After a few short weeks of NFL gameplay, an assessment on rookie players can be made. While fans shouldn’t overreact to the few weeks of football, there is evidence to show which rookies are legit and which are going to struggle. With that said, there has been a significant number of rookies this year, who look like key contributors to their respective teams. Thus, when assigning each grade, readers should understand that each grade is based on three factors: (1) the play of the individual, (2) the usage by the coach, and (3) the respected value of each player for where they were drafted. As for the Grading Scale, I’ve illustrated what each grade means:
Grading Scale for NFL 2020 Rookies
|Looks like a franchise player.
|Could be a good contributor, remains to be seen. Somewhat promising.
|Exceeded expectation, a borderline franchise player.
|Mediocre pick, kind of like the 70-74 grade on Madden. Could still turn it around.
|Great pick, extremely promising player.
|Borderline bad pick.
|Good Pick, promising player.
|Contributor, may not be a pro bowler, but a promising pick.
|Gif (JIF): This is fine* with fire in the background
|Somewhat promising, okay pick.
Terrible, straight downright awful Pick.
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1. Cincinnati Bengals, Joe Burrow, QB, LSU
Despite having decent stats, Burrow brings an intangible element to the Bengals offense. Simply put, when the team is down by a touchdown, Bengal’s fans no longer need to feel despair from a stagnant offense. What Burrow does is gives the fans hope that they are always in the game and that he can win it for them.
2. Washington Football Team, Chase Young, EDGE, Ohio State
Rarely can defensive linemen change the game, only special players like Aaron Donald, J.J. Watt, or Khalil Mack have had such an impact. Young may be the next player to add to that list. While Young isn’t at that level of consistency game to game, he has shown flashes of what draft analysts everywhere believe: dominance.
3. Detroit Lions, Jeff Okudah, CB, Ohio State
Okudah was still a good pick, as the transition from college to NFL for cornerbacks is significant and difficult. Okudah has drawn some of the hardest matchups for a rookie cornerback. While his play hasn’t been inspiring, especially when you have to play Justin Jefferson, Davante Adams, and Allen Robinson twice a year, as long as he’s on the field, he’ll improve.
4. New York Giants, Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia
This grade is somewhat indicative of the position the coaching staff has put Thomas in. Thomas has looked bad because of the scheme and the length of time Daniel Jones holds the ball. He’s also placed on an island (one on one), facing good defensive linemen including Bud Dupree and T.J. Watt. While uninspiring to this point, Thomas will continue to improve game to game. Tackles are, normally, never good in their first year, especially with the responsibilities Thomas has received, so there shouldn’t be much to worry about for Giants fans.
5. Miami Dolphins, Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama
The Dolphins got a franchise quarterback and are actually letting him rest and not rushing him out? 100 percent complete win, as Tua suffered an almost career-ending injury. Miami does not project to be a playoff contender, so having Tua develop and heal behind Ryan Fitzpatrick for the year will give the team a promising outlook for the future. This grade cannot be higher than a B as we haven’t seen Tua play yet.
6. Los Angeles Chargers, Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon
Herbert’s play has looked promising, going toe to toe with Tom Brady. His stat line, 72 percent completion percentage, 931 yards, five touchdowns, and three interceptions, is great relative to his offensive line, which is arguably one of the worst in the league. Herbert has given the Chargers a spark, and so far after three games, looks like a very good quarterback, potentially even a franchise quarterback.
7. Carolina Panthers, Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn
Brown is what draft analysts expected, a great run stopper. So far he has lacked the ability to collapse and push the pocket consistently, as his pad level has remained high – a similar concern in college. After four games though, he’s shown a high motor and will be a contributor for the foreseeable future. Overall, he gets a B-minus grade as there are still concerns if he’ll ever be able to rush the passer consistently.
8. Arizona Cardinals, Isaiah Simmons, LB, Clemson
Simmons gets a D grade due to ineffective usage. He’s a defensive weapon who is being used as a linebacker. Instead of using the versatility, he displayed in college, the coaching staff has misused him. There is still hope for Simmons, as he gets more reps, perhaps the coaching staff will realize his best position will be different positions every game.
9. Jacksonville Jaguars, C.J. Henderson, CB, Florida
Henderson was always a boom or bust prospect during his time in Florida. Some days he was the best player on the field, other days he looked like a day two cornerback. In two of his three games, not counting the injured game against the Bengals, he struggled to adapt to the zone play calls. However, his man-to-man skills are still excellent as demonstrated against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 1. As a rookie, up and down performances are expected as cornerbacks. The strong performance in Week 1 was promising and Jaguar fans should be excited about Henderson for the years to come.
10. Cleveland Browns, Jedrick Wills, OT, Alabama
Wills may be the best run-blocking tackle from the draft. He’s looking the part of his 10th overall pick. What’s impressive is his transition to left tackle, as he played right tackle for most of his career in college. Wills has a promising future if he keeps up his play.
11. New York Jets, Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville
Becton was arguably one of the rawest players in the first round, lacking experience in pass blocking. The thing is, how do you get around a mountain of a man? Becton’s 6’7”, 365 lbs frame has shown up in every game, and he’s only improved game to game. He’s been one of the best tackles from the draft and is the lone bright star on the Jets team.
12. Las Vegas Raiders, Henry Ruggs, WR, Alabama
Ruggs hasn’t been on the field enough to warrant a higher grade, missing two of the four games of the season. However, in those two games, he has made Derek Carr more aggressive. The question many draft analysts had was: Will drafting Ruggs make Carr throw the ball down the field more? The answer Vegas fans saw against the Panthers and New Orleans Saints was yes. Ruggs is still the same deep threat he was in college and will give Carr more opportunities downfield. He just needs to stay on the field.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (from Colts via 49ers): Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa
Highlights from the Buccaneers’ game show Wirfs managing Joey Bosa, just in his fourth start. Wirfs has been impressive, to say the least, in pass protection. In a word, Wirfs is a superstar in the making, allowing no sacks in his first four weeks in the NFL. While he still has improvement to do in the run game, he has the potential to be a franchise tackle if he continues his play.
14. San Francisco 49ers, Javon Kinlaw, DT, South Carolina
Kinlaw has registered a pressure or hit every game, and the impact he’s had on the passing game is impressive. While he may not have the sacks to show, he’s collapsing the pocket somewhat effectively. He’s still inconsistent which is to be expected as a rookie. Overall, Kinlaw is promising and has the potential to be as good as DeForest Buckner.
15. Denver Broncos, Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama
Jeudy didn’t look good in Week 1 and Week 2, suffering from some concentration drops. However, his route running remains elite and has allowed average quarterbacks easy completions to Jeudy. He’s got the make-up of a superstar and has been a significant contributor to the offense. When Jeudy eliminates the concentration drops, three of which he’s had in his first two weeks, he’ll be one of the best playmakers in the league.
16. Atlanta Falcons, A.J. Terrell, CB, Clemson
Terrell has given up too many catches, being targeted 10 times and giving up nine catches. Fans have seen flashes of brilliance with Terrell, but inconsistent reps as well. Terrell has been up and down, which is okay for a rookie, the concern is that he’s not getting the reps as he’s missed two out of four weeks. It is too early to determine if Terrell will be good or not.
17. Dallas Cowboys, CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma
This could have been a defensive pick, however, Lamb looks like an elite wide receiver. The biggest surprise is his route running, which was good, but not NFL caliber. Lamb still brings the run after catch ability and contested-catch ability which made him prolific in college. Overall, Lamb has played extremely well and is bringing another dynamic element to this offense.
18. Miami Dolphins, Austin Jackson, OT, USC
Jackson has looked like a franchise left tackle in his short stint, and it is a pleasant surprise. He has been given added responsibility and has exceeded expectations. The real test will be going against more difficult opponents in the coming weeks.
19. Las Vegas Raiders, (from Chicago Bears): Damon Arnette, CB, Ohio State
Arnette wasn’t great in his short stint before going on the Injured Reserve for a thumb injury. Arnette needs more reps, and to be put on IR so early is very concerning.
20. Jacksonville Jaguars, (from Los Angeles Rams): K’Lavon Chaisson, EDGE, LSU
Chaisson was always a project, boosting the tools to be elite. He’s shown bend, power, and quickness, but the biggest critique was his inability to rush with a plan. This should improve with more experience and playtime.
21. Philadelphia Eagles, Jalen Reagor, WR, TCU
Reagor showed flashes that he can be a deep threat and the viable option on this offense. However, going on the IR early hurts his development. With the limited reps Reagor has, there should be growing concern about his overall development and his contributions this year.
22. Minnesota Vikings, (from Buffalo Bills): Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU
Jefferson turned the corner Week 3 and Week 4, flashing brilliant plays. His body control is special, and the back-to-back 100-plus yard games show the special talent he has. Jefferson is a bright spot on the Vikings offense and may be the best wide receiver statistically and skills-wise on his team by the end of the year.
23. Los Angeles Chargers, Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma
In Murray’s first three weeks he was targeted 10 times and allowed nine receptions. Murray struggled in pass coverage at Oklahoma and the coaching expected him to get better in the NFL. Murray will continue to struggle unless he gets better against the pass.
24. New Orleans Saints, Cesar Ruiz, C/G, Michigan
This was a head-scratching pick at the time as the team had a good duo in Earl Watford and Andrus Peat. The team ended up releasing Watford and allowed Ruiz to be the starting guard. In three games, he’s only allowed one quarterback hit and has been able to get side to side in the run game.
25. San Francisco 49ers: Brandon Aiyuk, WR, Arizona State
With only nine catches on the year, Aiyuk has done impressive things. His run after catch ability makes him the perfect complement to Deebo Samuel and George Kittle. He’ll continue to improve week after week; overall fans should be excited over Aiyuk.
26. Green Bay Packers (from Houston Texans through Dolphins): Jordan Love, QB, Utah State
This was always a long-term pick, however, it did motivate Rodgers to have one of the most prolific starts to a season. The concern for this pick is that Love looked bad in camp. Until fans really see him on the field, the jury is out.
27. Seattle Seahawks, Jordyn Brooks, LB, Texas Tech
This pick still doesn’t make sense, as Brooks wasn’t a top-100 player. Moreover, it is a position that wasn’t a need, as Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright are still playing at a high level. He hasn’t been on the field enough to justify this pick.
28. Baltimore Ravens, Patrick Queen, LB, LSU
Queen has been solid, making plays blitzing and against the run. He’s been promising in those roles, however, has work to do in pass coverage. He’s allowed 20 catches on 24 targets through four weeks. Pass coverage is a difficult transition for linebackers, and with more experience, he’ll get better.
29. Tennessee Titans, Isaiah Wilson, OT, Georgia
This was a questionable pick, to begin with, then with a DUI and a suspension, Wilson’s development has been hampered.
30. Miami Dolphins (from Packers): Noah Igbinoghene, CB, Auburn
Tested early on with the injury to Byron Jones, Igbinoghene has been good, especially for a raw corner. He gave up 278 yards in three games, but only two yards against the Jaguars. Up and down play is expected, and fans won’t see the best of Igbinoghene till the end of the season.
31. Minnesota Vikings, Jeff Gladney, CB, TCU
This was almost a D grade, as Gladney didn’t start over third-round pick Cameron Dantzler. He has struggled this far, but Gladney gets the benefit of the doubt along with the other corners; the transition to the NFL is difficult. His play style in college was largely dependent on physical contact, and more penalties are called for in the NFL.
32. Kansas City Chiefs, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB, LSU
Considering the Jaguars got James Robinson as an undrafted free agent, something has to be said about that. Still, Edwards-Helaire has been efficient and everything he’s been built up to be, as his hard running style and jump cuts are special. He’s able to make players miss, has the receiving ability, and brings another element to this offense.
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