First-Rounders in Focus: Preseason Wk 3
Each week that passes gets us more tape of this year's first-rounders on the field. Khaled Elsayed notes who has impressed and who is still looking to make a mark.
First-Rounders in Focus: Preseason Wk 3
We’re going to use the fact that over on the Premium Section (which costs just $26.99 for 365 days access, so if you haven’t got it already then seriously ask yourself why) we’re grading and stat collecting for the preseason to bring you a rundown on all the first round rookies.
As the preseason develops we’ll go a little bit deeper, but for now enjoy a quick rundown on the first 32 off the board.
1.Eric Fisher, T, Kansas City Chiefs
Analysis: The good news? Fisher was a lot better this week, reinforcing the feeling (or hope if you’re Chiefs fans) that his early struggles owed something to recovering from injuries. He had a quiet game against the Steelers, but at this stage in his development that’s a lot better than getting beaten about the place by the 49ers backups.
2. Luke Joeckel, T, Jacksonville Jaguars
Analysis: Returned to action after missing Week 2 of preseason to play the majority of the Jaguars’ first half against the Eagles. Gave up a couple of pressures in disappointing fashion but did look more confident in the run game.
3. Dion Jordan, DE, Miami Dolphins
Analysis: After flashing some early pass rush potential Jordan has been sidelined by injury. His time will come, but as a rookie it’s likely to be purely situational, and only once he’s healthy.
4. Lane Johnson, T, Philadelphia Eagles
Analysis: Has seen his share of action during preseason without ever standing out. That’s a good thing for a young linemen, just don’t go expecting him to be an All-Pro from Day 1 of the regular season. Did have a little bit of trouble with Jason Babin, but he’s not the only one to find out how much talent the ex-Titan and Eagle has.
5. Ezekial Ansah, DE, Detroit Lions
Analysis: Now inked in to start, he’s yet to do much as a pass rusher but is proving himself a capable early-down player at this point in his career. Has converted just 2-of-38 pass rushes into pressure though, and that number needs to grow if he’s not going to lose regular season playing time to guys like Willie Young who has upped his game this preseason.
6. Barkevious Mingo, OLB, Cleveland Browns
Analysis: Unfortunately hasn’t seen the field since his starring role in Week 1. Looked the part then with three hits and a hurry but a bruised lung likely sees him being eased into things upon his return.
7. Jonathan Cooper, G, Arizona Cardinals
Analysis: A crying shame that he broke his leg against the Chargers, just when he was starting to look a lot more comfortable at the NFL level. Could be set to return at some point in the year, but the instant upgrade Arizona was looking for won’t be happening now.
8. Tavon Austin, WR, St Louis Rams
Analysis: Caught the one target that came his way against the Broncos for 12 yards, but you feel the Rams aren’t ready to fully charge their pocket-sized weapon on offense just yet. Special teams was another matter however, and his two punt returns (One for 81 yards and an equally good one for 23) nicely showcased his phenomenal talent.
9. Dee Milliner, CB, New York Jets
Analysis: After getting worked over by the Jaguars, Milliner got the day off with a calf injury. While that prevented him from getting another tongue lashing from Rex Ryan for his play, it won’t have done anything to make Jets fans forget about Darrelle Revis.
10. Chance Warmack, G, Tennessee Titans
Analysis: Exchanged blows with Peria Jerry and got beat for a couple of pressures against an aggressive Falcons defense. Nonetheless, he won’t be too disappointed with how he’s bounced back from his rough preseason opener, even if he’s finding out that mauling defenders is a lot harder work in the NFL.
11. D.J. Fluker, T, San Diego Chargers
Analysis: With a positive for his work in the run game and negative for pass protection I keep repeating myself: so far Fluker is exactly as advertised. He gave up a pressure on his inside shoulder this week, but other than that was relatively untested. Yet to be severely examined, he’s one player I’ll be keeping a close eye on come the regular season.
12. D.J. Hayden, CB, Oakland Raiders
Analysis: So the performance wasn’t great, but it was nonetheless good for Raiders fans to see him get actual game action. Given the offseason he’s endured he was always going to struggle when pushed into the starting lineup, but it could have been a lot worse.
13. Sheldon Richardson, DE, New York Jets
Analysis: After his big game against Jacksonville much was expected. Despite picking up a sack and a hit against the Giants in his best pass rushing display to date, he didn’t follow up on his superb work against the run. I suppose you can’t expect every game from a rookie to produce fireworks.
14. Star Lotulelei, DT, Carolina Panthers
Analysis: There are moments when Lotulelei executes his moves so well that he looks near unstoppable. Kelechi Osemele found that out the hard way as the rookie manhandled him. Has provided enough pass rush that you can’t write him off there either, but it’s likely his work in the run game that will earn him plaudits this season.
15. Kenny Vaccaro, S, New Orleans Saints
Analysis: After initially looking like he would be eased into things, the Saints responded to different Texans’ offensive packages (not just multiple receiver sets) by getting Vaccaro on the field. How much of this was trial and how much of this was implementation remains to be seen. Extremely active so far with 15 tackles being the most of all safeties.
16. E.J. Manuel, QB, Buffalo Bills
Analysis: A strange week for Manuel. Without playing the misfortune of others has pretty much thrust him into the starter’s jersey – whenever he is healthy that is.
17. Jarvis Jones, OLB, Pittsburgh Steelers
Analysis: Has played considerably more than any other Steelers outside linebacker, but hasn’t used the time to make a convincing case as to why he should start (though Jason Worilds is doing his bit to help him). With just one hit and two hurries on 43 pass rushes, he needs more production, though he hasn’t let the team down when dropping into coverage on 32% of passing plays.
18. Eric Reid, S, San Francisco 49ers
Analysis: The seemingly inevitable happened with him getting the start for the 49ers this week and looking comfortable. Of course some of that was as a result of the Vikings not testing him, but you can’t blame him for playing what’s in front of him.
19. Justin Pugh, T, New York Giants
Analysis: Got his first start after David Diehl went down injured and had a solid outing against the Jets. Was perfect in pass protection but, unfortunately for him, you can’t expect to face a pass rush like the Jets each and every week. Still, we have seen many a rookie tackle look completely out of their depth as soon as they hit the field, and he at least hasn’t shown signs of that.
20. Kyle Long, G, Chicago Bears
Analysis: The star of preseason Week 2 couldn’t reach those heights against the Raiders in his 46 snaps of action. A largely quiet day where his most notable contribution was allowing a free runner to hit his quarterback.
21. Tyler Eifert, TE, Cincinnati Benglas
Analysis: Sat out this week’s game with the Cowboys as a precaution. Likely to be a big part of the Bengals’ two tight end package where he can be a mismatch split out. The only problem with that is when he’s inline, he looks a little mismatched himself.
22. Desmond Trufant, CB, Atlanta Falcons
Analysis: Through three games has allowed four of five balls thrown into his coverage to be complete (the other was an overthrow of an open receiver). He hasn’t exactly lit it up so far and could find himself seeing a lot of action as teams test him in the early weeks of the season.
23. Shariff Floyd, DT, Minnesota Vikings
Analysis: Was held out against the 49ers but showed enough in his first two outings to suggest he’ll make a positive contribution this year. The only question is how often he plays and that may have a lot to do with Kevin Williams and his injury.
24. Bjorn Werner, OLB, Indianapolis Colts
Analysis: Looked better this week after a nervous start against the Giants. Still, he’s very raw and when on the field with Caesar Rayford, he’s been largely outplayed. Probably ticketed for a situational and backup role this year while he develops.
25. Xavier Rhodes, CB, Minnesota Vikings
Analysis: Through two games he’s allowed two balls into his coverage on five targets (with one pass break up). That’s not bad, but he’ll expect sterner tests come the regular season.
26. Datone Jones, DE, Green Bay Packers
Analysis: Returned to action after his solitary snap on the opening week of preseason but failed to deliver. Was flagged for a silly defensive offside penalty that negated the only pressure he got. Looks ticketed for a sub-package role in Year 1, but may struggle for playing time with the emergence of others at his spot.
27. DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Houston Texans
Analysis: Andre Johnson returns to the lineup and Hopkins departs — for now, at least, as he recovers from a concussion. In his first two games there were glimpses as to why the team spent a first-round pick on him.
28. Sylvester Williams, DT, Denver Broncos
Analysis: Despite playing more snaps against the Rams than any other defender he was generally an anonymous presence. On the plus side, he’s not been bad against the run but the Broncos are in some desperate need of pass rush up the middle and he’s yet to pick up any pressure on his 52 pass rushing snaps. At the moment bringing him onto the field is a real downgrade on both Terrance Knighton and Kevin Vickerson.
29. Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Minnesota Vikings
Analysis: Rather disappointingly managed just 13 snaps against the 49ers. He has the look of a playmaker but due to his lack of football experience the Vikings are slowly easing him into things. On a team that is overly reliant on one guy to do all the heavy lifting, that may prove questionable.
30. Alec Ogletree, LB, St Louis Rams
Analysis: A negative grade overall but he’s coming off his best performance to date. Was much improved, and indeed brilliant in coverage where he picked off one pass and broke up another in the end zone. There’s no doubting his athleticism but he does need to get sturdier against the run.
31. Travis Frederick, C, Dallas Cowboys
Analysis: You don’t draft a player for one year. Which may be lucky given the problems Frederick is having in the run game right now. Domata Peko was simply too strong for him and it’s not often you say that about a player.
32. Matt Elam, S, Baltimore Ravens
Analysis: The Ravens have gotten him on the field plenty and he’s duly delivered, looking like the real deal (as much as anyone can in preseason). Yet to get the start but has surely done enough to warrant it come the season opener.
Follow Khaled on Twitter: @PFF_Khaled