One Draft can change the course of a Franchise.
With less than 100 days before the 100th Season of the NFL, fans are able to see the promised land in sight. At this point in the offseason, just about every fan thinks their First Round pick is a Hall of Famer, that their team drafted four cornerstone defensive players, or that their fifth round gem (why did he fall so far!?) will shock the NFL’s core with a game winning pick six in Week 1.
Or maybe that’s just me?
Regardless, I can’t tell you your First Round picks jacket measurements for Canton, OH just yet, but I am here to tell you which rookies will make an impact for your squad’s offense in Year 1.
This is the only League that truly has no offseason, at least the offseason activities and media coverage will make you think otherwise. By now a majority of everyone’s favorite players and the organization’s new acquisitions have made it to team facilities to begin preparation for 2019. A month has passed to fully digest the 2019 NFL Draft and exposure to the rookies on the field has begun at Rookie Mini-Camps and Organized Team Activities (OTAs). There’s now a slightly better understanding of how a rookie’s abilities might translate to immediate production on the football field this season, in addition to a better understanding of what their new team has planned for them to best maximize that skillset.
I present my predictions for the 2019 NFL All-Rookie Team Offense:
Quarterback: Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals (Round 1, No. 1 overall)
The Arizona Cardinals offensive line has been very happy with Kyler Murray thus far, bringing donuts, breakfast sandwiches, and milk to OTAs for the big bullies up front. Other than adjusting to the pro game, Kyler Murray’s toughest obstacle this season may be his donut-dunking offensive line keeping him up-right. Much has been said about the first overall pick, and his diminutive size, but not enough was done this offseason to totally improve one of the NFL’s poorest offensive lines and it’s immediate impact with keeping Murray healthy and allowing for him to be successful.
While his teams offensive line woes may continue, Murray does have a lot going for him. He has the arm strength, athleticism, proven (near unprecedented) track record, and familiarity with the offensive system. Murray also has been provided a bevy of playmakers around him, including receivers Larry Fitzgerald, Christian Kirk (2018 – 2nd Round), a trio of scheme complementary rookies in Andy Isabella, Hakeem Butler, KeeSean Johnson, and talented running backs David Johnson and Chase Edmonds.
Murray was a no-brainer for this selection as no other rookie Quarterback will be given the same opportunities or have a similar elite skillset like Kyler.
Running back: Josh Jacobs, Oakland Raiders (Round 1, No. 24)
Josh Jacobs enters the league as by far the most NFL-ready rookie back this season, he also has the surprising distinction of coming from the Nick Saban Running Back Factory without much wear and tear. Jacobs is only one of three running backs drafted under Saban (10 drafted) with less than 300 career touches at Alabama.
Jacobs will “compete” with Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington for carries in the Raiders backfield, but his tough running ability between the tackles, breakaway speed, and prowess out of the backfield should lead to at least 250 touches. Although at times Jacobs has a tendency to prematurely bounce outside with delusions of daylight and reservations for six, a nose for the end zone isn’t always a bad thing, but most importantly Jacobs mean streak as a ball carrier and ability to finish runs makes him one of the biggest pains in the ass to tackle in recent drafts. Jacobs should be a very productive focal point for an Oakland Raiders offense that enters year 2 for Derek Carr and Jon Gruden, made recent acquisitions of Antonio Brown, Tyrell Williams, and Hunter Renfrow, and has an intriguing offensive line (from LT to RT) consisting of Kolton Miller (2018 – 1st Round), Richie Incognito, Rodney Hudson, Gabe Jackson, and Trent Brown ($66M/4yr contract in Free Agency).
Running back: Darrell Henderson, Los Angeles Rams (Round 3, No. 70)
Selecting a running back after Josh Jacobs for the All-Rookie Team was no easy task. Miles Sanders will be in a committee in Philly, David Montgomery is a clone of Jordan Howard in an offense that couldn’t fully figure out how to utilize (and got rid of) Jordan Howard, and Devin “Motor” Singletary will have to sit behind, but learn from, gray beards LeSean McCoy and Frank Gore in Buffalo.
Even with the continued mystery of Todd Gurley’s knee injury, Darrell Henderson is a perfect complementary back-up in this offensive attack. An offense that, outside of the Super Bowl, generally has little trouble churning out massive amounts of yards. Sean McVay was able to get the most out of CJ Anderson in December and January last year and Henderson’s success in the outside zone scheme would be an even better fit. The Rams ran outside zone 217 times during 2018, 52 more than any team, and given they’ll be replacing Rodger Saffold and John Sullivan along the line, they could be in store for more of their outside zone bread-and-butter to simplify for their new, younger, OL starters. On outside zone runs the last two seasons at Memphis, Darrell Henderson had 53 attempts, 596 yards, 10.7 yards per carry, 7 yards after contact per attempt, 23 first downs, and 16 broken tackles. Henderson truly could be a match made in heaven for McVay’s outside zone scheme.
Wide receiver: Deebo Samuel, San Francisco 49ers (Round 2, No. 36)
Play-caller Kyle Shanahan might’ve been the most logical scheme landing spot for Samuel’s versatile receiving repertoire to flourish. The 49ers get a healthy Jimmy Garoppolo back and after a brilliant breakout year by tight end George Kittle, Samuel could prove to be the #1 wide receiver, especially over the middle, next to the field-stretching Dante Pettis and equally speedy Marquise Goodwin. The muscular ball of mite, Samuel, is a huge threat with the ball in his hands, displayed perfectly by his 7 catches on slant passes last year, at South Carolina, that generated 31.3 yards per catch. It’s worth noting that Garroppolo has completed 28/38 slant routes and 3 touchdowns over his career. Shanahan’s scheme wizardry and Samuel’s play-making ability could be used in the run game as well where he had 25 carries, 154 yards, and 7 touchdowns in his career as a Gamecock.
Wide receiver: Mecole Hardman, Kansas City Chiefs (Round 2, No. 56)
In a tough call between Hardman and the Patriots new big-bodied red zone threat N’Keal Harry, Hardman gets the nod on this All-Rookie team because of the Chiefs high-flying offense and the void created by Tyreek Hill’s potential absence. While Hardman was under-utilized at Georgia after converting from cornerback, with only 60 catches, 961 yards, and 11 touchdowns the last two years, it was a crowded and talented receiving corps on an offense with two 1,000 yard rushers last season. Hardman, the Chief’s first draft choice in April, flashed similar blazing speed to Hill with his 4.33 second 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine. Track speed is one thing, but on the field, Hardman is able to maximize that blazing speed with his refined ability to track the ball as he’s phenomenal at finding the deep ball, carrying that speed through the catch point, and securing the ball over the shoulder, all without slowing down. Hardman is already working on developing a rapport with Patrick Mahomes, Coach Andy Reid said “Mecole’s getting better every day, that’s been kind of fun to watch,” and fellow receiver Sammy Watkins has reportedly taken Hardman under his wing and is showing him the ropes to best acclimate to the NFL.
Tight end: T.J. Hockenson, Detroit Lions (Round 1, No. 8)
The easiest choice for the All-Rookie team on offense. The highest drafted tight end since Vernon Davis is the complete package. In Hockenson’s two seasons at Iowa he totaled 73 receptions, 1080 receiving yards, and 9 touchdowns, he was the first Sophomore ever to win the John Mackey Award, and his agility and jumping tests at the Combine were off the charts. Hockenson can make any block, is a red zone threat, is a natural and smooth route runner, with soft hands and contested catch ability, who has a competitive and nasty demeanor with the ball in his hands. New Lions offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell will fully utilize his blocking ability in the run game, his talents over the middle and near the paint, and plans on incorporating a lot of 12-Personnel with Hockenson and Free Agent signee Jesse James. The NFL is very cyclical and 12-Personnel was greatly utilized by the Patriots 8 years ago with Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. In 2018, the Chiefs, Eagles, and Texans (All playoff teams) lead the league by using 12-Personnel on over 30% of their offensive snaps, while the Los Angeles Rams had a league-leading 62% success rate from that personnel grouping. Hockenson as a chess piece for Bevell will help revitalize the Lions run game and provide a much needed play-making blanket for Matthew Stafford. In the Lions first OTA practice with media availability this offseason, Hockenson scored two touchdowns.
Center: Erik McCoy, New Orleans Saints (Round 2, No. 48)
After the retirement of center Max Unger, the Saints got a steal and were able to address an immediate need in the middle of the 2nd Round with Erik McCoy. While McCoy is earning his stripes on the Saints 2nd Team early in OTAs, he gets the nod on this All-Rookie team over the Vikings 1st Round rookie Center Garrett Bradbury for two reasons. First, Bradbury’s one marginal weakness in college, ability to handle heavier, more powerful defensive lineman may take time to adjust to. Second, McCoy joins a loaded and well-coached Saints offense which has one of the best offensive lines in football, consisting of Terron Armstead, Andrus Peat, Larry Warford, and Ryan Ramczyk. McCoy, a Senior Bowl week standout, has the perfect football IQ and awareness to run pivot in the NFL and his tenacity and ability to block on the move will fit in flawlessly with the Saints offensive line. Early in OTAs, Saints OL Coach Dan Roushar and Ramczyk have already been gushing about McCoy’s work ethic, outstanding motor, hunger to learn, comprehension of the Saints complex offensive scheme, and ability to correct his mistakes early.
Guard: Chris Lindstrom, Atlanta Falcons (Round 1, No. 14)
The Falcons potent offense will get an injection of nasty with the addition of Lindstrom, whose transition to the NFL will be aided by playing next to the Falcons All-Pro center Alex Mack. Lindstrom, the first guard off the board in April, was a mauling slug-it-out four-year starter at tackle and guard for Boston College, and his movement skills were further enhanced at the NFL Scouting Combine when he posted incredible times in the 40-yard dash, 20-yard short shuttle, and broad jump. Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan has already been impressed with both Lindstrom and fellow 1st Round selection Kaleb McGary’s attitude and ability to move really well.
Guard: Elgton Jenkins, Green Bay Packers (Round 2, No. 44)
Despite making 26 of his 34 career starts at center for Mississippi State, many Draft experts felt his best snaps in college and his future position in the NFL was at guard. Packers Head Coach Matt Lafleur confirmed during the second week of OTAs that the enormous Elgton’s, 6′ 4 1/2″ and 310 pounds, main area of focus is going to be at the guard position. It shouldn’t take long for the high-upside Jenkins and his fantastic football IQ, phenomenal hand placement, great wide base, and fluids hips, to prove himself as one of the teams most talented 5 offensive lineman and earn a starting role alongside either David Bakhtiari or Bryan Bulaga.
Tackle: Jonah Williams, Cincinnati Bengals (Round 1, No. 11)
The reboot of this Bengals offensive line rebuild started with acquiring Cordy Glenn prior to the 2018 Draft, followed with the team selecting Billy Price in the 1st Round a few weeks later, and continued when the team used the 2019 11th overall pick on Alabama’s 44-game starter and arguably the safest tackle prospect in the draft in Jonah Williams. Despite lacking ideal length and size, the team has further instilled their belief of Jonah Williams as a left tackle in the league by moving Glenn to left guard, making a very formidable left side of their line. Williams proved for 4 years in the SEC and against the most talented teams in the College Football Playoffs that Year 1 he’ll hit the ground running and with his outstanding technical refinement, power, mobility, balance, and smooth footwork, be a stalwart for the franchise for a decade.
Tackle: Cody Ford, Buffalo Bills (Round 2, No. 38)
Determining the next starting offensive tackle for this All-Rookie team was a major challenge. Andre Dillard will likely sit for the Eagles, Tytus Howard and Kaleb McGary are very athletic but will likely struggle in Year 1, while Jawaan Taylor, in my opinion, has a better chance to succeed at guard, and finally, I’m pessimistic on Greg Little’s ability in the NFL.
The 9th offensive lineman off the board was Cody Ford falling to the Buffalo Bills. Ford has some height limitations and will need to work on his footwork and possibly his stance at the next level, but his functional strength, balance, agility, and power at the point of attack in the run game will allow him to succeed with the Bills. The Bills were incredibly impressive with their offensive line free agency signings to rebuild the unit to protect quarterback Josh Allen and Ford has already been taking snaps with first team-offense in OTAs.