Race for Rookie of the Year, Week 3
After a spectacular Week 2 for some rookies, this slate of games saw a few consolidating rather than building their cases for the prestigious end of year Pro Football Focus Rookie of the Year Award.
That’s not to say there weren’t guys who took the chance to push themselves up the rankings. A couple of second-rounders at visible positions did their cases no harm with some big plays that grabbed the graders’ attention just as much as it would the fans at home. But for now there’s no change at the top, and that means that a Panther continues to lead the way.
1. Star Lotulelei, DT, Panthers: +7.8
Saw a season-low 25 snaps as the Panthers faced a lot of the Giants 11 personnel and could afford to take it easy on their first-round pick. Still notched his first NFL sack mind you.
2. DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Texans: +5.3
A happy start to life in the NFL for Hopkins personally, even if the Texans are coming off a disappointing defeat. He’s picked up a healthy 1.93 Yards Per Route Run and has the third-highest receiving grade of all wide receivers so far.
3. Giovanni Bernard, RB, Bengals: +4.1
81 snaps on the year may seem low but that number is rising on a game-by-game basis and the more he plays the more he demonstrates his ability running the ball and catching it out of the backfield.
4. Sheldon Richardson, DE, Jets: +4.0
Only J.J. Watt has a higher Run Stop Percentage than the Richardson who has turned 60 defensive snaps against the run into seven stops. The pass rush isn’t there yet but he’s making an impact.
5. Geno Smith, QB, Jets: +0.2
Even in his meltdown against New England there were positives. So once he cut out the mistakes we were treated to an impressive performance as he attacked the Bills downfield and led his team to a victory.
6. Kyle Long, RG, Bears: +2.7
Is getting better weekly and can take partial credit for the Bears’ improving offensive line. Gives up a little too much pressure right now but does make up for it with quality work in the run game.
7. Ezekiel Ansah, DE, Lions: +2.6
10 quarterback disruptions on the year and with a role that seems set to grow as the year goes on with the injury to Jason Jones. Most surprising thing? His work in the run game has been even better despite some predictions about how long it would take him to adjust.
8. Larry Warford, RG, Lions: +2.1
A hot start makes way to some less-than-stellar work. His run blocking, which you’d expect to be his strength, hasn’t been getting the job done and he had some issues with the Redskins’ front three.
9. John Jenkins, DT, NO: +2.5
As made the most of the playing time afforded to him even if Week 3 was his weakest showing to date. Has featured on 65.1% of all Saints defensive snaps so far.
10. Tyler Eifert, TE, Bengals: +1.7
Hanging onto a spot in the Top 10 after a very quiet day against Green Bay where he caught just the one ball.
David Bakhtiari, T, Packers: He’ll be grateful that Michael Johnson is playing in the AFC for now. Really gave the rookie a harsh lesson.
Tyrann Mathieu, CB, Cardinals: Had a nice pick but didn’t help himself with two missed tackles.
E.J. Manuel, QB, Bills: That was a big giant step backwards. He’ll have to learn from that quickly because that was unacceptable.
Five to Watch
Andre Ellington, RB, Cardinals: Keep an eye on this guy. He’s getting more playing time and Arizona are intent on manufacturing touches for him.
Dion Jordan, DE, Dolphins: The only thing holding him back is his 58 defensive snaps. With Cameron Wake hobbled he should see a rise in snaps and given how productive he was against Atlanta, it will then be hard not to play him more.
Joplo Bartu, LB, Falcons: The undrafted free agent deserves a lot of credit for filling in as an every-down player and holding his own.
Akeem Spence, DT, Buccaneers: Will have bigger opportunities to shine than against the pass-formation-happy Patriots. An early-downs player who excels when teams run.
Luke Willson, TE, Seahawks: A big game from the fifth-round pick as he builds a case for more playing time than any of us expected.
Follow Khaled on Twitter: @PFF_Khaled