As the NFL season approaches, we all can be excited about one thing – the new faces on our favorite teams. As all fanbases should be, there is often tons of excitement about who was newly acquired in the NFL Draft or free agency. Today we take a look at some rookies who will exceed the normal rookie expectations.
Chase Young, DE, Washington Football Team
Hard to think the number two overall pick could exceed expectations right? It will be hard more than likely, but Chase Young is the real deal and is a physical specimen. It was a forgone conclusion he was going to be the second pick behind Burrow in the draft once he declared as every team would have loved to have him.
Washington was missing a force at the edge of the defensive line as they ranked 27th in total defense last year. We all think Chase Young should be the front runner for Defensive Rookie of the Year, so how can you exceed that? I think Young is a polished pass rusher for coming out of college and I’m predicting he has at least 13 sacks this season. That number would’ve ranked him 7th in the NFL last season. I believe he will finish in the top 10 in that category and will win Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Willie Gay Jr., LB, Kansas City Chiefs
I think this is going to be a home run pick for the Chiefs. The LB core is by far the weak spot of the defense, so it only makes sense that they addressed the need through the draft. The Chiefs didn’t have a linebacker that ranked in the top 55 at the position in 2019 according to Pro Football Focus.
A Super Bowl Champion that has a glaring need and got someone who is going to make the defense instantly better. He has elite speed, running a 4.46 40 yard dash at the combine and weighing 243 pounds. He is getting work at camp with the first-team defense at the OLB spot on both sides.
He has the speed to not only cover TEs and RBs but also play sideline to sideline which is crucial at that spot. Being able to track down the ball carrier no matter where you are on the field is going to help make him that much more valuable.
It is hard to project numbers for Gay, but with his speed and freakish athleticism, expect him to have tons of tackles throughout the year and I wouldn’t be surprised if he had a few sacks to his name as we know how Steve Spagnuolo likes to disguise when he is blitzing.
Javon Kinlaw, DT, San Francisco 49ers
Just when you thought an already stacked defensive line couldn’t get any better, the Niners spent another first-round pick on a defensive lineman. Kinlaw was already projected to be a first-round pick, but nobody thought that San Francisco would snatch up another defensive lineman that high with guys like Dee Ford, Nick Bosa, Soloman Thomas, and Arik Armstead.
Kinlaw is a monster. He is one of those guys who’s can be a game wrecker on the interior. He didn’t have many numbers while at South Carolina, but when you put on the tape and see his frame, you know that he can be a dominant defensive lineman in the NFL.
I believe that he is going to have a great rookie year because there is going to be so much attention on guys like Nick Bosa and Arik Armstead, that Kinlaw is going to get in a lot of one-on-one matchups and he has the talent to beat most of those matchups. I wouldn’t expect more than six sacks for Kinlaw, but expect a large number in the TFL (tackle for loss) column this year. He will definitely be involved in a lot of plays and teams will definitely have to be careful with how they gameplay against this defensive line.
Josh Jones, OT, Arizona Cardinals
When you spend the first pick in the NFL Draft in 2019 on a QB, the expectation is that he is going to be the cornerstone of your franchise for some time to come. The only thing that could hinder that is not being able to protect him and Arizona was the worst in the NFL at that last season. Kyler Murray was tied for first among QBs for the number of times he was sacked at 48. That is three times per game and just can’t happen.
So, Arizona got a steal in the third round with OT Josh Jones. He was graded by Pro Football Focus as the best OT in the draft and somehow the Cardinals were able to get him on day two. He will be an immediate upgrade at the position and will give the Cardinals stability on one side of the line.
He should be able to adjust quickly as we know that coach Kingsbury loves throwing the ball all over the yard and when Jones was at the University of Houston, they did that as well. Couple the similarities of his college offense and having just the raw capabilities of playing the position well, I think the Cardinals hit a home run with this pick and will help Kyler Murray and the rest of the offense flourish.
Isaiah Simmons, LB, Arizona Cardinals
Who doesn’t love a guy who can play multiple positions on defense? I won’t lie, Simmons was my favorite player going into the 2020 NFL Draft. He was the most versatile player in the draft playing CB, S, and OLB for Clemson this past season. Let’s be honest too, the guy is a freak as well.
His frame combined with his speed is just unprecedented. How can you be 6’4″, weigh 240 pounds and run a 4.39 40 yard dash? It is just insane. The guy has a nose for the ball. If you watched Clemson at all the past three years, you saw a number 11 all over the field. That is what he does, and that is what he will continue to do for Arizona.
He can be played with any person due to his versatility which is going to be super valuable for Arizona. If his junior year statistics at Clemson don’t give you an idea of what he can do, let me just show you what impact he has. According to sports-reference.com, Simmons recorded 104 total tackles, eight sacks, and three interceptions.
Don’t be surprised if he has very similar numbers his rookie year in the NFL and he will certainly be in the conversation for Defensive Rookie of the Year.
That sums up my five rookies who will exceed their expectations in the upcoming season. There were some names that were left off this list that I definitely think you will hear about going forward this season, but until that time we will wait and see how these guys perform!