After three-quarters of the 2019 season, the NFL’s top rookies are a mix of those helping push along playoff hopefuls and those lifting up the wait-until-next-year crowd.
We asked six ESPN writers and analysts to once again rank the top 10 rookies to this point in the season. We tabulated the results, using Heisman-type scaling for each ranking. Then we looked at two first-years who have seen their stock rise over the past month, and two more whose stock has declined. Finally, ESPN Stats & Information’s Seth Walder named an under-the-radar rookie to keep an eye on.
Oh do we like the first round, with six of this top 10 having been Day 1 selections this past April. And the Raiders, who had three first-round picks in the 2019 draft, are the only team to check in with more than one player in the top 10.
Let’s take the plunge into the third edition of the 2019 rookie rankings, starting with the guy who has held the top spot since October.
Stats: 36 tackles, 8.0 sacks, 1 interception, 1 forced fumble
Drafted: No. 2 overall
Previous rank: 1
Bosa is second in sacks for the league’s No. 1 overall defense and leads the team in quarterback hits. Opposing offensive coordinators are already making him a top priority on a stacked defensive line that has had five former first-round picks in the rotation.
Stats: 218 carries, 1,061 rushing yards, 7 rushing touchdowns
Drafted: No. 24 overall
Previous rank: 2
Jacobs is fourth in the league and leads all rookies in rushing by a whopping 467 yards (the Bears’ David Montgomery is the next rookie in line). He is one of just four backs in the league, with Christian McCaffrey, Nick Chubb and Derrick Henry being the others, to have at least 200 carries this season and average at least 4.9 yards per carry.
Stats: 2,866 passing yards, 446 rushing yards, 18 total touchdowns, 6 interceptions
Drafted: No. 1 overall
Previous rank: 4
His best effort of the season might have come on Halloween, when he was 17-of-24 passing for 241 yards and two touchdowns against the 49ers’ league-leading defense. But it’s sometimes a bumpy ride for all rookie passers, and Murray has as many games this season with at least two touchdown passes as he does with none (six).
Stats: 86 tackles, 1.0 sacks, 2 interceptions, 1 forced fumble
Drafted: No. 10 overall
Previous rank: 8
Bush lost a few snaps in the team’s rotation at linebacker when defensive coordinator Keith Butler moved Mark Barron into more coverage situations, as Bush played only 45% of the defense’s snaps against the Rams in Week 10. But his athleticism is consistently on display, and he leads all rookie defenders in tackles.
Stats: 34 tackles, 9.0 sacks, 2 forced fumbles
Drafted: No. 7 overall
Previous rank: 6
Allen has already set the franchise’s rookie record for sacks — and he leads all NFL rookies in the category. Allen is carrying heady numbers, especially given he’s largely in a rotational role for the Jaguars and played fewer than 60% of the defensive snaps in seven games this season.
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Stats: 42 receptions, 646 receiving yards, 5 receiving touchdowns
Drafted: No. 76 overall
Previous rank: 5
McLaurin is the only Redskins player with more than 28 receptions this season, and his 15.4 yards per catch also leads the team by a hefty 3.1 yards. The rookie is doing quite a bit of the heavy lifting in the Redskins’ struggling offense, scoring 29.4% of the team’s touchdowns this season and 45.4% of the receiving touchdowns.
Stats: 35 tackles, 7.5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles
Drafted: No. 106 overall
Previous rank: NR
In back-to-back games in November, the fourth-round pick was credited with 10 pressures against Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, who threw three interceptions in the game, and then had a four-sack game against the Bengals. He has 5.5 sacks in the past four games and eight quarterback hits over that span.
Stats: 12 starts
Drafted: No. 48 overall
Previous rank: 10
Pro personnel directors say McCoy hasn’t allowed a sack this season for a team that averages 36.6 pass attempts per game — and scouts say he surrendered just one in three years at Texas A&M, meaning he’s allowed just that one in his past four seasons of football.
Stats: 10 starts
Drafted: No. 44 overall
Previous rank: NR
Jenkins has played every snap in the past 10 games and has not allowed a sack in a one-on-one situation since he entered the starting lineup. He’s part of the reason quarterback Aaron Rodgers is having one of the cleanest seasons of his career (he’s been sacked just 27 times, and he’s been sacked fewer than 30 times only once in any season he started 16 games).
Stats: 31 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble
Drafted: No. 17 overall
Previous rank: NR
The Giants haven’t won since September, but opposing offensive coaches are raving about Lawrence. He has consistently been one of the league’s highest-impact rookies and has played at least 70% of the snaps in the defensive line rotation in six of the past eight games.
Marquise Brown, WR, Baltimore Ravens: Brown leads the Ravens’ wide receivers with 36 receptions, he is second on the team with six touchdowns, his 83-yard touchdown catch in the opener is still the team’s longest scoring play this season and his 14.4 yards per reception is the highest among the team’s players who have more than 11 receptions.
Brian Burns, LB, Carolina Panthers: Burns was No. 7 in the previous edition of these rankings, and his body of work is still good overall. But he underwent wrist surgery during the team’s Week 7 bye and has struggled to consistently find his early-season rhythm since, losing playing time with Bruce Irvin‘s return from injury (just one start in the past six games).
Gardner Minshew, QB, Jacksonville Jaguars: Minshew was No. 3 in the previous rankings, but was benched after a two-interception day against Houston in Week 9. But Nick Foles was benched at halftime this past weekend, and Minshew will start Sunday against the Chargers.
Ryan Clark and Tim Hasselbeck explain why the Jaguars decided to go back to Gardner Minshew as their starting QB over Nick Foles.
Also received votes
Part of a high-quality three-pack of rookie interior linemen leaguewide with McCoy and Jenkins, he’s a future team captain who plays with smarts and power. And he makes the right choices in the mayhem of the middle of the field.
He missed three games early in the season with a knee injury. But take just his Week 13 effort to see his value: seven tackles, a tackle for loss, a quarterback hit, an interception and a fumble return for a touchdown. He has 69 tackles on the season with 2.5 sacks.
Jones is stuck in a balky offense for a team amid an eight-game losing streak. He has made progress but is getting battered. Scouts say he simply has to do better walking the line between trying to make a play and holding the ball too long. Jones has fumbled 15 times and lost 10 this season.
Many scouts believed Williams to be one of the most complete safe-bet prospects on the board in April, and while he has been a force in the core of the team’s run defense, he has been credited with just four tackles in the past four games combined and has four quarterback hits all season. A look at the game film shows Williams is still finding his way in the Jets’ three-man front (a four-man front might suit him better).
WALDER’S UNDER-THE-RADAR ROOKIE TO WATCH
After light usage early in the season, Murphy-Bunting — a second-round pick out of Central Michigan — has played in 91% of Tampa Bay’s defensive snaps since Week 9, spending time at both outside and slot corner. He has allowed minus-49 completed air yards over expectation as a defender, per NFL Next Gen Stats, meaning that given the throws he has defended, opponents have gained almost 50 fewer air yards than what we’d expect. That ranks 21st in the NFL and best among rookies.
That’s not to say it has been a perfect season; Murphy-Bunting was burned badly by Christian Kirk for a 33-yard touchdown in Week 10. But overall, Tampa Bay has received solid play from its first-year defensive back.
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