We saw last year how much a draft can impact a team especially with the Saints who picked up 5 Pro Bowlers in the Draft and were able to turn their mediocre team into a powerhouse. The Saints are the best team in the league right now because they drafted well in 2017 and with rookies impacting teams in such a drastic way, here are the rookies in the 2018 draft who have impacted their teams through their playing style and culture.
5. Denzel Ward (Cleveland Browns)
Denzel Ward seemed like a reach being picked number four, even I thought so, but boy were we wrong. Ward has transformed the formerly putrid secondary into a decent backfield. These Ohio State cornerbacks have consistently been good coming into the NFL with Eli Apple, Marshon Lattimore, and Gareon Conley, but Ward seems like he can be better than all of them except Lattimore. Ward leads the Browns in interceptions and is really looking like a shutdown corner, not letting the receivers he's guarding get many yards. The Browns as a whole have turned this season around and Ward is out spearing the defense along with Myles Garrett. Watch out quarterbacks, because next ball you throw at Ward will probably get picked.
4. Darius Leonard (Indianapolis Colts)Adrian Peterson
Darius Leonard is the only player on this list not drafted in the first round. Every single major analyst thought the Colts over-drafted for Leonard. Hell, I didn't even know who Darius Leonard was before this season, but the crazy thing is that Darius Leonard leads the league in tackles. Let me repeat that... he doesn't just the rookies...he doesn't just lead the Colts... he leads the whole damn league! Leonard has transformed the Colts defense while it is still not the greatest, it is at least not a liability anymore. Without picking Leonard would the Colts still have a horrendous Defense? Who knows, but who cares. The Colts got Leonard and he's being impactful and stopping the pass and the run. Not being a first round pick and making an impact is hard, but the way Darius Leonard is doing it is almost unheard of.
3. Quenton Nelson (Indianapolis Colts)
Finally our first offensive player, but wait... a lineman? Are you surprised? If you're an avid football fan, you're probably not as we have seen in the Colts organization that they have one of the best offensive line in football and all of that is mainly because of Quenton Nelson. Quenton Nelson has changed the once bullied O-Line of the Colts into the bully's who mess with the defensive line. It's crazy that one player can have such a huge impact on the team, but we saw this last year too when the Saints took Marshon Lattimore and completely turned around the defense. Obviously this was not all because one player, but Nelson and Lattimore both helped make a weak unit into a strong one. There are no "stats" to officially prove he has changed the offensive line but it is clear when you watch Colt's games and see Nelson pancake blocking all the star defenders. Nelson is a leader on the field and provides a big body to protect Andrew Luck for another decade showing how much of a stud he is.
2. Saquon Barkley (New York Giants)
Saquon Barkley has been downright godly for the Giants. Other than Odell Beckham Jr., Saquon is the leading force behind the Giants. He not only the leading rookie rusher, but he's also the 4th leading rusher with 829 yards in the league which is very impressive as a rookie considering the amount of talent of running backs in the league. The impressive stats don't stop there though; Barkley is second in receiving yards for rookies only behind Calvin Ridley and the most impressive part of that is that Barkley isn't even a wide receiver. Every time Barkley takes the field, defenses try to stop him, and plan their game-plan to stop him, but still are unable to as Saquon always finds new ways to get loose. Despite Saquon only being a rookie he has proven himself as a superstar and a offensive stud. If he had a good quarterback imagine the trouble he would cause. Despite all this the reason he isn't the most impactful rookie is because of his leadership abilities. While he is respected among his teammates, he doesn't command that attention to succeed like Odell does for the team; if Saquon was able to lead his teammates and change the team into a winning team with his persona, he would definitely be the best rookie, but till then its...
1. Baker Mayfield (Cleveland Browns)
I'm not gonna lie, not picking Saquon Barkley here was hard as he been statistically better than Baker Mayfield, but for me when I'm evaluating the biggest stud in the draft, I look at all aspects including play style, leadership, and culture change brought by the rookie, and without a doubt Baker Mayfield flies past every rookie in these aspects. When I say Saquon has better stats, I'm not taking a shot against Baker because he himself has very impressive stats; it's just that Saquon has stats that many other players who have been in the league much longer than him are unable to achieve. Baker's stats are fabulous, nonetheless as he leads all rookies in passing yards with 2,242 and passing touchdowns with 17. Considering there are 4 other rookie quarterbacks that start AND Baker didn't start till week 3, this is a great achievement for Baker Mayfield. While these stats are very good, the main aspect of Baker that makes him the biggest stud are his leadership skills and how he changed the whole culture of the Cleveland Browns. Even though Baker was the first pick he wasn't supposed to start AT ALL this year because of Tyrod Taylor, but his leadership skills brought him onto the field. It is clearly visible when seeing the Browns in their games or even after their games that the veteran players, coaches, and rookie players all respect Baker Mayfield tremendously. He is a natural leader; people listen to what he says and he has a commanding presence. This is something the Browns lacked for the entire existence of its franchise. They have never had a QB who was a leader and was a born winner, but they finally hit right with Baker Mayfield. With all the winning Baker had experienced at Oklahoma in college, it helped him bring that winning culture to Cleveland where the Browns are finally winning games after going 1-31 over the previous two seasons. Along with the other rookies Baker is able to lead the Browns like no one has been able to before. Making the biggest losers in the league into a respectable team takes real stud power and Baker Mayfield has proved he is the biggest stud in the draft.