Ranking the NFL’s top rookies thus far in 2019

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Would you believe Mike McGlinchey and Da’Shawn Hand as NFL offensive and defensive rookies of the year?

This week, having just passed the midpoint of the season, I asked Eric Eager of Pro Football Focusthe data-driven analytics firm that contributes to this column weekly, to rate the top 20 rookies in football through midseason. The rating is a combination of three things: impact, level of play, and playing time. (Cleveland running back Nick Chubb is on the list, but not high because he played just 146 of Cleveland’s 670 snaps through nine games.)

The list is heavy on defense, as you’ll see:

1. Da’Shawn Hand, DT, Detroit (114th overall pick). Ninth among all defensive tackles in pass-rush productivity, per PFF.

2. Jessie Bates, S, Cincinnati (54). First-team PFF safety at midseason, allowing just a 21.7 QB rating through eight games.

3. Derwin James, S, L.A. Chargers (17). Four sacks, a pick, 10 QB disruptions. First-day impact on solid D.

4. Darius Leonard, LB, Indianapolis (36). NFL tackles leader through nine weeks (66, per PFF numbers, in just seven games), and a very sure tackler.

5. Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Dallas (19). PFF tracks the number of run-stops for every defender, and Vander Esch is fifth in the league in run-stop percentage.

6. Jaire Alexander, CB, Green Bay (18). Five pass breakups, a pick, and allowing a rating of 74.1 in his coverage area.

7. Mike McGlinchey, T, San Francisco (9). Through nine weeks, PFF has him as the league’s best run-blocking tackle.

8. Baker Mayfield, QB, Cleveland (1). The Browns’ MVP, inconsistent on a shaky franchise, has been worth a win above replacement. Big potential.

9. Denzel Ward, CB, Cleveland (4). Though heavily targeted, Ward has allowed a 73.3 rating in his coverage area. Three picks too.

Where’s Saquon Barkley? Click here to read the rest of the list.