With the NFL season soon coming to an official end this Sunday with the Super Bowl, I wanted to take a look at last year’s NFL draft and find some hidden gems.
All athletes want to be in the first round of their draft, it’s human nature. Having your name called, to walk across that stage, be handed basically the keys to a franchise…that’s the dream, right?
Sadly, not everyone can acquire THAT specific dream. Players like Antonio Brown (before he went crazy of course), Tom Brady and Wes Welker had to wait for their turn but their names will forever be etched into greatness for the work they put in.
Benny Snell – Pick 122 – Pittsburgh Steelers
Alexander Mattison – Pick 102 – Minnesota Vikings
Tony Pollard – Pick 128 – Dallas Cowboys
Juan Thornhill – Pick 63 – Kansas City Chiefs
A.J. Brown – Pick 51 – Tennessee Titans
The best place to start is with the rookie receiver who broke the 1,000-yard mark, right? The Titans surprised everyone this year with a fairly deep playoff run which all was sparked behind the broad shoulders of Derrick Henry and a revitalized Ryan Tannehill. Tanny’s favorite target was the rookie out of Ole Miss, A.J. Brown. Brown was huge for a team that lacked significant targets, especially from Corey Davis who the team formally took 4th overall. I also don’t believe Brown is tied to the hip with Tannehill which means that no matter which way the Titans go in the future, they have a WR1 on the roster.
D.K. Metcalf – Pick 64 – Seattle Seahawks
D.K. Metcalf might have been the most-talked about prospect in recent memory which is impressive, especially considering it was basically all from an IG photo. Metcalf had a great college career at Ole Miss, but teams seemed to question his route running early on. Metcalf quickly became a staple point in the Seattle Seahawks offense and even tore up the post season, breaking the rookie debut receiving record. I love Metcalf moving forward, except that I have shares in Lockett in a few leagues.
Terry McLaurin – Pick 76 – Washington Redskins
It’s tough to know what type of player you’ll get when the college tape isn’t enough for an evaluation as many teams found with Terry McLaurin in the 2019 season. McLaurin finished his time with Ohio State with only 1251 total yards and 75 total catches through four years, not quite the numbers that would expect a rookie campaign such as McLaurin’s. I love what they are building in Washington, and with Harmon and McLaurin, the Skins have some weapons to work with. 7 touchdowns, 919 yards and 58/93 catches? Sign me up.
Bobby Okereke – Pick 89 – Indianapolis Colts
The Colts stole the 2018 Value mark with Darius Leonard, grabbing the gem in that draft and solidifying their linebacker position for years to come. Welp, they did it again man. Okereke has quietly become one of the leagues best young cover LB’s. He finished the year with a 77.3 overall score from PFF and securing the fact that the Colts remain one of my favorite teams in the league. If they can add a few more pieces, we’ll be talking a deep playoff run very soon.
Jamel Dean – Pick 94 – Tampa Bay Bucs
I have to be straight forward, I had no idea Dean had the season he did until I started researching this list. It took Dean a couple of weeks to break into the Buc’s starting CB spot, but the guy’s been elite (aside from one game, but rookies get time). Dean only allowed 23 receptions while being a starter and was targeted 47 times, resulting in 2 interceptions. The Bucs need a lot more in their secondary, but they are off to a nice start with Dean.
Maxx Crosby – Pick 106 – Oakland Raiders
Crosby, in my opinion, is the absolute gem of this draft. The Eastern Michigan product had big issues coming out of college but clearly should have been much higher in this draft (maybe even number 4 overall). Crosby finished the season after breaking his hand on hard knocks with 10 sacks, 4 forced fumbles and 36 tackles, 14 of which were behind the line of scrimmage. I love this kid and thank god he’s a Raider because John Gruden did say how hard it was to get good pass rushers (after he traded Khalil Mack lol).
Gardner Minshew – Pick 178 – Jacksonville Jaguars
THE MUSTACHE MANIA! I loved what I saw from Gardner this season, especially considering I do not love the Jaguars offense one bit. The Jags brought in FA Nick Foles in the offseason, offering him a 4 year $88 Million buckarooo deal. Foles got injured early, placing the starting position into the hands of Minshew. Minshew broke some records at Washington State and was projected to be a mediocre NFL prospect. He finished the year with 3,271 total yards, a 60.6% completion percentage and 21 touchdowns. Not bad for a rookie.
Darius Slayton – Pick 171 – New York Giants
I really need to stop loving receivers this much, but here’s another one! I loved the 2019 class, but man they weren’t the names I was expecting from draft time. Slayton was taken late in the draft by the Giants, a team that was in need of playmakers after the departure of OBJ. The Auburn receiver started the year off slow but broke out in week 10 with 10 receptions for 121 yards and two touchdowns. Despite finishing the year with only 740 total receiving yards, Slayton has quickly become rookie Daniel Jone’s top target and should continue to improve.
Did I miss you’re favorite NFL rookie? Let me know!