The NFL rookie class continues to try to figure out the game of football at the pro level, where the game is much faster, much more physical and a lot more complex.
So far, the QBs taken early in the first round have all struggled as starters; from Trevor Lawrence to Zach Wilson to Mac Jones and Justin Fields.
Nobody ever said rookie life was easy, but these five newbies have hit the ground running.
1. Ja’Marr Chase (Cincinnati Bengals)
The Bengals drafted the explosive Ja’Marr Chase to stretch the field, make big plays as open things up for possession receivers Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd.
The former Biletnikoff winner at LSU is doing just that with four touchdowns in his first three games.
Chase’s ability to take the top off the defense has also opened up more running lanes for tailback Joe Mixon.
JAMAR CHASE is incredible. Incredible pick by me in fantasy🙏 https://t.co/NoCFRHdn9f
— Umer B (@TheBest168) September 26, 2021
In 2019 we heard a lot of Burrow to Chase for the LSU “Bayou Bengals.” In college the combination was unstoppable, leading the Tigers to a national championship.
Joe burrow to Jamar chase aint miss a beat from Lsu to Bengals
— Ryan (@FlyRy__) September 26, 2021
Now the state of Ohio will be celebrating the Burrow to Chase scoring combo for years to come with the “Nati Bengals.”
2. Asante Samuel Jr. (L.A. Chargers)
Chargers cornerback Asante Samuel Jr. looks the part of an All-Pro corner just like his ballhawking dad Asante Sr. did during his time in the league as a member of the Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots.
The former Florida State Seminoles corner is playing well and looking like the No. 1 cover guy for Brandon Staley’s defense.
Lowest Passer Rating When Targeted
🔒 Jalen Ramsey (25.6)
🔒 Asante Samuel Jr. (40.2)
🔒 Trevon Diggs (42.0) pic.twitter.com/AO3KY1cJ4K
— PFF (@PFF) September 20, 2021
In back-to-back weeks the confident rookie has intercepted both Dak Prescott and Patrick Mahomes.
In a division that features speedsters like Tyreek Hill, Henry Ruggs III, and KJ Hamler, the “Bolts” may have stumbled upon a guy who can not only run with them, but also isn’t afraid of the challenge of covering them man-to-man.
3. Najee Harris (Pittsburgh Steelers)
Drafting Najee Harris was a no-brainer for the Steelers, who have been searching for a lead back since Le’Veon Bell left.
The former Alabama running back and Doak Walker winner has shown a real ability in the passing game.
On Sunday, he tied an NFL record for catches by a back in a game with 14. With Big Ben struggling to stretch the defense and an offensive line that doesn’t look they’ll be able to consistently open up running lanes for Harris, he may have more games like this.
Najee Harris vs Bengals
💥 19 targets
💥 14 catches
💥 142 total yards pic.twitter.com/J91RvYCQOC
— PFF Fantasy Football (@PFF_Fantasy) September 26, 2021
That’s why Harris is so valuable because of his versatility. Harris always finds a way to produce on that gridiron.
4. Greg Newsome (Cleveland Browns)
Browns cornerback Greg Newsome looks like a great No. 2 corner or starting slot corner with his versatility, if he can stay healthy.
Newsome left Sunday’s win over the Bears with an injury. During his college career, which spanned three seasons at Northwestern, the talented defensive back only played in 17 games. His ceiling is so high that he was still chosen early in the draft despite his injury history.
#Browns CB, Greg Newsome II, is off to a strong start. 🔥
In 2 Games Newsome II has recorded:
— The Hottest Take (@Hottest_TakePod) September 20, 2021
Now the Browns have to hope his body holds up.
5. Rashawn Slater (L.A. Chargers)
The Los Angeles Chargers have a franchise quarterback in gunslinger Justin Herbert.
Last year they struggled to protect that investment, so in the 2021 NFL draft they used their first pick on a tackle.
Former Northwestern Wildcat Rashawn Slater was drafted to protect the blind side of Herbert, and thus far this season he’s done just that.
Tackles with the most pass-blocking snaps without allowing a sack this season:
☠️ Kolton Miller – 101
⚡️ Rashawn Slater – 94 pic.twitter.com/d3umnd88ru
— PFF (@PFF) September 20, 2021
In Week 1 he dominated reigning Defensive Rookie of the Year Chase Young as the Chargers won on the road.
In Week 2 Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn made sure to move his prize rookie Micah Parsons around to keep him away from Slater.
In the Chargers’ big road win at K.C., Slater handled All-Pro Chris Jones and edge rusher Frank Clark with relative ease when matched with either of the Chiefs’ best two pass rushers.
The goal when you draft a franchise QB is to find that dominant tackle to protect his blind side, and the Chargers may have done just that with Herbert and Slater. The future is bright in L.A.