The NFL Draft can be attacked in a multitude of ways. Do teams need high-impact rookies? Do they hope for a long-term retool without the rebuild? Regardless of the intent, these five NFL franchises have found the most immediate production from their 2017 NFL Draft rookie classes.
New Orleans Saints – Marshon Lattimore, Ryan Ramczyk, Alvin Kamara and Marcus Williams
This is the creme de la creme. Four high impact players in a single class? All as either Day 1 or Day 2 selections? The Saints appear to have hit this draft class out of the ballpark, if their early returns are any indication. Lattimore is playing as one of the best 5-10 cornerbacks in all of football, Alvin Kamara is grossly outperforming some of his rookie running back contemporaries and is a dual-threat headache on offense, while offensive tackle Ryan Ramczyk and SAF Marcus Williams are reliable starters at high-impact positions.
This group would’ve been even more impressive if rookie linebacker Alex Anzalone would have been able to stay healthy, he was a Day 1 starter at LB.
A draft class like this one can swing the fortunes of an entire franchise, which is emerging now with the resurgent Saints near the top of the standings.
Jacksonville Jaguars – Leonard Fournette, Cam Robinson
The Jaguars’ key contributors aren’t as high-volume as some of the other teams on this list, but make no mistake. These two are “tone setters” for this franchise who give the offense a potent dimension.
Fournette’s battering-ram running style has worn on defenses in every game he’s played, eventually leading to a big run. An ankle injury and suspension last week may have derailed the middle of the season, but Fournette is the cog that keys the Jaguars’ success with the football.
Robinson, playing in front of Fournette, is showing the high-end potential everyone suspected as a freshman starting at Alabama. His heavy hitting hands, powerful base, and noticeable length make him a reliable cornerstone of the offensive line. The bonus is Jacksonville didn’t have to wait to get him into that role on the field.
New York Jets – Jamal Adams, Marcus Maye, Elijah McGuire
The Jets’ contributions have probably gone according to plan through the first half of the season. New York targeted both Adams and Maye with the intent that they could step in and provide improved play on the back end. The Jets were right.
Adams has been a splash player in all phases and Marcus Maye has quietly become a solid and reliable piece of the puzzle. Anytime Day 1 and Day 2 picks can come in and be positive contributors in a starting role, that’s a win all-around.
The Jets are likely hoping to find more production from their rookie receivers, Ar’Darius Stewart and Chad Hansen, given the status of the depth chart. Neither player originally felt like someone who could be an impact guy on Day 1 outside of a singular niche role, which will need to change if the Jets want to stay competitive.
The most pleasant surprise out of the group? RB Elijah McGuire, who has consistently been a springy playmaker with the ball. McGuire was extremely fruitful at the college level and had starter-caliber athletic traits. He’s the latest poster child for finding quality RBs late in the draft.
Dallas Cowboys – Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis, Xavier Woods
This doesn’t even include the snap contributions of DE Taco Charlton (first career sack in a big win over Kansas City), WR Noah Brown and WR Ryan Switzer. The Cowboys make this list in spite of being in an enviable position in relation to the teams above them. The Cowboys didn’t exactly need immediate contributors outside of the secondary. The team was highly competitive last year and hit a home run with its own franchise-remodeling draft (Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott).
Lewis is the only listed starter of the group, playing nickel CB. He has played well. There have been some ups and downs, but overall the Cowboys are likely very happy with the returns on Lewis. The real steal of this group is Xavier Woods, who (like the Jets and Elijah McGuire) got a small-school steal because he was undersized and didn’t play at a big-time program.
Woods flashes on a weekly basis, making plays in coverage and looking like a veteran on his reps.
New York Giants – Evan Engram, Dalvin Tomlinson
Surveying the Giants’ two-deep, Engram is one of the few skill players left who was at the top of the list two months ago. The injuries in New York have been devastating, and the status of the coaching staff reportedly isn’t helping. However, Engram remains a fixture on a weekly basis and brings this team high-end play.
Engram should shine this year as long as he’s on the field, which in the long run will make him even more potent after being baptized by fire in his rookie season.
DT Dalvin Tomlinson wasn’t a sexy pick and doesn’t play a sexy position, but he’s been extremely good at what he’s asked to do: Stuff the middle and eat up blocks.
Because the Giants are getting high production out of each of their first two picks, they deserve recognition on this list.
Honorable mention: San Francisco 49ers, Detroit Lions, Los Angeles Rams, Buffalo Bills, Chicago Bears