Each year a new crop of rookies makes their mark in the NFL. It’s a hard transition to make, going from college football to the professional level. It’s difficult in any sport to transition from being a student-athlete to being a paid adult. With the new paycheck comes loads of pressure from coaches, fans, and teammates.
However, there are always players who are up to the challenge. Every year there are players who surprise us and rise to the challenge and perform well in their rookie seasons. Let’s take a look at some of the best rookies so far in 2018.
Derwin James of the Los Angeles Chargers has had an impressive start to the season. He’s made 44 tackles and three and a half sacks as a safety. The Chargers’ coach, Anthony Lynn, has good things to say about his young safety. James is still working on reading the offense, as any first year safety is, but when he gets it right, he is very effective. He has made a big difference this year especially with lead pass rusher, Joey Bosa out of the picture. James’ ability to fill in a defense suffering from injuries and make quick, decisive plays, is what has earned him the number one spot.
Corner back Denzel Ward of the Cleveland Browns has had a good start to the season as well. He too is making up for injuries in the Browns’ defense. Corner backs Terrance Mitchell and E.J. Gaines are both out right now. Mitchell is out for wrist surgery and Gaines has a concussion, so Ward has had to pick up the slack. And pick up the slack he has. Ward has made 32 tackles so far this season. He’s also deflected eight passes and made three interceptions. That’s not a bad stat line for a rookie. And the icing on the cake? Ward is yet to be penalized this season.
Linebacker Darius Leonard of the Indianapolis Colts is off to a fiery start this year. He has made a staggering 79 tackles so far. He’s consistent too. He’s had four games now with over 13 tackles. And in week seven he made 17 tackles while only on the field for 52 plays. Leonard is obviously a hard worker and game footage shows that he is more often than not in the right place at the right time. Perhaps his only weakness so far is a misstep here or there in coverage, but all in all he’s had a fantastic opening to his NFL career.
The Three Best Rookies
These three guys have certainly made a splash early on this season. They have combined for a whopping 155 tackles. If the first few weeks can tell us anything about the careers of James, Ward, and Leonard, we can definitely expect impressive stat lines in the coming years.
But each player may face his own allotment of challenges unique to his time in the NFL. Many players face injuries, most have to switch teams at some point. Perhaps these guys are riding the high of their first few weeks as professional athletes and we won’t hear much from them going forward. On the other hand, the kind of tenacity it takes to be successful right off the bat in the NFL is something to pay attention to. James, Ward, and Leonard could be names we remember for a long time to come.