First Rounders In Focus: End of Season

| January 1, 2014

first-rounders-PREWK03Way back in April a host of NFL teams made a lot of dreams come true. They spent draft picks on them to make them football players and we’ve been lucky enough to watch every snap of their young careers.

For some teams those first round picks have made an immediate impact. Making the kind of plays they were drafted to they’ve caught the imagination of their fans and raised expectations for next year. For others? Well they’ve got a lot to work on in the coming year.

For all however we’re going to give you a quick breakdown on them all, filled with snap counts, grades and a brief analysis.

1. Eric Fisher, T, Kansas City Chiefs

Grade: -17.3

Snaps: 810

Analysis: It’s been a tough rookie year for Fisher who ended the year our fourth lowest ranked right tackle on the year. The better news is in the past five weeks he’s earned a +2.6 grade and after his baptism of fire on the right side of the line has taken a step forward. Does he end up on the left side? His fate will be tied to what the Chiefs do with Branden Albert.

2. Luke Joeckel, T, Jacksonville Jaguars

Grade: -6.1

Snaps: 280

Analysis: His season was cut short by injury which but did look reasonably assured in pass protection on the right side before going down. After the trade away of Eugene Monroe, Joeckel was moved over to the left side, but just 12 snaps leaves his sample size a little short.

3. Dion Jordan, DE, Miami Dolphins

Grade: +0.2

Snaps: 338

Analysis: There were lofty hopes that situational role could see Jordan produce like Aldon Smith back in 2011. Jordan found himself more limited in his appearances to obvious passing situations as the early season form of Olivier Vernon limited his opportunities. He’ll be expected to do a lot more next year.

4. Lane Johnson, T, Philadelphia Eagles

Grade: -0.3

Snaps: 1127

Analysis: Regarded by a project as some, Johnson started the year off slowly and had some major issues in pass protection where he allowed seven sacks in the first eight weeks of the season. However with just three more allowed the remainder of the year and our 12th highest run blocking grade for a tackle, he proved an asset for the Eagles when it mattered most.

5. Ezekiel Ansah, DE, Detroit Lions

Grade: -0.7

Snaps: 581

Analysis: Ended the year with a healthy nine sacks, but didn’t consistently deliver the kind of pressure that the team may have hoped for. That said he impressed in the run game and showcased his immense physical tools enough to suggest he’ll be some player with more experience and fine tuning.

6. Barkevious Mingo, OLB, Cleveland Browns

Grade: -10.8

Snaps: 668

Analysis: Simply didn’t produce the kind of immediate impact the Browns were hoping for, finishing the year our fourth lowest ranked 3-4 outside linebacker and never really threatening the playing time of Jabaal Sheard or Paul Kruger. Like DC Ray Horton said, needs to do more rushing the passer.

7. Jonathan Cooper, G, Arizona Cardinals

Grade: N/A

Snaps: N/A

Analysis: The team is hoping Cooper will get over his severe injury that saw him spend the entire year on injured reserve.

8. Tavon Austin, WR, St Louis Rams

Grade: +2.4

Snaps: 434

Analysis: Austin made his share of headline plays and was particularly effective on gadget plays and special teams. Still, the team didn’t make full use of him in a receiving game where he was way down the priority list. That’s a shame given how much he promised to deliver. Look for an increased role in 2014.

9. Dee Milliner, CB, New York Jets

Grade: -2.1

Snaps: 747

Analysis: Slow to adapt, Milliner was poor in the first 10 weeks of the season and twice earned benching through his sloppy play. Then the light seemed to go on, with the coaching staff getting the best out of him by season’s end as his final quarter of the season saw him pick up a +8.6 grade. If he keeps that up the fans may forget about the other guy who had his own island.

10. Chance Warmack, G, Tennessee Titans

Grade: -6.1

Snaps: 1088

Analysis: After being told Warmack was NFL ready we’re a little disappointed here. His season was patchy with the Titan guard never putting a string of good games together, chiefly having issues on his heels as opposed to in the run game (though that was hardly perfect).

11. D.J. Fluker, T, San Diego Chargers

Grade: +0.4

Snaps: 1075

Analysis: This grade would look much better but for a spell at left tackle that saw Fluker earn a -13.0 grade. That’s how good he was at right tackle where he fitted straight in and provided an immediate upgrade for Philip Rivers. You get the impression there’s a lot more to come from him next year.

12. D.J. Hayden, CB, Oakland Raiders

Grade: -6.6

Snaps: 353

Analysis: A miracle to some he’s even on a football field, his disjointed offseason didn’t help him make a positive impression. Before his season ended after Week 9 he’d missed six tackles in a single game and earned a -7.7 coverage grade. Question marks remain on this pick on so many levels.

13. Sheldon Richardson, DE, New York Jets

Grade: +30.4

Snaps: 906

Analysis: When we announce our Rookie of the Year next week expect Richardson, who has led our Race for Rookie of the Year all season, to feature prominently. He’s ended the year our fifth ranked 3-4 defensive end and only J.J. Watt has a better run defense grade than the man from Missouri. Still Jets fans might expect a leap from him next year rushing the passer where he was something of a non-factor relative to how much he was on the field.

14. Star Lotulelei, DT, Carolina Panthers

Grade: +15.1

Snaps: 620

Analysis: Might not be everyone’s cup of tea given his one dimensional play, but he’s so good in that one dimension (run defense) you can’t fail to acknowledge his importance to the Panthers. Much of the media is looking for a figure to credit their resurgence to, but the truth is they’ve just got a letter better at the defensive tackle position and Lotulelei, who had the first highest Run Stop Percentage of all defensive tackles, is the main example of this.

15. Kenny Vaccaro, S, New Orleans Saints

Grade: +1.9

Snaps: 803

Analysis: Actually finished the year with our third highest grade of any safety for his work against the run, while also earning a positive for his work in coverage. Just let down by his inability to turn a lot of blitzes into pressure, and a worryingly high (five) penalty count. Added an explosive element to the Saints secondary.

16. E.J. Manuel, QB, Buffalo Bills

Grade: -19.8

Snaps: 706

Analysis: The only quarterback drafted in the first round ended the year with our second lowest grade of all quarterbacks as he struggled mightily. Failed to get the vertical aspect of the Bills passing attack working and had problems with his accuracy (fifth lowest adjusted Accuracy Percentage). The Bills really need a huge step forward with him next year.

Turn the page for #17-32

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  • Michael

    It’s confusing why Shariff Floyd’s 19 QB disruptions are a disappointment but Datone Jones 18 QB disruptions are a healthy amount.

    • CJ

      He tells you in his comments.

      To paraphrase:
      Floyd was brought along slowly and with more snaps next year they expect more disruption. However it is a bit disappointing that he didn’t force himself into more snaps. He played 472 snaps.

      Jones had more disruption per snap, but didn’t play all that well overall and lost snaps to other players. Ending with 263 snaps is also disappointing but differently than with Floyd.

      I agree it could be more clear.

      • Krauser

        Except that Jones was a situational pass rusher. 217 of his 263 snaps (~80%) were pass rushing, according to PFF.

        Floyd rarely played in nickel, Kevin Williams and Everson Griffen were usually the DTs in pass rushing situations. So only 243 of his 472 snaps (< 50%) were pass rush opportunities.

        From PFF's own numbers, Floyd's pass rush productivity of 6.2% was the best of the Vikings DTs (for some reason, Griffen is listed as a 4-3 DE though he rarely played there), and 24th out of 62 DTs who played at least 25% of their team's pass rush opportunities.

        Jones had a PRP of 7,1%, 14th out of 45 3-4 DEs playing at least 25% of snaps.

        So that's only marginally better, and it came with the advantage of Jones mostly being able to rush the passer in obvious passing situations, while fresh, while Floyd played on 1st and 2nd down when he got in the game at all.

  • http://www.rantsports.com/nfl/author/jesusflores/ Jesus Flores

    Shouldn’t it read: Analysis: Every time I write about Reid it’s to remind everyone that the first rounder has (fit) in seamlessly for the departed Dashon Goldson.

  • Krauser

    Might also want to mention Patterson’s +14.3 grade on 43 kickoff returns. Combined score puts him second only to Richardson.

    • Jeff

      Might as well add Richardson’s 2 rushing touchdowns to his grade as well, if we are counting impact outside their position

      • Biebs

        I disagree with that statement. Patterson was drafted as a WR and kickoff returner. Sheldon Richardson’s running really has nothing to do with his primary skillset

    • Cutler4life

      we get it – the vikings are great…here’s a trophy for best ever. Ka-Durrh!?

  • TheeLidman

    In 748 snaps, Milliner only had a -2.1 grade, however the rhetoric surrounding him would have made you believed the guy was a total bust. The guy came in and was forced into arguably the hardest spot for a rookie to fill: cover corner, in a league that is set up for that position to fail. On top of that, he replaced the best CB of his generation. With a full off-season (he was injured up until start of NFL season), I think NYJ fans can expect this guy to be a top 15 CB.

    • Biebs

      Milliner was kind of brutal for the first 12 weeks of the season. He was brutal, if you look at his grade through week 12, then it would have been in the bottom 10 of the NFL. Other rookie CBs were far better overall for the season. However, I do agree that coming in at CB is tough, and deciding 12 games into a rookie year that a player is a bust (especially at CB) is just silly.

      • TheeLidman

        I think you also need to look at the scheme teams use. I don’t have numbers on this, but it’s likely Milliner played as much man coverage as any rookie DB, because the NYJ scheme employs a lot of man coverage on the outside. Bottom line: he’s the only rookie CB who won a Defensive Rookie of the Month.

  • TheeLidman