Rookies this coming NFL season are going to be behind the proverbial eight-ball. They were not able to take part in in-person off-season activities due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
With that said, there’s a number of first-year players who should show out big time. The Washington Redskins found themselves an elite edge rusher at No. 2 overall. Meanwhile, the Baltimore Ravens could have a dominant running back out of the gate.
These are among the five NFL rookies who will earn Pro Bowl honors in 2020.
Chase Young, EDGE, Washington Redskins
Let’s start out with the most obvious. Given that off-season programs have been canceled and the start of training camp is in question, the expectation is that the most pro-ready prospects will make the biggest impacts.
That’s no more true than in the nation’s capital. Selected No. 2 overall by the Redskins back in April, Young is seen as a better version of former Ohio State teammate Nick Bosa. The latter won NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year honors in 2019. For his part, Young put up 35.5 tackles for loss and 27 sacks in his final two seasons with the Buckeyes. He’s going to be a Pro Bowler as a rookie. Book it!
Jedrick Wills, offensive tackle, Cleveland Browns
Normally, I would not include a left tackle in a list such as this. It’s a position that requires a major transition from the college ranks. The learning curve is huge. Despite this, Wills seems to have everything it takes to be an elite blindside protector for Baker Mayfield out of the gate.
The 6-foot-4, 312-pound former Alabama star already has functional lower-body strength for the position and boasts tremendous lateral quickness. Two things that are huge for a left tackle. Given Cleveland’s strength at right tackle after signing All-Pro Jack Conklin, the onus is not going to be on Wills as much. It should allow the Crimson Tide product to excel and become the long-term replacement for Joe Thomas.
J.K. Dobbins, running back, Baltimore Ravens
We’ve seen it with rookie running backs in the past. It’s a position that does not have a huge learning curve from the college ranks. Last season saw Josh Jacobs, Miles Sanders and Devin Singletary show out in a big way. Back in 2018, it was Saquon Barkley who put up an historical rookie season.
Look for Dobbins to follow in their footsteps. This one scribe was shocked to see the former Ohio State product drop to the 55th pick back in April. Having gone for north of 5,100 total yards at a clip of 6.9 yards per touch in college, he’s a true dual-threat. Heck, Dobbins has ridiculous game-breaking ability. Add in the presence and running ability of reigning NFL MVP Lamar Jackson in Baltimore’s backfield, and it would not be a surprise to see Dobbins dominate out of the gate.
Isaiah Simmons, linebacker, Arizona Cardinals
An NFL Scouting Combine warrior ahead of April’s draft, it was not a surprise to see this sideline-to-sideline linebacker go within the top-10 picks. In fact, I was surprised to see him last beyond the Detroit Lions at No. 3 overall.
Simmons (6-foot-4, 238 pounds) is your modern NFL linebacker. He’s solid against the run and sees the field well. But the Clemson product’s ability in coverage is what stands out. He can go up against tight ends and running backs in the passing game. This multi-dimensional ability will lead to a trip to Las Vegas for the Pro Bow in January.
Xavier McKinney, safety, New York Giants
Another player I was surprised to see last beyond the first 32 picks, McKinney is a true center fielder from the free safety position. His range is limitless. It’s somewhat similar to what we’ve seen from the likes of Minkah Fitzpatrick and Derwin James coming out of college in the recent past.
Selected No. 36 overall back in April, there’s also a good chance that McKinney will start out of the gate in New York. His primary competition for the spot is corner-turned-safety Julian Love. If McKinney gets his shot, he will be a Pro Bowler out of the gate.