Top NFL Rookies that will make an Impact in 2018

Expectations are high for a handful of rookies, but which ones will make the most impact and are worthy of a future bet?

The anticipation of a new season gives football fans hope, and handicappers and sports bettors the opportunity to turn their preparation and plans into profit. The infusion of rookies to an NFL roster provides the foundation of a team’s future success. A handful of rookies will make an immediate impact, and the expectations are high for those top draft picks as the teams invest more money in them.

Fantasy football drafts have players rated and fantasy team owners are always looking for an impact rookie that can score more. But rookies have no impact on the sports betting market. The offensive rookies get more headlines and media coverage, but the top defensive rookies are the ones that can have the greatest long term impact. Former Oakland Raiders LB Khalil Mack, who was just traded to the Chicago Bears, was a top-5 pick in 2014 and made an immediate impact as a rookie. Mack earned Defensive Player of the Year award in 2017. Look at the top defensive teams like the Vikings, Eagles, Jaguars and Rams and you’ll see a number of former top draft choices that have formed the nucleus of strong defenses and winning teams.

Who are the impact rookie players for 2018? Here are some thoughts and projections for the offensive skill players and potential defensive impact players. Odds provided by

Top Rookies on Offense:

Saquon Barkley NY Giants rookieRB Saquon Barkley – NY Giants. The clear favorite for Offensive Rookie of the Year (ROY) at the leading online sportsbooks, including +150 at MyBookie. Barkley is a rare talent with speed, strength, agility, vision and explosiveness to be an immediate impact player. Barkley will try to have the immediate impact that the Cowboys got from Ezekiel Elliott in 2016 and the Vikings Adrian Peterson in 2007. Both were top-7 picks in the NFL draft and each earned Offensive Rookie of the Year honors. Elliott ran behind the league’s No. 1 offensive line in 2016, and Barkley will not have that same support. However, No. 2 overall pick should run his way to become an impact player for the Giants.

QB Sam Darnold – NY Jets. Darnold will start in Week 1 and his ROY odds dropped to +220. He was the most impressive of the rookie QB’s during the preseason, and appears to have the poise and determination to make a difference. Long suffering Jets fans have waited for an impact player at QB after Geno Smith fizzled and failed. Darnold will likely make it but his sub-par offensive line will make it difficult to be a big difference maker in his rookie year.

RB Royce Freeman – Denver Broncos. Drafted in the 3rd round, Freeman beat on Devontae Booker in training came and will start for the Broncos. He’s at 11-1 odds for ROY, but does not appear to have an above average offensive line to make him an impact player despite the starting spot. Fellow Broncos rookie WR Courtland Sutton (33-1) was a 2nd round pick and considered the top WR in his class. He’ll be the Broncos No. 3 wide receiver after a strong preseason, and his large frame and ability makes him a real red zone threat. Sutton is a better value pick who could emerge as a deep home run threat.

WR Dante Pettis – San Francisco 49ers. Pettis is the curly blue-haired big longshot to consider if you are looking for a huge score. The 49ers moved up to draft Pettis in the 2nd round, and he’s 80-1 to win ROY. A potential home run hitter and impact player not only as a target for QB Jimmy Garoppolo, but as an electric punt return man.

Sleeper waiting in Lions Den – Detroit RB Kerryon Johnson (16-1).  

Impact rookie defensive players and Defensive Rookie of the Year Odds, my list to consider:

 - CB Denzel Ward (8-1) – Cleveland Browns
 - LB Bradley Chubb (5-2) – Denver Broncos
 - LB Roquan Smith (4-1)  - Chicago Bears
 - S Derwin James (8-1) - LA Chargers
 - CB Jaire Alexander (13-1) Green Bay Packers
 - S Minkah Fitzpatrick (10-1) – Miami Dolphins

It is always tough to bet with confidence on the NFL Rookie of the Year future, but clearly some of these first-year players will make an impact.

You can bet on it.

FairwayJay is a leading national sports handicapper and is recognized as one of the sports industry's most insightful analysts. Read more great insights from Jay here and follow him on Twitter: @FairwayJay

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