Becoming a starter for an NFL team is no small feat. At the start of camp 2,880 football players are competing for 1,696 available spots on an NFL roster. There are only 704 available starting positions.
It's even tougher for draft picks. While careers start with optimism, the reality is that becoming a "Day 1" starter is rare.
In this 2019 NFL Draft, 249 non-specialists were selected. How many of them are projected to be Week 1 NFL Starters? 28. Roughly four percent of this year's projected Week 1 starters across the league are expected to be rookies.
Courtesy of Ourlads, who is renown for maintaining accurate and current NFL depth charts, I developed the below information regarding the projected Week 1 NFL rookie starters. While there could be changes come kickoff, this is a pretty close representation of what we can expect this week. Of course variables such as injuries and suspensions play a major role in who "earned" a job, but that's always going to be the case. Please also keep in mind that this is only considering base offensive and defensive packages. Plenty of others will be prominent subpackage players, but for the sake of this exercise they aren't included.
Let's examine the rookies who are expected to start for their respective teams in Week 1.
I hope that this column has become a staple for you each week, but just in case you are new, 6-Pack Thursday is my weekly brain dump on six football-related things that involve the NFL, College Football or NFL Draft.
Let’s crack this thing open
14 teams - nearly half of the league is not expected to start a rookie in Week 1. The Dolphins are projected to lead the way with four, while the Cardinals are in second with three. Five other teams have multiple rookies expected to start in Week One, while 11 have just one.
- 49ers - LB Dre Greenlaw
- Bengals - WR Damion Williams, IOL Michael Jordan
- Bills - DT Ed Oliver, OT Cody Ford
- Broncos - IOL Dalton Risner
- Bucs - LB Devin White, S Mike Edwards
- Cardinals - QB Kyler Murray, CB Byron Murphy, DE Zach Allen
- Colts - CB Rock Ya-Sin
- Dolphins - IOL Michael Deiter, IOL Deion Calhoun, DT Jonathan Ledbetter, DT Christian Wilkins
- Eagles - RB Miles Sanders
- Falcons - IOL Chris Lindstrom
- Giants - DT Dexter Lawrence, CB Deandre Baker
- Jaguars - LB Quincy Williams
- Packers - S Darnell Savage
- Raiders - RB Josh Jacobs, DE Clelin Ferrell
- Redskins - WR Terry McLaurin
- Saints - IOL Erik McCoy
- Texans - IOL Tytus Howard
- Vikings - IOL Garrett Bradbury
The term plug-and-play certainly applies when it comes to interior offensive lineman with eight rookies earning Week 1 starting gigs. In a Draft rich with talented line play overall, defensive linemen feature six Week One starters.
Despite three quarterbacks selected in the first round, only No. 1 overall pick Kyler Murray will start in Week 1.
- Quarterback - 1
- Running Back - 2
- Wide Receiver - 2
- Tight End - None
- Offensive Tackle - 1
- Interior Offensive Line - 8
- Defensive Line - 6
- Linebacker - 3
- Cornerback - 3
- Safety - 2
By Round Drafted
There isn't too much surprise in how this breaks down but it's still somewhat disappointing that less than half of the first round picks from 2018 earned Week 1 starting roles. It’s pretty remarkable that there are three UDFAs expected to start in Week 1, two of them for the tanking Miami Dolphins.
- Round 1 - 13
- Round 2 - 5
- Round 3 - 5
- Round 4 - 1
- Round 5 - 1
- Round 6 - 0
- Round 7 - 0
- UDFA - 3
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Josh Jacobs, RB, Oakland Raiders
I don’t think there is a wide receiver worthy of consideration at this point and it would be rare for a tight end to take home the hardware despite TJ Hockenson being a top-10 pick. Kyler Murray has a strong case but I expect there to be plenty of ups and downs in his rookie season.
That brings me to running backs where Miles Sanders, Devin Singletary, David Montgomery and Josh Jacobs are expected to claim prominent roles for their respective teams. With that said, I worry about market share for Sanders, Montgomery and Singletary while there is a clear path for touches in Oakland for Jacobs.
The only first round running back, Jacobs is talented and versatile. He has the upside to carry the football inside and outside, has good hands and won’t need to be taken off the field in pass pro given the success he had blocking at Alabama. Jon Gruden coached Cadillac Williams to OROY honors back in 2005 and I predict that he'll do the same for Jacobs this year.
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Devin Bush, LB, Pittsburgh Steelers
With a loaded crop of defenders entering the league in ideal situations to immediately thrive, this was tough to settle on. But I am not here to toe the line, Bush is my pick.
First, linebackers rack up stats which is what all these awards are about anyways. Inserting Bush in the lineup for the No. 6 defense in the NFL from a season ago creates a favorable situation for him to thrive. Pittsburgh led the league in sacks last season and should be better in terms of pass coverage with the addition of Steven Nelson and more experience from its young safeties.
The Steelers have sorely missed Ryan Shazier’s presence in the lineup and Bush has the ability to help start easing that loss.
When will the other first round QBs start?
Arizona didn’t trade away Josh Rosen, fire Steve Wilks after one season and hire Kliff Kingsbury to be the head coach for Brett Hundley to start. Kyler Murray will start for the Cardinals in Week One, but what about the rest of the quarterbacks drafted in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft?
Look at 2018. Five quarterbacks were selected in the first round but only Sam Darnold started in Week One. By Week 11, all five were starters.
Of all the rookie first round quarterback, Daniel Jones far and away had the best preseason. So when does he take over for Eli Manning? My guess is in Week 7 when the Giants host the Arizona Cardinals. That game comes after a Thursday Night road contest in New England, allowing extra preparation time for Jones to get acclimated.
Haskins was the least impressive first round rookie quarterback in the preseason, but his path to starting is a lot easier when examining the depth chart. All that stands in the way of Haskins starting is Case Keenum, who is on his sixth team since 2014.
As I wrote in June, Haskins could be the starter earlier than we think.
Yes, Jay Gruden led Washington to a 9-7 mark that was good enough to win the NFC East in 2015, but his record in his other four seasons is 26-37-1 and hasn’t finished higher than third in the division in any other season. After owner Daniel Snyder went through six head coaches from 2000-2013 after he purchased the team, I am honestly surprised that Gruden is still around.
Becoming the first head coach to receive an extension under Snyder, Gruden inked a two-year extension in 2017 that ties him to the team through 2020. Amid a current streak of three third-place finishes in the NFC East, what does Gruden need to do to continue leading Washington beyond this season? I am not sure there is a reasonable course for Washington to make the postseason this year. Philadelphia and Dallas are the class of the division and Washington doesn’t exactly stack up well in the highly competitive NFC wild card race either.
The key to Gruden’s tenure is rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins. Only a one-year starter at Ohio State, fast-tracking him to the lineup in Washington and convincing Snyder to continue with Gruden as the head coach so he can stick with Haskins may be Gruden’s most realistic way to not get fired.
Gruden employs a quarterback-friendly system and nobody cares if Case Keenum or Colt McCoy look competent running it. I’m not sure Gruden has time to wait until 2020 to unleash Haskins - he may be the Redskins’ starter sooner than we think.
With dates scheduled against the Eagles, Cowboys, Bears and Patriots over the first five weeks of the season, it’s likely best for Haskins to not make his debut amid that stretch. But there is light at the end of the tunnel in Week 6 when Washington travels to Miami to face the tanking Dolphins. That’s my bet as to when we see Haskins take the reins.