Top 10 rookies through NFL Week 2
Week 2 is in the books, and it’s once again time to check in on the all-important 2016 rookie class. Top pick Jared Goff has yet to see a single snap, preseason-favorite Ezekiel Elliot can’t seem to find a hole, and second-overall selection Carson Wentz is starting to run away with the Rookie of the Year award after just two weeks. With many of the same faces we saw a week ago, let’s look at the top 10 rookies so far this season.
1. Carson Wentz, QB, Eagles
We’re not going to crown Carson Wentz just yet—a lot of quarterbacks are going to looks like All-Pros against the Browns and Bears this year—but if Rookie of the Year voting were to end today, it wouldn’t be particularly close. Wentz isn’t just the highest-graded rookie, he’s the highest graded quarterback in the entire league. His stats aren’t overwhelming (they’d look better if he didn’t have the second-most yards lost through the air due to drops, with 89), but he’s doing so many things well that it seems incredible there were so many skeptics during draft season—myself included.
2. Will Fuller, WR, Texans
Back-to-back 100-yard games is a nice way to start your NFL career. Fuller was one of the top deep threats in college football a season ago, and is already developing into one of the best in the NFL. No one in the league has seen more targets 20+ yards downfield than Fuller’s 10. His 3.1 yards per route is the third-highest rate among all receivers.
3. Jack Conklin, RT, Titans
The only two rookies offensive tackles to have a higher grade through their first two games in the past 11 years than Jack Conklin? Joe Thomas and Jake Long. That’s fairly good company for the Titans’ right tackle. After struggling in the preseason with some pass-protection issues, Conklin has surrendered only two pressures in two games. His pass-blocking grade is the seventh-highest in the NFL, and easily the highest among rookies.
4. Sterling Shepard, WR, Giants
An eight-catch, 100-yard performance certainly goes a long way towards making this list so early on. Shepard is already performing among the top slot weapons in the NFL. He’s hauled in all of his 11 targets from the slot, and his 2.39 yards per route run when line up there is sixth-best in the NFL.
5. Dak Prescott, QB, Cowboys
He hasn’t been quite the same Dak Prescott we saw during the preseason, but he hasn’t looked much like a rookie QB, either. So far, the former Mississippi State Bulldog has been masterful working play action. With it, he’s 17-for-21 for 203 yards; without it, Prescott’s only gone 30-for-54 for 315 yards. If he can keep up his clean play, he’ll rise even further up this list.
6. Su’a Cravens, LB, Redskins
Another new addition to the list, Su’a Cravens gets dinged here more for his playing time rather than for anything negative he’s done on the field. As a sub-package guy, Cravens has only played 37 snaps through two weeks. In those limited snaps, though, he already leads all rookie linebackers in coverage stops and overall grade. Because of his size, more snaps may not be on the horizon anytime soon, but if he keeps playing at a high level, there will be a spot for him on the list.
7. DeForest Buckner, DE, 49ers
After one of the best pass-rushing performances of any 3-4 defensive end in Week 1, Buckner came back down to earth a tad against the talented Carolina front. He was held to two total pressures on 38 pass rushes, although his run-defense grade did see an improvement. There’s certainly not much for the 49ers to complain about with concerns to their first-round pick.
8. Laremy Tunsil, LG, Dolphins
The Miami offensive line has been lightyears better than its 2015 form in pass protection, and Laremy Tunsil is one of the big reasons why. He’s been beaten for three total pressures and no sacks in 87 pass-blocking snaps over two games—quite the upgrade over the lowest-graded pass blocking guards in the league last season.
9. Ronnie Stanley, LT, Ravens
This year’s crop of first-round offensive linemen has been impressive, as all the players that are starting have performed admirably. Stanley has yet to allow a sack through two games, and his six total pressures yielded still leave him with an above-average pass-protection grade. So far, his work in the run game has been better than expected, as he’s been above-average there, as well.
10. Michael Pierce, DE, Ravens
This is one guy to keep an eye on going forward. The rookie out of Samford has only played 33 snaps over two games, but has totaled a sack, a hit, and two hurries over that span. Right now, no first-year defensive lineman is grading higher. Pierce just needs to prove it’s not a sample-size fluke, and he’ll see himself move on up this list.