skills and pick off a few passes.

New York Jets: DT Quinnen Williams

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    After selecting defensive tackle Quinnen Williams third overall, the New York Jets didn't make another draft pick until Jachai Polite early in the third round. But Polite's stock plummeted as he struggled during the predraft process, and the Florida product might still need to develop physically, technically and mentally. 

    In other words, he isn't dethroning Williams here. 

    It'd be shocking if Williams didn't make a tremendous difference immediately in New York. The Alabama product might have only stood out for one year in the SEC, but he was so dominant that he was still widely considered the best overall prospect in this draft class. 

    Per Ian Hartitz of the Action Network, only three players have better odds to win the Defensive Player of the Year award in 2019. And that makes sense, because the dude possesses the complete package and he'd be well-supported as a Week 1 starter alongside veterans Leonard Williams and Henry Anderson. 

Oakland Raiders: DE Clelin Ferrell

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    New Oakland Raiders pass-rusher Clelin Ferrell might have been considered a reach by many with the No. 4 overall pick, but the Clemson product is coming off three strong seasons as a starter in the ACC.

    Ferrell's ceiling might be lower than some of the other premier defensive linemen in this class, but he's polished enough to take advantage of the many opportunities he's likely to receive early on in Oakland. 

    Ferrell's odds to win Defensive Rookie of the Year also rank in the top 10, partly because the Raiders don't have anyone else to rush the passer. They're still waiting for 2018 third-round pick Arden Key to emerge on the edge, and nobody else on the roster had more than four sacks as Oakland ranked last in the league in that category by a wide, 17-sack margin in 2018. 

    Plenty of Raiders rookies should play big roles early in 2019, but first-round running back Josh Jacobs is entering the league with an extremely small college sample and first-round safety Johnathan Abram might still have to beat out Karl Joseph for playing time. So Ferrell is undoubtedly the guy to watch here.

Philadelphia Eagles: RB Miles Sanders

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    The Philadelphia Eagles already have two offensive tackles—Jason Peters and Lane Johnson—with a combined 11 Pro Bowls under their respective belts. So the plan is likely for first-round pick Andre Dillard to provide tackle insurance while he's groomed to eventually replace the 37-year-old Peters. 

    If all goes according to plan, that means Philly's Day 2 selections, running back Miles Sanders and wide receiver JJ Arcega-Whiteside, will play larger roles than Dillard in 2019. 

    There's a lot to like about Arcega-Whiteside after he scored 23 touchdowns the last two years at Stanford, but he lacks lateral quickness and could have trouble earning significant reps on a receiver depth chart that includes Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson and Nelson Agholor. 

    Sanders might not be viewed by many as a Week 1 starter right now either, but he may be the most talented running back on Philadelphia's roster. The Penn State product is coming off a huge season in Saquon Barkley's wake, and he possesses the size (5'11", 211 lbs) and speed (4.49-second 40-yard dash) you want in a No. 1 back. 

    Philadelphia acquired Jordan Howard in March, but Howard hasn't stood out since his rookie season with the Bears in 2016. Don't be shocked if Sanders eventually supplants him. 

Pittsburgh Steelers: LB Devin Bush

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    The Pittsburgh Steelers essentially used a first-, a second- and a 2020 third-round pick on linebacker Devin Bush, so it's safe to say a team trying to capitalize on a closing competitive window expects the Michigan product to make a significant early impact. 

    There's certainly a role for him within a linebacker corps that features only two other established options in Vince Williams and Mark Barron. But Bush's skill set puts him on a completely different level than those two. 

    The 2018 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year is powerful, explosive, smart and rangy, and he confirmed with two dominant seasons at Michigan, and an impressive predraft process, that he's ready to make an impact from the get-go in the NFL. 

    No other Steelers draft pick should hold a candle to Bush in 2019. 

San Francisco 49ers: DE Nick Bosa

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    Second-round wide receiver Deebo Samuel could have a chance to earn some early-career reps with the San Francisco 49ers, but who are we kidding? Obviously the odds-on favorite to win Defensive Rookie of the Year has to be San Francisco's highest-projected impact rookie. 

    Yours truly thought that Nick Bosa should have been the first overall pick after he tore it up for parts of three seasons at Ohio State. But his brief drop helps a 49ers defense that will likely start him right away opposite free-agent acquisition Dee Ford. 

    With Ford and Pro Bowl defensive tackle DeForest Buckner hogging plenty of attention, it'll be impossible for opposing offenses to devote considerable resources to slowing down Bosa. And that's not ideal considering the 21-year-old's pedigree, play strength, athleticism and polished technique. 

    Jevon Kearse's rookie sack record of 14.5 could be in peril. 

Seattle Seahawks: DE L.J. Collier

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    This was a tough debate between Seattle Seahawks first-round pass-rusher L.J. Collier and second-round wide receiver D.K. Metcalf, both of whom should have plenty of opportunities early on. One could essentially replaced the departed Frank Clark, while the other could do the same with Doug Baldwin.

    But while Baldwin's career is in jeopardy as a result of what ESPN's Adam Schefter termed "the cumulative effect of multiple injuries," he's yet to make anything official. And Seattle still has Tyler Lockett, Jaron Brown and David Moore. Plus, Metcalf has plenty of work to do when it comes to developing his route tree and proving that he's got enough lateral quickness to excel in the NFL. 

    There's a reason he nearly dropped to Round 3. 

    Collier started just one season at TCU, but he made a huge impression at the Senior Bowl and he's got the motor to at least serve as a strong situational edge presence right off the bat in Seattle. 

    As Miller notes, the 23-year-old "has the tools and work ethic to be an early contributor."

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: LB Devin White

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    I know, another first-round pick. Surprise, surprise. But there's little debate on this one. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers didn't use a top-five pick on linebacker Devin White so that he could sit.

    New head coach Bruce Arians has already made it clear he's "not about rebuilding," and White is ready to help Tampa Bay immediately after putting together back-to-back 120-plus-tackle seasons in the best conference in college football. 

    The LSU product is big (6'0", 237 lbs), explosive, strong and rangy, leading Miller to call him "one of the best athletes to come out at linebacker in the last decade." There's still room for him to develop, but it's hard to find a flaw in his game. 

    "With no notable injury history, no off-field issues and elite athleticism," Miller added, "he's one of the safest players in the 2019 draft class."

    So with all due respect to Day 2 Bucs defensive backs Sean Bunting, Jamel Dean and Mike Edwards, this rookie class is all about White. 

Tennessee Titans: WR A.J. Brown

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    We at least move out of Round 1 for the Tennessee Titans, who used their first-round pick on injured defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons and their third-rounder on developmental guard Nate Davis. This leaves second-round wide receiver A.J. Brown as the only selection likely to play a significant role early on in Tennessee.

    Simmons tore his ACL in February, jeopardizing his rookie season. But Miller graded Brown as the best receiver in this draft class, while separately noting the Mississippi product's "NFL-ready athleticism, route running and hands."

    It helps that he's coming off back-to-back monster seasons in the SEC, and there's a path for him to gain early playing time in the Tennessee receiver corps. 

    Like Metcalf, Brown will have to develop his route running ability, but his ceiling is so much higher than those belonging to Tajae Sharpe and Taywan Taylor that he's likely to at least land a role as the third receiver option behind 2017 first-rounder Corey Davis and free-agent addition Adam Humphries. 

    Look for the Titans to get the 21-year-old plenty of opportunities inside and outside. 

Washington Redskins: OLB Montez Sweat

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    The Washington Redskins haven't suggested that first-rounder Dwayne Haskins will start under center in Week 1, and the team does have around 134 quarterbacks on the roster so it's possible they'll take their time with a player who started just one season at Ohio State. 

    Instead, Montez Sweat might be a better bet here after back-to-back seasons with double-digit sacks in the SEC. 

    Sweat was seen by many as a potential top-10 pick before concerns about a heart condition supposedly discovered at the combine caused his stock to fall. But Washington traded back into Round 1 to grab him, which is an indication the Redskins aren't worried and believe he can contribute right away. 

    And they might be right to feel that way. Not only did's Ian Rapoport report on draft night that Sweat was misdiagnosed in the first place, but Miller believes that the versatile, wildly athletic 22-year-old "could become an early Pro Bowl-type player."

    In a place like Washington, where only Ryan Kerrigan had more than four sacks coming from a typical pass-rushing position in 2018, that's something to watch for. 


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