In my last article, I talked about 2018 rookies I should’ve been higher on. Well believe it or not, I actually hit the mark with some my evaluations too. And I am not talking about the Bradley Chubb, Saquon Barkley, or Quenton Nelsons of the world (can’t miss players).
No, I am talking about some of the more polarizing players of the class or guys that NFL didn’t value correctly. The huge disclaimer that I must mention before I start my analysis is, I understand that it’s only one year and a lot can change from now. This was just about rookies that met my year 1 expectations. So, without further ado, lets make myself look like a genius!
4. Justin Reid, Safety, Houston Texans
Justin Reid falling to the 3rd round was one of the most puzzling occurrences in the 2018 draft. His tape was exceptional, he tested like an elite athlete, and multiple coaches at Stanford raved about his character on and off the field.
Reid carried a first round grade for me and I can say confidentially that he met my expectations in his first season. The Texans defense was obviously a different animal once he entered the starting lineup. He regularly made timely turnovers and splash plays that his teammates fed off of.
I know it’s only one season but I believe Reid is well on his way to becoming one of the best safeties in the league. He played at a pro bowl level as a rookie and should only get better.
3. Lamar Jackson, Quarterback, Baltimore Ravens
Lamar Jackson was arguably the most polarizing player in the last year’s class. Some had him as QB1 and some thought he was a receiver. I for one, wasn’t on either side of that fence. The receiver narrative was silly to me, but I did share many of the same concerns that the doubters had with Jackson as a passer.
His inconsistency with accuracy frightened me most because accuracy is very hard to improve. It’s one of those talents that you either have it or you don’t. On top those issues, he also needed to work on decision making and processing.
I was certain Jackson would have sit on the bench for at least a year to develop as passer. However, if his offense was centered around his running ability, I thought he could have some success in year one.
That said, Jackson’s rookie season went as I expected. The Ravens transitioned to a zone option offense, allowing him to be a runner first and a passer second. He had a lot of success in this system, but once he was forced to win as a passer (in the playoffs), he struggled.
I feel good about my evaluation because I didn’t learn anything about Jackson from his rookie season. His dynamic running ability was his best asset and his questions as a passer still remain unanswered.
2. Mike McGlinchey, Offensive Tackle, San Francisco 49ers
Many might think that Mike McGlinchey isn’t that big of a draft win considering he was the first tackle taken in the draft. However, we can’t be so soon to forget about how polarizing the 2018 tackle class was among the draft community.
Connor Williams was the consensus OT1 early in the process, then Orlando Brown started to gain hype until Kolton Miller stole the crown at the combine. Now, it’s not like McGlinchey didn’t have fans but I always believed that he was the best tackle in the class.
McGlinchey clearly had the best year out of all of the rookie tackles. He stepped in right away and became a viable starter, only allowing 5 sacks this season (according to Pro Football Focus). There are still some aspects of his game that he needs to improve, yet it is good to see that he met my expectations as OT1.
1. The Oakland Raiders Draft Class
I went on record saying that the Raiders 2018 draft class was one of the worst classes in recent years. Many thought I was too soon to jump the gun without seeing any of the them play a down in the NFL. However, I felt pretty confident going out on this limb because of the lack of faith I have in Jon Gruden as an evaluator.
Now, because I am going to be critical for the most of this section, let’s start on a positive note. Maurice Hurst was their one pick that I actually liked. I had him graded in the first round and they were able to steal him in the 5th round because of a medical issue. He was a stud in his rookie season and easily the Raiders best defensive linemen.
The rest of the class was really underwhelming in year 1. 1st round pick Kolton Miller (OT) struggled mightily, allowing a league high 16 sacks and was 2nd in pressures allowed with 65 (according to Pro Football Focus). I had some serious concerns with Miller and they all came to fruition in his first season.
I wasn’t a fan of their 2nd round pick P.J. Hall (DT) or 3rd round pick Brandon Parker (OT) as well. They both underachieved against small school competition in college, so I expected them to struggle in pros. That is exactly what they did. Hall had a lack luster 15 pressures and 0 sacks. Parker allowed 10 sacks and 43 pressures in 13 starts!
I understand that these guys have potential to develop, yet it is crucial to pick players that make an instant impact in the top 100. Miller, Hall, and Parker all failed to do that. That said, I hate to be the guy that says “I told you so.” But Raiders fans, I told you so.
Hopefully they can improve because no one likes to see players have such short careers. However, it’s undeniable that they have a long way to go to live up to where they were selected. And that was clear before the Raiders drafted them.