We have officially reached the halfway mark on the season and we now know the rookies that were underrated — as well as overrated — during the 2019 NFL Draft process. Using PFF’s unique grades and advanced database, we give you the 10 rookies who have performed the best through the first half of 2019, in descending order.
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10. G Elgton Jenkins, Green Bay Packers
After a crisp performance against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 8 that resulted in an 89.2 overall grade, Elgton Jenkins cracks the list of PFF’s top 10 rookies through Week 8. Standing with a 69.4 overall grade on the year, Jenkins ranks sixth among all 32 starting left guards. Jenkins’ bread and butter has been his pass-blocking, as he has a 74.1 pass-block grade and joins Richie Incognito as the only left guards to not allow a single quarterback hit or sack in the league’s first half.
9. C Erik McCoy, New Orleans Saints
In the second round, the New Orleans Saints traded up to snag center Erik McCoy, and the ROI on this move is paying great dividends as he is currently PFF’s second highest-graded center with a PFF grade of 72.2. Whether it be in pass-protection or run-blocking, McCoy has shined — he ranks sixth in pass-blocking grade and third in run-blocking grade. McCoy’s stout play has aided in the Saints offensive line taking home the third-best unit in PFF’s midseason offensive line rankings.
8. EDGE Malik Reed, Denver Broncos
Once 2018 fifth overall pick Bradley Chubb went down with an ACL in Week 4, undrafted free agent Malik Reed was called into action and hasn’t disappointed. Since he claimed starting duties in Week 5, Reed ranks 20th among all edge defenders in overall grade at 78.0 (which is higher than Von Miller) and third in run-defense grade at 84.6. While we still would like to see Reed generate a bit more pressure, he’s been decent in the pass-rush with a 15.8% win rate — ranking only behind top-10 picks Nick Bosa and Josh Allen among rookies.
Throughout the 2019 draft process, safety Chauncey Gardner-Johnson was one prospect who PFF felt was undervalued, as we slotted him as an early to mid-second round pick who was taken in the fourth round. He played only 68 snaps in Weeks 1-6, but once starting slot corner P.J. Williams was suspended, Garnder-Johnson took over his role and thrived — that also resulted in a lights-out Week 8 performance that landed him on PFF’s Team of the Week with an elite 90.1 coverage grade. PFF was all over Gardner-Johnson as a slot/hybrid safety, and he’s proving that assessment right, ranking fifth among all defensive backs in coverage grade in the slot at 79.1 while tacking on four forced incompletions on his 12 slot targets. Nonetheless, it’s pretty clear Gardner-Johnson has shown he is more than capable of handling slot duties and deserving of remaining a starter on this Saints defense.
6. QB Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals
It took him a few weeks to get warmed up, but ever since his elite graded game in Week 5 (90.4 grade), the first overall pick Kyler Murray has been the eighth-best quarterback in all of the NFL with an 80.6 overall grade. In that timespan, Murray ranks seventh in accurate pass rate at 62.7% and has produced nine big-time throws while limiting his turnover-worthy plays to just one. Perhaps one of the greatest things we have seen from Murray this season, though, is his patience on long-developing plays. On plays where his time-to-throw eclipses 2.6 seconds, Murray ranks seventh in passing grade at 78.0 and first in uncatchable pass rate at 15.4% (and if you’re wondering if this is a result of short passes, it’s not — Murray has a 12.5 aDOT on these throws).
Everyone’s favorite quarterback Gardner Minshew is climbing back up the rookie rankings after a nice 81.0 overall grade against the Jets in Week 8. We know his greatest weakness is holding onto the ball under pressure (nine fumbles are tied for the most among quarterback), but his performance from a clean pocket makes up for some of those negative plays, as he is the seventh-best quarterback when clean with an 86.5 passing grade. The former Washington State Cougar has proven all of his doubters wrong with his elite downfield passing in 2019 and is the fifth highest-graded quarterback on throws of 15-plus yards at 92.7. On Minshew's deeper passes (15-plus yards), he has been able to put together a great big-time throw to turnover-worthy play ratio of nine to one and is averaging the fourth-most yards per attempt at 15.1.
4. DI Dexter Lawrence, New York Giants
As a rookie, Dexter Lawrence is making a strong case for being one of the league’s best 0/1-techs in all of the NFL, ranking third in PFF grade at the alignment at 86.3. Regardless of where he is aligned though, Lawrence has been stout against the run with an 85.0 run-defense grade ranking ninth among interior defensive lineman. Moreover, Lawrence has only one missed tackle across his 21 tackling attempts — in other words, good luck getting past this 340-pound brick wall if you are a running back.
Week in and week out, the third-round rookie Terry McLaurin has toasted his primary coverage defender, making his way to an 83.0 receiving grade ranking 11th among all wide receivers. McLaurin’s specialty is one all teams covet: deep receiving. Through Week 8, McLaurin ranks top 10 in deep catches, yards and touchdowns (on targets of 20-plus yards). When including the intermediate target range and all targets of 10 or more yards, McLaurin is tied for first in PFF receiving grade.
2. EDGE Nick Bosa, San Francisco 49ers
Like his big brother Joey, Nick Bosa has proven himself to be one of the league’s best edge rushers just seven games into his NFL career by ranking seventh in pass-rush grade at 85.7. The second overall pick has been generating pressure at a stupefying rate of 21.5%, which is nearly two and a half percentage points higher than second. Along with that, Bosa has produced a pass-rush win rate of 23.5% (fourth among edge defenders — Joey Bosa is third, for what it’s worth).
1. RB Josh Jacobs, Oakland Raiders
Coming in at number one in PFF’s rookie rankings is the Oakland Raiders Josh Jacobs, who is currently PFF’s highest-graded running back with an elite 90.8 overall grade. Jacobs has been plowing through defenses in the first half of his rookie campaign, collecting the second-most broken tackles (35) and second-most yards after contact per attempt (3.8). When looking at Jacobs’ best runs, more often than not they come when he is rushing at or between the guards. In fact, Jacobs is so good on these runs that he has an elite PFF rushing grade of 90.3 on them, which is miles ahead of the second highest-graded running back who falls at 79.2.