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NFL Rookies to Watch in 2018

Posted on August 09, 2018 by Dean Hybl

2018-Browns-draftThere were 256 players chosen in the 2018 NFL Draft, but only a handful will have a major impact on the upcoming NFL season. The challenge, of course, it to anticipate which rookies will have an impact on the sportsbooks come the regular season.

Here is a look at a number of high-profile draft picks that should have a chance to make an immediate impact in 2018:

Baker Mayfield & Denzel Ward – Cleveland Browns: While most of the attention regarding the 2018 draft for the Cleveland Browns was centered around choosing Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield with the first pick, it is likely that fourth overall pick Denzel Ward will have a larger impact during their rookie season.

From just down the road at Ohio State, Ward had his best of three collegiate seasons in 2017. If he can develop into an elite shut-down cornerback, it would certainly benefit a Cleveland defense that allowed 410 points, including 28 touchdown passes, in 2017.

Mayfield looks likely to start the season on the bench as the backup to veteran Tyrod Taylor, but with a great receiving corps, if he gets a chance to play, Mayfield seems to have a pretty good set of weapons at his disposal.

Saquon Barkley – New York Giants: There was a time when drafting a running back with a top five picks was a regular occurrence. However, over the last couple decades the conventional wisdom by many has been that star running backs can be found much later in the draft and therefore using a high pick on a running back is not a value pick.

However, in the last two years, Ezekiel Elliott (fourth pick in 2016) and Leonard Fournette (fourth pick in 2017) were immediate impact stars and helped propel their teams to playoff seasons. The Giants are hoping the same will happen for them in 2018 as they used the second overall pick on Saquon Barkley.

Considered by many to be the best player in the draft, Barkley could prove to be a once-in-a-generation superstar, or he could be over-shadowed this year by someone picked on the second or third day.

Sam Darnold – New York Jets: With training camp only a couple weeks old, Sam Darnold is the early favorite among the five quarterbacks chosen in the first round of the NFL Draft to be under-center in week one.

Veteran Josh McCown had a solid 2017 season and is back with the team, but everyone knows that Darnold is the future of the Jets.

Though the team finished 5-11 last season, the general feeling was that the Jets had a decent season and with a few additions could make a run in 2018. Starting a rookie quarterback could seem counter to that mindset, but Darnold has the ability to be a future star.

Even though he would certainly make rookie mistakes, if he gives the team a chance to be better than what they have with McCown under-center, they would seem to have little to lose if they gave him a chance right away.

Lamar Jackson – Baltimore Ravens: Four quarterbacks were chosen in the first 10 picks of the 2018 draft, but some believe the quarterback with the best potential to be a long-time superstar was chosen with the final pick of the first round.

Former Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson has great athleticism and was even better statistically in his final college season than when he won the Heisman Trophy in 2016.

What could play a role in how impactful Jackson is during the 2018 season is whether the Baltimore Ravens get off to a strong start or if they struggle early. The team possesses a high-paid veteran quarterback in Joe Flacco and though he has not regained the form that helped him lead the Ravens to the Super Bowl in 2012, Flacco still is a solid quarterback. If the team starts the year with some early wins, Jackson may end up spending most of the year on the bench.

However, if the Ravens struggle early, regardless of whether Flacco is one of the reasons, you could see Jackson given a chance to jump-start the team.

Shaquem Griffin – Seattle Seahawks: After playing on the undefeated University of Central Florida team last season and then dominating the combine with his athleticism, linebacker Shaquem Griffin was chosen in the fifth round of the draft by the Seahawks.

What makes Griffin especially interesting is that he has only one hand due to a birth defect that caused the fingers on his left hand not to develop. It didn’t seem to slow him down during his college career, but of course the NFL is a bit different.

However, Griffin seems to play every down like a man on a mission and with the Seahawks having lost most of their famed Legion of Boom, he could be a welcomed addition to the once vaunted defense.


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