The 2021 NFL season brings a new class of rookies looking to make instant impacts for their respective teams. From Patrick Surtain II bolstering the weak secondary in Denver to Justin Fields finally giving the Bears a franchise QB, these are the rookies you need to watch this season.
Trevor Lawrence Is Must-See TV
It would be a crime to leave out the number one overall draft pick on this list. Trevor Lawrence is the Jaguars starting quarterback and has a truckload of hype to live up to.
Will he struggle in his first season? Will he lead Jacksonville to a shocking playoff berth? His first game wasn’t great, but he can only get better!
Ja’Marr Chase Could Ascend Quickly
Ja’Marr Chase caught balls from Joe Burrow at LSU, and now he’s back with his old stablemate in Cincinnati. That instant familiarity should help Chase boom instead of a bust as a rookie.
Expectations for Chase as a rookie will be high, too, as he looks to replace A.J. Green in orange in black.
Justin Fields Should Start Sooner Rather Than Later
Andy Dalton might be starting the season as the Chicago Bears’ choice under center, but it shouldn’t last long. Fields is more athletic and should provide the Bears a better chance to win games.
This is one case where it’s nice to have a veteran to mentor the young guy, but that veteran should be doing it from the bench.
Najee Harris Should Carry The Load In Pittsburgh
A first-round pick by the Pittsburgh Steelers, Najee Harris should carry as much of the running load as he can in Pittsburgh. If the offensive line does its job, he should find plenty of holes to make his rookie season a breeze.
If anything holds Harris back, it will be the evolving role of teams rotating RBs instead of leaning on a “bell cow” player to stay in on every down.
Mac Jones Is In Charge In New England
Mac Jones was so impressive during his first preseason as a Patriot that the team released Cam Newton, making him the unquestioned starter. With no one looking over his shoulder, Jones should be able to excel as a rookie.
Most importantly, the Patriots probably won’t ask a lot of Jones as long as they use their run game successfully, which will benefit him in the long term. We see him as a dark-horse rookie of the year candidate.
Micah Parson Will Anchor The Cowboys’ Defense
The Dallas Cowboys defense was embarrassingly bad in 2020. Heading into the offseason, improving every aspect was a priority, leading Dallas to draft Micah Parsons with their first overall pick.
Parsons should help stabilize Dallas’ woeful defense, stepping in right away as a starter and providing insurance for the often injured Leighton Vander Esch.
Can Kyle Pitts Replace Julio Jones?
They might play different positions, but make no mistake that rookie tight end Kyle Pitts was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons to replaced departed WR Julio Jones.
Pitts is big and fast, and Atlanta plans to use him in as many ways as possible to get the ball in his hands.
Trey Sermon Should Fit Perfectly In SF
Trey Sermon won’t rush for 1,000 yards as a rookie and definitely won’t break records, but as part of a multi-headed rushing attack in San Francisco, he should still be a blast to watch.
Will he be a goal-line back? Primarily a pass catcher? A third-down bruiser? We don’t know, but we can’t wait to find out!
Patrick Surtain Is The Piece The Broncos’ Defense Has Been Missing
The NFL is increasingly becoming more of a passing league every year. That makes defensive backs like Patrick Surtain in Denver more valuable than ever.
The Broncos spent their first-round pick on Surtain in 2021, and in week two he officially became one of the team’s starters. He was great in college, we’ll have to watch to see if his skills translate to the NFL.
Elijah Mitchell Is A Dark-Horse In SF
Elijah Mitchell was the second running back the San Francisco 49ers drafted in 2021, but he might end up being the most important. With Raheem Mostert lost for the season to knee surgery, Mitchell appears to be the new bell cow in the city by the bay.
Replacing Mostert in week one, Mitchel rushed for over 100 yards. His name not be as well known as the RB taken before him (Trey Sermon), but it might be by the end of the season.
Rashawn Slater Is Just What The Chargers Ordered
In his second year as the starting QB for the Los Angeles Chargers, Justin Herbert will be protected on the offensive line by rookie Rashawn Slater. After one week lining up against Montez Sweat and Chase Young, Slater has already proved to be invaluable as a rookie.
Herbert threw 31 touchdown passes in 2020 with a questionable offensive line. With Slater anchoring down opposing defenses, could we see that number shoot up to 40?
Penei Sewell Survived His First Major Test
One of the best offensive linemen to come out of college in 2021 was Penei Sewell. Drafted by the Detroit Lions, he made an immediate impact in his first game, going up against Nick Bosa of the 49ers.
While Sewell made a few rookie mistakes, he held up overall throughout the game, helping protect QB Jared Goff during a heart-pounding 4th quarter comeback attempt.
Zach Wilson Has All Season To Find His Footing
Zach Wilson’s NFL debut for the New York Jets was a mixed bag, to say the least. He struggled out of the gate before almost leading the Jets to a come from behind victory.
The biggest thing it looks like Wilson will need to improve on during the season is his footwork. The rest of the skillset is already there.
DeVonta Smith Brings More Speed To Philly
As if the Eagles’ WR corps wasn’t fast enough, the team drafted DeVonta Smith out of Alabama. Smith used his speed to his advantage in his NFL debut, catching six passes for 71 yards and scoring a touchdown.
We just hope the undersized Smith is able to stay healthy for a full 17 game schedule!
Asante Samuel Jr. Was A Steal For The Chargers
Defensive back Asante Samuel Jr. fell to the Los Angeles Chargers in the second round of the draft, and the team could not have been any happier. An all-in defender, new head coach Brandon Staley should be able to do just about whatever he wants on defense now.
Just imagine how dangerous a defense with Samuel Jr., Joey Bosa, and Derwin James has the potential to be.
Kwity Paye Is A Lockdown Lineman
Life couldn’t be easier for rookie defensive end Kwity Paye of the Indianapolis Colts. Lining up alongside DeForeest Buckner and Darius Leonard has ensured a smooth transition from college to the pros for the young star.
The Colts will need Paye to… pay dividends on defense while the offense finds its footing with new QB Carson Wentz under center.
Greg Newsome II Is Already An Impact Player
Playing your first career NFL game as a defensive back against Patrick Mahomes is no easy task, but Greg Newsome II proved up for it. In his professional debut, he only gave up 18 yards through the air, earning one of the highest grades at his position.
The Browns have a tough schedule, so things won’t get any easier for Newsome II, but that doesn’t worry us.
Josh Myers Must Protect Aaron Rodgers At All Costs
Losing Corey Linsley in free agency left a big hole that needed to be filled on the Green Bay Packers’ offensive line. To fill it, the team drafted Josh Meyers in the second round.
Meyers only allowed one QB pressure in the Packers blowout loss to the Saints, proving he wasn’t the problem. In fact, he looks like a solid piece of the future!
Paulson Adebo Looks Like A Keeper In New Orleans
In his first game as a pro, cornerback Paulson Abedo intercepted a pass by future Hall of Famer Aaron Rodgers. Not a bad way to start your NFL career!
The entire Saints’ defense dominated the Packers, and Adebo was a definite standout. Not only did he pick off a pass, but he also only allowed one completion. Rodgers’ passer rating against him was a ghastly 2.1.
Jaylen Waddle Is The Key To Unlocking Tua’s Potential
The Miami Dolphins look to have their franchise QB in second-year player Tua Tagovailoa, and now they have the final piece needed to fully unlock his potential – WR Jaylen Waddle.
Watching Waddle play, he looks like he could be just as dangerous as Chiefs WR Tyreek Hill, and that’s a very good thing if you’re a Dolphins fan!