Last year’s Offensive Rookie of the Year race was largely fought between a pair of running backs, with the Giants‘ Saquon Barkley pulling away from the Broncos‘ Phillip Lindsay in the stretch run — and ultimately withstanding a late surge from Browns QB Baker Mayfield. This year’s derby has featured a more diverse field, with favorites trading places throughout the first three months. Let’s examine the 2019 All-Rookie Team on offense. (Be sure to check back next week for defensive honors.)
Even with the 2019 draft’s No. 1 overall pick coming off his worst single-game performance of the season, Arizona has to rank among the most elated three-win clubs in recent memory. We’ve never seen a quarterback like Murray, a 5-foot-10 smooth-as-jazz Spiderman with a lightning-quick wrist flick spinning accurate deep balls from angles and platforms that clumsier passers simply can’t access. How many quarterbacks would the Cardinals swap straight up for Murray, forfeiting the opportunity to experience his unique brand of excitement over the next decade? I bet the answer can be counted on one hand.
While Murray’s skill set and potential stand alone among rookie field generals, Jacksonville’s Gardner Minshew might have given him a run for his money on this list had he not been unfairly relegated to the bench in favor of a business decision. I fed the Minshew game tape into The George Michael Sports Machine, which spit out the following composite score: 31% Tony Romo, 19% Jake Delhomme, 17% Baker Mayfield, 11% Mark Sanchez, 7% Doug Flutie, 5% Greg McElroy, 3% Randall “Pink” Floyd, 3% “Pistol” Pete Maravich, 2% Marty McFly, 1% Detective Rust Cohle, 0.8% Uncle Rico, 0.2% Dwight Yoakam.
The favorite for Offensive Rookie of the Year honors, Jacobs has already established a new franchise rookie rushing mark while operating as the tone-setting focal point of Jon Gruden’s offense from the day he stepped foot on RingCentral Coliseum’s infield dirt. Carolina’s Christian McCaffrey is the only back with more 100-yard rushing performances than Jacobs’ five this season. Cleveland’s Nick Chubb is the only back with a higher rushing grade from Pro Football Focus. No other rookie runner is within 450 rushing yards of Jacobs’ 1,061. A downhill runner who seemingly tilts the field in his favor, Jacobs has defied comparison to this point in his young career. For what it’s worth, I see an intriguing blend of Cowboys Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith and current Cardinals afterthought David Johnson.
Boasting 4.35 speed and unmatched instincts, McLaurin was hyped as the best special teams prospect in years. Instead, he immediately claimed the Redskins‘ No. 1 receiver job and utilized those wheels to burn veteran cornerbacks with a full route tree that nobody saw coming. He’s been a top-12 wideout this season, per Pro Football Focus, delivering 646 yards (15.4 yards per reception) and five touchdowns in a dysfunctional aerial attack with no other player above 300 yards or two scores. More of a straight-line, go-route specialist, Metcalf has posted similar numbers (705 yards, five touchdowns, three fumbles) on the receiving end of MVP candidate Russell Wilson‘s pretty passes.
The tailback trio of Buffalo’s Devin Singletary, Chicago’s David Montgomery and Philadelphia’s Miles Sanders deserve consideration, but “Hollywood” gets the nod as the difference-making field-stretcher in Baltimore’s historically productive offense. Lamar Jackson‘s lone consistent downfield threat, Brown has hauled in 36 passes for 520 yards and six trips to paydirt. With Brown and star tight end Mark Andrews doing the heavy lifting, no other Ravens wide receiver has managed more than 25 catches or 300 yards.
It’s a major upset that neither Iowa Hawkeyes standout claimed this spot, but Denver’s Noah Fant has been one of the most mistake-prone starters at any position and Detroit’s T.J. Hockenson wasn’t much better before landing on injured reserve with an ankle ailment sustained on Thanksgiving Day. Smith has been better than advertised as a blocker while helping to fill the receiving void left by Pro Bowl wideout Adam Thielen‘s extended absence due to a hamstring injury. Bills fans can’t be blamed for thinking Dawson Knox has been just as good. With no clear-cut stud at tight end, this is coin-flip territory.
Veteran pass rushers began the season taking advantage of Taylor as a Day 1 starter, but he hasn’t been charged with a sack since Week 6. The second-round pick joins guard Andrew Norwell as the only Jaguars to play every snap this season. Billed as a high-upside project out of Alabama State, Howard ended up solving Houston’s long-standing problem at right tackle before an MCL tear ended his season last week. Fellow first-round picks Andre Dillard and Kaleb McGary have disappointed in Philadelphia and Atlanta, respectively.
Aaron Rodgers has credited this year’s offensive line as one of the most reliable of his career, with Jenkins taking over as the starter in Week 3. While former All-Pro David Bakhtiari has mixed in a few clunkers this season, Jenkins is a rock in pass protection. Risner has been the bright spot on an underperforming Broncos offensive line that has otherwise continued to baffle team architect John Elway.
Already one of the NFL’s steadiest all-around centers, McCoy has been an upgrade over retired veteran Max Unger in the running game as well as pass protection. He gets the nod over less-consistent Vikings center Garrett Bradbury, who has struggled at times to keep Kirk Cousins clean. With McCoy in the pivot, joining the stalwart tackle tandem of Terron Armstead and Ryan Ramczyk, the Saints‘ O-line nucleus stacks up with the cream of the crop.
Slye earned Carolina’s kicking job by drilling a series of field goals beyond 55 yards in training camp. That prodigious leg has carried over to the regular season, as he was Pro Football Focus’ top-rated kicker before a Week 12 meltdown which included three misses at New Orleans. That outlier aside, he’s rivaling Matt Prater and Justin Tucker as the most dangerous deep kicker in the league.
Undrafted out of obscure Assumption College, Harris has pulled off a convincing impression of former Chiefs return ace Dante Hall ever since the preseason docket opened in August. Coach Sean Payton must have told each broadcast team assigned to the Saints that he has the most electric return man in football, a whirling dervish averaging 9.3 yards on 25 punt returns.
Follow Chris Wesseling on Twitter @ChrisWesseling.