Although it might not be fair, pre-draft narratives seem to always follow players to the NFL. Fans that closely follow the draft tend to be very stubborn when it comes to their opinion on a prospect, even when there is direct evidence to the contrary.
Below are four 2019 NFL rookies who exceeded the football world’s expectations this season.
2019 NFL Rookies Who Exceeded Expectations
Max Crosby, Edge Defender, Oakland Raiders
Max Crosby was one of the harder evaluations of the 2019 class. His outstanding production and freakish athletic testing were easy to fall for. Yet, when factoring in the lackluster competition he faced at Eastern Michigan, it was difficult to fully get behind him.
His tape told the same story. He usually beat his opponents with his athleticism. He didn’t consistently demonstrate clean wins and pass rushing skills that translated to the pros. The NFL obviously agreed because he wasn’t drafted until the fourth round.
But Crosby has greatly exceeded his fourth- round expectations. He has been the Oakland Raiders most productive pass rusher (even more productive than fourth overall pick Clelin Ferrell), and is third in pressures among rookies (according to Pro Football Focus).
Now, Crosby may not emerge as one of the league’s best pass rushers. But, if he can continue to build upon an impressive start, he will be a valuable contributor for years to come.
Darius Slayton, Wide Receiver, New York Giants
Darius Slayton wasn’t on many people’s radars in the pre-draft process, and that was largely because of his situation in college. Auburn was a run heavy offense with a shaky quarterback and simplistic passing offense.
In other words, the opportunities to showcase his skills and produce at high level just weren’t afforded to him. He fell through the cracks of the draft process as a result of this, and was selected in the fifth-round by the New York Giants.
Slayton has burst onto the scene in recent weeks and is now leading all rookies in receiving touchdowns and is fifth in receiving yards among rookies. For how star studded this receiver class was, no one saw Slayton being one of the premiere pass catchers of the group.
Daniel Jones, Quarterback, New York Giants
Much of the draft world believed that Daniel Jones was unworthy of the sixth overall pick, so the Giants (mostly general manager Dave Gettleman) were heavily criticized for picking him that high. It’s hard to say that “Danny Dimes” completely justified their selection but his rookie campaign was undoubtedly encouraging.
Jones was very comparable to Jameis Winston, meaning his season consisted of peaks and valleys. The high points are obviously promising but he needs to cut down on the mistakes (turnovers).
Regardless, he has showed enough for the Giants to feel confident with him at the helm for the foreseeable future.
Jamel Dean, Cornerback, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers made a deliberate effort to improve their secondary through the draft by selecting three defensive backs in the top 100. And while their first two picks of that group (Sean Murphy-Bunting and Mike Edwards) have flashed, Jamel Dean has paid the most dividends thus far.
Dean was widely viewed as a developmental prospect in the pre-draft process, but he has really hit the ground running much faster than anyone thought he would. Outside of one dreadful performance against the Seattle Seahawks, he has only allowed 133 receiving yards and zero touchdowns in six games. Clearly, the sample size is small, but it’s impressive nonetheless.
These four 2019 NFL rookies exceeded expectations this season. Only time will tell if their careers continue in an upward trajectory.