You can have your midseason all-rookie teams, listed by position. We’d like to take a different approach this season.
Yes, it’s fun to measure the progress of the NFL’s first-year players and measure them up to their draft status — and sometimes the disparity is stark and shocking.
So we’re still doing that exercise, but just in a different format. We’re picking the best 32 rookies to date, regardless of position. This way we can measure the players through a broader lens and show exactly why, for example, Kyler Murray deserves to be a few notches above folk hero Gardner Minshew to this point.
It also can give us a look at which positions were strongest in the 2019 draft, where the weakest spots were and, in a few cases, ask: How in the heck did that guy go undrafted?!
Here’s our squad to this point, and yes, we had to omit a few highly drafted players — still good players until proven otherwise! — because they haven’t played enough to this point. Don’t worry, they’ve still have time to make our end-of-season list in a few months.
1. 49ers EDGE Nick Bosa
Actual: Round 1, 2nd overall
Bosa – with seven sacks, an NFL-best 11 tackles for loss, an INT and a forced fumble — might win Defensive Rookie of the Year and possibly Defensive Player of the Year.
2. Giants DT Dexter Lawrence
Actual: Round 1, 17th overall
The modern NFL isn't supposed to favor 340-pound defenders, but Lawrence has athleticism that belies his size and appears to be a steal for GM Dave Gettleman.
3. Redskins WR Terry McLaurin
Actual: Round 3, 76th overall
McLaurin's quick emergence has been a great story amid a lost Redskins season, emerging as a go-to weapon in the passing game no matter the QB.
4. Cardinals QB Kyler Murray
Actual: Round 1, 1st overall
Kliff Kingsbury has handed the keys to the Cardinals' offense to Murray, who's proven to be accurate.
5. Panthers EDGE Brian Burns
Actual: Round 1, 16th overall
With 4.5 sacks, a forced fumble and a 56-yard fumble return for a TD, we're going to wonder how Burns slid to No. 16 in the draft.
6. Saints C Erik McCoy
Actual: Round 2, 48th overall
The Saints landed a first-round talent in McCoy to ease the retirement of Max Unger. McCoy is becoming one of the NFL's best young centers.
7. Raiders RB Josh Jacobs
Actual: Round 1, 24th overall
Jacobs' running has been as good as advertised, breaking tackles and racking up yards for the Raiders, who have yet to unleash him in the passing game.
8. Jaguars QB Gardner Minshew
Actual: Round 6, 178th overall
After a couple of shaky outings, Minshew Mania is back in bloom. His 13-2 TD-INT ratio is impressive, especially for a rookie QB who replaced an injured Nick Foles.
9. Packers OG Elgton Jenkins
Actual: Round 2, 44th overall
Jenkins has been a nice performer for Matt LaFleur's burgeoning offense, and he's coming off what might have been his best game vs. K.C.
10. Steelers LB Devin Bush
Actual: Round 1, 10th overall
Bush has settled in nicely after being picked on in coverage early, with the acquisition of Minkah Fitzpatrick relieving some of his coverage duties.
11. Jaguars EDGE Josh Allen
Actual: Round 1, 7th overall
Allen has found ways to be productive in a reserve pass-rush role, with seven sacks and two forced fumbles in his past six games.
12. Chiefs S Juan Thornhill
Actual: Round 2, 63rd overall
The Chiefs' defense has its share of warts, but Thornhill isn't one of them. He's beginning to thrive alongside Tyrann Mathieu after a slow start.
13. Broncos OG Dalton Risner
Actual: Round 2, 41st overall
Risner has been a bright spot amid all the Broncos' offensive line concerns, even if he might be a little more sound as a pass blocker than in the run game.
14. Packers S Darnell Savage
Actual: Round 1, 21st overall
Savage has been impactful vs. the run and in coverage, and he'd likely be higher on the list had he not suffered an ankle injury.
15. Bills DT Ed Oliver
Actual: Round 1, 9th overall
Oliver didn't notch his first sack until Week 7, but he appears to be heating up as he gets accustomed to the size and quickness of NFL linemen.
16. Chiefs WR Mecole Hardman
Actual: Round 2, 56th overall
Hardman has done a nice job stressing defenses while filling in for the injured Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins, catching four TDs and assuming punt-return duties.
17. Seahawks WR D.K. Metcalf
Actual: Round 2, 64th overall
There has been an all-or-nothing quality to Metcalf's game, but credit the physically imposing receiver for delivering big plays on a nearly weekly basis.
18. Titans WR A.J. Brown
Actual: Round 2, 51st overall
Brown has been closing in on the No. 1 WR job, and it's been impressive to see him contribute in nearly every game.
19. Ravens WR Marquise “Hollywood” Brown
Actual: Round 1, 25th overall
He's averaging 65.2 receiving yards per game but slid down this list due to recent injuries. When healthy, Brown is a blur in the open field and has star upside.
20. Colts S Khari Willis
Actual: Round 4, 109th overall
Aside from a few missed tackles and rookie missteps, Willis has been a nice Day 3 find for the Colts. A foot injury suffered in Week 8 bears watching.
21. 49ers OT Justin Skule
Actual: Round 6, 183rd overall
The son of the FBI's executive assistant director for intelligence, Skule has been a godsend for the Niners, stepping in well for the injured Joe Staley.
22. Vikings C Garrett Bradbury
Actual: Round 1, 18th overall
After a rough start plagued by penalties and breakdowns in pass protection, Bradbury has tightened up quite a bit in recent games.
23. Giants QB Daniel Jones
Actual: Round 1, 6th overall
After some dicey outings that had people asking about Eli Manning again, Jones has developed a nice chemistry with fellow rookie Darius Slayton and is showing why he was drafted so high.
24. Broncos EDGE Malik Reed
With the injury to Bradley Chubb, Reed has stepped in and quietly done a nice job. Despite tremendous college production, the undersized Reed went undrafted.
25. Jets DT Quinnen Williams
Actual: Round 1, 3rd overall
After a slow start and an ankle injury, Williams has begun to make his presence felt, and he figures to be a full-time starter now that Leonard Williams has been dealt.
26. Redskins EDGE Montez Sweat
Actual: Round 1, 26th overall
Sweat is rounding into form and there's a lot to like in his game, even if the big plays have been scarce.
27. Jaguars OT Jawaan Taylor
Actual: Round 2, 35th overall
Taylor has allowed eight sacks and committed eight penalties, but he's faced a murderers' row of defenders and there have been promising elements to his game.
28. Cardinals CB Byron Murphy
Actual: Round 2, 33rd overall
Murphy has played all but one defensive snap this season and while he's allowed a fair number of receptions, he's also shown toughness and coverage ability.
29. Lions TE T.J. Hockenson
Actual: Round 1, 8th overall
His receiving production largely came in Week 1, and some considerable drops have hurt his stock. But the Lions appear to be a better offense with him on the field.
30. Bills OT Cody Ford
Actual: Round 2, 38th overall
Ford has cut down on mental mistakes and learned not to be so grabby. The flashes of upside are there, whether at guard or tackle.
31. Dolphins WR Preston Williams
Character concerns caused the gifted Williams to go undrafted, but he's making the most of his chance in chaotic Miami.
32. Patriots EDGE Chase Winovich
Actual: Round 3, 77th overall
He's averaging fewer than 20 snaps a game but has filled a pass-rush role and been a big contributor on special teams, running back a blocked punt for a TD.
Just missed the cut
Colts CB Rock Ya-Sin (Round 2, 34th overall); Giants EDGE Oshane Ximinies (Round 3, 59th overall); Texans DL Charles Omenihu (Round 5, 161st overall); Vikings TE Irv Smith (Round 2, 50th overall); Steelers WR Diontae Johnson (Round 3, 66th overall); Redskins LB Cole Holcomb (Round 5, 173rd overall).