McShay: Ranking rookies who could make our top 100 list next year

  • ESPN College Football and NFL Draft Analyst
  • Joined ESPN in 2006
  • Played quarterback in high school and was a backup QB for the University of Richmond.

Our 2020 NFL Rank, ESPN’s annual list of the top 100 players for the upcoming season, was just released. As a list based around contributions for only the 2020 season, it predictably featured zero rookies. But that doesn’t mean first-year guys couldn’t be considered top-100 players by season’s end.

In fact, five 2019 draft picks made this year’s list after only one season in the pros. Nick Bosa led the pack at No. 15, trailed by Kyler Murray (No. 47), Josh Jacobs (No. 88), Josh Allen (No. 91) and A.J. Brown (No. 97). Brown wasn’t even a Day 1 draft selection, but his 1,051-yard, eight-touchdown season convinced the list’s voters he deserved to be there heading into 2020. The last rookie to make it before playing a snap in the NFL? Saquon Barkley in 2018 at No. 87 (he ranked No. 12 in 2019 and No. 16 this year).

So could any 2020 NFL draft picks make the list in a year’s time? Will we look back at our top 100 and regret not including any particular rookie? I ranked 10 first-years who have the best chance — factoring in talent, opportunity, position and more — to make the 2021 NFL Rank list as one of the league’s premier players right out of the gate. And filling in No. 1 on the list was all too easy.


1. Chase Young, DE, Washington

Young was the No. 2 overall pick in April for a reason. The most important thing for edge rushers is getting to the quarterback, and he did that at Ohio State at an incredible rate. Over his final two collegiate seasons, Young recorded 26.0 sacks, 16 QB hurries, 35.5 tackles for loss and seven forced fumbles — and he missed two games. He is a long athlete with explosive speed and elite takeout quickness. As a rookie, he will already threaten opponents with his speed, flexibility and power. Edge rushers need all three to make offensive tackles vulnerable, and he does.

The scarier thing for opponents? Young is going to continue to develop. He is going to be even better and more refined in two or three years. But right off the bat, Young is a plug-and-play disruptor for Washington. And with Montez Sweat (7.0 sacks as a rookie) opposite him, there’s an argument to be made that these two make up the best young edge rushing duo in the NFL. Both are more than capable of dropping double-digit sacks in 2020.

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