With the 2019 NFL Draft now well and truly over, it’s time to discuss which of the players drafted in Nashville I think you should be watching this season. Last season, I selected three players: Derwin James, Calvin Ridley and Baker Mayfield. Derwin James and Calvin Ridley were players I loved coming into the draft and I felt they could translate really well to the NFL. Indeed, I believe Derwin James had a compelling case for Defensive Rookie of the Year and he should feel robbed that he did not win that award - he was a real difference maker in each and every second he spent on the field. Calvin Ridley performed well and competed for targets with experienced receivers, scoring 10 touchdowns in the 2018 season.
Baker Mayfield was a slightly different story, I wasn’t a massive fan coming into the draft but I thought the story was intriguing - here was a walk-on Heisman Trophy winner with a big attitude going no. 1 overall to a team coming off an 0-16 season. I never expected the Cleveland Browns to finish the 2018 season 7-8-1. I never expected Baker to break the rookie-season passing-touchdown record. I never expected to be adding a Baker Mayfield jersey to my collection. But all of those things happened. Baker endeared himself to me and I’m sure many other NFL fans - he is just so much fun to watch. I can’t wait to see him in year 2 throwing to Odell Beckham Jr. With all that said, let’s look at my players to watch for the 2019 season.
I slept on Baker Mayfield coming out of last year’s draft but I will not make the same mistake again. Kyler Murray is an electric playmaker with exceptional arm talent and a unique ability to make plays with his feet when necessary. He will enter a system designed almost perfectly for him and being run by a first-time NFL head coach. As a first overall pick, the pressure is really on to perform well especially given that he will almost certainly be a week one starter.
Nick Bosa has a lot to live up to - his brother Joey has been an awesome pass rusher for the Chargers and some even claim that Nick has more potential. This is a contentious point though with many analysts unable to agree on exactly how good he is. There was also some rumours swirling before the draft regarding his political views and social media posts, though he and the 49ers are, quite rightly, very keen to put these things behind them. As a Niners fan, I am excited to see this guy play - I’ve bought into the hype and I believe he has the potential to be Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Rashan Gary first caught my attention in the Amazon Prime series ‘All Or Nothing: The Michigan Wolverines’ and it was even then that Gary has star power. He is charismatic and hard working in equal measure and in a way that is rare in professional sports. His production at the college level was not as high as other pass rushers in this year’s draft but you feel that he has more to give. In many ways Green Bay is the perfect place for Gary - this is a team with a history of success and a lot of the pieces in place to recapture that success - the fan base is passionate and vocal and Gary is the kind of star they love.
T.J. Hockenson & Noah Fant
Hockenson and Fant are both superb tight ends who played their college ball for Iowa. Last season, another former Iowa tight end experienced a breakout NFL season - George Kittle. Kittle, Hockenson and Fant are all in the same mould and I expect these guys to be dynamic playmakers in the same way that Kittle was last season. Coming into the draft I was torn as to which of these two tight ends to put higher on my mock draft board and I went with Fant going 8th overall to the lions and Hockenson going a few spots later. As it turned out, the Lions, with the 8th pick, took Hockenson and Fant fell to the Broncos at 20. That said, I think that Fant will have the better season because, as described in my Season Predictions article, the Denver offence is far more powerful than Detroit’s and QB Joe Flacco is well known to favour tight ends with his passes. Either way, I can’t wait to see the numbers these guys put up this year.
Which rookies are you looking forward to seeing this season? Let us know in the comments below.