Few weeks into the 2018 NFL season, it seems like a good time to rate all the rookies of this past season. The 2018 NFL Draft was one with a ton of talent, especially in the first round. A lot of the first rounders have looked really good early in the season, but time will tell how they continue to play the next few seasons.
The players who are booming are those who have looked good when they play, or have played at a high level in the regular season. The busts are obviously those who have not looked good. It’s still early, so it doesn’t necessarily mean that this will be how the players look throughout their career. But for those fans will little patience, may want to know how the first-round draft picks look a few weeks into the season.
First rounders are crucial to a team's success. Getting productive players on cheap, rookie contracts is key to an organization's success and if first round picks don't pan out, a team can stay in the basement for years. It’s really hard to tell how the future of a player will look when they’re coming out of college. College is a whole different ball game. Some of these players play in low level conferences, and then can’t handle the change of the game once they hit the NFL. Then on the other hand, some of them embrace the challenge and work hard to be successful professional football players.
There’s still more than half of the season to go, so this is an early look at the rookies. It's obviously still early to tell who's a bust and who's going to be a star, or at least a solid NFL player. This is merely about the early impressions these rookies have given off.
32 Baker Mayfield - Cleveland Browns (Boom)
Of course, Baker Mayfield has been playing well. In just a half in his first game, Mayfield led the Browns to a come from behind win, giving the Browns their first victory in over 600 days. Mayfield looked poised, and ready to make plays.
Not only has Mayfield looked good on the field, but he’s been doing a great job handling the media.
Some people were worried about his character, but Mayfield is giving the media every reason not to worry. Mayfield is the future of the league.
31 Saquon Barkley - New York Giants (Boom)
Saquon Barkley may not be the best running back in the league yet, but he’s looked good. His offensive line definitely hurts his from reaching his potential early on, but that’s something that's out of his control. Barkley has played a huge part in the passing game, proving that he can do it all. His biggest asset has been his strength, which makes it difficult for defenders to take him down when they first make contact with him. Barkley will only improve as the weeks continue.
30 Sam Darnold - New York Jets (Bust)
When the season started and Sam Darnold tore apart the Lions, it seemed like the next star quarterback was here. Well, that drifted away. Darnold has done some really nice things, but he’s been a turnover machine. It doesn’t matter how nice of plays you can make if you continue to turn the ball over. He’s a rookie so there’s still time. Even the greats like Peyton Manning threw a ton of interceptions as a rookie, but we've also seen turnover prone rookies have trouble breaking that habit.
29 Denzel Ward - Cleveland Browns (Boom)
Cleveland fans seemed disappointed on draft night that they passed up on Bradley Chubb, but everything happens for a reason.
Denzel Ward has looked the best he possibly can just a few weeks into the season.
He's already making an impact by creating turnovers, and being really aggressive in single coverage. Ward is an aggressive cornerback that has no problem facing the best of wide receivers. Ward will help the Browns match up nicely against other teams, especially those with top level receivers.
28 Bradley Chubb - Denver Broncos (Boom)
Many people were surprised the Browns passed up on Bradley Chubb, giving the Broncos an opportunity to go after the defensive end. Chubb was known to be one of the best players in this draft, and he’s proving why already. Von Miller and Chubb make for a scary defensive line that nobody wants to face.
Chubb is still developing, but has looked good while developing. As the season progresses, he will continue to look better and better, especially with Miller on the other side.
27 Quenton Nelson - Indianapolis Colts (Boom)
There was one player this draft that almost everybody was certain would succeed in the NFL. That guy was Quenton Nelson. At Notre Dame, Nelson was great at everything. Pass protection, run protection, whatever he needed to do, he would do it. Nelson has definitely helped protect Andrew Luck as he comes back from shoulder surgery, and will be a big part in turning this offense around. Nelson was the perfect start to building a dominant offensive line in Indianapolis.
26 Josh Allen - Buffalo Bills (Boom)
Josh Allen was talked about as the most overhyped quarterback in this past draft. Many felt he was too raw to be a 7th overall pick. But after he displayed his pure athleticism and abilities against a good Vikings defense, everyone took notice.
Allen still may not be the star of the draft, but he has the potential to lead the Bills to success.
Following that win, a lot more fans and analysts believed in Allen. He looks like he could take this team to a place they have never been before.
25 Roquan Smith - Chicago Bears (Boom)
Considering Roquan Smith missed nearly the whole preseason, nobody expected him to play all that well to start the season. But man, was the Smith addition a great one. Adding Smith and Khalil Mack has made this defense one of the scariest defenses in the NFL. Smith has really been great all around, and will only continue to get better.
The Bears haven’t had a solid linebacker since Brian Urlacher, but it seems like they found their guy. The wait was worth it.
24 Mike McGlinchey - San Francisco 49ers (Boom)
It seemed like this season the San Francisco 49ers would turn things around. Jimmy Garoppolo signed his extension, and the team improved their offensive line by drafting an offensive tackle. Unfortunately, Garoppolo is done for the season. But one positive that has come out of the season, is that McGlinchey has looked good. He did a good job in protecting Garoppolo, and luckily will be protecting him for years to come. It was a much needed addition for a team that struggled with pass protection.
23 Josh Rosen - Arizona Cardinals (Too Soon)
Josh Rosen is a really interesting rookie to talk about, because nobody has seen much of him. He really didn’t play in the preseason, and he started the season off sitting behind Sam Bradford.
Because of the lack of tape on him, it's too soon to gauge whether his early signs are promising or not.
Rosen got the starting job in Week 4, after Sam Bradford was extremely ineffective through three weeks. We'll have to see more of Rosen before making an early judgment.
22 Minkah Fitzpatrick - Miami Dolphins (Boom)
Is it a surprise that former Alabama cornerback, Minkah Fitzpatrick, has looked really good so far? Fitzpatrick has been aggressive and attacking the football, making a bunch of tackles in his first few games. Many fans criticized the Dolphins for not trading up to take Josh Rosen, but it seems like everything is working out for them. Ryan Tannehill looks much better, and Fitzpatrick is playing like a top DB on the Dolphins. All the team is waiting for is for him to create some turnovers.
21 Vita Vea - Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Injured)
Buccaneers fans are still waiting for Vita Vea to make his NFL debut, as he’s been dealing with a strained calf muscle. Vea hasn’t participated much due to the injury since the preseason, making some Bucs fans pretty antsy right now. A lot of analysts realized liked Vea’s size and quickness coming out of college, but he’s yet to have the opportunity to show it on the field. Most fans probably forgot about Vea, as Fitzmagic took over center stage in Tampa Bay.
20 Da'Ron Payne - Washington Redskins (Boom)
The Washington Redskins could be seeing one of the best interior defensive lines in the league grow with Da’Ron Payne and Jonathan Allen.
Payne has looked really dominant early on, and continues to get better and better each week.
His strength makes him scary to watch coming up the middle, as well as his ability to rush the passer. The Redskins will need a good defensive line to stop the dominant run games in their division. Adding Payne will definitely help accomplish that goal.
19 Marcus Davenport - New Orleans Saints (Boom)
Eyebrows raised high when the Saints traded up to select Marcus Davenport. While he still may not be worth all the draft picks the Saints gave up getting him, he looks good so far. Davenport has a great build, that should help him get to the quarterback. Davenport is strong and quick, which will only help him as he goes along. It takes time for defensive ends to grow to their potential, but it’s good to see Davenport making some nice plays early in his career.
18 Kolton Miller - Oakland Raiders (Boom)
When offenses struggle, the immediate assumption is that the offensive line is struggling. The Oakland Raiders don’t fall into that category. The offensive line has been pretty good, especially Kolton Miller.
Miller has done a phenomenal job protecting Derek Carr, proving he may be one of the best future offensive tackles in the league.
He came right up into his position and really made an impact, even if his team isn’t playing that well. Miller should be around the league for the next 10 years.
17 Tremaine Edmunds - Buffalo Bills (Boom)
Coming to a team that has struggled early on, Tremaine Edmunds has flown under the radar. It never seemed like Edmunds was a big name that everyone really liked, but he’s been great for Buffalo. He’s stepped right into his role and has made an immediate impact, playing well against the run. Time will allow him to learn more about pass coverage and round out his game, but so far he’s been an excellent addition to a defense that played a big part in the Bills making the playoffs last season.
16 Derwin James - Los Angeles Chargers (Boom)
Possibly the biggest first-round steal was Derwin James. James was expected to be a top-10 draft pick, but fell to 17th overall when the Los Angeles Chargers selected him. Many analysts believe there was a reason he dropped so low, but he’s played like what he was originally expected to be.
James has been a threat in the pass game and the run game. He has the ability to play in coverage, as well as rush the passer. James could be the next elite safety in the NFL for years.
15 Jaire Alexander - Green Bay Packers: Boom
For years, the Packers have struggled to put together a nice secondary. But in 2018, they used their first and second round draft picks to improve their secondary. Jaire Alexander has been a great addition to the team.
With one of the weaker secondaries in the league, Alexander has really helped this defense look a lot better this season.
And as time passes, he will only get better. A solid secondary could be scary with Aaron Rodgers on the other side of the ball.
14 Leighton Vander Esch - Dallas Cowboys (Boom)
Nobody in AT&T Stadium wanted to see the Cowboys draft Leighton Vander Esch, but it seems like Cowboys fans now understand why. Sean Lee’s health was always a concern, and it continues to be as he is expected to miss a few weeks. In the meantime, Vander Esch has done a really good job playing in pass coverage as well against the run. He’s made some rookie mistakes, but he’s also shown a lot of promise and should fit in perfectly during Lee’s absence.
13 Frank Ragnow - Detroit Lions (Bust)
Many will disagree and say Frank Ragnow was a good pick. And he may be, but so far, it’s been an up and down season. He didn’t look very good, until he had a great game against the Patriots. But, the Patriots really don’t have that explosive defensive line that will make it difficult to block. Ragnow took advantage of an opportunity against a team that is very good, and made himself look good. But don’t let that let you forget about his struggles early on.
12 Billy Price - Cincinnati Bengals (Bust)
Billy Price’s rookie season has been quite the rollercoaster ride. While he’s been pretty solid in the passing game, helping establish the run game has been his biggest weakness. The Bengals have used Joe Mixon as their way to balance out games, utilizing his full potential. If Price struggles, that won’t happen.
Price was actually benched due to his struggles, which is extremely concerning for a rookie.
Getting benched this early into your career is a bad sign, for the team, player and fans.
11 Rashaan Evans - Tennessee Titans (Bust)
Unfortunately for Rashaan Evans, he has been invisible on the field for the Titans. Through the early portion of the season, his production has been minimal. Usually teams don’t throw linebackers into the mix right away, but they usually get more action than Evans has. He’s playing less than some third rounders have played this season. It’s not a good look that your first-round pick has barely played in a position of need. This should be concerning for Titans fans.
10 Isaiah Wynn - New England Patriots (Injured)
Isaiah Wynn won't have the opportunity this year to prove whether he's a future star, or a bust. Before he had the opportunity to really prove himself, he tore his Achilles and will miss the entire 2018 season.
Reports stated that Wynn looked good before the injury, but we just won't know until next season. And to start your career off with an injury like this is a huge disappointment. It will be a long recovery process for the rookie offensive tackle.
9 D.J. Moore - Carolina Panthers (Bust)
You can’t expect a wide receiver to be good if you don’t throw the ball to him. D.J. Moore has been almost non-existent to start the season, which is a bad sign considering the team isn't exactly loaded at wide receiver.
A team that desperately needed more wide receivers last season, is barely using their first-round draft pick.
The question may be, if there’s a lack of trust for Moore? It’s just weird to hear that Moore is barely getting in on the action.
8 Hayden Hurst - Baltimore Ravens (Bust)
Hayden Hurst would've probably been a reliable force in the passing game to the Ravens, but has yet to play due to foot surgery that he got during the preseason. While the potential is there, it’s never a good sign to start your career with an injury. Since the only thing we have seen in his young career so far has been an injury, it's been a disappointing start to his career. Once he gets back and recovers there’s still a chance that he bounces back and becomes a nice addition for the Ravens down the road.
7 Calvin Ridley - Atlanta Falcons (Boom)
When the draft was here, nobody expected Calvin Ridley to be all that great in the NFL. While he was a good route runner, there were concerns regarding his size. Each week Ridley has improved and is benefitting from Julio Jones being lined up on the opposite side. If Matt Ryan puts more trust into Ridley, he will only get better. After that 3-TD performance in Week 3, Ridley is bound to get a lot more looks as the season progresses. Ridley’s route running ability allows him to be a real threat across from Julio Jones.
6 Rashaad Penny - Seattle Seahawks (Bust)
The Seattle Seahawks finally took the initiative to find a true long-term answer at running back by drafting Rashaad Penny.
Penny has the size and speed to be a real threat, but he just hasn’t been put it together yet.
Penny has averaged under 2.5 yards per carry, looking like a complete bust early in the season. And it’s really hard to say the offensive line isn’t doing its job, considering Chris Carson has looked a lot better than anyone would have thought.
5 Terrell Edmunds - Pittsburgh Steelers (Boom)
It’s been tough for Terrell Edmunds to really shine, considering he’s been playing behind Morgan Burnett. But when Edmunds is playing, he’s a real difference maker. He came up with his first career interception against the Buccaneers in Week 3. With more experience, he will only get better. He’s in a good position where he isn’t being forced into anything with a veteran safety ahead of him, but also has the ability to get some playing experience. If he can play big in the run game, he will be a complete safety.
4 Taven Bryan - Jacksonville Jaguars (Boom)
It’s still very early to judge what Taven Bryan has done. But for a player who has rotated on to the defensive line, he’s looked solid. You have to remember that this is a loaded group with so much talent, which gives Bryan less opportunity to contribute right out of the gate. But when he’s in, he’s done a great job at getting pressure in pass protection. There are times where you can see the rookie in him, but other times where you could see why the Jaguars went after him.
3 Mike Hughes - Minnesota Vikings (Boom)
It’s been and up and down start so far for Mike Hughes, but at the end of the day, he was worth the pick.
There have been many plays where he’s been out of place, but also many great plays he’s made including an interception.
Rookies make mistakes, and being in the wrong play in coverage is part of the learning experience. With his athleticism, he could be a future star on the Vikings defense. Right now, he just needs to continue learning.
2 Sony Michel - New England Patriots (Bust)
Drafting Sony Michel seemed like a great idea for a Patriots team that wanted to establish a running game. Tom Brady's basically been leading the Pats to Super Bowl appearances with no solid running game behind him, and the Patriots wanted to change that. So far, Michel hasn’t necessarily been the guy. So far, the rookie running back is averaging under four years per carry. If the Patriots want to get the most out of the rookie, they’re going to need to hand the ball off to him more.
1 Lamar Jackson - Baltimore Ravens (Too Soon To Tell)
Although he is sitting behind Joe Flacco, Lamar Jackson looked really good in the preseason. His arm strength and ability to run with the football makes him a potential dual threat for years to come. Jackson resembles much of what Michael Vick was, but possibly better.
We're unlikely to see much of Jackson this season, unless Joe Flacco really stinks it up. But Jackson should be far better prepared to be an NFL quarterback once he gets his opportunity.