Rookies making an impact out of the gate is one of the most exciting aspects of a new NFL season. With that said, the true test is sustaining success. Can they keep making an impact even after there is game film that reveals how they are going to be used, how they win and where they have deficiencies?
Kudos to these five rookie standouts but seeing where they fall in a few weeks will be the true test. Let’s examine the five best offensive rookies in the NFC through the first four weeks of the season.
5. Mike McGlinchey, OT, San Francisco 49ers
While he hasn’t been dominant, McGlinchey has stepped in as the 49ers starting right tackle from Day 1. San Francisco features the NFL’s third most productive rushing offense and is averaging a whopping 5.2 yards per attempt despite losing its top lead back, Jerick McKinnon, to injury before the season started.
McGlinchey has fared best in the run game so far and is still acclimating to the NFL as a pass blocker. It’s rare to see offensive lineman step in right away and be as productive as McGlinchey has and it’s exciting to consider the direction he is headed after a stellar career at Notre Dame.
4. Kerryon Johnson, RB, Detroit Lions
Johnson has been a spark plug for the Lions offense early this season and it leaves me begging for him to see more carries. So far he’s received 5, 8, 16 and 9 carries in Week’s 1-4 and despite such a modest carry total, he’s 13th in the entire NFL in rushing yards.
On the heels of providing Detroit with its first 100-yard rusher since 2013 in the Lion’s Week 3 win over New England, Johnson found the endzone for the first time in his career on Sunday against Dallas. He’s caught 11 passes on the season and offers a multifaceted weapon for Detroit. It’s time for his workload to increase significantly and 15-20 touches per game should be the norm for Johnson. His blend of size, burst, power and vision makes him a dynamic option.
3. Will Hernandez, OG, New York Giants
As a whole, the Giants offensive line has been underwhelming but Hernandez has been more than a bright spot. Showcasing a balanced skill set as a run blocker and pass blocker, Hernandez has been dominant at times already this season. He’s lived up to his billing as a plug-and-play blocker and looks like he will be a fixture for years to come.
He’s played at a Pro Bowl caliber level from Day 1. Although he came from UTEP, Hernandez proved he belonged among the best with an impressive showing at the Senior Bowl which he has now parlayed into the regular season. There’s a lot of work still to be done in building the Giants’ offensive line but they’ve got one spot cemented.
2. Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants
Until the Giants have a new franchise QB, Barkley’s efforts will be overshadowed because New York opted for him over the three other top-10 picks in last years class. But that’s not Barkley’s fault and he’s off to an excellent start to his rookie season.
Barkley is 9th in the NFL with 260 rushing yards on 56 carries. He’s found the endzone on three occasions and has hauled in 27 receptions already. His 453 all-purpose yards are the 8th most in the entire NFL. He’s meeting expectations despite an collectively poor offensive line in front of him. His size, speed, power and elusiveness is a rare blend and it’s leading to dynamic plays already.
1. Calvin Ridley, WR, Atlanta Falcons
Yeah, a lot of people overthought Ridley because of his modest production (in a run-heavy scheme), his age and poor jumps at the combine. Atlanta didn’t and wisely snatched him up at pick No. 26. The Falcons now finally have a legit sidekick for Julio Jones and a dynamic receiving duo for Matt Ryan to throw to.
After being held without a catch in Week 1, Ridley has caught 15 passes for 264 yards and six (six!) touchdowns over Atlanta’s last four games. He is showcasing advanced route running skills and creating tons of space for Ryan to deliver the football. Expect big plays to be the norm for Ridley given the way his game wonderfully translates to the NFL.
Dre is still looking for Ridley as I type this pic.twitter.com/rXB9pQbDeO
— 🅱️🅰️Ⓜ️ (@big__bam) September 30, 2018