Now that the 2018 NFL Draft has been completed it is time to put each and every pick under the microscope and dissect what each player could give to their team. Of course, mini-camps, the slow summer and training camp are going to change things. However, now that we have team fits, we can project forward. Who are the best bets to win the 2018 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year?
10. Green Bay Packers WR: Equanimeous St. Brown, Notre Dame
This is going to either make people tune out or scratch their head. Equanimous St. Brown is a sixth-round pick. He is the third wide receiver Green Bay selected! All I am going to say is that if there is a sleeper that you just want to make sure you remember their name in August it is St. Brown.
There are rumors as to why St. Brown fell. Some have to do with his father, and his family roots being similar to LaVar Ball. I do not know about you guys, but I do not know what St. Brown’s dad could say about his sixth-round pick son that is going to take him off of the field on Sunday.
On the field, St. Brown is not complete either. He is a finesse receiver in a jump ballers body. However, he has a role that can translate to the NFL soon. He can be a big slot receiver who can stretch the field.
St. Brown is smooth in and out of breaks. Not a lot of big receivers can create separation in short spaces. pic.twitter.com/65EXbOYIMf
— Ted Nguyen (@FB_FilmAnalysis) February 23, 2018
He has quick feet to get open in the short game. On top of that is size to stretch the field over the middle with a huge catch radius that is tough for smaller cornerbacks in the slot to match up with.
Then, you look at the depth chart. Jimmy Graham, bigger, more physical, less refined slot option. Randall Cobb, shifty yards after the catch slot option. The team can mix and match Equanimeous St. Brown in the slot across from Cobb and Graham, and it becomes a schematic nightmare. That is not factoring Davante Adams or rookie J’Mon Moore on the outside.
St. Brown is more pro-ready than Moore. His mismatch presence in the slot is going to likely get him on the field sooner. I am not concerned about the slide and am ready to see him in the Offensive Rookie of the Year discussion thanks to Aaron Rodgers.
9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers RB: Ronald Jones, USC
The Buccaneers have the perfect set of skill players to plop in Ronald Jones. Mike Evans is the ultimate do-everything type of wide receiver. DeSean Jackson takes the top off with speed and Chris Godwin does it with contested catch ability. Cameron Brate can split the seams and O.J. Howard is great with the ball in his hands. All it needed was an explosive back.
Jones is that. He is not the biggest runner and did not test to be the fastest. However, in pads, with momentum going, he can create speed and power. Watch the plant and burst as he creates momentum to excel into the second level.
And the power in which he is able to create off of that momentum.
In that offense, with his running style, he could be the piece that connects all of the dots together. If the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are in the playoff mix, Jones will be a huge contributor and mid-round fantasy star. The general public will love him and he will have his chances to make a name for himself.
8. Chicago Bears WR: Anthony Miller, Memphis
The Chicago Bears were in win-now mode and were one of the more aggressive teams in the draft, trading a future second round to pick acquire a 2018 NFL draft second round pick in Anthony Miller. Miller is a fan favorite and a grinder who worked up from an unknown prospect to a Memphis stand out.
Miller is an older prospect and will be 24 during the season. However, for the win-now Bears that means that they are ready to get him on the field and get the ball in his hands. Miller is a well-refined route runner who plays physical and bigger than his size would indicate. He can be a threat in the red zone, he can catch touchdowns and he will create buzz.
However, Miller is most efficient out of the slot. The Chicago Bears project him to the slot. With Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel being free agent additions making real money, their mouths will be fed. It would have to be a down year for a third receiver and slot option to be a top Rookie of the Year candidate.
7. Washington RB: Derrius Guice LSU
Derrius Guice is not quite as big of a slide as St. Brown, but you could argue that in terms of on-field talent, his slide into the second round was as drastic. There have been arguments about the fact that when looking a pure running back, Guice is on the same level as Saquan Barkley. Washington picks him up in round 2. Like St. Brown, there are questions with an off of the field issue. There are rumors about the Eagles, illegal questions at the combine and the maturity and mental wherewithal that came away from Derrius Guice revolving the situation. Like St. Brown, if he is on the field on Sunday’s I could care less.
Guice brings a combination of power, balance, and elusiveness to the football field.
He finishes runs and is your classic downhill runner. However, that is why he is going to sit so low on the rookie of the year candidates. Today’s NFL is passing happy. At LSU, wide receivers aren’t even pass catching options, let alone running backs.
Guice has shown he can catch, the question is does Washington need him too? Chris Thompson was stellar as a pass-catching back last season. Thompson is not going to entice Washington to revolve the offense around Guice. Guice will jump into the lineup immediately and will have a presence with touchdowns. However, Kareem Hunt lost the rookie of the year to Alvin Kamara because of receptions and Hunt caught 53 balls. How many will Guice need?
6. Carolina Panthers WR: D.J. Moore, Maryland
If you were outraged by the Equanimeous St. Brown pick in the top ten you will be floored by D.J. Moore this low. I know, I know, the number one wide receiver off of the board in the 2018 NFL draft. How did that work out for Corey Davis last year? I had D.J. Moore as my wide receiver one. I understand the talent, he can create space in the air, on the ground and with the ball in his hands.
However, one of the biggest draws to D.J. Moore is that he also was the youngest wide receivers in the 2018 NFL draft. I know, JuJu Smith-Schuster was the youngest last year and finished top 3 in voting. There is a reason for that and we will get to it later.
The fact of the matter is that you get what you get with Cam Newton. We have seen over his seven-year career that he can do what it takes to be as good as any team in the NFL. However, we have also seen that his particular skill set is not going to lead to statistical success for wide receivers.
Greg Olsen has been the top target of Newton in four of his seven seasons. While he was hurt last season, the team brought him back on a two-year extension. On top of that, running back and top ten pick Christian McCaffrey led the team in targets last season. You would imagine that he is just getting started, and is still ahead of Moore in the pecking order.
The Panthers could see Moore as their best wide receiver. That still typically means less than 1,000 yards receiving. Could Moore break the trend? Absolutely. Would I be surprised if it happened in 2019 rather than 2018? No, I would almost expect it.
5. Dallas Cowboys WR: Michael Gallup, Colorado State
A third-round pick to the Dallas Cowboys could be the sleeper Rookie of the Year candidate we need. Michael Gallup was a Biletnikoff finalist coming out of Colorado State and for good reason. He is a physical, savvy route runner who can provide after the catch, and create space before the catch.
Something Dallas stressed this offseason was being able to separate. The route against Alabama shows the physicality and foot quickness to beat press and the way that he finished that run? With the stiff arm? Love that. Gallup was fifth in the nation in contested catch rate last year. Gallup is a player physically ready to step in and contribute next season.
There just so happens to be a need at wide receiver too. You look at the Cowboys depth chart and you can argue that Gallup will be a starter by Week One. Allen Hurns has injury questions. Terrance Williams is good for his blocking and not much else. Gallup is a physical blocker who is fully healthy. By this time next season, it could be well known across the NFL that Gallup is the top dog in the Dallas Cowboys pecking order.
4. Pittsburgh Steelers WR: James Washington, Oklahoma State
As the team manager of the Pittsburgh Steelers, this will come off as a homer pick. However, I wrote that the selection of Washington’s teammate, Mason Rudolph was a poorly timed selection by the same team.
The reason I like Washington so much in this role is that I did not like Mason Rudolph as much as a quarterback. Rudolph is good as a quarterback because he is not afraid to give Washington a chance. He puts the ball out there, Washington snags it. However, he did make Washington work for it.
It is impressive how Washington is able to change strides while adjusting to passes even short and further towards the middle than he expects. He is able to spin around the cornerback, change strides and track the ball while maintaining strides to regain speed and sail into the end zone.
Below, the cornerback pulls his arm and the pass is still underthrown. The cornerback is draped all over him and again Washington slows down, and does not pay the cornerback any mind as he hauls in the pass.
Last season Ben Roethlisberger had poor deep passing stats and it had a lot to do with Bryant and issues with tracking the ball and hauling in contested passes.
So while James Washington is shorter, heavier and slower he should not only be the Martavis Bryant replacement, there is every chance that he turns out better stats than Martavis Bryant.
Last season, JuJu Smith-Schuster came on as a Rookie of the Year finalist. However, Bryant still was targeted in the passing game more than Smith-Schuster in total, 84 to 79. Given that these are deep in target depth, they could result in bigger play potential.
James Washington is 22 years old. Smith-Schuster is 21. It is not crazy to think that Washington steps onto the field immediately and makes the most of it with the same propensity.
The Pittsburgh Steelers spent their draft in an unusual way and it is tough to say how much better their defense is. However, it can be argued the offense is a lot better and with a quarterback like Ben Roethlisberger, James Washington is probably the best sleeper bet to win Rookie of the Year.
3. Seattle Seahawks RB: Rashaad Penny, San Diego State
Rashaad Penny was the joke of the first round of the 2018 NFL draft. While you can laugh at the philosophy of taking any running back in the first round, you cannot doubt that Penny could win the Offensive Rookie of the Year next season.
We all joke about the Seattle Seahawks offensive line, remember Chris Carson? The Seahawks running back had 93 yards in Week 2 and became a fantasy football phenomenon before breaking his foot and providing nothing. How did he get a chance with Seattle, he was an unknown, a free agent on the waiver wire after fantasy drafts? His ability to miss tackles. What is Rashaad Penny better at than any other running back in the country?
per PFF, Rashaad Penny was the leader in broken/missed tackles last season. Yes, that is a Seahawks-type RB pic.twitter.com/aAQ79J0BuE
— Field Gulls (@FieldGulls) April 27, 2018
Penny brings the combination of vision and wiggle to squeeze between the tackles. He didn’t play against the best competition at San Diego State, but he had a poor line at San Diego State. Penny shows that quick wiggle, and those fast feet that can plant and shake defenders at the line and into the second level.
He can function behind a less than stellar offensive line.
And he can make the highlight reels by finishing runs with long speed.
Seattle has been looking for this since Marshawn Lynch. Think of all the names this team went through. So they valued him a bit higher than Mel Kiper told you to value him. When he produces next season some people will be walking back their statements. (Again, this is a separate conversation from the value of taking any running back round 1)
2. Arizona Cardinals QB: Josh Rosen, UCLA
If, and this year it feels like a big if, but if a 2018 NFL draft quarterback can win Rookie of the Year, it is Josh Rosen. First, he is the only quarterback with a real opportunity. Hue Jackson said once and said it again, Tyrod Taylor is the starter in Cleveland. After the DeShone Kizer fiasco, I would be surprised otherwise.
Sam Darnold would be the youngest quarterback to ever start Week One if he did. He is behind Josh McCown, a player Johnny Manziel claims could have saved his career. Seems like a good idea to let Darnold sit behind McCown. The Ravens will not give Lamar Jackson the baton until at least the halfway point of this year, and Mason Rudolph is in Pittsburgh. In Josh Allen, if you want me to bet on the highest bust potential quarterback in recent memory on a team with a history as poor as Buffalo and a head coach who valued Nathan Peterman over Tyrod Taylor and thinks A.J. McCarron is worth a shot, you got the wrong sucker.
While Josh Allen has the moral backing of McCarron and Peterman, Josh Rosen gets a support system of Mike Glennon and Sam Bradford. Say what you want about those two they are professionals and have made it this far in the NFL because of the way they handle themselves in a locker room. Nathan Peterman transferred from Tennessee to Pittsburgh because he lost his job to Josh Dobbs and A.J. McCarron is known for being the yearly bad quarterback Alabama carried to prominence.
Glennon was named the Chicago Bears team captain last season and even when benched for Mitchell Trubisky he held onto the title. Trubisky mentioned a support system of Glennon and Mark Sanchez being huge for his progression.
Bradford is one of the most accurate quarterbacks in the NFL and has the record for completion percentage in a season. Rosen is a high accuracy passer but tends to make the wrong decision too often on the field. Bradford has a job because he always makes the right decision.
Glennon and Bradford should help Rosen in the same way as Glennon and Sanchez for Trubisky, if not more. Bradford is going to get the chance to start but do you think he is going to make it past week two? I mean, seriously, do you? I do not.
Rosen gets the support system. He gets Larry Fitzgerald, the all-class wide receiver of the decade. He gets David Johnson, the dump off, easy completion back. He gets Christian Kirk, a rookie slot receiver who can develop with his new leader. Then, he gets J.J. Nelson. Chad Williams and Brice Butler, the deep shots.
It is there for Rosen to get in early and find easy success. Do not be surprised if he is the first rookie quarterback out of the gates and sprinting next year.
New York Giants RB: Saquan Barkley, Penn State
It feels as though I did all this selling of other players to tell you the obvious. Saquan Barkley is the most likely bet to win Rookie of the Year.
You have seen the highlights. He is such a threat in the NFL not even because of this between the tackles ability, but for his ability to catch and make plays in space. In the Giants drafting of him over a franchise quarterback, they have signified that they are all in on Eli Manning until his arm falls off.
That means Barkley needs to produce quickly. With Odell Beckham, Sterling Shepherd and Evan Engram, he is the missing piece in an even greater way than Ronald Jones. His combination of upside receiving, rushing and instant impact with plenty of attempts on a team at least trying to compete, you have to assume he is the early front-runner here.