Every season, there are surprises when it comes from the newcomers of the league.
While he wasn’t technically a rookie, second-year quarterback Patrick Mahomes II set the league on fire on his way to an MVP award.
Denver Broncos running back Philip Lindsay, who went undrafted out of Colorado, ran and caught his way to over 1,200 total yards, 10 total touchdown and a Pro Bowl appearance, despite low expectations coming into the season due to initially being the third running back on the depth chart behind Royce Freeman and Devontae Booker.
Switching to the defensive side of the ball, Colts rookie linebacker Darius Leonard ended up leading the league in tackles (163) despite missing the New England Patriots game and was named the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and AP First-Team All-Pro. And he was picked at the top of the second round.
Talk about two guys outshining expectations.
On the opposite side of that, there were first round draftees like Buccaneers defensive tackle Vita Vea, Raiders tackle Kolton Miller and running back Rashaad Penny who didn’t play as well as forecasted due to either injury, poor performance, or teammates taking their snaps.
So below, we’re going to look at some predictions that aren’t your typical “Rookies of the Year” forecasting.
During every draft, there are players with first round grades who slip to Day 2 or even Day 3 of the event.
There were a handful of players who were Day 1 potentials who fell hard this year, but no one fell harder than wide receiver Kelvin Harmon from North Carolina State.
A theme in the early part of the draft, though, was a lack of interest in receivers at the top of the draft. What I mean by that is that since there was such a surplus of talent, there wasn’t demand to use a high draft pick on a receiver. Only two receivers were picked in the first round: Marquise Brown (No. 25) and N’Keal Harry (No. 32).
Then there was a run on receivers in the second round (seven total taken), Harmon wasn’t invited to the party and a lot of fans and experts are perplexed.
Granted these teams have a lot more information than the general public, but one can’t see why on tape. In the 2017 and 2018 seasons for the Wolfpack, Harmon put together 150 catches, more than 2,200 receiving yards and 11 receiving touchdowns. That’s with him being the man circled on the scouting report in the receiving game.
He’s big at 6’2” and 221 pounds. Yes, he doesn’t have that deep speed that a lot of coaches covet (maybe that’s why he slid), but every team needs a possession receiver like Harmon. These are your guys where it’s 3rd and 8 and you need a first down and they deliver.
Thankfully, Harmon was selected with the 206th pick in the late sixth round by the Washington Redskins. They have themselves a talented young quarterback in No. 15 overall pick Dwayne Haskins Jr.
The Redskins also drafted receiver Terry McLaurin, who was a teammate of Haskins at Ohio State, in the middle of the third round, but outside of them, the Washington receiving corps. is pretty underwhelming.
And yesterday afternoon, before he was even drafted, Harmon tweeted out this on Twitter: “Just wait until I step on that field, swear they’re going to feel me week in & week out.”
And based on how much he was disrespected, I hope teams do.
The Jacksonville Jaguars surprised a lot of people during the 2018 NFL Draft when they took defensive tackle Taven Bryan with the No. 27 pick. It wasn’t because he wasn’t talented (because he is), but the need wasn’t there and there were players like Courtland Sutton, Christian Kirk, and Anthony Miller who could have improved the Jags’ lack of wide receiver talent (which is still a problem since they didn’t draft or sign any this off-season outside of Chris Conley).
I would have bet my bottom dollar going into pick No. 4, with Nick Bosa and Quinnen Williams already drafted, that the Raiders would select Josh Allen, the impressive, productive specimen from Kentucky.
But they stayed patient and Allen “fell” all the way to them at No. 7. The Jaguars spend a substantial amount of their money and assets on defense and they continued that this year when they took Allen, who at the end of the day could be the best player from this draft.
The hand-in-glove fit for Allen here is that while he’s going to a team that’s struggling, they have a defense littered with talent that will allow him to get one-on-one match ups as a young pass-rusher. Alongside him on the defensive line will be Calais Campbell, Marcell Dareus, Yannick Ngakoue, Dawuane Smoot and Bryan.
Not only will Allen likely not see a ton of double teams at first because of his aforementioned colleagues. But, because of that, he can ease into a star pass-rusher role due to a lack of immediate expectations. And, look to have a long productive career with double-digit sack totals annually.
There’s a lot going on in quarterback Kyler Murray’s life right now.
Besides the obvious situation of having a world of pressure on his shoulders after being selected No. 1 overall on Thursday night, Murray is in a troublesome position going into the 2019 season.
Not only are the expectations heightened with 2018 first round pick quarterback Josh Rosen being forced out of town for a draft pick, but the Arizona Cardinals haven’t done much thus far this off-season to protect their new quarterback.
Rosen was sacked 45 times in 14 games last season. And, he only managed to play one drive in one of those games. A significant reason why Arizona ended the 2018 season with the worst record in football is because they couldn’t protect their quarterbacks. It’s hard for your No. 10 overall pick to distribute the ball when he’s getting smoked, or nearly so, on most plays.
When you look at the Cardinals roster from last season, there isn’t really any name recognition at all. They did sign guard J.R. Sweezy to a two-year deal this off-season… but that’s about it.
They did do their part to get Murray some weapons in the draft (wide receivers Andy Isabella, Hakeem Butler, and KeeSean Johnson, and tight end Caleb Wilson (the 2019 Mr. Irrelevant)). But, they drafted corner back Byron Murphy when offensive linemen like Jawaan Taylor, Dalton Risner, and Cody Ford were available at the top of the second round.
But those players aren’t going to be getting touches in ideal situations if Murray doesn’t have time. The only draft capital they spent on offensive linemen were center Lamont Gaillard (Georgia) at No. 179 and offensive tackle Joshua Miles (Morgan State) at No. 248. Maybe these two will eventually become decent contributors for Arizona, but that doesn’t help them now with keeping Murray vertical.
Thankfully, Murray has some “escapability” and great feet to get him out of trouble, but he’s going from arguably the best offensive line in college football at Oklahoma to arguably the worst in the NFL with the Cardinals.
Don’t be surprised if Murray gets the David Carr treatment and is sacked as a rookie even more than Rosen was in 2018.
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