Skip to main content

Around the League

Presented By

Oakland Raiders lead list of top 10 rookie classes

Every week, Chris Wesseling will roll out the power rankings for one specific NFL position or attribute.

This week, we turn our attention to the best rookie classes. These rankings are not meant to project future stardom. Rather, they consider which teams' rookies have made the biggest impact through 10 weeks. On to the list:

1. Oakland Raiders: First-round pick Khalil Mack is already one of the NFL's most effective run-stuffing linebackers. Second-rounder Derek Carr has been the most impressive of the rookie quarterbacks, suggesting he could develop into a league-average starter at the very least. Third-rounder Gabe Jackson has held his own at left guard while fourth-rounder Justin Ellis has exceeded expectations at nose tackle. Seventh-round pick T.J. Carrie has shown flashes at cornerback and in the return game. Will all of those contributions from this year's rookie class save the job of a general manager whose team has lost 15 consecutive games?

2. Minnesota Vikings:Teddy Bridgewater has already put together a pair of game-winning drives in five starts. Excelling in run support and pressuring quarterbacks, fellow first-round pick Anthony Barr has the look of a future Pro Bowler. A freak athlete, third-round running back Jerick McKinnon is averaging 5.0 yards per carry and is among the league leaders in yards after contact per attempt, according to Pro Football Focus. All three should become fixtures in the Vikings starting lineup.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars:Blake Bortles has regressed over the past month, leading the NFL in interceptions. If he can hone his mechanics as the Jags add talent around him, he still has a chance to become a star. Jacksonville has gotten production from a trio of rookie wide receivers in Allen Robinson, the undrafted Allen Hurns and second-round pick Marqise Lee. Third-round guard Brandon Linder and sixth-round center Luke Bowanko have solidified an offensive line that was a disaster early in the season. Speedy fifth-round linebackerTelvin Smith has already picked up an AFC Defensive Player of the Week award for his performance in the upset victory over the Browns.

4. St. Louis Rams: Defensive tackle Aaron Donald has been as dominant as any rookie, but is unlikely to rack up the counting stats to take home Defensive Rookie of the Year honors. Fellow first-round pick Greg Robinson has taken over at left tackle following Jake Long's season-ending knee surgery. Sixth-rounder E.J. Gaines has been an every-down player and perhaps the team's best cornerback. Third-rounder Tre Mason is the new lead back in a committee attack, showing more playmaking ability than Zac Stacy and Benny Cunningham.

5. Buffalo Bills: Perhaps the frontrunner for Offensive Rookie of the Year honors, Sammy Watkins has shown the ability to take over games as a big-play threat, red-zone weapon and possession receiver. Third-round linebacker Preston Brown has been a pleasant surprise, leading the defense in snaps while making up for the offseason loss of Kiko Alonso. Although the Bills have gotten nothing from second-round tackle Cyrus Kouandjio, seventh-rounder Seantrel Henderson has started every game at right tackle.

6. Arizona Cardinals: Third-round wideout John Brown's three game-winning touchdowns are already tied for the most in a single season. Hard-hitting first-round pick Deone Buchanon has been crucial to defensive coordinator Todd Bowles' creative scheme that has deployed three and even four safeties at a time. Mid-round picks Kareem Martin and Ed Stinson have added valuable depth on the defensive line, filling in after Bowles lost several key veterans to injuries.

7. Green Bay Packers:Mark Sanchez said Wednesday that Packers first-round safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is playing better than any rookie he has seen this season. No. 3 receiver Davante Adams, tight end Richard Rodgers and starting center Corey Linsley have also played major roles in a surging offense. NFL teams typically consider it a success if a draft class provides three long-term starters. This one could offer four.

8. Baltimore Ravens: First-round pick C.J. Mosley has been so dominant that NFL Media's Willie McGinest placed the linebacker on his midseason list of the top five defensive players in the NFL. He's behind only Luke Kuechly, Lavonte David and Lawrence Timmons in tackles. The Ravens' rookie class is otherwise lacking in star power, but has received solid contributions from running back Lorenzo Taliaferro, tight end Crockett Gillmore, nickelback Terrence Brooks, and defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan.

9. Carolina Panthers: First-round pick Kelvin Benjamin leads all rookies in receiving yards (659) and touchdowns (7). He's already within 86 yards of Steve Smith's total from 2013. Third-round pick Trai Turner will hold down right guard for years. Second-round defensive end Kony Ealy has hit the opposing quarterback in each of his last three games. Fifth-rounder Bene Benwikere might already be entrenched as the No. 1 cornerback if not for a high-ankle sprain that has sidelined him for the last month.

10. Cleveland Browns: It speaks to the depth of Ray Farmer's rookie class that it made this list with so little contribution from first-round picks Justin Gilbert and Johnny Manziel. Road-grading second-round guardJoel Bitonio has joined Dallas' Zack Martin as the most effective of all rookie offensive linemen. Third-rounder Terrance West and undrafted Isaiah Crowell have outplayed free-agent Ben Tate in the backfield. Another undrafted gem, Taylor Gabriel, has been a dynamic big-play threat in Brian Hoyer's play-action aerial attack.

The latest Around The NFL Podcast recaps every Week 10 game from an action-packed Sunday. Find more Around The NFL content on NFL NOW.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content