Projecting stardom for NFL rookies
As we all know, football season never really ends. It transitions from one phase to the next.
Following the Super Bowl, college football’s national signing day occurs, followed by spring football for preps and college programs. Spring time also means the NFL Draft which is preceded by many weeks of scouting, rumors and speculation. Teams prepare for the upcoming season next with OTA’s and minicamps. If you are addicted to the sport, you have a lot to quench your thirst.
College football recruiting is hot and heavy this time of year while the NFL take a brief respite. Training camps open well before the end of the month. The 2019 NFL Hall of Fame Classic is set for August 1 at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio.
This year’s rookie class is blessed with a plethora of talented playmakers who could develop into eventual NFL superstars. Which first year players will stand out early? Let’s take some guesses.
Selected in the 24th spot in round one, former Alabama running back Josh Jacobs may be a workhorse right away for the Raiders. The 5-foot-10, 220-pound power back has Hollywood interested in doing a story about the struggles he encountered growing up, including living in the back of a parked car at one point.
With a track record of having physical backs featured in his offenses, Raiders head coach Jon Gruden will utilize Jacobs as a violent, physical runner. With an offensive line consisting of maulers like Trent Brown, Gabe Jackson and Rodney Husdon, Jacobs is a solid option for Rookie of the Year consideration.
Ex-South Carolina receiver Deebo Samuel (5-11, 214) was grabbed with fourth pick in second round by the 49ers. He snared 62 passes for 882 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2018 for the Gamecocks. After suffering a broken right fibula in ’17, he bounced back to be a big time sEC playmaker.
Samuel is a fearless route runner but also very polished, displaying quickness out of breaks and the talent to make acrobatic catches. He can take the top off of defense. Samuel could emerge quickly as a top slot receiver option for 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
Wide receiver Andy Isabella (5-9, 188) is a dark horse candidate to rack up impressive rookie numbers. Taken with the 62nd pick overall by the Arizona Cardinals, the UMass product grabbed 102 passes for 1,700 yards and 13 scores last season. He runs a 4.31 forty and 10.5 hundred. Isabella beat Browns star cornerback Denzel Ward in a 100 meter race in high school.
Hailed as the next Wes Welker, Isabella will join veterans Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk for an Arizona offense set to bring the spread to the NFL full-time. Much of his early success maybe contingent as to how quickly rookie quarterback Kyler Murray matures.
Speaking of quarterbacks, Dwayne Haskins (6-3, 231) was the first round pick by the Redskins after a monster first season as a starter for Ohio State. He totaled 4,831 yards, 54 touchdowns and just nine interceptions, completing 70% of his throws.
Haskins, who will compete with Case Keenum and Colt McCoy until head coach Jay Gruden hands him the reigns, possesses tremendous confidence. The ball explodes out of his hand. Wearing No. 7, Haskins will hope to eventually lead the ‘Skins to a Super Bowl title like the last man to wear that number for Washington, Joe Theismann.
Running back David Montgomery (5-10, 220), the 10th pick in the third round by the Chicago Bears, ran for 2,926 yards with 26 touchdowns while adding 71 catches for 582 yards last year at Iowa State. He fits in well in head coach Matt Nagy’s offense as an instinctive, powerful runner who shows good patience. Montgomery will share position with Mike Davis and Tarik Cohen but expect him to be a prominent part of a title contender this season.
Want more potential rookie stars? How about the defensive side of the ball?
Greedy Williams, grabbed by Cleveland Browns 14th in the second round, could be a steal. The LSU product proclaims his high expectations for success as a rookie and expects to be a Hall of Famer. That’s a lot to digest but Williams is a great talent. He had six interceptions at LSU in ’17 before teams became less interested in throwing his way.
With a 4.37 forty with a 36″ vertical to his credit, the talented Williams will line up opposite the aforementioned Denzel Ward. That means the rookie will be afforded ample opportunities to back up his early claims. The Browns pass rush of Sheldon Richardson, Larry Ogunjobi, Myles Garrett and Olivier Vernon will help the secondary.
Another former LSU All-American, linebacker Devin White was chosen by Tampa Bay with the 5th overall selection. Teams don’t take middle linebackers that high unless they expect immediate star-level results. The 2018 Butkus Award recipient totaled an impressive 246 tackles including 25.5 for loss and seven sacks in the pst two seasons for the Tigers. Blessed with tremendous closing speed, sharp instincts and a high IQ, White is the type of fierce competitor who can be a productive leader right away. He has the potential to have 100 tackles as a rookie.
The Steelers may have another star inside linebacker with first round pick Devin Bush. Grabbed 10th overall, he had 161 tackles the past two seasons at Michigan. Bush was named Big Ten Player of the Year after recording 80 stops with 9.5 for loss and five sacks in 2018. Rarely out of position, Bush is a good blitzer and violent tackler who fits Pittsburgh’s scheme perfectly.
Of course, second overall pick Nick Bosa is expected to be a dominant pass rusher off the edge for the 49ers. He totaled 22 sacks the past two seasons at Ohio State, despite playing in only three games last year after suffering a core muscle injury. He has help in the San Francisco pass rush department from DeForest Buckner and Dee Ford.
Christian Wilkins, taken 13th overall by Dolphins, runs a 5.04 forty earned his degree from Clemson in 2 /1/2 years and then captured his Master’s in Athletic Leadership. The Campbell Trophy winner (academic equivalent of the Heisman) can be disruptive enough to draw double team blocking.
Impressive athleticism and instincts added to the expectation Wilkins will be a natural locker room leader early in his career makes him an intriguing pick to shine early at defensive tackle despite the odds for rookies at the position.
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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, Rene Nadeau has been involved in sports ever since his earliest memories. Rene played basketball, wrestled, ran track, and was an All-District running back in football at John F. Kennedy High School. He went on to be a member of the LSU football program, developing a passion for the game in even…