First-Rounders in Review
Seven weeks in and we’re building quite the sample size of tape on the rookies who looked to take the lead by storm. Some are already earning recognition for their performances while others have gone largely unnoticed.
Well one week after we posted our race for Rookie of the Year we’re going one step further and giving you grades and snap counts on each and every single rookie first round pick.
1. Jadeveon Clowney, Houston Texans, OLB
Analysis: Injury has taken Clowney from the public eye, helping to temper expectations but also managing to disappoint football fans eager to see how he would fare. One stop and just 23 snaps to show for his rookie year thus far.
2. Greg Robinson, St. Louis Rams, OG
Analysis: Looked lost in preseason with positional flip flopping much to his detriment. That saw him start the season on the bench, but the usual output from Davin Joseph has seen him start the past two weeks. Robinson has looked good and that’s encouraging.
3. Blake Bortles, Jacksonville Jaguars, QB
Analysis: It hasn’t been pretty. With Chad Henne struggling, the team had to put Bortles out on the field knowing he was going to take his lumps and hope he will benefit from it in the long run.
4. Sammy Watkins, Buffalo Bills, WR
Analysis: An average grade for anything but an average performance. Watkins has either been very good or very bad as he has tantalized with his talent. Watkins has benefited from the more steady play brought by Kyle Orton.
5. Khalil Mack, Oakland Raiders, OLB
Analysis: Zero sacks and so Mack is struggling right? Wrong. Mack has positive marks rushing the passer where his 16 combined hits and hurries suggest a sack is coming soon. However, its the run game where he’s really really starred. A truly promising start.
6. Jake Matthews, Atlanta Falcons, OT
Analysis: Now, nobody knows just how hurt Matthews is and how much that ankle is affecting him. What we do know is that he doesn’t look good out there right now. These past three weeks have been tough to watch, propelling Matthews to the lowest grade of all tackles. Not what Atlanta had hoped for.
7. Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, WR
Analysis: The Bucs were likely expecting a bigger impact from Evans, with six rookies currently recording more yards. A lot of that owes to how bad the Bucs have generally been on offense, but there’s not been enough eye catching by the Bucs’ first-round pick.
8. Justin Gilbert, Cleveland Browns, CB
Analysis: There’s been some good and some bad so far for Gilbert who has fit into the Browns’ sub-package defense as an outside corner. Since coming back from the bye, Gilbert has taken a noticeable step forward.
9. Anthony Barr, Minnesota Vikings, OLB
Analysis: There was once a feeling that he might limited to more of situational role, but Barr has emerged as an every down player who is particularly effective coming forward. He’s still developing his coverage skills but is producing.
10. Eric Ebron, Detroit Lions, TE
Analysis: Just 20 targets and 10 receptions on his resume at this point, Ebron may develop into an athletic mismatch but right now he’s not much of a factor.
11. Taylor Lewan, Tennessee Titans, OT
Analysis: Lewan wasn’t expected to start this year but an injury to Michael Roos has seen that change. While losing a player like Roos is never ideal Lewan has fit in nicely, allowing just three quarterback disruptions.
12. Odell Beckham Jr., New York Giants, WR
Analysis: It says a lot for the talent of Beckham that he could miss so much offseason work and yet hit the ground running like he has. With three touchdowns already and a game-turning intervention against Atlanta, right now the Giants look like they’ve hit the jackpot.
13. Aaron Donald, St. Louis Rams, DT
Analysis: The team couldn’t have him coming off the bench any more, with his incredible ability to penetrate forcing his promotion to the starting lineup. Already ranked No. 2 overall in our defensive tackle rankings, Donald is dominating.
14. Kyle Fuller, Chicago Bears, CB
Analysis: Fuller was a front-runner for Rookie of the Year with his stellar outing against the Jets, but has regressed with three of his four games since then earning a negative mark in coverage.
15. Ryan Shazier, Pittsburgh Steelers, LB
Analysis: A sprained MCL has limited his time, missing action since Week 3. Before that he wasn’t setting the world on fire despite the loaded the box score.
16. Zack Martin, Dallas Cowboys, OG
Analysis: This rookie has been getting better every week. Martin is a big reason why the Cowboys’ offensive line has taken such a big step forward. Four positively-graded games in a row and is sixth overall in our guard rankings.
17. C.J. Mosley, Baltimore Ravens, LB
Analysis: He’s proven to be exactly what the team needed, adding a whole new dimension to the Ravens’ run D. It’s there where he leads all inside linebackers with his +8.9 grade, with Mosley being extremely active through the first seven weeks of the season.
18. Calvin Pryor, New York Jets, S
Analysis: Pryor looks better against the run than in coverage, with his impact really felt when he gets close to the line of scrimmage. He owns the best ranking of all rookie safeties so far.
19. Ja’Wuan James, Miami Dolphins, OT
Analysis: It looked like he was getting found out with his effort versus Green Bay being a disappointment. James bounced back nicely against Chicago to continue what has been a largely quiet start. That’s good for a rookie tackle.
20. Brandin Cooks, New Orleans Saints, WR
Analysis: Cooks made an excellent start in Week 1 but has struggled to make much headway since then. He’s averaging just 8.2 yards per reception on the year and is having a quieter start than what the team would have expected.
21. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Green Bay Packers, S
Analysis: This rookie has been brought along by the Packers to the point of making his first start against the Panthers this week. The gameplan is working.
22. Johnny Manziel, Cleveland Browns, QB
Analysis: The Browns have got what they wanted out of him this year. Brian Hoyer is playing steady football and they don’t have to rush Manziel into the starting lineup. The upshot are five snaps, one attempt and no completions.
23. Dee Ford, Kansas City Chiefs, OLB
Analysis: Ford has been out-snapped by six other 3-4 rookie outside linebackers and he can’t really blame injury. At this point he hasn’t looked up to an every-down role and with Justin Houston and Tamba Hali on the field he’ll struggle to get pass-rushing looks. Clearly one for the future.
24. Darqueze Dennard, Cincinnati Bengals, CB
Analysis: What can you say about a defensive back who has played 34 snaps? Well, he’s picked up a sack and been beaten for a touchdown. There you go.
25. Jason Verrett, San Diego Chargers, CB
Analysis: No rookie cornerback has graded out as well with Verrett sitting fourth overall in his positional rankings. That’s even more impressive considering his limited snap count.
26. Marcus Smith, Philadelphia Eagles, OLB
Analysis: Drafted to play on the edge but a woeful preseason and injuries saw him filling in at the inside linebacker spot. The Eagles have invested in him so they will need to develop him but given the guys ahead of him on the depth chart, hard to see him making much impact.
27. Deone Bucannon, Arizona Cardinals, S
Analysis: It hasn’t really worked out for Bucannon who has been deployed as a bitzer to little success and struggles in coverage. He did improve this week after a poor showing against Washington.
28. Kelvin Benjamin, Carolina Panthers, WR
Analysis: Benjamin was not eased into things as he was immediately established as the top target in Carolina. He’s since rewarded the team with five touchdowns but at times still looks a little raw. Still, a much-needed boost to the wide receiver group.
29. Dominique Easley, New England Patriots, DT
Analysis: It’s true that he hasn’t really done an awful lot so far. The pressure has been rare and he’s too easily moved in the run game. It might take some time to get him up to full fitness and form.
30. Jimmie Ward, San Francisco 49ers, S
Analysis: Ward has been slotted into the 49ers’ sub-package defense and has, Brandon Marshall aside, not done a terrible job. Still, that outing sticks out like a sore thumb on his seasonal production.
31. Bradley Roby, Denver Broncos, CB
Analysis: Roby has spent time chiefly in the slot and has gotten by so far without ever looking like a liability. He did give up his first touchdown this week but his three pass break-ups are more of what Broncos fans want to see.
32. Teddy Bridgewater, Minnesota Vikings, QB
Analysis: Bridgewater started off hot and impressed with his composure. However, as those around him have struggled he has as well since his introduction against Atlanta. Bridgewater needs help from his line and receivers but has the look of a rookie with his most recent efforts.
Follow Khaled on Twitter: @PFF_Khaled