First Round, First Impressions: Updated
With each snap they take in preseason we’re getting an idea of what the 32 first round picks are able to do. For some that means an opportunity to show they’re ready to take the league by storm. For others? Well let’s just say they’re showing why the team is invested in them for the future and not now.
So it’s time to update, after three weeks of preseason action, our first impressions from the guys selecting in the top round of the draft. And remember, with a PFF Premium subscription you can get all the grades of all the players dating back to 2007 for just $26.99, giving you 365 days of access.
1. Jadeveon Clowney, Houston Texans, OLB
Analysis: It’s only been 29 snaps so far but Clowney hasn’t needed much of an invitation to lay some signature big hits. The one sack doesn’t do justice to what he has already shown he can do as a pass rusher and he doesn’t appear the type to take run downs off either. Consider us disappointed we didn’t get to see him against the Broncos.
2. Greg Robinson, St. Louis Rams, OG
Analysis: Was benched/ demoted/ given a breather (delete as applicable) as he struggled with the transition to and from guard to tackle. Didn’t respond by setting the world alight, and for all his fantastic measurements has failed to make much of a mark in the run game with a -6.3 score there. Will likely benefit from focusing at one spot.
3. Blake Bortles, Jacksonville Jaguars, QB
Analysis: Clearly Bortles hasn’t been reading the script. You know the one devised by the front office and coaches. You see, he was meant to be this rookie in need of some serious seasoning, and instead his calmness and poise have forced the team into an awkward, if pleasant, dilemma. Start the rookie or not? For a team desperate not to make the mistakes of yesteryear (see Blaine Gabbert) the stakes are high.
4. Sammy Watkins, Buffalo Bills, WR
Analysis: Missed the Week 3 matchup against the Bucs, which is quite the shame given the limited role he’d played in the two games prior. The team, for all their lauding of him, haven’t got him involved yet, but you have to feel that they’ll be taking the training wheels off once the regular season rolls around.
5. Khalil Mack, Oakland Raiders, OLB
Analysis: Quiet start to life for Mack who has struggled to turn pass rushes into pressure. Right now he has just the one (a clean up sack) in something of an underwhelming advertisement for him bringing an immediate impact. Still was more active against Green Bay (including a couple of tackles for a loss) that shows he’s finding his feet.
6. Jake Matthews, Atlanta Falcons, OT
Analysis: Had his best pass blocking game after switching to left tackle against the Titans which is indicative of a preseason that can best be described as a learning process. Has really struggled in the run game so far but does promise to do a better job of keeping Matt Ryan upright than any tackle that was on the roster last year.
7. Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, WR
Analysis: Something of a non factor in Week 1 but has been more visible since. Caught all five of his targets since then for a healthy 96 yards and a touchdown. Has run 32.6% of his routes from the slot, something well worth keeping an eye on heading into the regular season.
8. Justin Gilbert, Cleveland Browns, CB
Analysis: After a debut where he kept his end down, came the outing where he got worked over. Sure he broke up a pass but he won’t be happy with a stat line that saw him beaten five times for 141 yards and two touchdowns. Will need to get better quickly.
9. Anthony Barr, Minnesota Vikings, OLB
Analysis: Up and down so far for Barr who got taken to the woodshed a little in coverage this week. That’s, in some respects, to be expected with him better going forward than on his heels. Still with a ratio of 50 drops in coverage to 10 pass rushes it’s safe to say he hasn’t really had the opportunity to showcase his full skill set at length.
10. Eric Ebron, Detroit Lions, TE
Analysis: Of all the picks in the first round you figured Ebron would struggle to make an impression in preseason. His skillset is better suited, as a rookie, to the big play and with just 61 snaps he really hasn’t had much chance. Still he’s handled himself well, hauling in 5-of-7 targets for 65 yards.
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11. Taylor Lewan, Tennessee Titans, OT
Analysis: His zero pressures allowed is a little misleading (he’s given up two on plays nullified by penalty) but working largely with the twos (outside of a couple of snaps at right tackle against the Saints) has yet to face the kind of competition to judge how ready he is for a starting role. That’s okay though given that doesn’t look like something the team want from him in year one.
12. Odell Beckham Jr., New York Giants, WR
Analysis: The deepest part of the Giants’ team, so his absence has let others vie for roster spots. Still it’s a concern that they haven’t been able to get him on the field as fans wait impatiently.
13. Aaron Donald, St. Louis Rams, DT
Analysis: After two starts was put with the first reserves, working in some time against the starters. With fewer expectations, he delivered his best performance, picking up a sack and hurry that may convince the team going forward he’s best as an option, rather than the option from the start.
14. Kyle Fuller, Chicago Bears, CB
Analysis: After a nice start to life in the NFL Fuller would pick up an unfortunate ankle injury on the opening kickoff against the Jaguars. As such he hasn’t played another snap on defense, missing the entirety of that one and then held out against the Seahawks. Still he should be back in time for the regular season opener.
15. Ryan Shazier, Pittsburgh Steelers, LB
Analysis: While his numbers have been eye popping and a sample of his highlight reel plays would have you convinced he’s ready, there’s been plenty of evidence to the contrary. Steve Palazzolo had a really good look at things here after his Buffalo game and while he added a pass defense and six more tackles against the Eagles, lets not forget he was exposed in coverage. Looks like we should expect a rollercoaster ride with him this year.
16. Zack Martin, Dallas Cowboys, OL
Analysis: He hasn’t exactly stood out, but for a rookie linemen that is more of a compliment that a criticism. Has looked very at home in the pass protection game and can be happy that he’s held his own in the run game going against the likes of Haloti Ngata, Randy Starks and more.
17. C.J. Mosley, Baltimore Ravens, LB
Analysis: He didn’t look at his best against the Cowboys but rebounded with a useful effort against Washington, highlighted by his first pick at the NFL level. Come the regular season the team will likely want to see a little more but there’s been enough flashes to excite the fanbase.
18. Calvin Pryor, New York Jets, S
Analysis: You think the Jets like the cameo they’ve seen from Pryor in just two games? Just a little. Already shown a knack for making plays and promises to make a big impression playing close to the line of scrimmage in the Jets’ exotic defensive scheme.
19. Ja’Wuan James, Miami Dolphins, OT
Analysis: It had been going well for James until this week. Sure he’d struggled to make much of an impression in the run game, but he hadn’t been shown up in pass protection. Against what was supposed to be a weak Dallas front he was beaten a couple of times only for the QB to get rid of the ball before pressure could develop, before a switch to the left side saw him flagged for a penalty after getting beat by Martrez Wilson. A step back after two encouraging weeks.
20. Brandin Cooks, New Orleans Saints, WR
Analysis: Has already made his mark, showing an ability to get in behind defenses that will scare many a Saints opponent. Missed the Week 3 action so the attention is off him now, with all eyes keen to see just what kind of playing time he gets during the regular season after rotating in with the team’s three-receiver sets.
Turn the page for the final 12
21. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Green Bay Packers, S
Analysis: After a showy debut (both good and bad) Clinton-Dix has been quieter as he’s largely worked with the 2’s. Indeed his preseason use would suggest to expect a third-down sub-package role over anything every-down, but perhaps they’re just easing in a man the Packers hope can shake up their secondary.
22. Johnny Manziel, Cleveland Browns, QB
Analysis: Playing exclusively with the reserves, he seemed to catch his breath after flunking his test to see if he was ready to start come Week 1 of the regular season. Needs to do more with the ball, though, having so far completed just three passes in three games that have traveled over 10 yards in the air.
23. Dee Ford, Kansas City Chiefs, OLB
Analysis: Working with the second-teamers he hasn’t made anywhere near the impression he did in Week 1 when he worked over the now waived Chandler Burden. Has notched just a quarterback disruption per game without making much headway against the run. With Justin Houston and Tamba Hali ahead of him and guys who don’t really like leaving the field, he may be used sparingly in 2014.
24. Darqueze Dennard, Cincinnati Bengals, CB
Analysis: Just the one outing for Dennard who, despite picking up a sack on a well timed blitzed, let himself down by missing as many tackles as he made (two of them). It didn’t help matters getting beat for two first downs in coverage, and with no game time since because of a hip injury he hasn’t been able to achieve redemption. Yet.
25. Jason Verrett, San Diego Chargers, CB
Analysis: His preseason debut lasted a whole seven snaps as he worked exclusively at left cornerback in the Chargers sub package defense. He wasn’t targeted once and we really don’t have a lot to say about him. Still it was nice to see him on the field.
26. Marcus Smith, Philadelphia Eagles, OLB
Analysis: Console yourself with this Eagles fans; with Trent Cole, Connor Barwin and Brandon Graham you can afford for Smith to take his time to develop. Seven tackles across three games (with two misses) and just three hurries despite rushing the passer 45 times. He’s been very quiet so far.
27. Deone Bucannon, Arizona Cardinals, S
Analysis: Turned a red to green with a fantastic effort against Cincinnati where he ended the day with five defensive stops and a quarterback hit. Those aren’t your typical numbers for a safety no matter how close to the line of scrimmage they play. He’s playing himself into contention to earn some serious playing time as a rookie, perhaps even more so than his sub package role might suggest.
28. Kelvin Benjamin, Carolina Panthers, WR
Analysis: With the lack of options the Panthers have an wideout you could say Benjamin has landed in an ideal situation. Of course it also means he can expect more attention from defenses, but through preseason he’s flashed why the team spent their first round pick on him. None more so than this week where he caused New England all sorts of problems, picking up four first downs (including one called back for a penalty).
29. Dominique Easley, New England Patriots, DT
Analysis: The team certainly isn’t going to rush him back from his ACL tear, and as such we’re left waiting to see him on an NFL field.
30. Jimmie Ward, San Francisco 49ers, S
Analysis: Getting most of his action this stage as the teams slot cornerback, those has played with the second string at safety. Had himself a nice outing against the Chargers, snagging a first pick and allow just the one completion for 10 yards. May have to wait to be an every down player but he’ll clearly see a lot of playing time as a rookie.
31. Bradley Roby, Denver Broncos, CB
Analysis: Coming off his most impressive game, whether Roby starts in the regular season may ultimately depend on the health of Chris Harris. That said, he’s not done anything to suggest he doesn’t warrant a look at, with two pass break-ups and just 53.8% of passes into his coverage completed.
32. Teddy Bridgewater, Minnesota Vikings, QB
Analysis: After a disappointing start Bridgewater has settled and found a rhythm the past two weeks. Not quite as impressive against the Chiefs as he was the Cardinals, you feel Matt Cassel has done enough that the team doesn’t need to rush their first-round pick into things. But you never know.
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