Well, they did. Weird, weird, never, ever, a team is still in place for the 2020 NFL regular season. What about the bruises? They did not host off-season or pre-season games, but many of them were successful throughout the year.
What about the beginners class? Nine ESPN writers and analysts selected the top 10 recruits of the year. We tabulated the results using a Heisman-like scale for each ranking, which gave us a general list. Of course, the research was based on the regular season results and the playoff results are not yet included in the rankings. The Buccaneers placed two players in the top 10, and five first-round tallies finished the year on our list.
Let’s look at the first decade of 2020.
Stats: 4,336 yards, 66.6% completion, 31 TD, 10 INT (234 rushing yards, 5 TD)
Expected ranking: #6 overall.
Although his coach Anthony Lynn was fired by the Chargers after the season, Herbert is at the top of the list to undergo another bout in 2021. He set rookie records for touchdown, total touchdown, completions, multiple touchdowns, three-touchdown games and 300-yard passing games. It was a great start for the third quarterback recruited in 2020.
Statistics: 88 receptions, 1400 yards, 7 TD
Draft : No. 22 in total
Twice, and we have two Justins with starting records. Jefferson set the record for receiving yards in one new season – Ankun Boldin’s record for 16 – and his 88 catches also set a new Viking rookie team record, surpassing Hall of Famer member Randy Moss. He finished the year with seven 100-yard games and will be a key part of Minnesota’s offense.
Stats: 44 tackles, 7.5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, 1 TD
Draft : No. 2 in total
In addition to the 7.5 sacks, Young also made 10 losing tackles, 12 quarterback hits and one of his three touchdowns for an awkward recovery. Even in a defensive line full of old first-round picks, he’s already the kind of highly motivated guy whose offenses can only be emphasized. That gives the other players some more room to play.
Statistics: 89.1% success in the block, 16 starts in draft
: No. 13 in total
The Chiefs played every moment of the regular season for the Buccaneers, as well as every moment of the wild-card victory over Washington. He made 41 more passes than any other rookie in the Buccaneers’ offense, ranked second among all full-time passing tackles in ESPN statistics and information, and was first among rookie passing tackles on the block and won.
Stats: 117 tackles, 1 interception, 1.0 sack, 2 forced fumbles, 2 TD
Draft: #64 overall
Most years – or at least the years when a guy like Young wasn’t making a name for himself in the passing game – Chinn got tons of love as potential rookie of the year on defense. He had a full year, as he led all rookies in tackles and scored at least 10 goals in three games. Chinn also intercepted five assists, ran for 28 yards on a fumble and scored two touchdowns 10 seconds apart in the Panthers’ loss to the Vikings earlier this season.
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Statistics: 232 carries, 169 yards, 11 TD (36 receptions, 299 yards, 1 TD)
Product : No. 41 in total
It’s a good ending. In the final weeks of the season, Taylor averaged at least 5 yards per carry in five of six games and at least 7 yards per carry in three of those games. He played three of his top four games in this span, including one of the top two of the season (150 yards against the Raiders and 253 yards against the Jaguars). Taylor scored the most points of the season, 78 points, in his first career breakout event.
Stats: 2,688 yards, 65.3% completion rate, 13 TD, 5 INT (142 rush yards, 3 TD)
Expected ranking: #1 overall.
He played 10 games before injuring his knee at the end of the season, but he still became the first rookie to have three consecutive passing games at 300 yards. In fact, he participated in five of those ten games. His 406-yard performance in Week 7 was one of 12 400-yard passing games in the 2020 regular season.
Stats: 240 yards, 1,070 yards, 7 TDs (49 receptions, 344 yards, 3 TDs)
Product : Independently not produced
Not only was Robinson the only player not in the top 10, but he was also the only player on the list not drafted in the first two rounds of the 2020 draft. He carried the ball 202 more times than the Jaguars’ next active runner, was the team’s fourth best and led the Jaguars to the score.
Stats: 94 tackles, 1 interception, 3.0 sacks, 2 fumbles
Draft : No. 45 in total
Winfield finished the season with two 10-shot games and played at least 97 percent of the team’s defensive shots in 15 games, including Saturday’s wild card win over Washington. He has intercepted six passes, forced two fumbles and had four quarterback fumbles this season.
Stats: 62 receptions, 873 yards, 9 TD (2 running TDs)
Draft: #49 total.
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When the Steelers’ passing attack slowed a bit over the course of the season, Claypool was still the only receiver on the team to catch more than 40 passes and average more than 10.5 yards per catch (he finished the regular season with 14.1). His nine touchdowns – including seven in Week 10 – are also tied for the lead. And to cap off a solid debut season, Claypool threw two touchdown passes in the Steelers’ Wild Card defeat of the Browns.
T. Higgins, WR, Cincinnati Bengals.
Not surprisingly, his production was a significant success when Burrow was injured; Higgins (33rd game in April) had both 100-yard games and three of four games with at least six receptions when Burrow was behind center. He’s also averaged at least 15.5 yards per catch in four of the 10 games he’s started. But he deserves a lot of credit for his 908 yards this season.
Mike Onwenu, G/OT, New England Patriots.
Earlier in the season, he started every Patriots game as a sixth-round pick (182 total) and saw time as a straight tackle, a defensive end and a tight special teams finish. The blocking percentage was 92.3%, ranking third among qualified recruits. Not bad for a player who was considered an extra at the opening of training camp.
Mehi Becton, OT, New York Jets.
Becton, selected 11th overall, started 13 games for the Jets – he suffered a chest injury early in the season and left two games early with a shoulder injury – and was one of the few position players for the team. In a season where he played on many defenses, his signature move for some was to push Aaron Donald to allow Frank Gore to score on the fourth attempt, the first win of the season for the Jets.
Jedrick Wills Jr., OT, Cleveland Browns.
The 10th-ranked preseason starter in 15 games during the regular season was the league’s top pass blocker (92.4%) and ninth-best in that category.
Get votes too: J.C. Dobbins, Antonio Gibson, Brandon Ayuk, Jaylon Johnson, C.D. Lamb, Julian Blackmon, L’Jarius Snead, Derrick Brown, Jordan Fuller and Patrick Quinn.
- Brandon Iyuk of the 49ers threw four of his five touchdown passes in the second half of the season, giving him a bright future. He continued to hit the area occupied by the men below.
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- He missed six weeks with a broken collarbone, but the Chiefs’ Jarius Sneed might be one of the real thieves on the third day of the draft, as he was the undisputed leader among the league’s early cornerbacks. Sneed played both as an outside linebacker and cornerback for the Chiefs.
- The safety of the Washington Kamren Curl, a seventh-round pick (216th overall), is another example of why teams should think long and hard before using the late pick as a face-off to get six spots in the round instead of working the board all the way to the end. Curl has shown its versatility by being used in the slot as an inside linebacker and in coverage depth.
- There’s still a lot to be said, but with players like Winfield, Chinn, Curl, the Colts Julian Blackmon, the Brandon Jones Dolphins, the Kyle Dugger Patriots and the Jordan Fuller Rams all safe this season, this could be the best starting performance at any position. Twenty-three security measures have been implemented as part of the 2020 project.
Pay attention: Our top 10 includes Matt Bowen, Mike Clay, Jeremy Fowler, Dan Graziano, Mina Kimes, Jeff Legwold, Jason Reed, Kevin Seifert and Field Yates.