An exciting 2019 rookie class has taken the field in their first NFL training camps, and with the first preseason games kicking off over the course of the next week, we decided to take a look at the first-year players poised to make the biggest impacts.
In compiling this ranking, we used Pro Football Focus’ college and NFL grades and statistics to determine not just which rookies would play the best, but which would provide the biggest upgrades in performance and most value for their teams.
1. Kyler Murray,
No surprise here. Murray, the top pick in April’s NFL draft, was also the No. 1 player on PFF’s draft board, and he plays the most valuable position in the sport. He goes to a Cardinals team that had the second-lowest passing grade in the NFL last season. Not only does he represent a massive upgrade himself, but his fit in new coach Kliff Kingsbury’s Air Raid-style system will pay dividends overnight.
2. Nick Bosa,
Nick’s older brother, Joey, made an immediate impact for the Chargers’ defense, and Nick might even provide a little more upside than his big brother, having produced slightly better in pass-rush metrics in college at Ohio State. He fills a need for San Francisco, where he should be a significant upgrade at edge rusher over Solomon Thomas.
3. Quinnen Williams,
The Jets had a solid duo at defensive tackle last season, but Williams is so good that he should still prove to be an upgrade. The third overall pick dominated last season at Alabama, and his combination of quickness, strength and on-field production makes him a safe bet to translate sooner rather than later.
4. Devin White,
The linebackers alongside Lavonte David in Tampa Bay last season were nightmarishly bad. Devante Bond and Kwon Alexander had coverage grades of 40.0 and 57.1 (on PFF’s 0-to-100 scale), respectively, on 614 snaps last season. White, on the other hand, recorded a 91.6 coverage grade at LSU last season, and has the type of physical ability teams covet at the position.
5. Byron Murphy,
Arizona has long struggled to get adequate play at the cornerback position opposite star Patrick Peterson, and last season David Amerson led the group with a 57.5 coverage grade, while both Leonard Johnson and Jamar Taylor checked in below 40. Murphy played elite football at Washington, earning 89.1 and 92.1 coverage grades in his two seasons there.
6. Devin Bush,
Pass defense has been an issue for the Steelers’ linebackers ever since losing Ryan Shazier. They forced all of six incompletions on 118 targets against them last season, while in 2017, Shazier forced eight on 60 targets by himself. Bush had a similarly impressive rate last year at Michigan, forcing five on 35 targets. His athleticism should make a major difference for Pittsburgh’s defense.
7. Darnell Savage Jr.,
After the Packers traded Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to the Redskins last season, four different players took at least 200 snaps at safety, and Tramon Williams ended up with the highest grade at 63.0. That gives Savage the opportunity to make an immediate impact in defensive coordinator Mike Pettine’s system, which relies heavily on a single-high safety approach that caters well to Savage’s athleticism.
8. Jerry Tillery,
The Chargers struggled to generate any sort of pass rush from players other than edge rushers Bosa and Melvin Ingram last season. Tillery should be able to fix that from the inside of L.A.’s defensive line, as he tied the Jets’ Williams for the highest pass-rush grade among college interiors defenders last season.
9. Deandre Baker,
Rookie cornerbacks don’t always excel right away, but it shouldn’t be too difficult for Baker to improve a cornerback unit that allowed a passer rating of 103.2 last season when targeted. Baker only had three individual games during which he allowed a passer rating that high in his two years as a starter at Georgia.
10. T.J. Hockenson,
If you can’t name the Lions’ starting tight ends from a season ago, it’s not your fault. Only the Dolphins’ tight end group hauled in fewer passes (45) or totaled fewer yards (461) than the Lions’ unit. That figures to change, as Hockenson earned the second-highest receiving grade among tight ends in college football last year as a redshirt sophomore.