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NFL rookie superlatives: Derwin James, Josh Rosen to excel

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It will be a few years before the 2018 draft classes of each NFL club can truly be graded based on performance, and several months before the fit, or lack of a fit, for each rookie begins to take shape. But that doesn't mean there aren't some immediate indicators of what can be expected this fall. Here are a few superlative projections for the rookie class based not only on talent, but on fit as well.

Most likely Week 1 starter among rookie QBs: Sam Darnold, New York Jets. The quarterbacks standing between Darnold and a Week 1 start against the Detroit Lions are journeyman Josh McCown, Teddy Bridgewater, who has appeared in one game over the past two seasons as he's made his way back from a severe knee injury, and Christian Hackenberg. That makes for a pretty clear path if Darnold's as good as billed.

Most likely to lead all rookie QBs in wins: Josh Rosen, Arizona Cardinals. The marriage between the former UCLA star and the Cardinals links a composed, accurate quarterback with a club that played .500 ball without him last year while starting Carson Palmer, Blaine Gabbert and Drew Stanton at QB. On the other hand, Baker Mayfield (Browns) and Darnold are joining teams coming off a last-place finish that will require more of a turnaround. That alone gives Rosen a wider path to the win column in 2018, not to mention he was the draft's best pocket passer. Josh Allen's level of college competition, and the pedestrian production against it, suggests a more developmental track with the Bills.

Most likely rookie leader in passing yards: Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns. It won't be a surprise if Cleveland is playing from behind quite a bit. That would foretell more balls in the air, and with Mayfield's ability to extend passing plays outside the pocket, he'll do his share of damage. Now, I know Browns head coach Hue Jackson has stated that Tyrod Taylor will be his starter, but I think the job is going to be in the hands of the draft's No. 1 overall pick sooner rather than later.

Most likely rookie leader in rushing yards: Saquon Barkley, New York Giants. After Kareem Hunt won the NFL rushing title last year as a third-round pick, anything is possible. But we won't overthink this one. Barkley is a rare talent and the Giants' woeful offensive line from last year has undergone enough changes to be a different group this fall.

Most likely rookie leader in receiving yards: Dante Pettis, WR, San Francisco 49ers. With promising QB Jimmy Garoppolo entering his first full season as a starter, Pettis has a quarterback who should give him ample opportunity to make a big impact. The same can be said for others -- Calvin Ridley in Atlanta with Matt Ryan, for instance -- but Pettis won't have Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu commanding targets ahead of him.

Most likely rookie leader in sacks: Bradley Chubb, OLB, Denver Broncos. The Broncos' first-rounder very much has the look of an impact pass rusher, but his selection here has much to do with the competition, as well. The 2018 draft wasn't considered an especially deep one for edge rushers. Saints first-rounder Marcus Davenport is expected to need more seasoning than Chubb. Plus, Chubb couldn't have asked for a better veteran to learn from than Von Miller, who can help quicken the pace of Chubb's development. The advantage won't just come in the form of wisdom shared. As long as Miller is commanding extra attention from the opposing blocking scheme on one side, there will be less of it for Chubb to deal with on the other.

Most likely rookie leader in tackles: Roquan Smith, LB, Chicago Bears. The No. 8 overall pick can not only play downhill between the tackles, he can pursue and make plays on the perimeter as well. The best off-the-ball linebacker in the draft could make for a quick anchor in Chicago, where there was a clear need for help at linebacker.

Most likely to make the Pro Bowl as a rookie: Derwin James, S, Los Angeles Chargers. One of the best pure athletes in the draft found a great landing spot in playing for Chargers defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, who will put him in a position to make plays both in coverage and in the backfield.

Most likely to outperform his draft slotting as a rookie: Maurice Hurst, DT, Oakland Raiders. A diagnosis of an irregular heart beat precipitated Hurst's fall in the draft, but there was no other reason for him to be selected anywhere near Round 5, where Oakland nabbed him at No. 140 overall. Given no health issues, he should make an immediate impact, and it sounds like he's plenty motivated following his slide.

Most likely to make a splash as an undrafted rookie: Dmitri Flowers, FB, New York Jets. Last fall, an NFC scout told NFL.com that Flowers was Oklahoma's second-most valuable player after Mayfield. Between the various roles he can play on offense and an ability to contribute on special teams, he should have a strong chance to make the club.

Most likely to cause an avalanche of hot takes: Mayfield vs. Darnold, Sept. 20. The Cleveland Browns host the New York Jets on Sept. 20 in a matchup that could pit the first two quarterbacks selected in the draft, presuming both win the starting job by Week 3. It'll come on a Thursday night stage, drawing all the more attention for the absence of any other NFL action. Of course, a single game wouldn't reveal which club made the better pick, but you'd better believe a Mayfield-Darnold subplot would be a central focus of both fan bases.

Follow Chase Goodbread on Twitter @ChaseGoodbread.

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