The 10 Best Offensive Rookies To Make An Impact (NFL 2021)

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Najee Harris + Justin Fields

Didn’t tune into the NFL Draft? That’s understandable. You didn’t miss much. Roger Goodell had awkward encounters with grown adults in overly elaborate team costumes as selections were revealed at a snail’s pace. 

This article will get you up to speed in 1/900th of the time while revealing all pertinent information along with fun facts you won’t hear anywhere else. Did you know Zach Wilson, rookie QB for the Jets, has an uncle who owns JetBlue airlines? Now you do! 

That’s just the appetizer. There’s plenty more hard-hitting analysis as we rank the 10 best offensive rookies to make an impact in 2021: 

1. Trevor Lawrence – QB – Jaguars (from Clemson)

The Jaguars executed their “Tank for Trevor” campaign to perfection. Things looked shaky after Jacksonville beat Indianapolis 27-20 in Week 1, but the Jaguars rattled off 16 straight losses to finish the year. I don’t care what you say, that is damn impressive in a league with a rigorous salary cap and more parity than any other pro sport.

Because of that, they are equipped with a new coach (Urban Meyer) and the top overall pick from last year’s draft: Trevor Lawrence. It goes without saying that Lawrence has been one of the best college QBs over the last 10 years. 

He also has one of the best parody accounts in the history of TikTok, featuring his lookalike: a high-school girl named Bella. 

If you know the rocky history of “sure bet” #1 QB picks in the draft, then even the most hyperbolic Jaguars fan is crossing their fingers right now. Sure, Lawrence looks amazing. But… no jinx.

2. Najee Harris – RB – Pittsburgh (from Alabama)

There’s a general anti-RB in the first round of the NFL draft philosophy. The thought is there are so many solid RB’s coming out each year, and so many mid-rounders doing well in the NFL, you’re wasting draft capital. If you choose a running back in the first round of the NFL Draft, then you’re probably going to feed him the ball. It helps if that running back is the all-time leading rusher for one of the most prestigious college football programs. 

Harris is a 6’2” 230 lb throwback-style running back who can punish opposing linebackers who stand in his path. 

Naturally, his role model is soccer star Megan Rapinoe of the USWNT. Don’t believe me? Then take it up with the source. Sorry Steelers fans, deal with it.

3. Ja’Marr Chase – WR – Bengals (from LSU)

Chase is one of the few people in the history of time who is actually excited to relocate to Cincinnati. The reason being is a reunion with his former college quarterback, Joe Burrow. The Burrow-Chase duo wreaked havoc on SEC defenses while accounting for 1,780 yards and 20 TDs in 2019. 

As it turns out, Chase is the superstitious type, as he would change his shoes at halftime of every game at LSU. Maybe that’s the real reason LSU won a National Championship in 2019? 

Is it enough to give the Bengals their first playoff win since 1990? If the answer is yes, assuming he can play 5-6 other much-needed positions on the team at the same time. Nevertheless, who won’t be amped to watch Burrow to Chase on Sundays coming soon?

4. Kyle Pitts – TE – Falcons (from Florida)

Kyle Pitts is a freak of an athlete. He was pretty much the consensus non-QB most valuable player in the draft. The 6’6” 245 lb TE from Florida also runs a 4.44 forty-yard dash, which was faster than all but one running back (Pooka Williams) in the 2021 Draft. His wingspan is nearly seven feet, which is longer than any professional WR or TE over the last 20 years. Maybe the Atlanta Hawks can borrow this guy from February to April? 

Pitts is no stranger to winning jump balls in the end-zone, as he racked up 12 TDs in only eight games for the Gators last season. 

Rookie TEs usually have a difficult time adjusting to the physicality of the NFL. However, if there has ever been an exception to that rule, it’s Pitts. 

5. Justin Fields – QB – Chicago (from Ohio State)

The Bears traded up to the 11th overall pick in order to land QB Justin Fields. However, head coach Matt Nagy insists that free agent signing Andy Dalton will start under center. 

We’ve seen this happen in previous seasons with Baker Mayfield and Justin Herbert taking backup roles initially. In both of those cases, it only took a few games before the exciting prospect made their first start. Middling teams don’t get their fan base excited by starting veteran journeymen QBs over highly touted rookie superstars.

I would be shocked if that wasn’t the case here, as Andy Dalton might not complete the first game of the season: a highly-anticipated Sunday Night Football matchup against the Rams. Aaron Donald feasts on redheads. Fields will get a chance to show his dual-threat ability sooner than later. 

6. Penei Sewell – OL – Detroit (from Oregon) 

The Detroit Lions used a top ten pick to select a highly-touted player from Oregon. Where have I heard that before? Detroit fans already know the answer, and I apologize for bringing it up. In 2002, the Lions took Oregon QB Joey Harrington with the third pick in the draft. He turned out to be one of the biggest busts over the last 20 years. Even a bust by Detroit Lions standards.

However, the Lions won’t have to worry about that with Sewell. He’s as solid as they come, speaking from a literal and figurative point of view. 

Offensive linemen don’t grab headlines, but Sewell has the makings of an All-Pro anchor for the next decade. They probably won’t reap any dividends this year, but Sewell was a solid choice for the rebuilding Lions. Now if he was only protecting a QB better than Goff.

7. Zach Wilson – QB – New York Jets (from BYU)

Does Zach Wilson look like he could have his own show on the Disney Channel? Yes. Are we overlooking him as a legitimate NFL QB because of his appearance? Probably. 

In fairness, Justin Herbert overcame his boyish Nickelodeon image to become one of the better signal-callers in the game last season. Then again, Herbert is 6’6” and 235 lbs with an absolute cannon of an arm. Zach Wilson is 5’10” and 180 lbs with motivational quotes on his headband. He could’ve been drafted by a boy band.

Time will tell if Wilson is the real deal, but he has the third-best odds (+700) to win Offensive Rookie of the Year – according to FanDuel Sportsbook. Trevor Lawrence (+200) and Justin Fields (+550) stand ahead of him. Scouts loved Wilson, a Patrick Mahomes type of guy. He was hardly a random pick by new coach Robert Saleh. Time will tell.

8. Javonte Williams – RB – Denver (from North Carolina)

Williams is going to start the season behind Melvin Gordon III on the Broncos’ depth chart, but he’ll still get plenty of touches. I wouldn’t be surprised if he becomes the primary ball carrier halfway through the year. 

The UNC product is a rugged, punishing tailback who bounces off defenders. His break tackle rating in Madden 22 should be 90+. Anything less than that and you should change it for the sake of realism. 

His NFL comparison is Kareem Hunt, which is unfortunate for off-the-field reasons, but it makes sense when watching on-the-field highlights from Williams’ days as a Tar Heel. Every year there is one rookie running back who becomes the next “it” back in the NFL. Don’t be surprised if that is Williams.

You’d be happy too if you were drafted third overall.

9. Trey Lance – QB – San Francisco (from North Dakota State)

Do you want a fun fact when it comes to Trey Lance? Of course, you do! Tom Brady has been in the NFL longer than Trey Lance has been alive. Take a moment to let that sink in. Brady was drafted in April of 2000. Lance was born one month later. Feel free to use that one at your next dinner party. You’re welcome. 

Similar to the aforementioned likes of Justin Fields, the 49ers probably won’t start Lance in their season-opener against the Lions. Jimmy Garropolo is still listed as QB1 in San Francisco, but it’s hard to believe they’ll have their dynamic rookie ride the pine for the entire year.

The 49ers are not in the same position as the Bears in that they still want to trade Jimmy G who is a legit NFL starter and has another year left on his contract. So they’ll not want to simply bench him in favor of the rook unless they want to see his trade value drop to near zero. But Lance could get some snaps under center, but also, interestingly, perhaps as an option back, Taysom Hill-type schemes imagined up by Shanahan.

10. Mac Jones – QB – New England (from Alabama)

Mac Jones hasn’t started a professional game, and he’s already given NFL fans so much. The dude has gone viral three times for simply being himself. 

Yes, he looks like a Lego figure, and that’s hilarious. He walks like a high school principal on his way to break up a fight in the cafeteria. He has a dad-bod that is everything the Patriots want in a QB. 

Let’s hope he beats Cam Newton as New England’s starting QB for the sake of more quality memes. A Good Ole Boy in Boston should be the name of the next amazing Will Ferrell movie. But for now, it’ll have to be Boss Hogg, err, Mac Jones.

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