[As a part of our partnership with ESPN, this is a story that was originally published on ESPN+ and can be viewed in its entirety with your ESPN+ subscription – Ranking the NFL's most productive 2019 rookie classes from 1-32.]
The ability to get production from players on rookie contracts is one of the biggest competitive edges NFL teams can create. It is easier to do that with a wealth of draft capital near the top of the board, of course, but it's important how much a team can get from its draft picks relative to where they were taken rather than just blindly adding together all the production from the class.
If Player X and Player Y have similar seasons, the production from Player Y, taken in the sixth round, is much more valuable than the production a team gets from first-round-pick Player X.
PFF has unveiled its wins above replacement metric in recent weeks (PFF WAR), and we used it to rank all 32 teams on the value of their rookie class over expectation given where each player was selected in the 2019 draft.
© Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
Why they're ranked here: The Redskins got average quarterback play from Dwayne Haskins after he took over as the starter in Week 9 and an outstanding performance from third-round receiver Terry McLaurin. Play like that from two of the most valuable positions in the NFL will go a long way toward making a top draft class.
How their top pick fared: Haskins (No. 15 overall) got off to a rough start to his career with two shaky performances off the bench, but he rebounded with a 73.4 PFF grade (12th among quarterbacks) after taking over as the starter in Week 9.
Best value pick: McLaurin (No. 76 overall) was a revelation in 2019. His 86.5 receiving grade not only led all rookie wide receivers this season, but it was the highest mark since Odell Beckham Jr.'s in 2014.
Why they're ranked here: Anytime you can get the most valuable rookie in the NFL ( Gardner Minshew) in the sixth round of the draft, you're going to finish pretty high on this list. The Jaguars also got promising performances from early picks Josh Allen and Jawaan Taylor, both members of the PFF All-Rookie Team.
How their top pick fared: Allen (No. 7 overall) finished second among rookie edge defenders in total pressures and pressure rate, just behind No. 2 pick Nick Bosa. Allen wasn't as dominant as his 10.5 sacks would suggest, but he had a strong rookie season.
Best value pick: People seem to forget that Minshew (No. 178 overall) was dealing early in the season before being benched for a returning Nick Foles. Even with worse play after returning as the starter, he was our highest-graded rookie quarterback.
San José State
Why they're ranked here: With no first-round pick and just three selections within the first five rounds, the Chiefs didn't have much to work with in the 2019 draft. However, they hit on key contributors in the second round who secured their spot among the top three classes.
How their top pick fared: Wide receiver Mecole Hardman (No. 56 overall) hasn't had a massive role in the Chiefs' offense given the playmakers they already had, but he has been electric when given the chance, with a passer rating when targeted of 153.9. He was also a dynamic returner, making the Pro Bowl team.
Best value pick: The loss of safety Juan Thornhill (No. 63 overall) to a torn ACL before the playoffs was a big blow for Kansas City. He was the primary free safety on a defense that allowed the third-best passer rating in the league on passes 20 or more yards downfield.
Why they're ranked here: We graded Daniel Jones as our 24th-ranked quarterback overall, but he had more success than many expected, throwing 24 touchdown passes. Defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence, the Giants' second first-round pick, had the highest PFF grade of any rookie interior defensive lineman, and the team saw promising starts to the careers of late-round picks Darius Slayton and Julian Love.
How their top pick fared: Jones (No. 6 overall) showed flashes of high-level play, but carelessness with the football is something to work on moving forward. His 31 turnover-worthy plays — the plays our grading deem as riskiest, even if they didn't always result in a turnover — were fourth-most in the NFL.
Best value pick: Wide receiver Slayton (No. 171 overall) was part of the year of the rookie wide receiver, significantly outperforming his fifth-round pedigree. His 18 receptions of 15-plus yards were fifth among rookie wideouts.
Why they're ranked here: The Saints have mortgaged their future to win now in recent years, which left the draft cupboard bare in 2019. Despite that, they managed to nail their first two picks in Rounds 2 and 4, even getting key contributions from an undrafted free agent in defensive tackle Shy Tuttle. That's doing more with less.
How their top pick fared: Center Erik McCoy (No. 48 overall) wasn't only the best rookie center in the NFL, he was one of the top centers in the league. His PFF overall grade of 76.1 ranked fourth at the position.
Best value pick: Cornerback C.J. Gardner-Johnson (No. 105 overall) was one of the top values in the draft, for any team. He spent a lot of his time in the slot this past season, excelling there with the fourth-highest slot-coverage grade among qualifiers.
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