The 2017 NFL season brought us plenty of excitement. There are plenty of players that have cemented their status as a star in the league. However, 2017 was a year where there was a mighty large influx of talent from the 2017 NFL Draft. For the second straight year, a rookie led the league in rushing, a cornerback quickly established himself as one of the top defensive players in the league, and a quarterback from Clemson made every team that passed on him regret their mistake. Some rookies performed as expected, others came out of nowhere. Here it is: a breakdown of each NFL team’s top rookie from the 2017 NFL Draft Class.
We took into account each player’s statistics and their overall affect on their team.
Budda Baker, Safety, Washington
74 tackles (58 solo), 1 sack, 7 Pass Def., 2 FF
Budda Baker went from being a force in the Pac-12 to be a consistent performer for the Cardinals in 2017. The 2nd-round pick did not record an interception, but solidified himself as the starting safety midway through the season, recording 13 tackles against the Texans in his first start. Look for Baker to continue to improve as he goes into year 2.
Honorable Mention: Haason Reddick, LB, Temple
Takkarist McKinley, DE, UCLA
20 tackles (15 solo), 6 sacks, 1 Pass Def.
McKinley proved himself as a force off the edge for Atlanta this year. He did not record a start, but appeared in every game, showing that he could clog up the middle and get to the QB, finishing 2nd on the team in sacks. McKinley, mostly known for his very passionate speech after being drafted where he held up a picture of his grandmother, has potential to keep bringing down NFC South quarterbacks.
Honorable Mention: Duke Riley, LB, LSU/ Damontae Kazee, CB, San Diego State
Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama
34 tackles (30 solo), 11 Pass Def., 2 INT’s
Marlon Humphrey was highly-touted coming from Nick Saban’s defense at Alabama and did not disappoint as he played a key role in the Baltimore defense. He recorded an interception against Green Bay and Detroit. Look for Humphrey to become a big playmaker for Baltimore’s secondary.
Honorable Mention: Tyus Bowser, LB, Houston
Tre’Davious White, CB, LSU
69 tackles (53 solo), 18 Pass Def., 4 INT’s, 1 FF
No surprise here, as White, who was picked late in the 1st round out of LSU, showed that he had what it takes to be a top corner in the league. At one point, he was considered a candidate for defensive rookie of the year. White started every game as a rookie and helped Buffalo get to the playoffs for the first time since 1999. Look for Tre’Davious White to ruin some Sunday’s for opposing quarterbacks.
Honorable Mention: Zay Jones, WR, ECU/ Matt Milano, LB, Boston College
Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford
117 rushes, 435 yards, 2 TD’s; 80 rec. 651 yards, 5 TD’s
Coming off of a brilliant career for Stanford, McCaffrey gave the Panthers a very good rookie season, becoming a solid weapon for Cam Newton. McCaffrey proved to be a crucial piece in the passing games, catching the ball 80 times, 3rd-most among NFL running backs. If he can stay healthy and build muscle over the offseason, he could continue to be a huge piece of the Carolina offense.
Honorable Mention: Curtis Samuel, WR, Ohio State
Eddie Jackson, FS, Alabama
73 tackles (55 solo), 6 Pass Def., 2 INT’s, 1 FF, 3 FR, 2 TD
Eddie Jackson was a crucial piece in the Alabama dynasty as a collegiate player and continued to impress during his rookie year in Chicago. After falling to the 4th round, Jackson started every game for the Bears, proving to be a great piece in their secondary. During a mostly disappointing year for the Bears, Jackson showed his skills in week 7 as he picked off Cam Newton and returned it 76 yards for a touchdown.
Honorable Mention: Mitch Trubisky, QB, North Carolina
Joe Mixon, RB, Oklahoma
178 rushes, 626 yards, 4 TD’s; 30 rec. 287 yards
Could Joe Mixon become another great NFL running back out of Oklahoma? Mixon was in hot water in college due to his issues with domestic violence but turned in an impressive year running the ball for the Bengals. After Jon Ross turned out to be a huge bust, the Bengals 2nd-round pick ran for over 600 yards in 14 games and took over the starting role in the 2nd half of the season. If he stays healthy and out of trouble, the Bengals could have a very solid running back for years to come.
Honorable Mention: Carl Lawson, DE, Auburn
Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M
31 tackles (19 solo), 7 sacks, 1 Pass Def.
After dealing with injuries in the beginning of the year, the 2017 #1 overall pick showed flashes of his brilliance in 2017. Although he may not have dominated the way some Browns fans had hoped, Myles Garrett was still the best Browns rookie, leading the team in sacks with 7 and showing that he has the talent and athleticism to be a dominant DE in the NFL.
Honorable Mention: David Njoku, TE, Miami
Jourdan Lewis, CB, Michigan
An overall underwhelming rookie class for America’s Team, Jourdan Lewis stood out as the top rookie. The 3rd-round pick out of Ann Arbor started off and on for the Cowboys and had an interception in his first career game during week 2’s matchup with the Denver Broncos. The Cowboys will look for more consistency as a team in 2018, but Lewis showed some solid play towards the end of the 2017 season.
Honorable Mention: Ryan Switzer, WR/PR, North Carolina/ Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan
Garrett Bolles, OT, Utah
The Broncos made Bolles the first lineman selected in the 2017 NFL Draft, and in return, Bolles gave the Broncos 16 starts. Although he has not been perfect, he has proven why the Broncos wanted him. In what was a down year for Denver, Bolles provided stability of the left side of the offensive line.
Honorable Mention: N/A
Jarrad Davis, LB, Florida
96 tackles (65 solo), 3 sacks, 3 Pass Def., 1 INT, 1 FF
The linebacker out of Florida showed why the Lions selected him at #21 overall. Davis racked up 96 tackles, good for 2nd on the team, and gave Detroit some presence in the middle of the defense. Jarrad Davis could be the building block of the Lions defense moving forward. He has shown his tackling skills and ability to clog up the middle.
Honorable Mention: Kenny Golladay, WR, Northern Illinois/ Jamal Agnew, CB, San Diego
Green Bay Packers
Jamaal Williams, RB, BYU
153 rushes, 556 yards, 4 TD; 25 rec. 262 yards, 2 TD
Williams came into the league rather underrated. Picked in the 4th round, he proved to be a key contributor for the Packers. After Aaron Rodgers was injured, the Packers had to rely more heavily on the run game, and Williams and fellow rookie Aaron Jones became the first rookie duo in Packers history to each rush for more than 400 yards. Look for Williams to help the Packers as Rodgers returns in 2018.
Honorable Mention: Josh Jones, S, NC State/Aaron Jones, RB, UTEP
Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson
126/204, 1,699 yards, 19 TD, 8 INT, 103.0 Rating; 269 rushing yards, 2 TD
Deshaun Watson was picked 12th overall by the Texans, and after his rookie campaign, all the teams who had a pick prior to that and needed a QB could do nothing but think, “What if?” Deshaun Watson was easily headed towards an MVP-caliber season but tore his ACL in practice in week 9. The week before, he went to battle with Russell Wilson in a high-scoring affair, losing 41-38. But the league took notice of Watson’s ability, as he threw for 400 yards and 4 touchdowns. All NFL defenses should be scared of facing this guy in the coming years.
Honorable Mention: Zach Cunningham, LB, Vanderbilt/ D’Onta Foreman, RB, Texas
Malik Hooker, FS, Ohio State
22 tackles (16 solo), 4 Pass Def., 3 INT
The stats of Malik Hooker may not pop off the sheet at you, but Hooker caught the injury bug that affected so many studs in the 2017 NFL Season, as he tore his ACL in week 7. Hooker proved that he had what it takes to be the cornerstone of the young Colts defense. As 2018 rolls around and his health returns, look for Hooker to continue his ball-hawking skills in Indianapolis.
Honorable Mention: Marlon Mack, RB, South Florida/ Nate Hairston, CB, Temple
Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
268 rushes, 1040 yards, 9 TD; 36 rec. 302 yards, 1 TD
Fournette proved worthy of his #4 overall pick and gave the Jaguars great consistency in the backfield. His running ability gave the Jacksonville offense what it needed, and help lead them to the AFC Championship. He roped off an impressive touchdown runs of 90 and 75 yards in back-to-back weeks. His 1,040 yards on the ground were 8th in the league, 2nd among rookies.
Honorable Mention: Dede Westbrook, WR, Oklahoma/ Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama
Kansas City Chiefs
Kareem Hunt, RB, Toledo
272 rushes, 1,327 yards, 8 TD; 53 rec., 455 yards, 3 TD
2017 was the 2nd consecutive year that a rookie led the NFL in rushing. With 1,327 yards on the ground and almost 1,800 total yards, Kareem Hunt burst onto the NFL scene with a dominant performance against the Patriots in Foxborough. Hunt fumbled on his first career play, his only fumble of the season, and rattled off 246 total yards and 3 touchdowns. His midseason slump caused the Chiefs to hit a skid as well, which shows the value the 3rd-round pick brings to the Kansas City offense.
Honorable Mention: Patrick Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech
Los Angeles Chargers
Desmond King, CB, Iowa
76 tackles (66 solo), 4 sacks, 5 Pass Def., 1 INT, 1 TD
The 5th-round pick from Iowa impressed in his time in the LA secondary. The young cornerback showed that he had the skills to rush the quarterback, with 4 sacks, and showed ball skills with a 90-yard pick-six in Dallas on Thanksgiving. Look for King to become more of a stability in the defense of the Chargers as 2018 approaches.
Honorable Mention: Dan Feeney, G, Indiana
Los Angeles Rams
Cooper Kupp, WR, Eastern Washington
62 rec., 869 yards, 5 TD
Cooper Kupp became a crowd favorite in LA, and under Sean McVay, he quickly became a favorite target for Jared Goff. Kupp caught 5 touchdowns and performed well during clutch moments. Standing at 6’1’’ and weighing only 200 pounds, Kupp showed that he has the potential to be a Julian Edelman-type player for Goff and the Rams moving forward.
Honorable Mention: Josh Johnson, S, Boston College/ Gerald Everett, TE, South Alabama
Davon Godchaux, DT, LSU
40 tackles (26 solo), 1 Pass Def., 1 FF
Davon Godchaux did a good job of coming in and providing a solid pass rush. He did his job clogging up the middle well in the midst of an up and down year for the Dolphins. Godchaux was picked in round five but proved to be the best rookie from the draft class for Miami.
Honorable Mention: Cordea Tankersley, CB, Clemson
Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State
74 rushes, 354 yards, 2 TD
Dalvin Cook was a prized prospect coming from Florida State, and the Vikings grabbed him in the 2nd round. Cook quickly burst onto the scene with 22 carries and 127 yards in his first career game. After piling up 354 yards in just 4 games, Cook fell victim to the injury bug as well, tearing his ACL in week 4. He lands on the top of the list for Vikings rookies because of the potential he showed during his 3 and ½ games. There is no one who doubts that he would’ve been near the top of the rushing yards list come the end of the year. Look out for Dalvin Cook in 2018, whoever his quarterback may be.
Honorable Mention: Pat Elflein, C, Ohio State
New England Patriots
Deatrich Wise Jr., DT, Arkansas
26 tackles (16 solo), 5 sacks, 1 Pass Def.
The lanky defensive lineman was taken in the 4th round by the Patriots and has shown that he can come in and make plays. Only starting in 3 games, Deatrich Wise Jr. has proven he can get to the quarterback and has enjoyed playing with fellow Razorback Trey Flowers. His 5 sacks rank 3rd on the team. Deatrich could be another one of those late picks for the Patriots that have serious value.
Honorable Mention: N/A
New Orleans Saints
Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State
52 tackles (43 solo), 18 Pass Def., 5 INT, 1 TD, 1 FF
Alvin Kamara, RB, Tennessee
120 rushes, 728 yards, 8 TD; 81 rec., 826 yards, 5 TD; 31.5 avg. KR, 1 TD
It was impossible to decide between the arguably two best rookies in the entire 2017 draft class. Marshon Lattimore was picked with the #11 overall pick and lived up to the hype, intercepting 5 balls, and shutting down the opposing team’s best receiver. Lattimore quickly became one of the most talked-about rookies and could be one of the top corners in the league already. Alvin Kamara was picked in the 4th round, and he was not the premier back at Tennessee, so not much was known about him. Boy, do we know now. Kamara, who shared the backfield with Mark Ingram, became one of the most dynamic playmakers in the NFL, flashing his athleticism on the ground and becoming one of Drew Brees’ favorite targets. Kamara has gathered comparisons to Le’Veon Bell, and he could be the next rare find in the NFL.
Honorable Mention: Ryan Ramcyzk, OT, Wisconsin
New York Giants
Evan Engram, TE, Ole Miss
64 rec., 722 yards, 6 TD
Evan Engram was a fantastic tight end for the Rebels in Mississippi, and he showed that he could be a great NFL tight end as well. Engram was a bright spot in what was an abysmal 2017 campaign for the Giants. If they can improve around their young and talented pass-catchers, they could improve quickly. Engram could be the hottest young tight ends in the league.
Honorable Mention: Dalvin Tomlinson, DT, Alabama/ Wayne Gallman, RB, Clemson
New York Jets
Jamal Adams, SS, LSU
83 tackles (63 solo), 6 Pass Def., 1 FF, 2 sacks
Drafted #6 overall, Jamal Adams performed well for the Jets during his rookie season. He finished 3rd on the team in tackles with 83 and also showed that he could get to the QB, registering 2 sacks from his strong safety position. Adams didn’t get an interception but look for that to change as he continues to grow. Look for Adams to continue to shine for the Jets.
Honorable Mention: Marcus Maye, S, Florida/ Elijah McGuire, RB, Louisiana-Lafayette
Marquel Lee, LB, Wake Forest
25 tackles (18 solo)
The Raiders did not really get a great season from any of their draft picks. Gareon Conley, their 1st-round draft pick, did not perform up to expectation. The solid play of Marquel Lee gives him the title of best rookie in his class. Lee showed that he can be a sure linebacker for the Raiders, not having any eye-popping stats, but being a solid run defender allowed him to get on the field more. Lee could be a key piece of the defense under Jon Gruden.
Honorable Mention: N/A
Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee
21 tackles (18 solo), 5 sacks, 1 FF
Derek Barnett did not register a start this season due to the fact the Eagles defensive front is loaded with talent. However, Barnett did show that he has an extremely high level of talent and the ability to play at an elite level. He had 2 sacks against the Cowboys and 2 sacks against the Redskins. His rookie year showed that he can be a key piece in the Eagles defense.
Honorable Mention: Mack Hollins, WR, North Carolina
JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, USC
58 rec., 917 yards, 7 TD
JuJu Smith-Schuster and the Steelers provided a lot of excitement this season. They had arguably the best touchdown celebrations all year and JuJu provided yet another scary good offensive weapon. Leading rookies with 917 yards receiving, he averaged over 15 yards per reception. Looks like the 2nd-round pick from USC provided Pittsburgh with another playmaker for Big Ben and company.
Honorable Mention: TJ Watt, LB, Wisconsin
San Francisco 49ers
Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama
72 tackles (59 solo), 1 Pass Def.
Reuben Foster could be a very consistent linebacker for San Francisco for many years to come. He missed 6 weeks because of a nagging injury, but still finished 2nd on the team in total tackles, continuing the tradition of Alabama linebackers in the NFL. Look for Foster, assuming he stays healthy, to have a monster year in 2018. His team should be vastly improved, so he has a chance to be a star.
Honorable Mention: Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford/ CJ Beatherd, QB, Iowa
Shaquill Griffin, CB, Central Florida
59 tackles (50 solo), 1 Sack, 15 Pass Def., 1 INT
Shaquill Griffin flew relatively under the radar in his rookie season and was not expected to make a huge difference. But with the injuries to Seattle’s ‘Legion of Boom’, most notably Richard Sherman, Griffin stepped up in a huge way for the Seahawks. Griffin’s development into a solid corner should have Seahawks fans excited for him to join the Legion when it is back to full strength. His ability to transition quickly from college to the NFL allowed him to have a special rookie year.
Honorable Mention: Chris Carson, RB, Oklahoma State/ Ethan Pocic, C, LSU
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
OJ Howard, TE, Alabama
26 rec., 432 yards, 6 TD
From being a hero in the 2016 National Championship game for the Tide to becoming a solid target for Jameis Winston, OJ Howard turned in a very good rookie season. Averaging over 16 yards a catch, Howard could become a bright young TE in this league. Tampa Bay had their struggles this year, but if Winston and Howard can stay healthy, they could become the next great QB-TE duo. As Howard grows and develop, he should continue to do good things for the Bucs.
Honorable Mention: Justin Evans, S, Texas A&M/ Chris Godwin, WR, Penn State/ Kendall Beckwith, LB, LSU
Adoree Jackson, CB, USC
The Titans had two 1st round draft picks in 2017, and #5 overall pick Corey Davis showed flashes of the dangerous receiver he could be, but injuries hampered him for much of the year. Their pick at #18 was Adoree Jackson, who was brought in to bring speed on defense and special teams. Jackson was not predicted to start at corner, but injuries to others put him in week 1. Opposing QB’s tried to pick on him all year, but Jackson, to the surprise of many, held his own. He was also very good in the return game, averaging 8.5 yards on punt return. Look for Jackson to continue to be used in all 3 phases of the game.
Honorable Mention: Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan/Jayon Brown, LB, UCLA
Samaje Perine, RB, Oklahoma
175 rushes, 603 rushing yards, 1 TD; 22 rec. 182 yards, 1 TD
Not one, but two former Sooner running back make the list of best rookies of 2017. Samaje Perine started the last 7 games of the year and impressed many with his hard-nosed running. Moving forward, Perine should be the #1 back in 2018 and should provide a good balance to Kirk Cousins and the Redskins offense.
Honorable Mention: Chase Roullier, C, Wyoming