Getting picked at the top of the draft is the ultimate dream for all college football players. Making the headlines, grabbing the attention and laying down a marker for how good the best of the best think you are; with an early selection you can really feel like you have arrived.
Yet that high can be very short lived. Few first-round draft picks enjoy the kind of statistics that Patrick Mahomes did in his first full season, throwing for 50 touchdowns and over 5,000 yards as he exploded on to the scene as one of the best rookies in recent years. For most new young players, it is a mixed bag at best. So let’s take a look at how last year’s top ten college players have performed since their success in the NFL Draft.
1. Kyler Murray
Inevitably, with the first pick going to the worst team from the previous season, Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray has struggled for offensive protection at the Arizona Cardinals. Nonetheless, he has still produced an admirable set of stats, completing 64% of passes for 3,722 yards and 20 touchdowns, and rushing for four more. In the end, he earned a creditable 4th place on the NFL rookie rankings for his ‘arm strength, touch and play-making skills.
2. Nick Bosa
Three places above Murray, and the NFL top ranked rookie of the year, Nick Bosa was described as a ‘dominant force every week’, posting 47 tackles, nine sacks and one interception. He also topped the CBS defensive rookie rankings for helping the 49ers defense to ‘take a great leap forward’, with the review expecting a ‘bright, bright future’ for the former Ohio State player. Bosa joins Murray on the shortlist for Pepsi Rookie of the Year, alongside Mississippi’s AJ Brown, Alabama’s Josh Jacobs and Penn State’s Miles Sanders.
3. Quinnen Williams
‘There probably isn’t a more disappointing rookie season in 2019 than Quinnen Williams,’ said the PFF rankings, and they had a point. Unlike the first two draft picks, Defensive Tackle Williams had a season to forget with the New York Jets, ranking 33rd in run defense and 77th in pass rushing. A combined 27 tackles, including 13 assists from 13 games tells you all you need to know.
4. Clelin Ferrell
Oakland Raiders’ 4th overall draft pick, Clellin Ferrell, also failed to live up to expectations as the Raiders posted a disappointing 7 and 9 season. The former Clemson Defensive End started 15 games in the regular season, posting 34 combined tackles including 14 assists. That said, with the Raiders leaking the third highest points-against in the AFC, the blame cannot be laid solely at his door.
5. Devin White
Making the NFL regular season rookie rankings at number 11, Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Line Backer, Devin White, out of LSU, made a fine start to his pro-ball career. With ‘elite speed and play-making skills that jump off the screen’, he impressed in all 13 of his starts. Despite a below average 7 and 9 season for the Buccs, he racked up 91 combined tackles, averaging 7 per game.
6. Daniel Jones
With 3,027 yards and 26 touchdowns, you would expect New York Giants 6th overall pick, Daniel Jones from Duke, to be higher up the NFL rookie rankings than 7th. Unfortunately, the quarterback had a bad case of the fumbles, shipping the ball 18 times in 13 games and losing it in 11 of those incidents. The frustration for both player and side was summed up by two defeats in the same month for the Giants, away at Philadelphia Eagles and at home to the same team in the last game of the regular season.
7. Josh Allen
Despite only starting four of his 16 games, 7th overall pick, Defensive End Josh Allen, proved himself to be something of a sack machine for Jacksonville Jaguars. He posted an impressive 44 combined tackles and 10.5 sacks for the regular season on his way to 5th place in the rookie rankings. His ‘phenomenal year’, which saw him ranked second among the rookies for pass-rush win rate and pressure rate, shows great potential, with the NFL rankings predicting that he will soon lead the league in sacks.
(Caption: NFL rookies must line up against the best in the business)
8. T. J. Hockenson
When your new team posts a 3, 12 and 1 season, there are few chances to shine, as Iowa Tight End T.J. Hockenson found out at the Detroit Lions. With seven starts and 12 appearances overall, he received just 32 passes for 367 yards and only two touchdowns. He can only hope that an early draft pick for the Lions in 2020 will bring in the talent they need to help the Mackey Award winner show his potential.
9. Ed Oliver
By contrast to Hockenson, when his team posts 10 and 6, you might expect Buffalo Bills’ 9th overall pick, Ed Oliver from Houston, to have had more chance to shine. Unfortunately, the Defensive Tackle struggled to break into the starting line-up, starting just seven of his 16 games. Nonetheless, he still managed 43 combined tackles and five sacks over the regular season.
10. Devin Bush
At the heart of a Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense that had the fourth best record in the NFC and sixth best overall, Devin Bush claimed a top ten place in the NFL rookie rankings. He posted an impressive 109 combined tackles, together with four fumble recoveries and two interceptions. Described as a ‘steadying force’ in the middle of the Steelers’ defense, the Michigan Line Backer has shown a great deal of promise for the future.
The varying levels of success just goes to show how little your draft pick number actually means for your NFL career. Some players live up to the hype, while others struggle with the transition, or simply don’t have the players around them that they need to succeed. Of course, that won’t stop the excitement and spectacle of the NFL Draft, and all eyes will be firmly fixed on Las Vegas at the end of April to see who the game thinks the next potential superstars will be.