By Max Feldman
The list has to begin with the number one overall selection in the 2019 NFL Draft, who has come right in and completely changed the look of the Arizona Cardinals. Murray has been inconsistent thus far, but the glimpses that he has shown are undeniable. In the rare moments when there has been strong protection from the Arizona offensive line, Kyler has fired strong passes with heat, the same trait that got him drafted as a top 10 outfielder in the MLB Draft. With the lack of space around him, he has no gotten the opportunity to show off his speed in design runs and creative chances like he did in Norman, Oklahoma. Through three games, Murray has thrown for 830 yards and 4 touchdowns, with just a 61.3% completion rating. In year one under Kliff Kingsbury, things were never going to just come right together. With very limited offensive weapons outside of David Johnson, the Cardinals are in line for a full rebuild. Yet, having Kyler Murray, and seeing the decision making potential combined with elite athleticism and All-Pro arm talent, Arizona has a vision and an anchor to build upon.
Jacobs is another first rounder that has come to Oakland given the offense direction. John Gruden has made it clear that he wants to build a strong run game, as his number one running back has cleared 1200 yards in every season as a head coach. After three games, Jacobs has 15 carries per game, while stacking up a strong 5.1 yards per carry. The Raiders are likely be trailing in most games this season, decreasing touches for the Alabama product, but in week one it was evident that Gruden wants to ram the ball down the field. In a tough, one possession game in week one against Denver, Jacobs totaled 24 touches. The talent is clear and the fit under Gruden is promising, but the Raiders game script all season long will put a damper on his numbers. Long term, there is no doubt Jacobs has all the makings to be an All-Pro, 3 down back, but it may not all come into fruition this season.
Following the Jacobs explanation, Montgomery is almost in the exact opposite situation. More so in week two, but coach Matt Nagy has not showed as much urgency to put the ball in the rookie running backs hands. The Bears offense has shown to be bland and predictable thus far, throwing the ball with Mitch Trubisky far too much, and consistently forcing the issue. Montgomery has shown to be slippery and elusive, consistently breaking the first tackle and gaining the extra yards. With only 7 touches in the Week 1 loss versus the Packers, over the last two games Montgomery has averaged 17.5 touches per game. Those two games have resulted in two wins for the Chicago Bears. Montgomery makes the Matt Nagy offense and the Bears go, quite the dynamic for a 3rd round selection after only three games.
Another running back, Devin Singletary, the 74th overall pick, has given Buffalo a major boost early on in 2019. In two games, Singletary received just 15 total touches. Currently battling a hamstring injury, the Bills are patiently awaiting his return because of the profound effect on the game script Singletary brought. The Florida Atlantic product was putting up an incredible 12.7 yards per carry, injecting the Josh Allen led offense with energy and speed, leading to a 2-0 start. The combination of speed, quick cuts Offensive coordinator Brian Daboll has certainly found the running back of the future in Buffalo in Devin Singletary. The Bills are off to a 3-0 start, looking like a new team compared to the last few seasons, and Singletary will only heighten the potential of this balanced team.
The Georgia Bulldog product has found immediate success, while he has incredible talent for a modern, spread system receiver, he is also a product of the absolute perfect fit and destination on draft night. Pro Bowl wide receiver, Tyreek Hill, injured his clavicle in week one and is likely out for 4-6 weeks. Hardman was criticized for poor route running and lack of pass catching ability in Georgia, but with 4.33 (40 yard dash) speed and a 36.5 inch vertical jump, he is an ideal slot guy today. Through three games, Hardman’s deep threat potential has been present as he has cashed in on a 42 yard touchdown catch (Week 2) and an 83 yard touchdown catch (Week 3) while getting another 75 yard touchdown catch called back for holding in Week 2. Hill’s injury has given Hardman opportunity, but it seems as though the talent will shine too bright to be put in a back seat upon the Pro Bowler’s eventual return. Patty Mahomes is Mecole Hardman’s dream quarterback, and Andy Reid’s air raid scheme is a dream fit. Remember the name because the Kansas City Chiefs will not stop scoring, and Hardman will continue to be a benefactor.
McLaurin was selected 76th overall out of Ohio State, by the Washington Redskins. The former Buckeye does not beat defenders with 6-0, 204 pound size, but with a blistering 4.35 40 yard dash and physicality in his routes, McLaurin has the looks of a major steal. Through three games McLaurin has been targeted 24 times, while cleary emerging as the number one option in Washington. The speedster is averaging 11.7 yards per catch, while securing a touchdown in each of his three games. Sharp route running and quick cuts have given the Bears, Cowboys and Eagles nightmares because of his McLaurin deep threat combined with an underrated catch in traffic ability. The Skins have lost all three games thus far, creating an ideal game script for McLaurin, likely to be a trend all season long. Three games in and McLaurin has surprised everyone, but even further, his breakout sheds light on what the potential of the Redskins offense could become with former teammate and 15th overall selection, Dwayne Haskins, and highly touted, hopefully healthy, Derrius Guice. Redskins found a gem in Terry McLaurin, the first wide receiver in NFL history with at least 5 receptions and a touchdown in each of his first three games.
Hockenson burst onto the scene in Week One with a massive performance. The 8th overall selection in the 2019 NFL Draft put up 6 catches with 131 yards receiving and a touchdown, while absorbing 9 targets in his first career game. There was a reason the former Iowa Hawkeye was selected in the top 10, and Detroit certainly have him in their game plan for the long term future. Weeks 2 and 3 were not exciting with just two combined catches on seven targets, but the Lions offense looks strong with wins over the Eagles and the Chargers. Hockenson looks to find a consistent role within the offense but the talent is oozing. At 6-5 and 251 pounds with elite route running and above average athleticism, Hockenson appears to be next in line as one of the top tight ends in the league. The position has seen top end growth and there are more elite players at the position than there have been in the past. At just 22 years old, look for Hockenson to continue to develop and attract targets as Darrell Bevell builds a dynamic offense around this young stud.