NFL All-Rookie Team 2018
With the regular season wrapped up and a full 16-game schedule for the first-year players in the books, I decided to name my All-Rookie team for 2018. To do so I put together starting lineups on offense, defense and the specialists, plus I added key substitutes for each unit.
While I did want to put the best 11 players out there, the full body of work for these players had to be considered and I could not go with a couple of players I liked but simply didn’t play enough. So here are my starting lineups:
QB: Baker Mayfield
RB1: Saquon Barkley
RB2: Nick Chubb
WR1: Calvin Ridley
WR2: D.J. Moore
TE: Mark Andrews
LT: Mike McGlinchey
LG: Quenton Nelson
C: James Daniels
RG: Will Hernandez
RT: Orlando Brown
For my offensive formation, I decided to go with 21 personnel, meaning two running backs and a tight-end. While this obviously isn’t the most common NFL formation anymore, I wanted to put the best eleven rookies on the field.
My quarterback and RB1 will be battling it for Offensive Rookie of the Year because of how spectacular they have been this season, but there are plenty of impact players around those two. I have two dynamic receivers, a second back who is more of an in-between the tackles runner and a vertical threat at tight-end.
On the offensive line it was hard for me to ultimately decide on a center because instead of going with one of the two starting rookies that actually played the position, I picked between two guys who manned that spot in college but moved to guard at the next level.
Altogether, I love the interior of the O-line and what I have coming out of the backfield to build around a strong rushing attack, plus a tight-end to catch the ball behind linebackers, two receivers on the outside who can win a lot of one-on-one matchups and a quarterback who excels at defeating man-coverage.
You can definitely question some of the decisions the Browns have made in recent years, but there is no way that can be said about what they did with the first overall pick back in April. Baker Mayfield is the perfect quarterback for that Cleveland organization and their fan base with his attitude.
As far as his play on the field goes, Baker has been carving up opposing defenses with quick recognition skills and precision throws. That’s how he set a new rookie QB mark for touchdowns (27) in just 13-and-a-half games.
At that first running back spot, I had to go with the most impressive guy at the position to come into the league, maybe ever. I had Saquon Barkley as my number one prospect and I thought he was better than Leonard Fournette, Ezekiel Elliott and Todd Gurley. His explosiveness at those 230+ pounds is mind-boggling.
Saquon became only the third player to surpass 2000 yards from scrimmage in his first season while also setting a new mark with 91 catches for rookie running backs. To have done that behind a sub-par offensive line has me thinking he is the best back in football already.
Alongside him, I had a hard decision between Nick Chubb and Philip Lindsay. I ultimately went with Chubb because of his power and short-area quickness as an inside runner to go with Barkley’s homerun ability.
As I said, I have two receivers on the outside that specialise in creating separation from man-coverage. Calvin Ridley routinely defeated number two cornerbacks as the Robin to Julio Jones’ Batman, who led the league in receiving yards.
Ridley did lead all rookies in that category himself while also easily beating out the competition in touchdowns through the air with ten, which is as much as number three and four have combined.
D.J. Moore on the other side finished only 33 yards behind Ridley with just under 800 yards on the year while officially starting just ten games. He also carried the ball 13 times for an additional 172 yards on sweeps and reverses to go along with teammate Curtis Samuel, giving him an average of over 14 yards per touch.
At the tight-end spot, I went with the Ravens’ Mark Andrews. Baltimore actually selected Hayden Hurst in the first round, but the third-rounder emerged as their main receiving option at the position, racking up 552 yards on 16.2 a catch while routinely stretching defenses down the seams.
I already mentioned my dilemma at the center spot with two guys who played the position in college but lined up at left guard for their respective teams. I ultimately went with James Daniels over the Lions’ Frank Ragnow because I thought they played at a very similar level as rookies and I had Daniels slightly ahead in my draft evaluations, considering his athleticism to reach D-tackles and get out on the move.
What I have at those two guard spots is incredible. Quenton Nelson is already in the conversation for the top player at the position due to his ability to move people in the run game and provide pocket integrity, while Will Hernandez is a road-grader in the run game who has improved his technique in pass protection a lot throughout the year to go along with his natural strength.
At left tackle, I went with Nelson’s former teammate in Mike McGlinchey, who fits better on the right side, but has clearly been the best rookie at the position. On the opposite end I had another tough decision – go with another Colt in Braden Smith or my third-highest graded tackle in Orlando Brown.
I went with the Ravens’ starter at right tackle, because he has yet to allow a full sack in ten starts and game-action in all 16 matchups while also creating a ton of movement at the point of attack on those zone-reads and fake hand-offs on the edges.
QB: Lamar Jackson
RB: Philip Lindsay
WR: Courtland Sutton & Christian Kirk
TE: Dallas Goedert
OT: Braden Smith
OL: Frank Ragnow
As my second quarterback, I went with Lamar Jackson, not because I think he will be better than Sam Darnold or Josh Allen necessarily, but he gives me a dimension as a runner on designed plays that none of the other guys do.
Philip Lindsay was a close call not to crack the starting lineup. I mentioned him as my prime candidate to make an impact as an undrafted free agent at the start of May. He has delivered with over 1000 yards on the ground, a Pro Bowl nod and game-breaking long speed.
The guy I expected to appear on this list was Detroit’s Kerryon Johnson, but his coaches inexplicably didn’t want to give him the ball early on and then he missed the last few weeks with injury.
As my third and fourth receivers, I went with a big-bodied pass catcher in Courtland Sutton and a speedster, who can also win with quickness in Christian Kirk.
Dallas Goedert is my second tight-end because I thought he was the most talented pass-catcher among the draft prospects at the position, although the Jets’ Chris Herndon deserves some consideration as he led all first-year TEs in catches.
Ian Thomas has shown that tremendous upside I talked about back in March/April, which he should continue to display if Greg Olsen decides to retire. As my swing-tackle and backup I went with the already-mentioned Braden Smith, who also brings inside-out flexibility.
And as that extra interior O-lineman Ragnow made the roster, who can also play all three interior spots and plays with excellent technique.