Ranking NFL's top 10 instant impact rookies for 2024: Trey Benson, JC Latham featured, but WR takes top spot

harrison g

Now that draft picks have become NFL rookies, it’s time to decide who is ready to be “instant impact” players — one of my favorite phrases to type this time of year on the NFL calendar. Because now every team is technically in “win-now” mode given how short patience has become in today’s NFL and society at large. It’s become increasingly difficult for franchises that look to be in “tank mode.”

In 2023, C.J. Stroud and Puka Nacua were immediate hits. So were Bijan Robinson, Jahmyr Gibbs and Sam Laporta. Can’t forget about the diminutive but lightning-quick Tank Dell, either.

The season before, Sauce Gardner was a lockdown corner from the jump with the Jets, Charles Cross, Abraham Lucas, Kenneth Walker, and Tariq Woolen were integral to the Seahawks’ surprise trip to the playoffs, and George Pickens flashed insane circus-catch capabilities with the Steelers. 

In 2021, Micah Parsons was a menace immediately. Rashawn Slater blocked everything in September and never looked back. Creed Humphrey locked down the center spot in Kansas City. And Ja’Marr Chase was sensational.

The year before, it was Justin Herbert who erupted out of the gate. And Tristan Wirfs. And Justin Jefferson. And Chase Young. Here’s my list of the top 10 instant impact rookies from the 2024 NFL Draft class. 

Note: Back in 2021, I incorporated a rule to not include quarterbacks because of how outrageously obvious they would’ve been from that draft class. Last year, I added a rule that only one selection from the top five was allowed. 

I originally had Brock Bowers here. Could even make a case for his Raiders teammate, Jackson Powers-Johnson. But more than anything else, the enormous opportunity for Coleman was the deciding factor in him earning this spot. The Bills have to replace 317 targets from last season (second most in NFL) given the losses of Stefon Diggs and Gabriel Davis and the most air yards in football (3,353), per 4for4.com.

We know Josh Allen likes to chuck the football all over the field, and the Bills consider Coleman to be a stud in contested-catch scenarios, so you better believe Allen will be throwing back-shoulder fades to him frequently in 2024, even if it appears the rookie receiver is covered. 

Benson will have to split carries with James Conner, and frankly, I love that rookie-veteran pairing in Arizona’s backfield. I won’t be surprised if by November, the former Florida State star is the unquestioned feature back for the Cardinals. He’s that talented. Despite running as tall as he does, Benson is extremely elusive — he had an unreal 39.2% forced missed tackle rate on 316 collegiate carries — and has sub 4.40 speed. 

What more is there to say? Benson doesn’t enter the NFL as an unchallenged No. 1 runner on his new team, but has the physical chops to excel instantly.

Worthy’s speed will add a retro element to the Chiefs. What I mean by that is — remember how scary the proposition of facing the Chiefs offense was during the Tyreek Hill era when, it felt like, on any snap, Patrick Mahomes could launch the ball 70 yards downfield to Hill for a touchdown? 

Of course, the Chiefs have been plenty successful featuring the short, YAC-predicated offense in the post-Hill era, but goodness, the vertical element provided by Hill — even the threat of it — opened a litany of options underneath and at the intermediate for Mahomes and Reid. 

I do expect Worthy to make some downfield plays early. He’s one of the more refined, well-rounded true burners to enter the league in a while. Think Darnell Mooney or a more polished Marquise Brown. But even when he doesn’t have a three-catch, 125-yard stat line, he’ll be impacting the defense in a major way with clearing routes deep. 

Alt could eventually play left tackle in Los Angeles, but it’s believed he’ll begin at right tackle opposite Rashawn Slater. The towering, highly athletic blocker with arms well over 34 inches long was widely considered OT1 in this class. I was lower on him because in watching the film, I saw many more ugly wins than his contemporaries in this class, and given that he’s nearly 6-foot-9, he needs to get stronger and play with better knee bend to not get out-leveraged. 

Having pinpointed those weaknesses, I will admit — this is a special mover at that size, and his recovery skill is elite. Said skill is vital for all blockers and especially early in careers when the winning isn’t always easy.  

Latham is ready to rock at left tackle with the Titans, next to 2023 first-round pick Peter Skoronski at left guard. While he never played that position at Alabama, he was a two-year right tackle and began his career at Alabama at right guard. At 6-foot-5 and 342 pounds with arms over 35 inches long, Latham has the physical stature to deal with the power he’ll see on a regular basis from NFL defensive ends and plays with the presumed level of power at his size. 

He’ll be thrust into the starting lineup, as most top-10 pick offensive tackles are, and while there may be time he’s stretched beyond his athletic limit against the elite outside speed rushers, he’ll also be able to overwhelm often with his size and length.

I didn’t have Brooks graded as a top three running back in this class. However, I was in the minority with that take. Beyond that, I will admit Brooks has feature-back size, speed, power and plus cutting capabilities. He’s built to run between the tackles, and once medically cleared, handle a full workload. 

That’s precisely what he’s going to do in Carolina, with only Chuba Hubbard ahead of him on the running back depth chart. He’s in a glorious situation to handle feature-back duties. Instantly. And while I don’t envision the Panthers’ offensive line to routinely bulldoze the fronts it faces, at least GM Dan Morgan prioritized the blocking unit this offseason, signing guards Robert Hunt and Damien Lewis.

Yeah, Odunze is going to be a dude right away with Caleb Williams in Chicago. While I was a touch lower on him than most, I still had a top-20 grade on him and fell in love with his otherworldly 75% contested-catch win rate in his final season at Washington. 

He’s useful after the catch, too, given his lower-body flexion and sizable frame. But make no mistake, Odunze was added to become the outside vertical threat in this offense that now features a winner at all three levels and in every conceivable receiver role. The No. 9 overall pick is probably lower on this list than you expected simply because of the presence of D.J. Moore and Keenan Allen, which will take away some of the impact Odunze can have instantly. 

Ladd was my guy in this class! WR5 and a top 20 grade. So, yeah, he was bound for a high ranking on this list. But it’s not just from his, you know, elite separation ability, deceptive deep speed and nifty talent with the football in his hands. 

Plus, McConkey’s frame fits the new-age mold of the young, lighter receivers entering the league who are thriving at well under 200 pounds. I am, however, a bit skeptical of Greg Roman as Justin Herbert’s offensive coordinator. Yet, we’re talking about Herbert throwing McConkey passes as a rookie. HERBERT! One of the elite physical specimens at the quarterback position today. And guess which team in the NFL has the most “available” targets from last season? The Chargers, with 393, thanks mostly to the departures of Keenan Allen and Austin Ekeler. McConkey has the nuanced skill to hit the ground running, and the opportunity is massive in the City of Angels. 

Nabers is different. The personification of electricity on a football field. And he’s 6-foot and around 200 pounds. He tracks the football like a champ and was the finest YAC wideout in the class. Burst, vision, and a borderline unshakable equilibrium when contacted by the first — and sometimes the second — defender. 

The receiver room in New York is not exactly intimidating, although Wan’Dale Robinson flashed when healthy in 2023, as did Jalin Hyatt. Nabers will see well over 120 targets in Year 1, and even if Daniel Jones doesn’t transform into 2011 Eli Manning, Nabers has the rare talent to make something out of short, high-percentage throws or slightly off-target downfield tosses. 

Harrison Jr. was my WR2 by a small margin behind Nabers. Elite-level prospect in every way imaginable, beyond YAC. Do I think the Ohio State receiving legend can become more effective after the catch in the NFL than he was in college? Yes. He’s sizable. Runs routes like a veteran entering the final year of his rookie deal, and the ball seemingly always finds his hands down the field, even in the most awkward scenarios. His concentration in traffic is spectacular. As is his body control. Nothing against Michael Wilson or Greg Dortch, or even Trey McBride, but Harrison is potentially — probably? — in line for 150-plus targets in Year 1, which helps him lock in this No. 1 spot. As does his quarterback situation. 

Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top