10 most underwhelming rookies so far
We’ve previously looked at how every first-round pick from the 2015 NFL draft has been performing this preseason, and highlighted 10 rookies who have been impressing. Now let’s take a look at 10 rookies that have underwhelmed during their first NFL action during the preseason.
For the purposes of this list we have excluded players who missed all or most of preseason action due to injury, including Kevin White and DeVante Parker.
Here are the 10 most underwhelming rookies so far, based on their play this preseason:
1. Malcom Brown, DL, New England Patriots (-5.8 PFF grade)
The New England defense is pushing to get smaller, faster and more destructive up front. Malcom Brown looked like a perfect fit on paper, and he was the fifth–highest-graded interior defender in the FBS last year, but he has struggled in the preseason. He has earned a negative grade in each of his four games, notched just one hurry, and actually twice been blanked from the stat sheet entirely.
2. Jake Fisher, OT, Cincinnati Bengals (-10.3)
The Bengals drafted a pair of offensive tackles, leading people to question how much time starters Andrew Whitworth and Andre Smith had left. With first-round pick Cedric Ogbuehi still recovering from a torn ACL, and the other, Fisher, playing as he has so far, the answer seems to be that Whitworth’s and Smith’s jobs are safe for now. Fisher has only played in two preseason games, but the first, against Chicago, was a disaster; he earned a -8.5 grade from just 43 snaps. Over the two outings he has surrendered a sack, two hits and six additional hurries, while earning a -3.0 run-blocking grade.
3. Jameis Winston, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-2.3)
Winston hasn’t been outright bad, and he has flashed some impressive throws on tape, but preseason has just been a check to the pre-draft hype train. We’re seeing the same guy we saw on tape a year ago who will make some awful decisions and throws to go along with some standout plays. Winston may end up being a great quarterback down the line, but this rookie year will likely be bumpy. That’s not reinventing the wheel, but it’s worth stating.
4. Owamagbe Odighizuwa, DE, New York Giants (-4.3)
With Jason Pierre-Paul’s status up in the air all throughout preseason the Giants needed to lean on Odighizuwa and hope he was ready to hit his potential sooner than they would have otherwise. Unfortunately for them, he wasn’t able to. He was the lowest-graded rookie 4-3 DE in preseason over his 131 snaps, failing to get to the quarterback at all and notching only six hurries. His run defense was also a significant negative, contrasting starkly with JPP’s excellence in that area.
5. Bud Dupree, OLB, Pittsburgh Steelers (-2.6)
The Steelers don’t seem to quite know what they’re looking for at outside linebacker. 2013 first-rounder Jarvis Jones was all about college production but had limited athletic measurables, while this year’s first-round pick Bud Dupree was the opposite. Dupree has continued that lack of production through preseason, earning just three total pressures (one of which was a sack) from 132 snaps.
6. Stephone Anthony, ILB, New Orleans Saints (-5.3)
Another player who graded exceptionally well in college last year but has fail to translate that to preseason production, Anthony was out-graded only by TCU’s Paul Dawson among draft-eligible linebackers last season, and was solid both against the run and in coverage. In Rob Ryan’s defense in New Orleans — which asks a lot of its linebackers — he has negative grades across the board. There aren’t many defenses in the NFL that are tougher to transition into than Ryan’s, so Saints fans will just be hoping it takes Anthony a little longer than anticipated.
7. Trae Waynes, CB, Minnesota Vikings (-4.0)
It won’t come as a surprise to anyone familiar with PFF’s draft coverage to find Waynes on this list, and we’ve gone more in-depth previously on his struggles to cover receivers other than on deep vertical routes. But to his credit he has been notably better in the last two preseason games. Waynes has played 188 snaps and actually held opponents to just a 42.1 completion percentage when targeting him. His issue is that when he has given up a completion, it goes for 16.4 yards on average — and those numbers hide the three penalties he has committed.
8. Eric Rowe, CB, Philadelphia Eagles (-4.1)
Joining Waynes on this list is Philadelphia’s Eric Rowe. His numbers are less impressive than Waynes in a few instances, allowing 60.0 percent of the passes thrown at him to be caught, for 18.0 yards per catch and yielding a passer rating of 119.3 on those targets. Rowe also has a negative grade against the run that Waynes does not.
9. Jalen Collins, CB, Atlanta Falcons (-4.2)
Collins is another corner who has been struggling, and he actually has the worst coverage numbers of the trio on this list. He was the least targeted of the three, but gave up a 66.7 completion percentage and was beaten for an average of 25.3 yards per catch and a passer rating of 149.3. Collins was also being notably outplayed by an undrafted rookie on his own team (Kevin White, since released). It looks like it’ll be a bumpy transition for many of the highest regarded cornerback prospects in the 2015 class.
10. Jaelen Strong, WR, Houston Texans (-2.0)
As anybody watching “Hard Knocks” this year knows, Strong has not been setting the world alight. Strong graded well a year ago at Arizona State, but the tape shows a player who has some fundamental technique issues to his game. Strangely, his biggest negative through preseason is as a blocker, something he was excellent at on tape in college. Strong has huge potential, but it might take some time to round off the rough edges to his game.