2018 NFL rookie rankings: Derwin James tops list at midseason

With the 2018 regular season at the halfway point, former NFL scout Daniel Jeremiah has reviewed his notes from the first eight weeks to rank the top 25 rookies in the league today.

NOTE: Arrows reflect changes from DJ’s rookie rankings at the quarter mark.

1Derwin JamesSChargers1
James has already established himself as a leader on the Chargers’ defense and his versatility is a huge asset to coordinator Gus Bradley.

2Saquon BarkleyRBGiants4
Barkley has a shot to post 1,000 yards rushing and receiving. That would put him in elite company — Roger Craig and Marshall Faulk are the only players to go 1,000/1,000 in NFL history — and provide a nice storyline for a terribly disappointing team.

3Darius LeonardLBColts2
Leonard continues to rack up huge numbers (see: an NFL-best 88 tackles, four sacks and three forced fumbles) for a resurgent Colts defense. He flies around and makes plays on a consistent basis.

4Denzel WardCBBrowns
Ward is starting to earn a reputation as one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL. Teams aren’t challenging him as much as they were earlier in the fall.

5Phillip LindsayRBBroncos5
Lindsay has emerged as one of the top runners in the league this fall, with 531 rushing yards on just 93 carries (a robust 5.7 yards a pop). The 5-foot-8, 190-pounder is decisive and runs with more power than expected.

6Jessie BatesSBengalsNR
I loved Bates during the draft process and he hasn’t disappointed. He capped off a fantastic first half of the season with a pick-six against Tampa Bay.

7Kerryon JohnsonRBLionsNR
Thanks to Johnson, the Lions finally have a legit running game. He is ultra-patient and his smooth running style is a joy to watch.

8Calvin RidleyWRFalcons5
Ridley has six touchdowns on just 27 catches. A precise route runner with speed, he consistently generates separation.

9Bradley ChubbOLBBroncos5
After a slow start, Chubb has put together several strong outings in a row to get up to seven sacks on the season. He benefits from Von Miller’s presence on the other side, but the No. 5 overall pick is a gifted pass rusher in his own right.

10Quenton NelsonOGColts11
Nelson hasn’t been perfect, as he continues to get acclimated to NFL speed, but he is a mauler in the run game and is improving in pass pro every week. He will be an All-Pro in the future.

11Baker MayfieldQBBrowns6
Mayfield has flashed elite accuracy and anticipation. He does force things at times, but overall, I like what I’ve seen.

12Sony MichelRBPatriots5
When he’s been in the lineup, Michel has produced for the Pats offense. He has a nice blend of speed, power and elusiveness.

13Sam DarnoldQBJets7
Darnold is doing all that he can do with a limited supporting cast. He has made the Jets competitive this fall because of his moxie and playmaking ability.

14Jaire AlexanderCBPackers9
The No. 18 overall pick looks like a draft-day steal with the way he’s played this season. Alexander has outstanding speed, awareness and ball skills. He more than held his own against the Rams in Week 8.

15Mike McGlincheyOT49ers1
McGlinchey has continued to improve throughout the season. He still has some issues versus power rushers, but is already an above-average starting right tackle.

16Daron PayneDTRedskinsNR
The Redskins have one of the most underrated defensive lines in the NFL, and Payne has been impossible to block at times. He has a quick first step and remarkable raw power.

17Josh RosenQBCardinalsNR
Rosen has suffered through some growing pains, but he also has made some rare throws under heavy pressure. He needs more help around him, but the future is bright for the former UCLA star.

18Donte JacksonCBPanthers10
Jackson is a special athlete and he’s playing with confidence and swagger. The Panthers nailed this pick.

19Roquan SmithLBBears4
Smith has started five games for the Bears, providing a physical presence in the middle of their defense. His combination of instincts and explosiveness is fun to watch.

20Fred WarnerLB49ers8
Warner has been a tackle machine for the 49ers, as he’s tied for seventh in the NFL with 66 takedowns. He’s also been more physical than I expected.

21Leighton Vander EschLBCowboys3
Vander Esch has a unique blend of size, speed and range. He makes plays from sideline to sideline.

22Dallas GoedertTEEaglesNR
Goedert’s production has been streaky, but he’s made some splash plays for the Eagles’ offense this fall. I’d look for him to climb up this list in the second half of the season.

23Marcus DavenportDESaintsNR
Davenport makes one or two big-time plays every week. With him, it’s about the quality of plays, not the quantity.

24Tremaine EdmundsLBBillsNR
Edmunds will overrun the ball at times, but I love his play speed and agility. He’ll be a mainstay on this defense for the next decade.

25Christian KirkWRCardinals7
Kirk reminds me so much of Golden Tate. He’s an outstanding route runner, and I love the physicality and toughness he brings to the position.

Follow Daniel Jeremiah on Twitter @MoveTheSticks.

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