The 2018 NFL season was loaded with starting rookie talent.
Some of the biggest online sportsbooks had Saquon Barkley and Baker Mayfield as the odds leaders to take home the award for Offensive Rookie of the Year. And in case you haven’t heard, the NY Giants running back out of Penn State was voted the best rookie of 2018.
So those two are a couple of obvious standouts. But let’s look a little bit closer at the top performing rookies in 2018.
The Runner Up
Saquon Barkley’s consistency was amazing. But many are still saying that Baker Mayfield is the true Rookie of the Year. I must admit they have a valid point. Here is the basic math: no Baker Mayfield equals zero wins for the Browns, with Baker Mayfield equals seven wins. They went 0-16 in 2017 … With the young stud from Oklahoma, they were just one game shy of .500 and it wasn’t like they were beating teams from the bottom of the barrel. They beat the Falcons, the Panthers, and the Ravens. They tied the Steelers and took the Saints and Ravens (in week 17) down to the wire.
Baker Mayfield proved that he was worth the No. 1 grab. As a rookie, he threw 27 touchdowns against 14 interceptions. His 3,725 passing yards came with a 93.7 season-long QB rating. Let’s reiterate on this a little bit. Mayfield led the Cleveland Browns to more victories than they have had in the previous three seasons combined. Despite the record-setting 91 receptions by a rookie running back, and 11 TD on the ground, the Giants still only won 5 games. So who had a bigger impact, Barkley or Mayfield?
Riddle Me This, Ridley’s All That
Calvin Ridley came out of Alabama and looked like a seasoned pro from Week 2 and on. In Week 2 he snatched his first touchdown pass. In Week 3 against the Saints, Calvin broke out with 146 yards on seven receptions. But the kicker was the three touchdowns that he put up against the Saints D. All in all; Ridley contributed 10 Touchdowns and 821 yards on the season. Mind you; this is opposite Julio Jones. So for a rookie to get that kind of a share with guys like Jones and Sanu on the field with him, it says a lot.
But really … a guard? The Colts’, Quenton Nelson. Yes. The Colts struck gold with their big man up front. So much so that Nelson actually grabbed two of the votes for Offensive Rookie of the Year. The 6-foot-5, 330-pound OG started in all 16 games and helped Andrew Luck to have a fantastic comeback season. Quenton has it all. He can drop back and protect Luck like an experienced pro-bowler or push the gaps for the run game. This 22-year-old talent truly was one of the best rookies in 2018. He just didn’t get all the glory because of the position he plays.
We shouldn’t leave out guys like Josh Rosen, Sam Darnold, Royce Freeman, and Rashaad Penny who show a lot of value and will definitely have great careers. But they just didn’t have the immediate impact as the four players highlighted in this article. That said, we could see some of them have a great sophomore season, and one or more of these top rookies hit a sophomore slump.