With Thanksgiving tomorrow, it’s that time of year where we consider what we are thankful for. Well, this is an NFL Draft website so it would only make sense for us to take this opportunity to consider which 2018 rookie each NFL team is most thankful for. Some teams made this an extremely difficult decision to pick just one while a fair share of teams are getting minimal production from 2018 rookies. Let’s’ examine.
Buffalo Bills – LB Tremaine Edmunds: Not since the day of London Fletcher and Takeo Spikes patrolling the second level in Buffalo have the Bills had an off-ball linebacker with as much exciting upside as Edmunds. He hasn’t been perfect, but his processing is improving every week and he’s already making regular splash plays. Edmunds has the upside to be the face of the defense which is already ranked No. 2 in the NFL.
Miami Dolphins – DB Minkah Fitzpatrick: Fitzpatrick has been everything Miami hoped for when drafting him in the first round. His skill set and versatility is extremely valuable in today’s NFL where spacing and matchups are exploited by offenses. Fitzpatrick is a neutralizer and building block for the defense moving forward.
New England Patriots – RB Sony Michel: Michel ignited the Patriots offense when he initially returned from injury and his multifaceted skill set blends perfectly with how New England plays offense. His efforts as the lead back maximizes the Patriots’ other niche backs.
New York Jets – QB Sam Darnold: Like any rookie quarterback, it hasn’t been all perfect for Darnold but there have been moments where he flashed the ability to be the reason why the Jets win a football game. The best is yet to come fo Darnold and the Jets but the glimpses are present that he can be the long-term solution.
Baltimore Ravens – OT Orlando Brown: Brown enjoyed a dominant career at Oklahoma but then turned in among the all-time worst performances at the NFL Scouting Combine leading to doubts that he could be a viable NFL blocker. So far so good for Brown who has stepped in for the injured James Hurst and looks like a long-term answer.
Cincinnati Bengals – S Jessie Bates: Wow, has Bates been awesome. Thriving in deep zones, Bates’ is providing Cincy with a true ballhawking centerfield while filling against the run extremely well. Bates is looking like one of the early steals of the draft.
Cleveland Browns – QB Baker Mayfield: The Browns are enjoying sensational returns on its rookie class and Mayfield is the headliner. Mayfield has been the most consistent rookie QB and ignited the offense and team when he took the field for the first time. It’s going to be a thrill watching Mayfield and the Browns morph into a contender.
Pittsburgh Steelers – S Terrell Edmunds: Make no mistake about it, the early returns on the Steelers’ rookie class have been awful but at least Edmunds is starting and doing so on a top-10 defense in the NFL. There aren’t any real bright spots with this class as of now.
Houston Texans – S Justin Reid: Can’t say I’m surprised by this one. My No.22 overall prospect in last year’s class, Reid carried a first-round grade from me and he’s playing like it. Now the Texans’ starting free safety, Reid has been a standout tackler and reliable in a variety of coverage techniques. He’s up to 52 tackles, 7 PBUs, and 3 INTs already this season.
Indianapolis Colts – G Quenton Nelson: The Colts’ draft class has been amazing and the way Nelson has transformed the offensive line has been incredible. Andrew Luck is healthy and regaining his form with plenty of credit to the work of Nelson and the dudes upfront for keeping him well-protected. Nelson has the upside to become the best offensive lineman in the NFL.
Jacksonville Jaguars – S Ronnie Harrison: The Jaguars are another team that has received minimal returns from rookies but Harrison has been the most productive to this point. Taven Bryan and DJ Chark have flashed but Harrison has started and rotated in as safety for Jacksonville and had some positive moments.
Tennessee Titans – EDGE Harold Landry: Landry hasn’t been dominant but he has showcased the skills that led many to believe he was a first-round talent. His burst and bend off the edge have proven difficult for blockers to deal with at times this season. With Orakpo and Morgan in contract years, Landry has shown promise for the future of the Titans’ pass rush.
Denver Broncos – EDGE Bradley Chubb: John Elway’s had his share of blunders calling the shots in Denver but his 2019 rookie class has been stellar. While there are plenty of options to chose from, Chubb has showcased the makings of a franchise player on defense. He’s only 1 sack away from logging a double-digit sack season as a rookie.
Kansas City Chiefs – EDGE Breeland Speaks: The Chiefs are another team with minimal rookie production but Speaks has a been a steady contributor/starter for Kansas City. The Chiefs are still figuring out how to optimize his skill set but there have been flashes rushing the passer and defending the run.
Los Angeles Chargers – S Derwin James: Arguably the favorite for Defensive Rookie of the Year honors, James has turned into an immediate playmaker on the back end for LA. His versatility, athletic ability and instincts have lead to regular splash plays.
Oakland Raiders – DL Maurice Hurst: Concerns over a heart issue pushed Hurst to the fifth round but so far he’s been one of the most disruptive interior defensive lineman in the league. On a bad Raiders’ defense, Hurst has shined.
Dallas Cowboys – LB Leighton Vander Esch: LVE has been a total stud in every facet for the Dallas defense. He’s been stellar against the run and has dominant in pass coverage recently as well. He’s already performing like one of the best players at his position in the entire league.
New York Giants – RB Saquon Barkley: No, he doesn’t play quarterback but he is sooo special. His dynamic and rare physical gifts are so evident and he is making NFL defenders look silly trying to tackle him. His multifaceted skill set should lead to him being among the most productive offensive players in the league for years to come.
Philadelphia Eagles – TE Dallas Goedert: The Eagles offense is best when Goedert is on the field. He’s flashed as a receiver and performed extremely well as a blocker to this point. Zach Ertz is the go-to guy at tight end for the Eaglues but Goedert’s role deserves to expand and bring more dimensions to the Philly offense.
Washington Redskins – DL Daron Payne: The Redskins first-round pick, Payne has brought a much-needed anchor to the interior of the Washington defense. He’s been a standout against the run which has helped stabilize the overall unit.
Chicago Bears – OL James Daniels: This was my toughest team to pick just one with Daniels, Roquan Smith and Anthony Miller all performing well. With that said, Daniels (not unlike Smith and Miller) is getting better every week and his outings against the Lions and Vikings the last two weeks in division games in just his 3rd and 4th start provide much optimism for what he can be upfront in Chicago.
Detroit Lions – RB Kerryon Johnson: Johnson has ignited the Detroit offense and became the Lions first 100-yard rusher since 2013 in the Lions’ win over New England. Despite not becoming the starter until Week 6, Johnson is already 9th in the entire NFL in rushing yards. His blend of size, burst, power and vision makes him a dynamic option.
Green Bay Packers – CB Jaire Alexander: Playing both outside and in the slot, Alexander has played all over the secondary and provided a versatile cover man capable of winning in a variety of techniques. He’s even been used as a blitzer and created a sack. He is already developing into a true No. 1 corner as a rookie.
Minnesota Vikings – CB Holton Hill: The Vikings’ 2018 rookie class has yielded modest returns so far but Hill has been a bright spot despite not playing that many snaps. In his lone start of the season against the Saints, Hill was a standout and I’m eager to see him get more opportunities. Hill has the makings of a UDFA steal.
Atlanta Falcons – WR Calvin Ridley: With 532 receiving yards and 7 touchdowns already this season, Ridley has been a productive playmaker for the Falcons. Atlanta now finally has a legit sidekick for Julio Jones and a dynamic receiving duo for Matt Ryan to throw to.
Carolina Panthers – WR D.J. Moore: Moore and second-round pick Donte Jackson have been excellent for Carolina so far as rookies, making this a difficult decision. That said, Moore’s peaks and multifaceted skill set reveal a high ceiling for the dynamic playmaker he can become and his future on the offense is exciting.
New Orleans Saints – EDGE Marcus Davenport: Yes, Davenport has missed the last few games with an injury, but the flashes he illustrated early in the season revealed why the Saints were willing to part with 2 first-round picks to secure his services. Hopefully he can get healthy and pick up where he left off. Until Tre’Quan Smith’s outing against the Eagles last week, the Saints have received minimal rookie production this year outside of Davenport off the bench.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – CB Carlton Davis: The Bucs are another team that has lacked standout rookie performers but Davis has been the best. While he’s certainly struggled, there have been flashes that indicate he could become a reliable starter.
Arizona Cardinals – QB Josh Rosen: While Mayfield has clearly been the most consistent rookie QB so far this season, Rosen’s best moments have been the most impressive. I can’t wait to see Rosen with a better supporting cast as he matures as an NFL passer.
San Francisco 49ers – OT Mike McGlinchey: McGlinchey has proven to be one of just a few true “plug-and-play” offensive lineman from last year’s class and is performing very well. He looks like he could anchor the 49ers OL for years to come.
Seattle Seahawks – P Michael Dickson: I know he’s a punter but it’s hard to be excited about what the rest of Seattle’s rookies have done. Dickson leads the NFL in net punting average this season.
Los Angeles Rams – DE John Franklin-Myers: The Rams are another team that hasn’t received much rookie production and Franklin-Myers has been the most steady contributor. While he hasn’t been dominant, Franklin-Myers has found work as a rotational player in every game for the 10-1 Rams.