The draft was certainly an adventure for prospects looking to turn pro, along with everyone watching at home. The journey is just getting started, however. Some NFL rookies will have a long road ahead of them to make it at the next level, while others landed in ideal situations to become instant stars.
We’re focusing on the latter group here as we highlight 10 NFL rookies in perfect position to become big-time players for their respective teams.
Kyler Murray, quarterback, Arizona Cardinals
Murray is going to take his lumps playing for Arizona. The Cardinals don’t feature the most stable offensive line, and we’re talking about a 21-year-old who had just one year of starting experience at Oklahoma before making the jump.
Looking at what Arizona did in the draft, however, it’s impossible not to be excited about the talent assembled. Murray has weapons at every level. On top of that, head coach Kliff Kingsbury said (via Peter King of NBC Sports) that he’ll run an offense similar to the one Murray played in at Oklahoma.
Murray is going to be electric in Year 1.
Nick Bosa, defensive end, San Francisco 49ers
Regardless of where Bosa was going to be drafted, he was projected to become an instant NFL star as a rookie. This young man was considered by everyone who covered the draft to be the best edge rusher. His own superstar brother, Joey Bosa, has said numerous times that he expects him to be even better than he is.
Then, Bosa landed in San Francisco. The defensive line general manager John Lynch has put together — including Dee Ford, DeForest Buckner, and Bosa — is just not fair. All three of those young players are game-wreckers in their own right. Put them together and offensive lines are going to have serious problems.
Noah Fant, tight end, Denver Broncos
Fant’s college teammate T.J. Hockenson was a consideration here. Yet historically, Matthew Stafford hasn’t been great distributing the ball to tight ends. Joe Flacco, on the other hand, has always relied heavily on tight ends in the passing game.
Consistency is the issue Fant will have to work on. But in terms of potential, his natural physical abilities are far more impressive than any other tight end in the draft class. He was a freak at the combine, and clearly John Elway is excited about what the tight end brings to the table. We are, too, and expect Fant to be a big weapon in Denver’s offense right away.
Josh Jacobs, running back, Oakland Raiders
Jon Gruden loves tough guys. His “Gruden Grinders” sessions on “Monday Night Football” were a weekly illustration of that love. Now he has a grinder of his own in Oakland, as Jacobs is without a shadow of doubt the toughest running back from the 2019 NFL draft class.
A player who wasn’t utilized heavily at Alabama, Jacobs comes into the NFL with fresh legs. We don’t expect the Raiders to use him sparingly. Instead, he’ll be the sledge hammer in Gruden’s offense, which is now loaded with talent on the perimeter.
Montez Sweat, outside linebacker, Washington Redskins
It’s hard to imagine Sweat would have fallen to Washington at No. 26 if his heart condition hadn’t been reportedly misdiagnosed. A player who put up tremendous production at Mississippi State the past two seasons (22.5 sacks and 30 tackles for a loss), he then blew everyone away at the combine with a performance for the ages.
During his introductory press conference with Washington, Sweat admitted he’s always played with a chip on his shoulder and “that chip’s going to stay on my shoulder.” We’re expecting big things from him. He should be an instant starter and star for his new team.
N’Keal Harry, wide receiver, New England Patriots
Big receivers who fit what New England likes to do on offense are rare. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels likes to get the ball out of Tom Brady’s hand quickly, which means quick routes and screens. You have to be able to get of the line quickly and separate, and while Harry isn’t the quickest guy out there he can do both.
In particular, Harry’s after-the-catch prowess fits New England’s offense to a T. The one thing that could potentially hold up his development is that some receivers struggle with all the options within McDaniels’ offense. But we expect the Arizona State product to pick it up quickly and thrive as a rookie.
Deebo Samuel, wide receiver, San Francisco 49ers
There were a ton of talented receivers left on the board when San Francisco took Samuel with the 36th overall selection. He’s not the flashiest athlete, or the speediest receiver. Yet he lives up to his “Deebo” nickname with a game predicated on toughness and making huge plays after the catch.
Head coach Kyle Shanahan couldn’t hold back his enthusiasm discussing what Samuel brings to the table. He clearly has big plans for this rookie, who could be an instant starter — if not, he will be a key player — for the 49ers in 2019.
Justice Hill, running back, Baltimore Ravens
This was an intriguing pick. Selecting Hill furthered Baltimore’s trend of collecting talented offensive weapons during the draft to build up a Lamar Jackson-friendly offense.
The Ravens already had two darn good running backs in free agent acquisition Mark Ingram and last year’s rookie sensation Gus Edwards. Yet Hill brings another element to the table in that he is a home-run hitter. He averaged 5.6 yards per tote at Oklahoma State and has the requisite agility and speed to break free in the open field. Offensive coordinator Greg Roman is going to have fun getting this rookie involved.
Darrell Henderson, running back, Los Angeles Rams
Not everyone was high on Los Angeles using an early third-round pick on Henderson. Then again, not everyone is convinced his game will translate to big-time success at the NFL level. Obviously we disagree.
A player we featured before the draft as extremely underrated, his ability to attack the edge and go the distance on any given play — the past two years, he averaged 8.9 yards per attempt — is the stuff of dreams for an offensive coach like Sean McVay. Henderson is also a threat as a receiver out of the backfield. He’ll fill a big role for the Rams as a rookie.
Gary Jennings, wide receiver, Seattle Seahawks
During his tenure at West Virginia, Jennings was oftentimes overshadowed by teammate David Sills, who was a touchdown machine. It’s worth pointing out that Jennings ended up being selected midway through the fourth round, while Sills went undrafted altogether. So obviously NFL personnel folks valued Jennings’ potential.
Jennings is a deep threat who averaged 17 yards per reception and caught 13 touchdowns as a senior. He should slide right into Seattle’s offense as a play-action dynamo, and in fact we believe he’ll be even more of an impact player than fellow rookie, D.K. Metcalf. Jennings simply fits what the Seahawks love to do, and he will thrive in that system.