Lamar Jackson was drafted into the perfect situation. In fact, it's turned out to be more perfect than anyone (maybe even Jackson) could have thought.
Looking back at the 2018 NFL Draft, it was obvious that Jackson, the 2016 Heisman Trophy winner, was anything but thrilled to have been the fifth quarterback selected, at No. 32 overall to the Baltimore Ravens. Despite the frustration, Jackson confidently told NFL Network's Deion Sanders when walking off the stage in Dallas that his new team was getting a winner.
The young QB has certainly made a believer out of me. The Ravens are in good position to make a run in January, especially after last week's 22-10 road win over the Los Angeles Chargers. The victory was Jackson's fifth as a starter since taking over for an injured Joe Flacco after the team's Week 10 bye. Jackson's only loss came against the Kansas City Chiefs in a game that the Ravens could have -- and should have -- won.
Currently, the Ravens (9-6) are the fourth seed in the AFC as the leaders of the AFC North -- thanks, in part, to Jackson's stellar play. But don't get it twisted. Much of his success (Jackson ranks eighth in the league in rushing yards since Week 11) is the direct result of the solid foundation Baltimore already had in place when it drafted him out of Louisville. Unlike some of the other quarterbacks in his draft class, Jackson was able to learn behind a pair of veteran quarterbacks (Joe Flacco and Robert Griffin III) before taking the reins in mid-November. He's also benefited tremendously from having the NFL's No. 1 defense -- in both points and yards allowed.
That said, perhaps the greatest influence on Jackson's early success is none other than assistant head coach Greg Roman, who worked with and tailored an offense to Colin Kaepernick during San Francisco's Super Bowl run. Roman has worked with offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinwheg to do the same thing with Jackson by implementing quarterback run schemes and catering the offense to Jackson's strengths. In turn, the rookie has been able to showcase his incredible running talent while progressing as a passer along the way.
In addition to Jackson, here are four other offensive rookies who landed in the best spots:
Calvin Ridley, WR, Atlanta Falcons: It's an ideal situation for any wide receiver to be picked by a team that already has an established WR1. Yes, Ridley is talented enough to be a No. 1 receiver, but he doesn't have to be with Julio Jones taking the double teams and going against top defensive backs. Ridley has benefited from facing single coverage against CB2s and CB3s, along with having a former league MVP in Matt Ryan under center. The biggest takeaway is he's been able to learn and grow in the Falcons' offensive system without having the pressure of being the guy.
Quenton Nelson, G, Indianapolis Colts: The Colts desperately needed to upgrade the offensive line to better protect Andrew Luck, who has been plagued by shoulder injuries the last two seasons. Now, Luck at times held on to the ball too long, and certainly didn't do himself any favors by often subjecting himself to big hits when he scrambled. But there's no question the Colts' No. 1 priority in the draft was to add a top-tier talent on the O-line to keep their biggest investment on the field all season. The Colts definitely hit the jackpot, landing the best offensive lineman in the 2018 class. Nelson has teamed well with the other two first-rounders on the Colts' O-line, center Ryan Kelly and tackle Anthony Castonzo, to help solidify a unit that ranks 10th in pass blocking and fifth in run blocking, according to Pro Football Focus.
Phillip Lindsay, RB, Denver Broncos: After parting ways with C.J. Anderson in the offseason, the Broncos' RB1 spot was suddenly up for the taking. Denver invested a 2018 third-round pick in Royce Freeman, who was expected to team with third-year veteran Devontae Booker to carry the Broncos' running load. But Lindsay, undrafted out of Colorado, capitalized on the lack of an entrenched starter. He impressed in camp and during the preseason to earn himself a bulk of the team's carries right out of the gate. With his attitude, understanding of pass pro and quickness on the field, he established himself as the Broncos' No. 1 back and currently ranks second in the AFC in rushing. However, his spectacular debut season, in which he became just the third undrafted rookie in the Super Bowl era to rush for more than 1,000 yards, ended after he sustained a severe wrist injury in Week 16.
Dallas Goedert, TE, Philadelphia Eagles: Like Ridley, Goedert has had the luxury of learning behind one of the best players at his position in Zach Ertz. The amount of attention Ertz demands allows Goedert to have favorable matchups on a team that is no stranger to relying on tight ends. With Brent Celek being released (before retiring) and Trey Burton leaving in free agency last March, Goedert was put in the perfect position to thrive, and he's done well as the team's TE2.
Each week in the 2018 campaign, former No. 1 overall pick and NFL Network analyst David Carr will take a look at all offensive players and rank his top 15. Rankings are based solely on this season's efforts. Now, let's get to it -- the Week 17 pecking order is below.
Seattle is one of the toughest places for opposing offenses to play, but Mahomes handled the adversity well. After a slow start in the first quarter, in which he threw for just 25 yards, he logged 248 passing yards, three passing TDs and a 120.3 passer rating. Mahomes has done well even in the team's losses, which is why he continues to stay here.
Coming into last week's contest, Jones averaged more than 100 yards in 12 career games against Carolina. A game-time decision with a foot injury, Jones played on Sunday and didn't waste time getting after the Panthers' D with four catches for 28 yards, including a 1-yard touchdown reception, on Atlanta's first possession. Jones leads the NFL in receiving yards with 1,539 entering Week 17.
Hopkins continues to be one of the biggest receiving threats in the league. With one week remaining in the regular season, he has 103 receptions for 1,425 receiving yards -- topping 100 catches and 1,400-plus receiving yards in a season for the second time in his career.
Rivers didn't help his MVP campaign with his worst statistical game of the season. The Ravens shut the veteran down and limited Rivers to 181 passing yards, zero TDs, two INTs and just a 51.7 passer rating. That's not going to win in the playoffs.
McCaffrey became the third player in NFL history with 1,000 rushing yards and 100 receptions in the same season, joining Matt Forte and my NFL Network colleague LaDainian Tomlinson. Unfortunately, McCaffrey's outstanding production has been overshadowed by the Panthers' downfall -- they are 6-9 heading into Week 17 after starting the season 6-2.
Brown had 14 catches for 185 receiving yards and a pair of receiving touchdowns Sunday. This is what I expect from him every time out. He's more than capable of taking over games like this.
With more than 100 scrimmage yards Sunday, Zeke helped the Cowboys lock up the NFC East. He's on pace to lead the league in rush yards per game for the third straight season (2016: 108.7; 2017: 98.3; 2018: 95.6).
After a quiet few weeks -- at least by Thomas' standards -- Brees' favorite target went off against the Steelers. Thomas ended up with 11 receptions for 109 yards (his fourth 100-yard receiving game of the season) and a receiving TD.
With a pair of rushing TDs against Pittsburgh, Kamara's 18 scrimmage touchdowns ties the most in a single season in Saints franchise history (Dalton Hilliard in 1989). His slight fall in this list is only due to greater performances by others.
In Sunday's loss, Kelce surpassed Tony Gonzalez for most receiving yards in a single season by a Chiefs tight end. With 1,274 heading into Week 17, Kelce needs 54 receiving yards to pass Rob Gronkowksi for the most by a tight end in a season in NFL history. That's definitely doable with the Raiders up next.
Sitting at 1,378 receiving yards for the season, Hill needs just 14 more to set a new single-season Chiefs record. He could do that with one reception in Week 17 thanks to his season average of 16.8 yards per catch.
JUST OUTSIDE THE TOP 15