With the start of the 2021/22 NFL season just around the corner, it’s about time you get to know the best rookies stepping up to the big league this year. The preseason games are highlighting the true superstars of the rookie class. They’re giving us a snapshot of how they will perform for the rest of the season at a pro-level.
Several rookies were guaranteed a starting role because of their past form and position in the draft. However, there are also a few players who have impressed their superiors throughout training camp and the preseason games. This has elevated their position from benchwarmer to a starting role. This list will focus on both types of players to highlight the best rookie talent entering the NFL this season.
10. Justin Fields, Chicago Bears (QB)
Justin Fields has generated a ton of excitement from Bears fans since he was drafted. He was named as one of the players in the NFLPA’s Rookie Premiere Class of 2021. That means the league thinks of Justin as one of the most marketable players entering the NFL this season. They will help him learn about the NFL’s business side and help secure his first endorsement deals.
While a promising talent, his starting position isn’t guaranteed as he is in a fierce battle with the Bears’ other quarterback, Andy Dalton. In the Bears’ second preseason game against Buffalo Bills, Dalton struggled during the first half with two straight three and outs to start the game. This gave Fields a chance to show what he was made of in the second half. However, Justin was crushed by Linebacker Andre Smith in a collision that sent his helmet flying and left him lying on the ground. By some miracle, he was able to continue but his accuracy was less than what it should have been. So, Justin Fields has some work to do but if the buzz around this kid is anything to go by he will get the job done.
9. Elijah Moore, New York Jets (WR)
Elijah Moore could turn out to be the Jets’ best draft pick for years. He was the second pick of the second round, putting him in 34th position overall. He impressed throughout the training camps, making plays and spectacular catches every day. He is lightning fast, has great running accuracy, and has sticky hands. All of which are the qualities that you want to see in a promising wide receiver. He led the country in receiving yards per game (149.1) during his last season at Ole Miss Rebels and finished his Ole Miss career in a top 10 spot for a variety of records.
Moore’s strong hands, remarkable speed, and impressive agility make him a great candidate to become a breakout player this season. However, he still has the challenge of carving out a role among the unusually deep wide receiver bench at the Jets this year. Which includes the likes of Corey Davis, Vyncint Smith, and Denzel Mims to name a few.
8. Paulson Adebo, New Orleans Saints (CB)
Adebo was the Saints’ third-round pick. He comes off the back of an impressive college career at Stanford and he is already competing for a starting role at the Saints. He had 24 pass breakups in just two seasons and his physicality suggests that he will have no problem doing the same at pro-level. Adebo decided to sit out the 2020 season due to concerns around COVID-19. However, it’s been reported that it didn’t take him long to shake off the rust and start performing.
Ideally, the Saint’s would have Paulson Adebo play opposite Marshon Lattimore. However, Lattimore is potentially facing a suspension after he was arrested in March and charged with a fourth-degree felony. This would leave the door wide open for Adebo to make his presence felt immediately at the start of the 2021 NFL season.
7. Amari Rodgers, Green Bay Packers (WR)
The Green Bay Packers are going all-in with their new rookie wide receiver, Amari Rodgers. Coach Matt LaFleur said ‘We’ve thrown a lot at him, we’re not holding back.’ after a training camp session at the beginning of August. LaFleur thinks that Rodgers has a great football IQ and can handle a starting role for the Packers. It’s not clear exactly how Rodgers will fit into the team yet. However, we do know that the management team wants to find Rodgers a place within the offense right away to help bolster their attacking efforts this season.
In his 2020 season, Amari Rodgers caught 77 passes gaining 1020 yards and seven touchdowns for his Clemson teammates. He also joined an elite club of only five Clemson players to score touchdowns by rush, reception, and punt throughout their college careers. He’s certainly not the finished article and he will have to develop his skills if he wants to stay competitive in the pro league. However, all the early signs suggest that Rodgers is going to put on a show throughout his rookie year at the Packers.
6. Quinn Meinerz, Denver Broncos (OL)
Quinn Meinerz, a.k.a the man with the glorious belly, was the Broncos’ third-round pick. He is what you would call a classic offensive lineman. He’s a brute that will immediately make his presence felt for anyone up against him. The 22-year-old is 6’3, weighing in at 320 Ibs and he started turning heads during his college career at Wisconsin Whitewater. He has been dubbed as one of the highest-level athletes to play the interior position over the past three decades. Take a look at the wilderness workouts that made him into the physical specimen he is today.
Meinerz has captivated the coaching staff during the preseason minicamps and games. So much so that Llyod Cushenberry, who was picked 15 spots higher than Meinerz in the draft last season, might be losing his job. However, Meinerz will still have to prove that he deserves his place as the Broncos center to permanently remove Cushenberry from the role. Broncos fans will just have to wait and see how he performs throughout the remainder of the preseason games.
5. Ernest Jones, Los Angeles Rams (LB)
Ernest Jones was the 103rd pick in the 2021 draft. The former South Carolina linebacker was picked to add some depth to the Rams’ defense. The team had to say goodbye to 21 players due to the fact they were exceeding the salary cap for the upcoming season. So, the Rams drafted Jones to add in some cheap talent to their defensive front 7. He’s being thrust into a starting role where he will have the responsibility of calling the defensive plays. A role that he’s ready for.
The 6’2, 230 pound inside linebacker was a star among the South Carolina ranks. He has a no-nonsense football mentality that should flourish further at the pro level, especially playing behind the likes of defensive stars like Aaron Donald. Jones will be hoping that his reputation as a ‘monster tackler’ will continue throughout his time at the Rams. Jones has said that ‘he will play his role at first’ but he will ‘emerge as the leader when it’s necessary.’. Strong words from a rookie, I can’t wait to see what this kid can do.
4. Richie Grant, Atlanta Falcons (DS)
Richie Grant is an all-around defensive specialist who particularly excels at safety. He’s an excellent runner and can chase down any ball. He’s not afraid of making big contacts either and has proven himself to be great with run support as well. Grant had an impressive college career at UCF Knights, finishing his four-year career with a total of 290 tackles and 10 interceptions. He describes himself as the ‘ultimate teammate’ and in a promotional video filmed by the Falcons he went on to say:
“I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again, you got a dog. Richie Grant is a dog. I’m going to come out here and compete. I’m gonna lead. I’m going to do everything I need to do to make sure we get some Ws.”
So, Grant is definitely fired up to help his team have a successful season. Throughout the training camps and preseason games, Grant has been leaning on the older vets around him to make sure that he’s finding ways to improve his game daily. This should put him in a good position to have a standout first season with the Falcons and gel with his new teammates.
3. Najee Harris, Pittsburgh Steelers (RB)
Former Alabama Crimson Tide running back, Najee Harris, was the 24th pick in the 2021 NFL draft. The 6’2 230 Ibs offensive star has Steelers fans buzzing about the potential he brings to the team’s attacking plays this season. He had a stellar college career at Alabama, finishing as the Crimson Tide’s all-time leader for touchdowns. He managed to score a total of 57 with 46 rushing and 11 receiving. The man always makes some yards with an average of 6.0 yards per carry throughout his college playing days.
The hype around this young man has not disappointed. Harris has shown off his talents during the preseason games. During the second preseason game against the Detroit Lions, Harris was part of a 46-yard pass play that lead to a Steelers touchdown drive. He managed to steam past the number 3 2020 draft pick, showing the opposition and fans that he means business.
2. DeVonta Smith, Philadelphia Eagles (WR)
DeVonta Smith is a first-round draft wonderboy who played at Alabama from 2017-2020. He finished his college career with 54 appearances in which he produced 3965 yards and 46 touchdowns. He was named the 2020 Heisman Trophy winner after leading the NCAA in receptions last season. This makes him the third Heisman Trophy winner that the Eagles have drafted.
The concerns that the rookie wide receiver was going to get manhandled by the pro league cornerbacks because of his smaller stature were put to bed in Smith’s preseason debut. Smith’s world-class route-running meant that the Patriots’ cornerback couldn’t get his hands on him.
However, Smith was first to admit that he could have done better, making only two of the five passes that were thrown to him. He also picked up a knee injury during training camp which may have been part of the reason why his performance wasn’t as good as usual. He’ll be hoping to put the 35-0 debut loss behind him and make a good start to the season.
1. Trevor Lawrence, Jacksonville Jaguars (QB)
We’re finishing up our list of the top 10 best rookies for the 2021 season with the number one pick for this year’s draft, Trevor Lawrence. Before starting with the Jaguars, the rookie quarterback only experienced 4 losses since he started playing football in high school. So, Jacksonville will be hoping he can bring the winning mentality into the Jaguars locker room to help them get back to winning ways after a very disappointing season last year. Lawrence has been tipped as the most NFL-ready quarterback to come out of the draft for years. A statement that Jaguars fans will be hoping is true. He’s set to become an international star with the Jaguars who are also London’s home NFL team.
Lawrence’s first preseason game was a mixed bag. It saw the young superstar receive an early sack to come back and make some impressive passes. In the second preseason game against the New Orleans Saints, Lawrence played the first half. This was a real test for the rookie because the Saints have an outstanding defense and he didn’t have a lot of room to work with. He managed to complete three 10+ yard passes under extreme duress which filled fans and coaching staff with hope that Lawrence has what it takes to perform well this season.
Final thoughts on the top 10 best rookies for the NFL 2021 season
It was hard to distill this year’s rookie talent down to just 10 players. There will no doubt be lots more breakout players who are currently flying under the radar. However, the 10 rookies in this list all had preseason hype and have proven themselves to be worthy of the attention in the preseason games. Who knows who will end up with the rookie of the year awards. However, after just two weeks of preseason games, the bookies have Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields as the front runners for offensive rookie of the year. Who do you think will take the prize?
Jake Hughes is a freelance writer who specializes in sports, online marketing, and DeFi. He is also the Content Marketing Manager for Ticket-Compare. If you want to find match tickets at great prices, head over to our site now. Don’t miss your chance to watch one of the most exciting leagues in the world LIVE!