For the next week, we will pick the rookie most likely to make the biggest splash on their new team. That impact could entail instigating a turn-around a la Baker Mayfield or Darius Leonard, or simply fitting into an already-strong system and helping said system take a leap, a la Derwin James or Bradley Chubb.
In many cases, the team’s top pick will earn the spot, by nature of their talent. However, that will not always hold true. Some top picks will have to wait their turn this year, or the players around them do not project to bring out the best in them right now. With that being said, let’s get started with the NFC East.
Dallas Cowboys: DT Trysten Hill
Because of Dallas’ draft situation and relatively strong roster, they did not acquire anyone who screams “day one starter.” That said Trysten Hill may be in the driver’s seat with regard to a starting defensive tackle spot, given Dallas’ somewhat uninspiring arsenal at the position. Last season, Maliek Collins and Antwaun Woods played the bulk of first team snaps. And while those two did their job in making Dallas’ young linebackers look like superstars, their individual production was pedestrian.
Hill has the game-breaking punch that Collins and Woods lack. He has explosion off the line and heavy hands that could make him and immediate play-maker in Dallas. His stats were not jaw-dropping in college, but his lack of consistent playing time played a big role in that. When on the field, his production was as efficient as some of the top defensive tackles in the class.
The only strong question with Hill is his coachability, as he seemed to have a combative relationship with coaches during his time at UCF. But those question marks did not seem to bother Rod Marinelli, who has earned a reputation as one of the premier developers of defensive line talent. If he sees greatness in Hill, he is going to give him chances to flourish.
New York Giants: DT Dexter Lawrence
For several years, the Giants’ defense was constructed on the shoulders of their monster in the middle, Damon Harrison. Harrison was the league’s preeminent space-occupier, earning First Team All-Pro in 2016 as a result. But the Giants traded Harrison in the middle of 2018, and he only subsequently went and transformed Detroit’s defensive line. Meanwhile, the Giants floundered a bit. New York then traded Odell Beckham to acquire Jabrill Peppers, a second-rounder and the 17th pick, which they used to draft Dexter Lawrence. Like Harrison, Lawrence is a mountain of a man who moves exceptionally well for his size. He is also more of a run stopper than a pass rusher, again like Harrison. So in essence, New York traded their top receiver and got back someone they hope is going to replace Damon Harrison.
Lawrence certainly has the physical makeup to do it, and he will have the opportunities. The assumption is that he will start from the get-go, and will move up and down the line in the Giants’ 3-4 scheme. That will allow him not only to stuff the middle at nose like he did in Clemson, but also show off his unusual speed as a 3-4 end. He had 6.5 sacks as a freshman, after all.
Perhaps as much as any top rookie in the division, the Giants need lots of production from Lawrence. That is not because he is the lynch pin of a playoff defense, or because they invested a lot to get him. Rather, Lawrence, along with Daniel Jones, is a symbol of the Giants’ plan moving forward. He is a significant asset acquired from months of cleaning house and a primary cog in the Giants’ future machine. And he is going to play, and play a lot, as a rookie. That is the big difference between him and Jones; Lawrence has the opportunities and the ability to make a significant difference right out of the gate.
Philadelphia Eagles: RB Miles Sanders
The consensus number two back in the draft behind Josh Jacobs, Miles Sanders is in the best spot of any rookie to see major production right away. Sure, Jordan Howard is going to be the “feature” back on the depth chart. And sure, Howard has the Pro Bowl-caliber numbers to his name. But the Eagles’ offense is not about straight line backs. So while Howard may be the best pure north-south runner in the game, Philadelphia is going to lean on Sanders’ multi-faceted style far more as the season progresses.
Sanders’ college numbers suffer due to being behind Saquon Barkley for two years. But when Sanders took on the ace role, he flourished to the tune of over 1400 scrimmage yards and almost six yards per carry. He has three down ability, given his receiving and blocking strengths, which is something Philadelphia has not really had in the Carson Wentz era. Overall, Sanders screams Rookie of the Year favorite at this point in time.
Washington Redskins: QB Dwayne Haskins
Washington’s draft hit a bunch of key spots with high profile names. But by nature of the position, Dwayne Haskins has to be the pick here. Granted, maybe Colt McCoy or Case Keenum will start the first game of the season. One of them may even start the first six games of the season. But before long, the keys will end up in Haskins’ hands, and Washington’s season and ultimate future will ride or die with it.
Fortunately, they did a lot in the draft to ease Haskins’ transition from a high-powered, wide open Buckeye offense. Namely, they drafted one of his top college targets in Terry McLaurin, a productive back in Bryce Love, a couple interior linemen and a potential late-round steal in receiver Kelvin Harmon. Those guys may not see significant snaps right away, but having fellow young guys to grow with can only be a positive.
As for this season, the supporting cast’s health is the big question in ensuring Haskins’ inevitable ascent is successful. Two of Washington’s best offensive players, Trent Williams and Jordan Reed, have had nagging injury troubles for five years. Their health, as well as development of young players, will be major factors in how Haskins’ first year ultimately pans out. Regardless, no single rookie in this division will have a greater impact, for better or worse, on their team’s 2019 success.
–Sam Smith is the Managing Editor for Full Press Coverage Vikings and Deputy Editor for Full Press NFL. Like and Follow @samc_smith.
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