Break­ing down the 2019 NFL rookie class

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - NFL - By Josh Dubow

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:

Quar­ter­back 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.

Early dis­ap­point­ments

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.

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