Whole Nine Sports

The Best Rookie Contract Player on Every Team

Patrick Mahomes NFL
Austin Cunningham
Follow him on Twitter @austincham33
Follow Whole Nine Sports on Twitter @WholeNineSports

This breakdown of the best player on every NFL team that is still on their rookie contract is going to be a fun one. To make sure everyone understands how this is done and why ‘that’ player was selected for their team, here are the guidelines. If a player was just drafted and has yet to play a down for said team, they are ineligible. The same will go for any player who has been rumored to be in contract negotiations. Now that we are on the same page, let’s get right into this. First team up, the Arizona Cardinals.

Arizona Cardinals

Budda Baker NFL

DB Budda Baker

Baker has shown his ability to be a very versatile safety for the Cardinals. With a new scheme coming into town, he will most likely be just fine and continue to show why he is growing into one of the top safeties in the NFL.

Atlanta Falcons

Calvin Ridley

WR Calvin Ridley

Ridley is the reason why the Falcons are in the discussion of having the best receiving core in the NFL. He burst onto the NFL scene for the Falcons once their defense started falling with the injury bug. Matt Ryan had a very impressive season last year along with Julio Jones but, a huge part of that is the playmaking ability of Ridley. If he can continue this type of play over the next three years, the Falcons will have another top 10 receiver in the NFL.

Baltimore Ravens

Lamar Jackson NFL

QB Lamar Jackson

The Ravens are heading into a new era with Jackson at the Helm. He is not the same quarterback they have had as of late and that might be a good thing for them moving forward. He brings a new ability for their offense and another worry for opposing defenses. Jackson could very well lead this team to the playoffs if he can find his touch when throwing the ball.

Buffalo Bills

Josh Allen

QB Josh Allen

This kid is the future of this franchise. He showed enough last year to catch the eyes of the entire NFL with his arm and his athletic ability. The guy HURDLED Anthony Barr (6’5” 255lbs) for a first down at midfield. He then helped lead the Bills for the upset shocking the Vikings and NFL. They have rebuilt their offense line and presented him with some receiving weapons. The bills are a team to keep an eye out for this next season and the next three years as they continue to build a complete team.

Carolina Panthers

Christian McCaffrey NFL

RB Christian McCaffrey

The guy that did not get enough credit for his performance during the regular season is ready to show that he can do it again. All you have to do is look at the guy’s arms to see how well his offseason training program went. McCaffrey could very well be the face of the Panthers moving forward if Cam Newton goes down with another injury.

Chicago Bears

Mitchell Trubisky

QB Mitchell Trubisky

Trubisky started off as the Bears franchise quarterback with a shaky start. Matt Nagy taking over as the new head coach was extremely helpful for his career. The NFL was able to see his true athletic ability as he helped keep the Bears in several games. He is the future of the Bears and the city of Chicago.

Cincinnati Bengals

Joe Mixon

RB Joe Mixon

Mixon is a very undervalued running back in the NFL. It is understandable on why he has not received the national attention but, he is starting to prove himself and keep his name out of the headlines with any offield issues. He has continued to keep the Bengals offense competitive the last couple of years as their defense struggles. Mixon is a complete running back and within the next two or three years he could very well be listed as one of if not THE best running back in the NFL. 

Cleveland Browns

Baker Mayfield NFL

QB Baker Mayfield

The guy who will go down as the man who saved Cleveland. He is surrounded by top tier talent on the offensive side of the ball now but he is showing that is the guy of the future. The Browns do have another pretty talented guy on the defensive side with Myles Garrett but, his impact has not been better than Mayfields.

Dallas Cowboys

Ezekiel Elliott

RB Ezekiel Elliott

Since entering the league in 2016, Zeke has been one of the top running backs in the league. Elliott is out-rushing all other players during this three year time span by 607 yards. Zeke has 4,048 yards while Todd Gurley has 3,441. If Dallas wants to maintain the level of success they’ve been able to see offensively in recent history, it’s imperative that they extend Elliott before he’s off of his rookie deal.

Denver Broncos

Bradley Chubb NFL

EDGE Bradley Chubb

Chubb lived up the hype and became an immediate impact for the Broncos defense. Being on the opposite side of Von Miller may have helped him a tad but, just a tad because he held his own against offensive linemen. The Broncos have to be happy that he fell to them in the draft at the fifth pick because Chubb is looking to solidify himself as the next star pass rusher in the NFL.

Detroit Lions

Kerryon Johnson

RB Kerryon Johnson

The first Lions running back to have a 100 yard rushing game in who knows how long. (70 freaking games, SEVENTY, 7- 0) The Lions finally have a guy who can provide more for their offense than just Matthew Stafford fighting through injuries. Johnson will be coming off a knee injury himself but should be ready for the season. Detroit did plenty to help their team moving forward this offseason. If Johnson continues where he left off last season, the NFC North just became an even tougher division.

Green Bay Packers

Aaron Jones NFL

RB Aaron Jones

The Packers have a running back again and this guy looks like he can handle his weight. As he said early into the offseason that he has cut out junk food to help get healthier for the season. Jones found himself as the starting running back before going down with a knee injury at the end of the year. He is poised for a breakout season this next year as the Packers finally have a new scheme coming into town. Jones is going to continue to show why he is the guy for the Packers moving forward.

Houston Texans

Deshaun Watson

QB Deshaun Watson

Watson has proven to be a very promising young quarterback in the NFL. He has taken over the Texans and transformed their offense. Once the Texans find protection Watson is going to be unstoppable. His ability to keep plays alive and hit a receiver anywhere on the field is mind boggling. Watson’s future along with the Houston Texans is very, very bright.

Indianapolis Colts

Darius Leonard

LB Darius Leonard

When he was drafted in the second round by the Colts, several people questioned the pick. It turned out to be a beautiful decision and helped the Colts tremendously. The Colts were able to add some quality pieces to their defense and around Leonard. Leonard is the new face of the Colts to along with Luck and they are looking primed to take their shot at being atop the NFL.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Leonard Fournette

RB Leonard Fournette

If Fournette is able to stay healthy and contain any offield noise, then he can very well be in the discussion for a top 10 running back in the NFL. Fournette’s strength and speed was highlighted in his rookie year as we saw him wave at a defender to “bring it” before lowering his shoulder into contact. The Jaguars are heading in the right direction on offense by adding a new quarterback, more receivers and solidifying their offensive line. With the defense being set and Fournette coming back this year, Jacksonville is primed to make a deep playoff push if things work in their favor.

Kansas City Chiefs

Patrick Mahomes NFL

QB Patrick Mahomes

This is simple. Everyone knows why. He came in and took the league by storm. Throwing for 50 touchdowns and 5,000 yards. Patrick Mahomes broke curses that have been looming over Kansas City for decades. He made plays that still has people asking the question “How did he do that?”

Los Angeles Chargers

Derwin James

S Derwin James

After just one year James has already put himself in the discussion as one of the best safeties in the NFL. He started his young career with a great start against Kansas City with a sack early on and breaking up a deep pass he was initially trailing on. He continued his impressive play for the rest of the season and is another bright spot on the Chargers already stacked defense.

Los Angeles Rams

Jared Goff

QB Jared Goff

Sean McVay calls the play in but, he may or may not tell him what to do. This is half of the ability of playing quarterback. Goff still has to make the read and throw it. The hard part. Goff showed amazing progress last season and will most likely do the same going into the 2020 season. He can not be proud of his performance in the Super Bowl and will come out extremely motivated to get his team back in that moment.

Miami Dolphins

Minkah Fitzpatrick NFL

DB Minkah Fitzpatrick

The Dolphins young safety was one of the bright spots for the Dolphins last season. If he can continue to develop and improve his game, the NFL is going to have plenty of talent at the safety position.

Minnesota Vikings

Dalvin Cook NFL

RB Dalvin Cook

This is the guy that could be the ultimate game changer for the Viking’s this next season. Cook has great explosion through the hole and good hands out of the backfield to make anything happen. If Cook is healthy through this season, the Vikings are going to be a team that is making a true push for the Super Bowl at the end of next year.

New England Patriots

Sony Michel

RB Sony Michel

Michel had a very productive season for the Patriots and is one of the main reasons they were in the Super Bowl, let alone win it. He ran the ball hard and effectively and also made plays receiving. The Patriots are getting old at the quarterback position but, at running back and along the offensive line they are looking pretty young and fresh.

New Orleans Saints

Alvin Kamara

RB Alvin Kamara

One of the young stars in the NFL is this guy right here. He has shown the ability to do it all. Whether is is running or catching the ball out of the backfield he is making highlight level plays and putting up good stats. He will have to prove this next season that he carry the entire workload by himself now that Mark Ingram has left town.

New York Giants

Saquon Barkley NFL

RB Saquon Barkley

Fast, strong, quick, Saquon Barkley. This guy does it all. Effectively. In a dominating way. He is now the face of the New York Football Giants and could very well be the face of the NFL someday along with Patrick Mahomes. What he did last year was impressive for a rookie running back. His ability to turn nothing into something in his rookie year was majestic. This next season is going to be a sensational one for Giants fans.

New York Jets

Sam Darnold

QB Sam Darnold

Sam Darnold is the guy for the Jets. They finally have it. Their franchise quarterback. With an almost complete team built around him. Darnold showed glimpses of greatness last year with tight window throws on the run and hanging in the pocket to make the throw while being hit. The Jets are about 2 years away from truly taking over New York and being highly competitive in the AFC East. Sam Darnold is a huge reason, why if not THE reason. Jets fans, I am happy for you.

Oakland Raiders

Arden Key

DE Arden Key

The Raiders do not have a lot of promising young talent on their team anymore since the addition John Gruden besides this last draft class. Arden Key look can be a very promising player for the Raiders given the time to develop. He showed spurts of greatness at LSU and if it transitions into the NFL, then the AFC West just gained another prominent pass rusher.

Philadelphia Eagles

Derek Barnett

DE Derek Barnett

When the Eagles drafted Barnett, there were several fans were unhappy and confused. He has since lived up the pick and was a beneficial part in the Eagles winning the Super Bowl. He may not put up the big numbers or have the most amazing stat line but, he has been helpful in the Eagles remaining competitive on defense.

Pittsburgh Steelers

JuJu Smith Schuster

WR JuJu Smith-Schuster

Smith-Schuster has that California shine! Coming for USC to the Steelers has been a seamless transition for him. He continues to make big plays in big moments. He comes down with the 50-50 balls and has the strength to break tackles for extra yards. It will be interesting to see how the Steelers and Smith-Schuster do now that Antonio Brown is not lining up on the opposite side.

San Francisco 49ers

George Kittle NFL

TE George Kittle

He stole the most receiving yards in a single season for a tight end from Travis Kelce about 45 minutes after Kelce broke it. This leads the discussion for who is the best tight end in the NFL now that Gronk as retired. George Kittle did this while playing with back-up quarterback for the majority of the season. His athletic ability is well known and he adds another threat to Kyle Shanahan’s creative play calling.

Seattle Seahawks

Shaquill Griffin

CB Shaquill Griffin

Griffin is becoming one of the best young corners in the NFL. He has shown the ability to step in and lock down his side of the field. Showing he can make a play in coverage and in the open field. The Seahawks hit the jackpot with both this mid round draft pick.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

OJ Howard

TE O.J. Howard

If Howard is able to stay healthy he will become a very prominent tight end in the NFL. With a new offensive staff coming in that likes to throw the ball, it is almost certain that his numbers will increase with another year of experience.

Tennessee Titans

Harold Landry

LB Harold Landry

Landry has done exactly, if not more than what has been asked of him. He creates pressure and makes plays. With another season under his belt Landry has the ability to be a promising edge rusher for the Titans. Once he learns to use his hands more he will be scary good for Mike Vrabel’s defense.

Washington Redskins

Da'Ron Payne

DL Da’Ron Payne

Washington found the guy for their future along the defensive line. He played great last year and is looking to take another step forward. Payne has tremendous power and speed that makes it tough to stop him Given another year or two and he will be in talks as one of the highest paid defensive linemen.