AFC North: Rookie Predictions

The AFC North had a fairly productive draft all the way around. It should come as no surprise that most of these players are expected to contribute early. These are my predictions of how these rookies will perform during their first year. The predictions are made assuming all players make the final roster, but that is unlikely.

Baltimore Ravens:

Patrick Queen, LB, LSU

Arguably the second-best linebacker in the draft, Queen should be an immediate starter for the Ravens. With his talent and athletic ability, he should have no problem scraping together 80+ tackles and a couple of interceptions during his rookie season.

J.K. Dobbins, RB, Ohio State

Dobbins will more than likely enter the Ravens running back rotation early. It wouldn’t be a surprise if he is taking a majority of the snaps by the season’s end. His statline will most likely be somewhere around 500 rushing yards and 350 or more receiving yards with 6 or 7 touchdowns.

Justin Madubuike, DT, Texas A&M

Madubuike was one of the highest rated defensive tackles in the draft and should be featured in the rotation early. He probably won’t put up big sack numbers, but when he is on the field, it should cause some disruption. 3 sacks and around 30 tackles sounds reasonable for this 3rd round defensive tackle.

Devin Duvernay, WR, Texas

The Ravens took advantage of the unusually deep wide receiver class and picked up Duvernay. He will be competing for playing time, especially against another rookie receiver, and his production will most likely reflect that. 300 yards receiving and 2 touchdowns is a realistic expectation for this young receiver.

Malik Harrison, LB, Ohio State

With Queen already assuming a starting linebacker role, it means less playing time for Harrison. He should be a rotational/depth guy early on, maybe producing 40 tackles in his rookie season.

Tyre Phillips, OG, Mississippi State and Ben Bredeson, OG, Michigan

Phillips and Bredeson should be competing to man the offensive guard spot left open by the retirement of Marshal Yanda. Ultimately, expect to see a heavy rotation unless one absolutely steals the show. They may put up 8 starts each during this competition.

Broderick Washington, DT, Texas Tech

Washington will be another player competing against another rookie for playing time. Madubuike will almost certainly take the lion’s share of playing time, leaving Washington to fight for the crumbs. It’s more than likely he will end up barely reaching double digit tackles and maybe notch a sack if he gets lucky.

James Proche, WR, SMU

The final addition to an already dangerous offense, Proche should compete for playing time with Devin Duvernay. It is expected that Duvernay takes most of the snaps and Proche may get a few here and there unless he shines. 200 receiving yards and a touchdown for this 6th rounder.

Geno Stone, S, Iowa

While an amazing pick in the 7th round, Stone still most likely won’t start. He’ll be a good depth piece and may rotate in different packages. This means he will probably end up with a couple dozen tackles, possibly an interception.

Cincinnati Bengals:

Joe Burrow, QB, LSU

The expected savior of the Cincinnati Bengals, Burrow is expected to be a star almost immediately. That is very, very rare for a rookie quarterback. Burrow should do decent, but don’t expect an elite season just yet. An Andy Dalton-esque 3,000 yards and 20 touchdowns with 10 interceptions sounds right.

Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson

Higgins gets to join a very crowded wide receiver room in Cincinnati, where he is expected to lay claim to a starting role. His production will be very dependent on the health of A.J. Green and the impact of John Ross. Due to the talent around him, 600 yards and 4 to 5 touchdowns would be a good rookie season stat line.

Logan Wilson, LB, Wyoming

The first selection in the Bengals’ overhaul of their linebacking corps, Wilson is expected to be a Day One starter. He should patrol the field along with Germaine Pratt, racking up 75 tackles and a few interceptions.

Akeem Davis-Gaither, LB, Appalachian State

Davis-Gaither is the 3-4 linebacker the Bengals have been trying to get for nearly a decade. He has the ability to stand up and pass rush, meaning he will get on the field heavily in passing situations. 5 sacks and 45 tackles for the rookie.

Khalid Kareem, DE, Notre Dame

Kareem will more than likely be nothing more than a depth piece during his career, and as such, should see little playing time in his rookie year. He may get a dozen tackles and a sack in his limited role.

Hakeem Adeniji, OT, Kansas

The Bengals waiting until the 6th round to pick up an offensive lineman works in Adeniji’s favor. He won’t be facing competition from other draft picks and would just have to beat out the subpar other linemen for a spot at offensive guard or tackle. It is difficult to project whether he starts many games or not, but he should at least get a few chances.

Markus Bailey, LB, Purdue

Bailey is the Tyler Eifert of linebackers from this year’s draft. He was a quality player, even earning 2nd round grades from some, but fell due to multiple ACL tears. If he miraculously stays healthy, he could be a big piece for the Bengals defense. He could rack up 30-40 tackles, or spend the year on IR.

Cleveland Browns:

Jedrick Wills, OT, Alabama

Wills was a top 10 pick and is fully expected to man a tackle spot for all 16 games. Barring an injury or other unforeseen circumstance, Wills should be a starter for a long time in Cleveland.

Grant Delpit, S, LSU

Needing to fill a safety spot, Delpit was a good pick. He should be able to slide in as a starter immediately. Tackling concerns hurt him, but it should be no surprise to see him put up 4 interceptions and secure 50+ tackles.

Jordan Elliott, DT, Missouri

The Browns don’t really have a need for a defensive tackle, but Elliott is a good player nonetheless. He should be able to at least get into the rotation. In his rookie year, Elliott should be able to get 3 or 4 sacks and around 20 tackles.

Jacob Phillips, LB, LSU

Phillips probably won’t see much playing time early on, although he was a tackling machine at LSU. He will be lucky to enter a rotation at linebacker, and will probably be delegated to a backup role. During the time he does pick up, Phillips may get a dozen tackles.

Harrison Bryant, TE, Florida Atlantic

Bryant faces tough competition with Austin Hooper and David Njoku to receive playing time. It’s hard to see him doing anything meaningful in his rookie season, and he will be lucky to get 100 receiving yards and a touchdown based on where he is on the depth chart.

Nick Harris, C, Washington

Not much more than a depth piece, Harris will probably not play much if at all during his rookie season. He will most likely end up with no games started and a handful of snaps if a starter is injured or needs relieved.

Donovan Peoples-Jones, WR, Michigan

An extremely deep wide receiver class pushed Peoples-Jones all the way down into the 6th round. The Cleveland receiving corps is full of star power, but Peoples-Jones could fight for some playing time and put up a statline similar to 300 yards and a couple of touchdowns.

Pittsburgh Steelers:

Chase Claypool, WR, Notre Dame

Claypool can become a good target for Ben Roethlisberger. He is more of a possession receiver and he doesn’t offer much run-after-catch ability, but he should still be able to put up 750+ yards and 5 to 6 touchdowns.

Alex Highsmith, EDGE , Charlotte

Highsmith comes into a possible need in Pittsburgh. Thanks to that and his pass rushing ability, he is set up for a solid future on the edge. But, this all hinges on the future of Bud Dupree. If he stays, Highsmith gets left out. This season, he may rotate and pick up 5 sacks and a couple dozen tackles.

Anthony McFarland, RB, Maryland

McFarland adds electricity to the Steelers backfield. While he was inconsistent in college, if he can find some consistency, he could be a solid NFL player. He should see some playing time as a relief back early on, possibly racking up 300-400 yards and 3 touchdowns.

Kevin Dotson, OG, Louisiana

Dotson is a mauler who will likely make a big impact on the Steelers offensive line. Although it is hard to project how big an impact a rookie offensive lineman will make during his first season, Dotson should pick up meaningful playing time even if it doesn’t come as a starter.

Antoine Brooks Jr., S, Maryland

Brooks Jr. is a solid depth piece at safety. He probably won’t see much playing time early in his career, so don’t expect much this year, although he should be a key player on special teams. Taking that into account, 20 tackles is a reasonable estimate for his production.

Carlos Davis, DT, Nebraska

Davis likely stays a depth piece for a while, as there is no real scenario where he takes significant playing time at this point in his career. With that in mind, his pure athleticism can guide him to a handful of tackles and possibly a sack.