Breaking down the 2019 NFL rookie class
ALAMEDA, CALIF. — Hey rook, get in there.
The salary cap, rookie wage scale and migration of strategies from the college to the professional game have placed more of a premium than ever on playing rookies in the NFL.
The days of sitting on the bench or having limited roles while learning from trusted veterans is long gone. Players are thrown right into the thick of the action.
Even an old-time coach like Oakland’s Jon Gruden adapted. After relying heavily on veterans like Jerry Rice, Rich Gannon and Eric Allen to fortify an already experienced roster in his first stint as coach of the Raiders, Gruden has turned to the youngsters to help rebuild a struggling team.
Thanks to having three first-round picks last year because of trades that sent away established stars Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper, the Raiders have gotten more touchdowns (14), sacks (11), yards rushing (1,079) and receptions (82) than any other class of rookies this season. That’s thanks in large part to strong performances from first-round running back Josh Jacobs and fourth-round defensive end Maxx Crosby.
“I think the way the salary cap is now I think has a lot to do with that,” Gruden said. “You get four or five years into your career, you get into that second contract, you can’t have everybody making that amount of money in this salary cap era.”
The Raiders are far from alone in getting significant production from the rookie class, with No. 1 overall pick Kyler Murray looking like an emerging star quarterback in Arizona; Nick Bosa and Josh Allen developing into elite pass-rushing threats; and several receivers showing off big-play ability, like D.K. Metcalf in Seattle and Terry McLaurin in Washington.
Here’s a deeper look into the 2019 rookie class:
defensive line. Bosa is a top contender for defensive rookie honors as one of the key’s to San Francisco’s dominant defense with eight sacks and an interception.
Allen went to Jacksonville at No. 7 and leads all rookies with nine sacks as one of the bright spots in a disappointing season for the Jaguars.
A couple of interior linemen also have fared well early, with 17th pick Dexter Lawrence of the Giants anchoring the middle of New York’s defense, and Jeffrey Simmons becoming a great value in Tennessee after slipping to No. 19 after he tore his right ACL in February. Simmons’ return Oct. 20 helped spark the Titans’ recent turnaround.
While 12 games into the season is too early to call anyone a bust, a few first-round picks have failed to live up expectations.
The Raiders used the No. 4 pick on defensive lineman Clelin Ferrell, who has not made much of an impact outside of a 2 1⁄2-sack game against the Chargers last month.
He’s fared much better than No. 29 pick L.J. Collier of Seattle. The defensive lineman has yet to have a quarterback pressure, according to Pro Football Focus, and was scratched last week.
Receiver N’Keal Harry was picked by New England with the final selection of the first round and began the season on the injured list. He has four catches and two drops in three games and ran a poor pattern on his only target last week, leading to an interception.
Second day skill
Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray scrambles against the Rams on Dec. 1 in Glendale, Ariz.