Now that the 2019 NFL Draft is in the rearview mirror, it's time to look ahead and project how this year's rookies will fit with their professional squads.
Most of the players listed on this projected All-Rookie Team were drafted in the first two rounds, which makes sense, because teams are trying to meet immediate needs with the best available prospects. However, there are other NFL newbies listed here who were picked later on but fell into a good situation, where their contributions will be needed sooner rather than later.
Note that some early-round picks may not be listed here because they have veterans ahead of them on the projected depth chart for 2019. I suspect that, for example, Philadelphia Eagles left tackle Andre Dillard, Denver Broncos quarterback Drew Lock and Arizona Cardinals cornerback Byron Murphy are among the dozens of early selections who will have great careers -- but may have to be patient, unless injuries force them into a larger role than expected in 2019.
With that in mind, here's a look at my All-Rookie Team for the upcoming season:
Quarterback: Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals (Round 1, No. 1 overall). Murray will be under the most pressure of any quarterback in this class to perform in 2019, since the team's former QB, 2018 first-round pick Josh Rosen, was traded away a day after Murray was picked first overall. While Murray will need to adjust to the pro game, like every rookie, I suspect he will challenge defenses early on with his blend of arm strength and athleticism.
Running back: Josh Jacobs, Oakland Raiders (Round 1, No. 24). With the Raiders and Marshawn Lynchparting ways this offseason, it is likely that Jacobs earns more carries in his first 16 games as a pro than he did in his last 26 games (two seasons) with the Tide (166). The fact that he made plays as a receiver out of the backfield will also help his cause for playing time.
Defensive tackle: Greg Gaines, Los Angeles Rams (Round 4, No. 134). Assuming free agent Ndamukong Suh does not return to the Rams, Gaines is in a perfect position to make an impact for the reigning NFC champions as a rookie. His motor and strength at the point of attack are well-known, but he can also be a factor in pushing the pocket.
Edge: Nick Bosa, San Francisco 49ers (Round 1, No. 2). Bosa's production will be greater if the 49ers trade one of their previous first-round picks, Solomon Thomas or Arik Armstead, before the season. Still, the former Buckeye is going to make a big impact when he's in the game, even if those players are still around. Bosa's been off the field since September due to injury, but that won't matter. He might not get 10.5 sacks as a rookie like his brother, Joey, but his presence will be felt.
Cornerback: Deandre Baker, New York Giants (Round 1, No. 30). Either Baker or his new teammate, fourth-round CB Julian Love, might earn a spot on an All-Rookie Team this year, due to the Giants' lack of quality depth at cornerback. I'll give Baker the edge, because he has the confidence and strength to match up with pro receivers right now.
Cornerback: David Long, Los Angeles Rams (Round 3, No. 79). Pro Bowlers Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib are the scheduled starters, but Talib only played in eight games last year (due to injury) and hasn't ever played a full 16-game season. It won't be a surprise if Rams coaches get Long on the field early. He'll be tested, too, which gives him a shot at racking up interceptions and/or pass breakups, statistics that help young players receive postseason accolades.
Safety: Darnell Savage, Green Bay Packers (Round 1, No. 21). There figures to be fierce competition between Savage and 2017 second-round pick Josh Jones in training camp to start next to free-agent acquisition Adrian Amos. Even if Jones wins that competition, I'll bet that Savage gets on the field regularly in sub packages, maybe even working the slot, depending on the health of the team's cornerbacks.
Safety: Nasir Adderley, Los Angeles Chargers (Round 2, No. 60). Adderley might not start right away for the Chargers, but I won't be surprised if he steps right in and wins the job opposite Derwin James. He possesses the skills to line up in coverage as well as stick his nose in against the run in a nickel capacity.
Returner: Mecole Hardman, Kansas City Chiefs (Round 2, No. 56). With the uncertainty around Tyreek Hill's future in the NFL, Hardman could make an immediate impact as a returner (25-yard career average on kickoffs, 15.2-yard average on punt returns at Georgia). However, don't underestimate him as a contributor on offense. Hardman has the potential to be an outlet receiver who can turn a short pass into a long gain for Patrick Mahomes.