Written By: Ryan Lippert
With the 2018 NFL regular season coming to an end, it's time to take a look at some rookies that have made a significant impact on their teams. At the beginning of the season, I made my preseason predictions for this All-Rookie Team. There are some familiar names from that original list but many new names as well. The only thing that hasn’t changed is that there are several impact players in this rookie class. With that being said, here’s my 2018 NFL All-Rookie Team.
Quarterback - Baker Mayfield (Cleveland Browns):
Although Baker was my favorite prospect going into the 2018 draft and was selected with the first overall pick in the draft, I didn’t know if he’d get his chance to start this season. This was due to the Browns trading for Tyrod Taylor in the offseason. Mayfield was called into action after Taylor suffered a concussion in Week 3 and never looked back. He finished 7-7 as a starter and threw for 3,275 yards, 27 touchdowns, and 14 interceptions. With that being said, it looks like Cleveland may have finally found their franchise quarterback.
Preseason Pick: Josh Rosen (Arizona Cardinals)
Running back- Saquon Barkley (New York Giants):
There was a lot of excitement surrounding Barkley after the Giants selected him with the second overall pick in the 2018 draft. I predicted him to win Offensive Rookie of the Year and that prediction stands for me as he has more than lived up to the hype. Barkley was one of the only bright spots for the Giants in a very disappointing season in 2018. He finished second in the league in rushing with 1,307 yards and 11 touchdowns. Those numbers helped Barkley receive an invitation to the Pro Bowl in just his first season in the league.
Preseason Pick: Saquon Barkley (New York Giants)
Wide Receivers - Calvin Ridley (Atlanta Falcons), D.J. Moore (Carolina Panthers):
The Falcons selected Calvin Ridley in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft with the hopes that he would improve an already dangerous passing attack. Ridley has been very impressive in his first season as he quickly became Matt Ryan’s number two option at receiver behind Julio Jones. He accounted for 64 receptions for 821 yards this season. His ten receiving touchdowns had him tied for fifth in the entire NFL.
D.J. Moore was selected in the first round by the Carolina Panthers to try to give them a true number one receiver for the first time since Steve Smith. Although it took him a little longer than expected to get things going, he is slowly becoming one of the top young receivers in the league. He finished with 55 receptions for 708 yards and two touchdowns as his role in this offense continued to grow throughout the year.
Preseason Picks: Calvin Ridley (Atlanta Falcons) & D.J. Moore (Carolina Panthers)
Tight End - Dallas Goedert (Philadelphia Eagles):
The 2018 tight end class wasn’t very productive this year. With that being said, Goedert is simply the tight end has done the most in my eyes. Goedert was a small school prospect out of South Dakota State that rose up the boards and was selected in the second round due to his athleticism. He has had a decent rookie campaign as he has been the TE2 for the Eagles behind Zach Ertz. Goedert finished with 33 receptions for 334 yards and four touchdowns and hopefully will continue to grow as he has tremendous potential.
Preseason Pick: Mike Gesicki (Miami Dolphins)
Offensive Tackles - Braden Smith (Indianapolis Colts), Mike McGlinchey (San Francisco 49ers):
Smith was drafted in the second round by the Colts out of Auburn with the hopes that he could help bolster a struggling offensive line. He has obviously done enough to impress the Colts’ coaching staff as he started 13 games at the right tackle spot this season. Smith has helped anchor an offensive line that has done a great job for the most part of protecting Andrew Luck, who had a very successful season coming off an injury.
McGlinchey was a prospect that I had very high hopes for coming out of college. He was taken with the ninth pick by the 49ers to help give Jimmy Garoppolo some much needed protection. Unfortunately, Garoppolo suffered a season ending injury but McGlinchey has still done a solid job as he earned the starting right tackle spot and has quickly become a young leader on this offensive line.
Preseason Picks: Mike McGlinchey (San Francisco 49ers) & Isaiah Wynn (New England Patriots)
Offensive Guards - Quinton Nelson (Indianapolis Colts), Will Hernandez (New York Giants):
Along with McGlinchey, Nelson was another offensive lineman out of Notre Dame that I was excited about in the 2018 class. The Colts picked him with the eighth selection the 2018 draft to help build an offensive line to protect Luck. As I mentioned when discussing Smith, they have done a great job of protecting Luck as he has had a tremendous season. Nelson has also been a force in the inside in the run game, becoming one of the most feared interior linemen in the league. This young offensive line has been a huge reason for the Colts’ success this season, helping lead them to the playoffs.
I viewed Will Hernandez as an underrated prospect out of UTEP. When the New York Giants selected him in the second round, I truly believed they had found a steal. After seeing his solid rookie season, I stand by that belief. Hernandez earned the starting left guard spot and helped pave the way for Barkley’s outstanding rookie campaign.
Preseason Picks: Quinton Nelson (Indianapolis Colts) & Will Hernandez (New York Giants)
Center - Billy Price (Cincinnati Bengals)
Much like the tight ends, 2018 wasn’t a good year for rookie centers. I chose first-round pick Billy Price here because he simply has the most relevancy as a starter. Price has started six games for the Bengals due to injury. Unfortunately, Price hasn’t been too effective as seven of his ten starts resulted in losses. Hopefully Price can fully recover and grow as a player and become a leader that his team truly needs on the offensive line.
Preseason Pick: Billy Price (Cincinnati Bengals)
Defensive Tackles - Maurice Hurst (Oakland Raiders), Da’Ron Payne (Washington Redskins):
Hurst was a highly-touted prospect heading into the 2018 NFL Draft that had his stock fall due to health issues. He fell all the way to the fifth round where he was picked up by the Raiders. Hurst has been a steal so far as he earned one of the starting defensive tackle spots and accounted for 31 tackles and four sacks in his rookie campaign.
Payne was another highly regarded prospect out of Alabama. The Redskins selected him with the 13th overall selection in the draft with the hopes that he could help give them much needed improvement and youth on the interior. He has stepped up so far as he earned the starting nose tackle spot and finished with 56 tackles and five sacks this season.
Preseason Picks: Vita Vea (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) & Taven Bryan (Jacksonville Jaguars)
Defensive Ends - Harold Landry (Tennessee Titans), Marcus Davenport (New Orleans Saints):
I have Landry listed as a defensive end but he has played both end and outside linebacker for the Titans as a true edge rusher. Landry was a great addition for the Titans defense being drafted in the second round out of Boston College. He has found a nice role in the Titans’ defensive scheme as he finished with 44 tackles and 4.5 sacks in 2018.
When the New Orleans Saints drafted Davenport with the 14th overall pick, I thought it was way too high for him as they traded up to get him. The small school prospect out of UTSA has started to prove me wrong as he has found a solid role as a backup defensive end in this defense. Davenport accounted for 21 tackles and 4.5 sacks this season.
Preseason Picks: Bradley Chubb (Denver Broncos) & Sam Hubbard (Cincinnati Bengals)
Inside Linebackers - Leighton Vander Esch (Dallas Cowboys), Roquan Smith
Leighton Vander Esch was one of my favorite defensive prospects in the 2018 NFL Draft. He rose up the draft boards after the combine and was selected with the 19th pick in the draft. Vander Esch has exceeded expectations as he has earned significant playing time at the inside linebacker spot and has become a leader for this Dallas defense. He finished third in the league with 140 tackles and is in the discussion for Defensive Rookie of the Year.
I had Smith projected as the Defensive Player of the Year. Although I don’t think he will be in that discussion, he has still had a solid rookie season. The eighth overall pick has become a crucial part of the very impressive Chicago defense. Smith led the team with 121 tackles and also accounted for five sacks this season.
Preseason Picks: Inside Linebackers - Leighton Vander Esch (Dallas Cowboys) & Roquan Smith (Chicago Bears)
Outside Linebackers - Darius Leonard (Indianapolis Colts), Bradley Chubb (Denver Broncos):
Coming out of South Carolina State, Leonard was viewed by many experts as a sleeper in this year’s draft class. The Colts selected him in the second round with the hopes that he could become an eventual starter. Leonard has shattered his expectations as he has become not only one of the most productive rookies, but one of the most productive outside linebackers in the league. He quickly became a starter and led the entire NFL with 163 tackles, putting him in the discussion for Defensive Rookie of the Year.
I originally had Chubb listed as a defensive end but he has served in more of an outside linebacker role of the edge. Chubb was the highest rated defender and prospect on many draft board coming into the 2018 season so it was actually a small surprise when he dropped to the fifth overall pick. He has been a great addition to this Denver defense so far as he accounted for 60 tackles and 12 sacks this season.
Preseason Picks: Darius Leonard (Indianapolis Colts) & Rashaan Evans (Tennessee Titans)
Cornerbacks - Donte Jackson (Carolina Panthers), Denzel Ward (Cleveland Browns):
Donte Jackson improved his stock at the combine as he ran the fastest 40-yard dash time at 4.32 seconds. His performance caught the eye of the Panthers as they drafted Jackson in the second round of the draft. Jackson has exceeded expectations as he earned a starting corner spot this season. He finished tied for fourth in the entire NFL with four interceptions this season.
Coming into the 2018 NFL Draft, Ward was listed as the top corner in this class. Even with that being said, many people (myself included) were surprised to see the Browns select him fourth overall over Bradley Chubb. Ward has started to prove us all wrong as he has been an outstanding addition to Cleveland’s secondary. He earned significant playing time in the secondary and finished second on the team with three interceptions this season. His play helped him earn an invitation to the Pro Bowl as a rookie.
Preseason Picks: Jaire Alexander (Green Bay Packers), Mike Hughes (Minnesota Vikings)
Safeties - Derwin James (Los Angeles Chargers), Jessie Bates (Cincinnati Bengals):
James was listed as one of the top safeties in this class heading to the draft. With that being said, the Chargers were thrilled to see him fall to them at the 17th overall pick. James has lived up to the hype as he earned himself a starting spot and has become a young leader for this secondary. He led the team with 105 tackles and tied for the team lead with three interceptions. This oustanding play was enough to help James to not only receive an invitation but be named a starter in this year’s Pro Bowl.
Bates was a very underrated prospect in this year’s draft. He was selected by the Bengals towards the end of the second with the hopes that he could at least help improve their secondary. Bates has exceeded expectations so far as he has become the starter at free safety. He led the team in tackles with 111 and also finished with three interceptions this season.
Preseason Picks: Derwin James (Los Angeles Chargers) & Minkah Fitzpatrick (Miami Dolphins)