The NFL Network is in the process of gradually revealing its ranking of the league’s top 100 players for 2016, airing a new episode each week that unveils 10 players at a time.
The reveal of the NFL’s list of the league’s top 100 rookies for 2016 was less ceremonial. The whole thing landed quietly all at once as an NFL.com article last week.
Surprisingly, the second-ranked rookie was former UCLA linebacker Myles Jack, whose talent is unquestioned but whose injury history allowed him to fall to the Jacksonville Jaguars in the second round of the draft. Since the top 100 rookies list is based on who the experts think will make the biggest impact next season — and because some observers still doubt whether Jack will be able to play next season — it was an interesting choice.
Not surprising was the No. 1 rookie on the list and another Pac-12 product: Former Cal-Berkeley quarterback Jared Goff, the No. 1 overall pick in the draft and the new face of the Los Angeles Rams franchise.
The highest-ranking rookie defensive back on the NFL list is Oakland Raiders safety Karl Joseph, who was drafted in the first round with the 14th overall pick out of West Virginia.
Like Jack, Joseph is coming off a significant knee injury. Joseph only played four games for the Mountaineers last season (collecting five interceptions in that time) and was not taking part in on-field drills during his first mini-camp with the Raiders. He says he is targeting the beginning of training camp for his return.
Joseph was compared favorably to Brian Dawkins, Earl Thomas and Bob Sanders throughout the pre-draft process.
Here are the DBs that made the list of the top rookies, with the write-ups provided by NFL.com:
5. S Karl Joseph, Oakland Raiders: The former West Virginia star is returning from a knee injury, but when he’s ready to participate fully in practice, he’ll be on a fast track to a starting role and should help fill the Charles Woodson void.
7. CB Jalen Ramsey, Jacksonville Jaguars: In what could be a big defensive turnaround in Jacksonville, Ramsey is a linchpin for improvement.
8. CB Vernon Hargreaves, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Hargreaves will step right into the Bucs’ secondary and can handle whatever is asked, from press coverage to off-man to zone.
23. S Vonn Bell, New Orleans Saints: Bell can play well in coverage as a safety, and not just zone coverage; he can match up. That’s why he was a steal for New Orleans at No. 61 overall.
24. CB Eli Apple, New York Giants: It remains to be seen where Apple will fit in the Giants’ secondary, but with the nickel package being the predominant look in the NFL now, his cover skills will get him on the field early.
25. S/LB Su’a Cravens, Washington Redskins: Cravens breaks the stereotype that strong safeties lack coverage skills. Cravens is the new-age type of hybrid defender NFL clubs are drawn to. The Redskins are sure to lean on Cravens’ ability to play in space, and blanket backs and tight ends.
32. S Keanu Neal, Atlanta Falcons: Some considered Neal a reach at No. 17 overall, but he was a three-year playmaker at Florida and has the football intelligence to be a commanding presence in the Atlanta secondary.
37. CB William Jackson III, Cincinnati Bengals: There wasn’t a more productive cornerback in college football last year, and Bengals veterans at the position will have every reason to look over their shoulders.
41. CB KeiVarae Russell, Kansas City Chiefs: A year after drafting Marcus Peters to nail down one cornerback spot, the club doubled down in 2016 with three drafted corners, Russell first among them.
44. CB Artie Burns, Pittsburgh Steelers: GM Kevin Colbert addressed a major need with his first-round pick; a starting spot should be Burns’ to lose.
51. S Darian Thompson, New York Giants: There will be plenty of competition for the Giants’ free safety position, but as the only safety the club selected, Thompson should be squarely in the middle of it.
58. CB Mackensie Alexander, Minnesota Vikings: Forget the concern that Alexander didn’t make an interception in college; quarterbacks didn’t like throwing his way for a reason, and he’s a good bet to at least see nickelback action as a rookie.
60. S Sean Davis, Pittsburgh Steelers: The Steelers are in need of help at safety, and Davis is a good bet to be a Week One starter.
64. CB Xavien Howard, Miami Dolphins: Cornerback was a primary draft need for the Dolphins, but three were already off the board when they picked at No. 13 overall in the first round. They turned to Howard with their next choice at No. 38, and will waste no time getting him on the field.
68. DB Justin Simmons, Denver Broncos: The versatile Simmons can help on defense and special teams.
72. CB James Bradberry, Carolina Panthers: Josh Norman’s abrupt exit created a need at the position, and though Bradberry might not be a ready-made answer in September, he’ll likely be pressed into action soon enough.
74. CB Cyrus Jones, New England Patriots: Coming from a Nick Saban defense, Jones will be familiar with defensive concepts in New England, and his return skills could help him make a significant impact.
75. S T.J. Green, Indianapolis Colts: Even if Green doesn’t win a starting job right away, he can figure into sub packages while he vies for a bigger role.
77. S Miles Killebrew, Detroit Lions: Although some competition will await Killebrew in camp for the strong safety job, look for his aggressive style to carry him into the starting role.
95. DB Kevin Byard, Tennessee Titans: The Titans picked up Rashad Johnson in free agency to address the safety position, but as the first pick of the third round, there is little doubt Byard will get a strong look for playing time.