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.
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?