The early parts of the NFL season are exciting for a number of reasons. While every fan can’t wait to see their favorite team take the field with a clean slate, other storylines can be equally as intriguing. From veterans playing for new teams or brand new coaching staffs, the NFL is a constant reality show with the best plot ever created.
One of those other intriguing storylines are how each rookie will perform, especially those first-round picks who may be depended on to change the course of a franchise. On top of the performance of all rookies, the offensive and defensive rookie of the year awards validate who the best first-year player was on either side of the ball.
Rookie of the year is a prestigious award in the sense that it generally leads to future accolades. Former rookie of the year award winners such as Cam Newton, Matt Ryan and Adrian Peterson have gone to win NFL MVP, and other notable names such as Saquon Barkley, Alvin Kamara, Todd Gurley and Odell Beckham Jr. have won the offensive rookie of the year award.
This year, I'll keep you updated on the race for both offensive and defensive rookie of the year, so be sure to check out this list each time it drops. Without any further delay, here is the rookie of the year race after Week 1 of the NFL season.
1. Marquise Brown
Brown won best supporting actor this week to Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, as he broke loose for two long touchdown receptions. While Brown was only on the field for 14 snaps, Jackson was sure to target Brown when he was inserted in the lineup. Brown would finish with almost 150 receiving yards and 2 touchdowns, showing off his patented speed and ability to separate in his routes.
2. Terry McLaurin
McLaurin won the starting wide receiver job in his rookie training camp, playing nearly the entire game for the Redskins. McLaurin would post a deep touchdown reception, beating single coverage with his 4.3s speed. He pitched in other receptions in the intermediate, and would’ve added to his total if quarterback Case Keenum didn’t miss him wide open for potentially another long touchdown.
3. Gardner Minshew
Minshew was entered into the lineup after an unfortunate injury to new Jaguars starting quarterback Nick Foles, and he responded wonderfully. Minshew would only throw three incompletions in an eventual loss to the Chiefs. He showed off the accuracy and decision-making that we had grown accustomed to during Minshew’s starting season at Washington State.
Minshew will likely be the Jaguars starting quarterback for the time being while Foles recovers, putting him firmly in the rookie of the year conversation.
4. TJ Hockenson
Hockenson was the first tight end drafted during the 2019 NFL Draft, and he burst onto the scene Sunday. He made receptions all over the field, eventually compiling over 130 receiving yards and a touchdown. In typical Hockenson fashion, he pitched in when the Lions kept it on the ground as well, showing off his positive traits as a run blocker.
5. Kyler Murray
Despite a slow start, #1 overall pick Kyler Murray eventually got cooking during the fourth quarter of his debut and brought the Cardinals back from down 18 points to force overtime. While the game would eventually end in a tie, Murray finished with over 300 yards passing and 2 touchdowns.
There were positives and negatives to his performance, but the late-game rally was an encouraging sight for Murray’s season outlook.
Honorable Mentions: AJ Brown (3 receptions for 100 yards), DK Metcalf (4 receptions for 89 yards)
1. Devin Bush
While as a whole, the rookies on the defensive side didn’t make as big of an initial splash as the offensive guys, some former top picks popped during their games. Devin Bush was one of the few bright spots in the Steelers blowout loss to the Patriots, finishing with 7 solo tackles. If Pittsburgh can do a better job of keeping Bush in the box, his numbers could even increase moving forward.
2. Nick Bosa
Nick Bosa was feasting on the Buccaneers offensive tackles on Sunday, finishing with 1 sack and 3 quarterback hits. That type of consistent pressure is going to result in a high number of sacks over the course of a season, which will have him firmly planted in the defensive rookie of the year conversation.
3. Cole Holcomb
Despite the Redskins blowing an early lead and eventually losing to the Philadelphia Eagles, Holcolmb jumped off the screen. Holcomb was a Day 3 draft pick, but he’s already carved out a nice role on Washington’s defense. On Sunday, he showed the ability to quickly diagnose plays, finishing with 8 solo tackles including 2 tackles for loss.
4. Juan Thornhill
Thornhill needs to be an immediate contributor on the Chiefs defense if they’re going to have success on that side of the ball, and the early returns were positive on Sunday. Thornhill showed instincts against both the run and pass, eventually finishing with 8 total tackles and 5 solo.
5. Darnell Savage
Savage was constantly making plays during the Packers Thursday night defensive battle against the Chicago Bears, covering a ton of ground in coverage and playing near the line of scrimmage when necessary. He would pitch in 3 tackles, as well as a pass breakup and quarterback hit. His unique skill set should continue to be featured in defensive coordinator Mike Pettine’s system.
Honorable Mention: Taylor Rapp (8 tackles, 4 solo)