With the start of each NFL season, football analysts, pundits, and fans all love to take a look back at the top 10 draft picks from the previous spring and catch up on how their young professional careers are doing so far.
We’re now a few weeks into the 2018 NFL season, so what better time is there to step back and see how the rookie class is doing? Are they are living up to the expectations of their teams’ ravenous fanbases? Without further ado, let’s take a look at the top 10 draft picks of 2018.
1. Baker Mayfield
Baker Mayfield became the first overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft when the Cleveland Browns selected the quarterback from the University of Oklahoma.
Mayfield, the 2017 Heisman Trophy winner, signed a four-year contract worth $32.69 million. However, he has yet to take a snap behind Cleveland’s starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor, although multiple media outlets and football analysts have called for the 0-1-1 Browns to put Mayfield in the game. This includes Andy Benoit of Sports Illustrated, who wrote:
“Nobody knows more than [head coach Hue] Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley about Baker Mayfield’s current level of readiness. But it’s worth noting that around draft time, the Browns—among other teams—gushed about Mayfield’s football IQ and leadership. If that gushing was valid, you’d think Mayfield could run Jackson’s and Haley’s offense sooner rather than later.”
Maybe Mayfield will soon get to start and show off his “football IQ” one of these days.
2. Saquon Barkley
Saquon Barkley was the second overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, but unlike Mayfield, his rookie campaign has gotten off to a better start. For example, he has actually played in the first two games of the season.
Barkley, a running back with the New York Giants, was drafted out of Penn State, where he completed three seasons, earning recognition from coaches and football analysts on the national level. Throughout the first two games of his rookie season, Barkley has rushed 29 times for 134 yards and 1 touchdown.
The Giants are currently 0-2 in the early weeks of the season, but Barkley isn’t letting it shake his confidence, as he told the New York Post following practice ahead of week three:
“I don’t think we feel we’re a much better team than [our record] — I think we know we’re a much better team than that,” Barkley told the Post. “I think we know we’re so close. In this locker room, no one’s overreacting.”
3. Sam Darnold
The New York Jets selected quarterback Sam Darnold with the third overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.
Prior to entering the draft, Darnold attended the University of Southern California, where he played three seasons for the Trojans. Darnold led the Trojans to victory at the 2017 Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, but could not replicate the victory when his team was defeated 24-7 by the Ohio State University Buckeyes in the 2018 Cotton Bowl in Arlington, Texas.
Through the first two games of his rookie season, Darnold has thrown for 532 yards, resulting in three touchdowns and three interceptions. Though the early stages of Darnold’s rookie season have been okay at best, Pro Football Hall of Famer Troy Aikman had some advice for the QB in a recent New York Post article:
“I was given some advice when I was coming into the league,” Aikman told The Post, “And it was simply, ‘Just try to maintain an even keel.’ I think when you come from college, and you’ve had success, that’s kind of the expectation when you come into the league, and you’re gonna lose some games. What ultimately separates the great quarterbacks in our game from the ones that are good is an ability to just lock in and get focused week in and week out.”
4. Denzel Ward
Denzel Ward shows up on our list as the second pick by the Cleveland Browns and fourth overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.
A star cornerback with the Ohio State University, Ward continued to dominate on the gridiron through the first two weeks of his rookie season, recording seven tackles and two interceptions. Josh Poloha, of sports blog Waiting For Next Year, had this to say about Cleveland’s top cornerback:
“There were a number of players who played really well and gave Cleveland a glimpse of what could (and essentially should) be a bright future for their football team, especially on defense, and one of those players was cornerback Denzel Ward. It truly is amazing what happens when the Browns actually draft an Ohio State Buckeye.”
5. Bradley Chubb
Rounding out the top five draft picks in the 2018 NFL Draft is Denver Broncos defensive end Bradley Chubb, who was selected out of North Carolina State earlier this year.
Chubb has recorded three tackles and 0.5 sacks through the first two games of his rookie season, and some former players for the Broncos are taking notice. One of Denver’s all-time great pass rushers sees a lot of great things coming Chubb’s way in the future, as he told Denver radio station Orange and Blue 760 (via SB Nation):
“He’s in his second regular-season professional game, and I think he’s doing well,” Fletcher said. “It’s still a learning experience for him. Right now there’s a little bit of thought, and there will be for the foreseeable future, but he has the tools and the mentality that once that light goes off and he realizes he can play this game at this level and be a great contributor, I think Bradley Chubb going to be the guy we’re talking about when Von Miller is near the end of his career in a few years.”
6. Quenton Nelson
Quenton Nelson, an offensive guard, was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts as the sixth overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.
Nelson played college football for the University of Notre Dame where he played two full seasons and one partial season after redshirting his freshman season. Through the first two weeks of the offensive guard’s rookie season with the Colts, Nelson has been somewhat successful despite his offense’s tendency to run the ball.
Despite this, analysts see a lot of upside in Nelson, as highlighted by Brett Mock of SB Nation:
“[Nelson] has held up nicely as a pass blocker against two very respectable defensive lines and has already started compiling an impressive highlight reel.”
7. Josh Allen
Quarterback Josh Allen was selected by the Buffalo Bills with the seventh overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.
Allen, who played for the University of Wyoming, didn’t start the first game of his rookie season with Buffalo, but he did get the start in week two, where he threw for 252 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. The Bills are winless through the first two games of Allen’s career.
A number of analysts, including _Sports Illustrated’s _Ben Baskin, have commended Allen for trying to make the best of the situation he’s in, going as far to say the rookie quarterback has been thrown to the “wolves,” following his first two games.
Allen thinks he still has a lot to learn about the game, as he explained following his week two start:
“My mindset coming into this game was I’m here to play,” Allen said. “There are a lot of lessons to learn from this game.”
8. Roquan Smith
The Chicago Bears selected Roquan Smith with the eighth overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft after the star linebacker from the University of Georgia played three seasons for the Bulldogs. Through the first two games of his rookie season, Smith has recorded one sack and eight tackles, with his efforts helping to stop the Seattle Seahawks offense in the late run of the Bears’ week two victory.
Fansided blogger Parker Hurley sang Smith’s praises following Smith’s first start on the defensive line by stating:
“Smith is already showing strengths in areas that could have been considered weaknesses. It has to be looked at as a significant positive for his development,” Hurley said. “Smith is looking like a definite upgrade in the present and has the potential to bring even more to the table moving forward.”
9. Mike McGlinchey
Mike McGlinchey was drafted by the San Fransisco 49ers with the ninth overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. The rookie offensive tackle was drafted out of the University of Notre Dame, where he played five seasons (one redshirt) before declaring his intention of going pro.
McGlinchey has started both of the first two games of his first season in the league, but he had to take over the right tackle position in his debut, a position he’s never played at any point in his football career. The offensive tackle told The San Fransisco Chronicle that he tried to do his “best,” but that he also had some trouble picking up a new position:
“I tried to do it to the best of my ability,” McGlinchey said. “I think I should have done it a little bit better than I did it, but that’s how it shakes out sometimes.”
10. Josh Rosen
Rounding out our list is quarterback Josh Rosen, who was picked up by the Arizona Cardinals with the 10th overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Prior to being drafted in the NFL, Rose served as the quarterback for the University of California, Los Angeles for three years, where he received national recognition on multiple occasions.
Despite being a starter throughout his college career, Rosen has yet to get a start in the NFL, though many fans and analysts believe now is the time for the Cardinals to switch up the depth charts and put in Rosen ahead of week three.
NBCSports online reporter Charean Williams had this to say about the Cardinals and their lack of offense through the first two games of the season:
“The Cardinals might start with a change at quarterback,” Williams wrote. “With six points and 350 yards combined in two games, what does Arizona have to lose?”