By Sam Sindell
The NFL regular season has concluded, and fans have been delighted with 17 weeks of incredible football. One of the most interesting storylines to follow throughout the season has been this year’s rookie class. Starting in February last year, NFL viewers around the world were able to see the incredible talents that would be entering the 2020 NFL Draft. Let’s just say these rookies did not disappoint and put together one of the best rookie classes of all time. So let’s take a look at the best rookies by position.
QB: Justin Herbert
Leading the rookie quarterbacks this year is Justin Herbert, who established himself as a leader and dominating force on the Los Angeles Chargers. After putting together an incredible 2018 season, many individuals around the NFL considered Herbert to be at the top of the 2019 class, but to many people’s surprise, Herbert elected to stay another year at Oregon. While he was considered a Heisman favorite, Herbert was not as dominant as other quarterbacks that year and was shadowed by the success of Tua Tagovailoa and Heisman winner Joe Burrow. Herbert still showed unbelievable potential and had flashes of being a star. With the sixth pick in the 2020 Draft, Herbert was selected by the Chargers, making him the third quarterback taken. After Tyrod Taylor got hurt after week one, Herbert was left with the offense in his control. For the next sixteen weeks, Herbert took the league by storm, finishing with over 4000 yards and 31 touchdowns. He is currently considered the favorite to win rookie of the year and looks to consider his success next year under coach Brandon Staley. Herbert was an authority figure all year and easily takes this spot.
RB: James Robinson
If you had told me that Jaguars undrafted running back, James Robinson, would finish with over 1300 scrimmage yards in August, I would be shocked. But now in January, the NFL views Robinson as a more than capable running back who filled Leonard Fournette’s spot perfectly. While Robinson may not be the most talented running back from this class, he was consistent every week and did his job on a horrid Jaguars team. His ability to catch the ball out of the backfield puts him ahead of others and boosts his game even more. As an undrafted player, it is not easy to take the reins of an offense, but Robinson did with ease and that is why he landed atop all others in this spot.
WR: Justin Jefferson
In 2020, Justin Jefferson established himself as not only a successful rookie but a dominant NFL player as a whole. Coming into the draft, Jefferson was considered one of the best wide receivers, but not the best. After Henry Ruggs, Jerry Jeudy, and Ceedee Lamb were taken, the whole world assumed that Philadelphia Eagles would take Jefferson, but Philly shocked everybody and took wide receiver Jalen Reagor instead. The Vikings took Jefferson within seconds and the rest is history. Jefferson broke many rookie records that had previously been owned by the likes of Randy Moss and others. While Jefferson was able to use his hands and route running to dominate, he also looked like a veteran from day one. Throughout the year he was able to maintain this attitude and looked ahead of his years, which helped him have such a successful year. With Adam Thielen getting older, Jefferson’s role can only expand, and he looks to be the future of the Wide Receiver position.
TE: Harrison Bryant
The weakest position on this list goes to tight end. With this position expanding, due to new dynamic players such as Darren Waller and George Kittle in recent years, there was definitely a letdown when almost none of the rookie tight end amounted to anything. Cole Kmet was seen as the best tight end in the class, but he was mostly stuck behind Jimmy Graham until the last few weeks. Harrison Bryant earns this top spot but will receive a lot of praise. Bryant showed flashes of potential, as he caught 3 touchdowns in limited action, but was not dominant besides a game or two. I believe players such as Kmet, David Asiasii, and Albert Okwuegbunam will be better in the near future, but as of right now Bryant has looked the best.
OL: Michael Onwenu
This Michigan product looks to be the steal of the draft, after being picked in the sixth round by the Patriots. After injuries and holdouts from the Patriots offensive line, Onwenu was forced to have a role and thrived. He played three different positions, with twelve starts at right tackle, and had lots of success. His run blocking was superb and his pass blocking was not far behind. Onwenu just beat out Tristan Wirfs for this spot, although this spot could really go either way noting how good the Buccaneers left tackle was this year.
DT: Derrick Brown
As expected, Derrick Brown comes atop this list. There really is not much to say about Brown because he did what he was brought in to do. Brown did a great job stopping the run for the Panthers and sprinkled in a few sacks too. While Brown is a solid player, I don’t see him being a dynamic game-changer, which is why I don’t love him being picked at seven. Other rookies such as Javon Kinlaw and Ross Blacklock were not able to amount to any success this year, which is why Brown is the clear number one best rookie defensive tackle.
DE/Edge: Chase Young
The number one rookie pass rusher this year is Chase Young. After being the second pick in the draft by Washington, Young was expected to be dominant from day one, which happened. Young had 7.5 sacks to his name along with 4 forced fumbles. He had a dominant presence in most games and was always around the action. That is something that is hard to do, especially as a rookie. Chase Young will build off of his successful rookie year, and be a dominant force as well as a nightmare for offensive lineman for years to come. Young definitely deserves this spot.
MLB: Patrick Queen
Ravens linebacker Patrick Queen comes at the top of this list. Queen is a fast paced linebacker who is always ready to be near be at the center of plays. His ability to get consistent pressure and rack up over 100 tackles is what separates him from other rookies. While he did get beat a few times in coverage, Queen ultimately established himself as an all around solid linebacker, and one the Ravens can build around as the years go on.
CB: Cameron Dantzler
Before I talk about Dantzler I want to mention that you could easily put either Jaylon Johnson or L’Jarious Snead in this spot, as all three of these cornerbacks had dominant years. Snead and Johnson both had great years and proved that they could be legit corners in their first year, which is hard to do with such great wide receivers in the NFL. But the best in my opinion was Cameron Dantzler, who was not even the first corner taken by the Vikings this year. Dantzler and fellow rookie Jeff Gladney had to fill in this position for the Vikings due to them losing all three of their former starting cornerbacks! While Gladney struggled at times, Dantzler excelled, and was able to put up great coverage against some of the league’s best. His second half of the season was incredible and that’s what puts him above Snead and Johnson. Dantzler is a great player to have on a Vikings defense that will definitely need to improve if they want to be competitive next year.
S: Antoine Winfield Jr.
Winfield was a beast this year. He followed in his fathers footsteps and proved to the league that he is a dynamic player. He helped take the horrible Buccaneers secondary, and bring that group to a new level. His run stopping ability was a game changer and his pass rushing skills shinned. He had a natural instinct to him that replicated the league’s most premier safeties such as Tyrann Mathieu and Jamal Adams. He was able to force fumbles, incompletions and get interceptions as well. In just one year Winfield proved that he had what it takes to be one of the best, and I can’t wait to see what he does in the Superbowl.