Mariota, Winston make our top 10 rookies list

Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston both crack our ranking of the top 10 NFL rookies entering Week 4.

| 1 year ago
(AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

(AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

Mariota, Winston make our top 10 rookies list

Last week, Vic Beasley headlined our race for Rookie of the Year. Did he overcome the dominant presence of Cowboys left tackle Tyron Smith, or would a new contender emerge to fling him from his perch and claim the top spot this week?

Let’s take a look at the top 10 rookies heading into Week 4:

1. Ronald Darby, CB, Bills (+3.5 grade through three games)

It’s not easy to grade positively as a cornerback, especially with the slate of quarterbacks Darby has faced. But the defensive back out of Florida State has done just that, holding opposing quarterbacks to a 31.8 QB rating when throwing in his direction.

2. Henry Anderson, DE, Colts (+5.6)

Anderson has more stops against the run than any other 3-4 defensive end with 11. After we lobbied him last week to show more of a pass rush, Anderson turned in an impressive one-hit, five-hurry performance this week. This is why he has earned the No. 2 spot.

3. Marcus Mariota, QB, Titans (-1.0)

He might have a negative grade, but you have to apply some context here. Mariota has been very good in two games and very bad in one. While a bad performance is magnified for a QB, he’s still had an impressive start to the season.

4. Mitch Morse, C, Chiefs (+3.0)

The biggest compliment you can give Morse is that you haven’t noticed him. Center is such a vital position that it’s hard for a rookie to earn enough trust to crack the starting lineup. The fact that Morse has slipped straight in and made the Chiefs forget about Rodney Hudson is even more of an accomplishment.

5. Jameis Winston, QB, Buccaneers (-4.0)

Similar to Mariota, Winston has shown the good and bad to his game through three weeks. Why is he lower than Mariota? His bad performance (Week 1) was so much worse that he’s still eating into that negative grade, even after two strong performances.

6. Marcus Peters, CB, Chiefs (+2.2)

There’s never a quiet moment with Peters. No defensive back has allowed more touchdowns (four), but no defensive back has as many pass breakups (six), either. There’s been plenty to like about his play so far.

7. Shaq Thompson, LB, Panthers (+3.7)

Thompson will need a three-down role (or something close) to climb this list, but he is playing well in limited snaps. He has the athleticism to succeed in coverage, and is rarely out of place in the running game, which is a boon for his future value.

8. Hau’oli Kikaha, LB, Saints (+2.1)

Despite garnering two sacks, Kikaha hasn’t really delivered as a pass-rusher. However, he has proved his worth on early downs with his work in the run game. Three positive run-defense grades (+1.0, +2.0, +0.6) to start the season keep him in the top 10.

9. Vic Beasley, DE, Falcons (+1.1)

It was a very quiet day for Beasley (clean-up sack aside) against Dallas, as he couldn’t turn the corner on the excellent Tyron Smith. Despite tough matchups to start the year (he’s also drawn the number of Jason Peters), he’s flashed the ability to be a big contributor throughout this season.

10. Leonard Williams, DE, Jets (+2.2)

Williams turned in his best game of the season against the Eagles, picking up a sack, hit and hurry, along with two more defensive stops. He’s been impressive at times, if not consistently imposing.

Dropping out

T.J. Yeldon, RB, Jaguars: He couldn’t muster anything against the Patriots.

Carl Davis, DL, Ravens: Maybe it was his Week 1 effort (+3.2) that was the aberration.

David Parry, NT, Colts: He was very quiet against Tennessee, which will put him in jeopardy as an early downs specialist.

Five to watch

Karlos Williams, RB, Bills: He looks the part, but needs more playing time. Could a gimpy LeSean McCoy create an opportunity for him?

Jamon Brown, G, Rams: Brown was excellent against Pittsburgh (+4.6). One more impressive game and he will crack the top 10.

Melvin Gordon, RB, Chargers: No rookie has forced as many missed tackles as Gordon. It’s starting to come together for him.

Jordan Hicks, LB, Eagles: He is playing a lot more than expected because of injury and hasn’t looked out of place thus far.

Kendall Lamm, RT, Texans: Lamm looked terrible in preseason, but he has held his own in weeks 2 and 3. Can he keep this up?

  • Tommy Schaffer

    Karlos Williams has been making the most of his carries. He should get a lot more snaps this weekend against the Giants. I’d be interested to see if he can do well, especially if the injury to the RG John Miller effects the o-line greatly.

    • BuffaloCharlie

      At this point in Miller’s career, it isn’t that much of a drop-off to his replacement Urbik.

      • Tommy Schaffer

        True. Urbik is a solid backup who can move around on the line.

  • crosseyedlemon

    I’m guessing that the Saints linebacker has the best grade of any player in the league with the first name of Hau’oli.

    • Kevin

      That is a bold statement. He has a solid grade though also with a +2.1. That is purely because of his run defense though because his rush, coverage, and penalty grades are all negative.

  • crashby89

    Loving the play of Anderson so far. PFF nailed that one in their pre-draft evaluations.

    • Malachi

      right? he should’ve been a top ten pick the way he graded out at stanford. i, like pff, prefer production over potential tho

  • Marcus Johnson

    if Winston is on here Amari Cooper needs to be…

    • Malachi

      he has stats but his drop rate is killing his grades, great player tho, no doubt

  • James Smith

    PFF is honestly a joke. Beasley slipped by Smith to sack Weeden who was about to take off. Thats not a clean up sack. Your grading makes NO SENSE. Some people have the exact same stats, and their Grades extremely different.

    • Dennis

      The point with grading is, that people with same stats seldom play to equal standards.

    • Malachi

      go away then

  • Dave Boucher

    Chris Conley will be the next Chiefs rookie on here #GoChiefs #ChiefsBeat

    • Jarad

      For special teams??? He’s not getting enough playing time at WR and let’s be honest, Alex Smith is taking the time to get to his 3rd WR anyways

  • David Pergrin

    Where in the heck is COOPER

  • Samuel Paul

    This is the problem with metrics. No one cares about Cooper’s drops. He’s making veteran CB’s look silly and getting ridiculous production for a rookie.

  • Kevin

    PFF, I have a question.

    Week 1 you credited Damarious Randall with a TD reception allowed against Martellus Bennett. The other day I saw a comment from GB’s CB coach Whitt(I believe that’s who it was) saying that Randall hadn’t allowed a TD or something to that extent. I really don’t remember the exact wording but it was definitely made clear Randall wasn’t at fault on that play.

    Today I just went back and watched that play and from what I can tell, Randall is running up the field with a Bears WR(I believe Jeffery.. my screen just happens to freeze mid-play for a second) and slips on the 6 while trailing the WR as I said. Meanwhile Bennett is crossing the field with Hyde trailing him by 2-3 yards. Bennett catches the ball at the 15 and turns up the sideline, at that point there are 3 closer defenders than Randall.

    • Kevin

      I’m thinking a mistake may had been made because of the Jersey number or something like that. Hyde is 33 while Randall is 23. Just a guess but I can’t find fault on Randall for that play.

      Like I said, Randall is 9 yards away from the catch and is running up the field with a WR while Micah Hyde is trailing Bennett on a crossing route and only a couple yards behind him.

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