Brian Sullivan (@MadManScouting)

I love the NFL. Who doesn’t? But what makes the NFL so much fun is that rookies come in and make an immediate impact. We witnessed the Saint’s draft class have a massive impact on their season. Deshaun Watson took the league by storm last season. Myles Garrett showed flashes of being the next superstar in the league. Here’s my prediction of the top 10 rookies this season. Keep in mind, this isn’t based solely on talent. It’s based on a combination of talent and situation. I had to swallow my pride on a few, because I had them ranked fairly low on my big board but they appear to be ready to take major roles this season. Before we start, here’s some players that just missed the cut.

Honorable Mentions

Billy Price (C, Cincinnati Bengals)

Will Hernandez (OG, New York Giants)

Orlando Brown (OT, Baltimore Ravens)

Austin Corbett (OT/OG, Cleveland Browns)

Hayden Hurst (TE, Baltimore Ravens)

Dante Pettis (WR, San Francisco 49ers)

Michael Gallup (WR, Dallas Cowboys)

DJ Moore (WR, Carolina Panthers)

The Top 10

10) Ian Thomas (TE, Carolina Panthers)

Even though he’s the #2 tight end in Carolina, I have a feeling he’ll see a lot of action. Greg Olsen is 33 years old, which isn’t ancient, but he’s not exactly in his athletic prime anymore either. Thomas has a nice skillset that should lead to him seeing plenty of action this year. It won’t be insane, but his production could mirror that of Hunter Henry in his rookie season.


9) Kerryon Johnson (RB, Detroit Lions)

Kerryon Johnson looks like the surefire starter in Detroit. Sure, early on they may humor Legarrette Blount because he’s a veteran. But Johnson is the more explosive option, and he provides more versatility. The Lions would be foolish not to feature him and Theo Riddick on the field together during passing situations as well. He should see more snaps as the season progresses.

8) Sony Michel (RB, New England Patriots)

If not for his injury issues, I would have him higher on this list. Michel was my favorite running back in this draft class. He’s explosive, tough, and his vision is impeccable. There’s a reason the Pats, who notoriously avoid skill position players early, took a flier on him in the 1st round. He’s a special talent, and if he plays, he’ll be a stud.

7) Mike McGlinchey (OT, San Francisco 49ers)

The 49ers have been impressive with their draft strategy since John Lynch took over as general manager. Did I think McGlinchey was one of the 10 best players in this draft class? Not necessarily. Do I approve of reaching on a very talented tackle prospect? Absolutely. He appears to be adjusting to the speed of the game too. When you see Jimmy G sitting in a clean pocket, McGlinchey will be one of the reasons for that.

6) Christian Kirk (WR, Arizona Cardinals)

Christian Kirk was one of my favorite receiver prospects coming out of the draft. I thought the 2nd round was exactly where he should have gone. He’s dangerous with the ball in his hands and he has the quickness and agility to develop into a fantastic route runner some day. He can also be useful in the return game. Arizona doesn’t have a surefire #2 option at receiver, so Kirk should earn that role as the season progresses.

5) Saquon Barkley (RB, New York Giants)

Saquon Barkley is an interesting situation for me. I liked him. A lot. He was the most physically gifted prospect at the position, and that was obvious. I think he is going to be a very good player. But wow was he overrated. Again, I like him a lot. But people acted as if he was the greatest running back prospect to enter the draft since Bo Jackson, Adrian Peterson, and Barry Sanders fused into one running back. He was worth a mid first round pick. He’s a great receiving back and he’s very fast. But behind this Giant’s offensive line, I doubt he puts up great rushing numbers. He’ll be good. Very good. He’ll catch a lot of balls and occasionally have some big plays. But he was not worth the #2 pick, and I need to make that clear every time I write about him.

4) Quenton Nelson/Braden Smith (Gs, Indianapolis Colts)

This might be cheating. Ok, it is cheating. But I loved the philosophy by the Colts to select both of these guards early. They were two of my favorite prospects. Obviously, everybody adored Nelson. But Braden Smith is essentially a mack truck playing football. The Colts will significantly improve on offense because of these two.

3) Anthony Miller (WR, Chicago Bears)

I already thought Anthony Miller was the best prospect at the receiver position. He does everything so well. His route running is impeccable, he’s so quick and explosive when he gets the ball in his hands, and he is as tough as a two dollar steak. He plays bigger than his size as well. His injury history is a little concerning, but he fits perfectly into the Chicago offense. Matt Nagy will utilize him well. Expect a ton of volume from him.

2) Frank Ragnow (C, Detroit Lions)

Matt Stafford has been dying to have a reliable center since he entered the league. Enter Frank Ragnow, who has been dominant throughout training camp and the preseason. The rushing lanes will be wider, which will open up the passing game even more for Stafford. Ragnow won’t get the credit he deserves, but we’ll know that he played a huge role.

1) Sam Darnold (QB, New York Jets)

If the Jets do not start Sam Darnold, I’ll be appalled. He has earned the reps. He’s a special talent. He could actually lead them to the Playoffs. Do I think it’ll happen? Not necessarily. But it’s absolutely possible. He’s that good. Get him on the field, and the fans will be happy. It’s that simple.

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