NFL Rookies Who Won't Start in 2020 but Definitely Should

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistMay 2, 2020

NFL Rookies Who Won't Start in 2020 but Definitely Should

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    Vasha Hunt/Associated Press

    Some notable NFL rookies get a redshirt season.

    Within that group, a smaller chunk probably shouldn't. A year ago, notables like Daniel Jones and Dwayne Haskins should have been starting right out of the gate.

    The 2020 draft class won't be an exception to this longstanding rule. Several notable names sit in positions to miss out on starting as a rookie based on veterans in front of them, schematic fit or team philosophy.

    But the following names would be much better off getting on the field as starters in Week 1 and learning on the fly. Both their teams and their individual developmental tracks would be better for it.

Justin Herbert, QB, Los Angeles Chargers

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    Collin Andrew/Associated Press

    Don't put it past the Los Angeles Chargers to sit rookie quarterback Justin Herbert after making him the sixth overall pick.

    Such a move would be a mistake, but the Chargers likely believe they can win now after regressing from 12 wins to five. Steady veteran quarterback play from Tyrod Taylor might be the push the organization desires.

    "They asked me how I felt about it, and I said I'm going to do everything I can to be the best quarterback I can be," Herbert told reporters about his role in 2020. "If I'm the guy, that's great. I love playing football, and I want to be the guy. But if I have to sit back and learn, I'm going to do everything I can to be the quarterback I need to be."

    This would be repeating a mistake teams make every year. Not only would it waste an affordable year on Herbert's contract, but he was also one of the most pro-ready passers available, completing 64.0 percent of his 1,200-plus collegiate attempts with 95 touchdowns and 23 interceptions.

    Herbert has the potential to be a top passer in the NFL, but not getting live reps will only delay, if not harm, his development. And if the Chargers want to win games, trotting out Taylor and his career 61.6 completion percentage with no more than 85 attempts since 2017 isn't the solution.

Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Miami Dolphins

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    Vasha Hunt/Associated Press

    Tua Tagovailoa looked like a redshirt candidate long before the Miami Dolphins made him the fifth pick in the draft.

    Part of this is injury concerns, but Tagovailoa also must compete with two other players who already know Miami's offense in an unorthodox offseason program.

    Head coach Brian Flores told the media (h/t's Mark Inabinett):

    "I'll say my kids are expecting him (to start). They're big fans. They were excited to get on the phone call with him. But, look, we haven't even seen him, obviously, with the pandemic and all that's going on. Our doctors haven't seen him, so we've a long way to go before we can say who's doing what. We'd like to just get him and have a meeting first."

    The Dolphins already have Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh Rosen in-house with an advantage over the rookie. Injury concerns aside, the Dolphins could easily play it safe and hold back Tagovailoa.

    That would be a mistake. Health permitting, Tagovailoa needs the reps. And why wouldn't the Dolphins want to play someone who was previously the consensus No. 1 quarterback with 87 touchdowns against 11 interceptions over just 684 attempts?

    The Dolphins made this mistake last year—they didn't initially start Rosen and then benched him after just three starts. Fitzpatrick won some games while Rosen sat and knocked the Dolphins out of the race for the No. 1 pick.

Chase Claypool, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    The Pittsburgh Steelers are generally superb at drafting wideouts, which bodes well for second-round pick Chase Claypool.

    Provided they use him right away.

    Pittsburgh seemed to fumble third-round pick Diontae Johnson early last season, not getting him big usage until later in the year. Even so, he finished above JuJu Smith-Schuster in receiving yardage and just 55 receiving yards short of the team high.

    Claypool could be in for a similar situation. Post-Antonio Brown, Smith-Schuster had to move out of the slot. Now he's back there, but that leaves Claypool to potentially compete with Johnson and James Washington for reps on the outside.

    The Steelers would be better off getting Claypool into a starting role as soon as possible. He was Calvin Johnson-esque at the combine, checking in at 6'4" and 238 pounds with a 4.42 40-yard dash and a 40½-inch vertical. He scored 13 times last year on just 66 catches.

    Smartly throwing Claypool out there from the jump with a veteran like Ben Roethlisberger could move the needle more than Pittsburgh's expected three-man look at wideout.

Denzel Mims, WR, New York Jets

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Like any rookie, Denzel Mims has an uphill battle given the unknowns of this unorthodox offseason.

    But Mims is interesting than most. He unexpectedly fell to the end of Round 2 at No. 59. There, the New York Jets scooped him up to help Sam Darnold after drafting offensive tackle Mekhi Becton at No. 11.

    Mims has to fight Breshad Perriman for the right to replace Robby Anderson's production. Elsewhere, the depth chart features names like Quincy Enunwa, Jamison Crowder and Josh Doctson. Given the Jets threw $6 million guaranteed at Perriman, the Jets might bring Mims along slowly.

    Yet the Baylor product is a 6'3", 207-pound prospect with 4.38 40-yard-dash speed and a huge catch radius, hence the 28 touchdowns and 15.9 yards per catch over the last three seasons.

    The Jets would be much better off letting Darnold and Mims work on their connection in real time. While Perriman is more of an established pro, he's merely on a one-year deal after an outlier of a good season in a pass-happy Tampa Bay attack.

    Looking at it both through the long-term lens and with immediate returns in mind, the Jets might benefit from starting Mims from day one.

K'Lavon Chaisson, EDGE, Jacksonville Jaguars

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    AJ Mast/Associated Press

    The Jacksonville Jaguars went into the 2020 draft seeking pass-rushing help given the current standoff with star edge-rusher Yannick Ngakoue.

    But if Ngakoue sticks around, No. 20 pick K'Lavon Chaisson could have a hard time getting on the field.

    Chaisson has special talent and can help now. He's a 6'3", 254-pound force with elite post-snap agility who put up 6.5 sacks a year ago. But as ESPN's Michael DiRocco noted, the Jaguars have to be willing to implement more 3-4 looks despite being "reluctant to do that much in the past."

    As it stands, Chaisson isn't bumping Ngakoue out of the way, and he surely won't take reps from last year's seventh overall pick, Josh Allen, who erupted for 10.5 sacks.

    It would be a waste of a premium pick to sideline Chaisson as a rookie and not get him consistent pass-rushing looks, and it would hamper the team's chances at wins.

Jordyn Brooks, LB, Seattle Seahawks

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    Go figure—the Seattle Seahawks surprised in the first round of a draft.

    They've done it three years and counting. Running back Rashaad Penny (2018) is still making limited contributions, and edge-rusher L.J. Collier (2019) played just 14 percent of the snaps last year.

    Now it's Jordyn Brooks' turn.

    The 27th overall pick will have a tough path to playing time. K.J. Wright and All-Pro Bobby Wagner hog the middle spots on the depth chart, and Bruce Irvin is back in town to command time at another.

    Granted, none of those players are long-term options given their age. But Brooks, a 6'0", 240-pound prototypical modern linebacker, shouldn't have to plead to get on the field and avoid suffering the same fate as prior Seahawks first-round picks.