Potential Impact Rookies in the NFC East

Deandre Baker New York Giants

The transition from NCAA football to the National Football League is notoriously difficult. Incoming rookies must contend with thicker playbooks, vastly more complex schemes and systems, and fully developed, world-class athletes. Veterans with decades of compiled experience and finely polished technique. And those are just the on-field considerations.

Despite this daunting plethora of obstacles, there are always rookies that manage to make a legitimate impact. What players will have the best opportunity to do so in the NFC East? Let’s take a look.

Dallas Cowboys

Trysten Hill, DT, Central Florida: The Cowboys’ defense made remarkable strides in 2018, soaring all the way to ninth in defensive DVOA after finishing 25th the previous season. Loaded with star-caliber talent, there was one thing missing from the Dallas defensive formula: consistent interior pressure. The three-technique is considered a vital role in the Tampa-2 base defense that the Cowboys deploy under defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli.


That’s where Trysten Hill comes in. Armed with lightning-quick get-off and a tremendous motor, Hill will compete with veterans Maliek Collins and Tyrone Crawford for snaps in camp. He will likely start out in sub-packages with the opportunity to play his way into the base defense. The key will be how quickly he can develop his hand technique and mental processing. Thanks to limited playing time at UCF, Hill is still very raw, but has the traits Marinelli covets for interior defenders. The former Golden Knight is likely a couple of seasons from realizing his true potential, but could start paying dividends quickly if he can prove a quick study this summer.

New York Giants

Deandre Baker, CB, Georgia: After pulling the plug on the Eli Apple experiment, Giants general manager Dave Gettlemen prioritized his cornerback group with the addition of three rookies. The most high-profile of which was Deandre Baker, whom the team traded back into the first-round to select. A contagiously competitive technician, Baker figures to odds-on favorite to start opposite veteran Janoris Jenkins, but will have to fend off fellow rookies Julian Love and Corey Ballentine as well as second-year player Sam Beal.


Baker was my favorite corner to view on tape from the 2018 class. He features sharp footwork, fantastic hand usage, and top-notch ball-awareness that allows him to challenge seemingly everything throw in his vicinity. In fact, Baker did not allow a single touchdown in 870 snaps in coverage over the last two seasons. The Georgia standout is exactly the type of player that could step right in and make a splash. Given the lack of experience in the Giants’ cornerback room and his lofty draft status, Baker will have every opportunity to do so.

Philadelphia Eagles

Miles Sanders, RB, Penn State: The Eagles struggled to find production out of their backfield in 2018, partially due to injuries to Jay Ajayi and Darren Sproles. Consequently, general manager Howie Roseman addressed the team’s running back spot both on the trade market and in the draft with the additions of Jordan Howard and Miles Sanders.

Howard represents a great fit for the Eagles zone-heavy scheme but offers little in the way of splash plays or utility in the passing game (likely the reason for his modest trade market). Enter Miles Sanders. An explosive athlete with the ability to blow the game open on every touch, Sanders made explosive runs a routine affair after taking over for Saquon Barkley at Penn State. Where Howard managed just 18 runs of 10 plus yards in 2018 on 250 carries, Sanders accumulated a whopping 38 on 220 totes (a bit apples to oranges, I know).

The key to just how involved Sanders will be in the Eagles’ offense in 2019 will be his development in the passing game and patience running inside. Sanders has a tendency to bounce outside before letting his blocking develop. A bad habit that will be punished at the pro level if it’s not cleaned up. If he shows he can be counted on to take what’s there thereby limiting negative plays, Sanders could have a a major impact this season in Philly.


Washington Redskins

Terry McLaurin, WR, Ohio State: With Josh Doctson thus far failing to live up to his draft status and Jamison Crowder heading to the New York Jets, the competition for playing time at wide receiver in Washington appears to be wide open. Stopgap veterans Brian Quick and Paul Richardson were added in free agency, but a more substantial impact is sorely needed.

In an acknowledgement of their pressing need, the Redskins selected what might be the most polished, high-floor wideout from the 2018 class in Terry McLaurin. The fifth-year senior possesses blazing speed (4.35 40-time), precise route-running, and a knack for tracking deep balls over his shoulder. He wowed onlookers during 2019 Senior Bowl week with his aforementioned speed and dynamic releases against press coverage.

McLaurin’s big play potential is unmatched on the current Redskins roster (and likely would be on several other NFL rosters), and he is poised to make an immediate impact on special teams after three years as a starting gunner on Ohio State’s punt team as well as 2 years on the punt and kick return squads. Expect to hear his name early and possibly often this season in Washington.

Honorable Mentions:

Tony Pollard, ATH (DAL): Pollard is a Swiss army knife that can be a serious problem in the open field. The word out of Dallas is that he already has coaches brainstorming more ways to get him involved.

Dexter Lawrence, DT (NYG): Lawrence may begin the season behind veteran Davlin Tomlinson at nose-tackle, but he offers far more than just a run-stuffing anchor. His athleticism and pass-rushing prowess will get him on the field sooner rather than later.

J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, WR (PHI): The best contested-catch prospect in the 2018 draft class for my money. The former Stanford wideout could find himself contributing early in the red zone and often if Alshon Jeffrey’s injury woes resurface.

Montez Sweat, EDGE (WAS): Would be my feature choice for breakout rookie on many teams, but Washington is fairly loaded upfront already. However, Sweat has the speed, length, and athleticism to make an immediate impact and will likely see the field in sub-packages at the very least.


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