Ranking NFL's top 10 rookies
2014 saw one of the deepest competitions for Rookie of the Year since the inception of PFF. Aaron Donald, Joel Bitonio and Khalil Mack put forward plenty of evidence as to why they should get our endorsement, only for Odell Beckham Jr. to trump them.
But we’re not here to reflect back on that. No, we’re here to kick-start the race for the 2015 Rookie of the Year. In a battle expected to be between two quarterbacks selected first and second overall, are there any surprise challengers who could claim victory? Let’s see how things have started.
1. Marcus Mariota, QB, Titans (+2.3)
The numbers do flatter a little, but it was the assured performance which stood out for Mariota. If his career is to be compared to Jameis Winston, then round one certainly went to the former Oregon QB.
2. Mitch Morse, C, Chiefs (+2.9)
Morse didn’t stand out in our grading last year at tackle for Missouri, but the Chiefs decision to select him high in the draft and move him to center has started off well. Only the Giants’ Weston Richburg earned a higher grade at center this week after an impressive debut from Morse.
3. Carl Davis, DL, Ravens (+3.2)
If there’s a big knock on Davis, its his consistency—his top-end talent means he should have been drafted higher than the 90th. So, it’s important for him to build on a debut in which he caused problems for the Broncos interior line, particularly as a pass rusher.
4. Randy Gregory, DE, Cowboys (+2.8)
A high-ankle sprain means we may not see Gregory on this list again for awhile, which is a crying shame after he gave the Giants’ Ereck Flowers a tough NFL debut. His 21 snaps included a hit and three more hurries.
5. Jeremiah Poutasi, RT, Titans (+2.0)
After looking out of his element through most of preseason, the tackle out of Utah looked like a confident veteran in his first week. You might point to who he was up against, but this is the NFL, and there are no easy assignments. He showed strong work in the run game as well.
6. Bradley Pinion, P, 49ers (+2.9)
A reflection on how good Pinion was? Or was there a lack of standout rookie efforts this week? You decide. Pinion had the eighth highest grade of all punters and did a decent job on kickoffs.
7. Tyler Lockett, WR, Seahawks (+1.1)
Lockett is another guy in here for his work on special teams. The wide receiver will need to do more on offense (where he saw a surprisingly high 58 snaps) to stay on this list, but his dynamic returning ability is already something to keep an eye on.
8. T.J. Clemmings, RT, Vikings (+0.3)
If I was going to guess how the debut of Clemmings would go, his tape at Pitt told me to expect a positive run blocking grade and a negative pass blocking grade. Both proved true for the fourth-rounder who has seen action earlier than expected.
9. T.J. Yeldon, HB, Jaguars (+1.3)
Yeldon did a nice job with limited touches in a week where none of the rookie running backs stood out.
10. Adrian Amos, S, Bears (+0.9)
It’s not easy making your NFL bow against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, so Amos can hold his head up high that he comes out of the game with a positive grade.
Five to watch
Jameis Winston, QB, Buccaneers: Going forward, he can’t be as bad as he was against the Titans—right?
Stephone Anthony, LB, Saints: A mixed bag of a debut, but plenty to get excited about.
Vic Beasley, DE, Falcons: Tough task to dominate Philadelphia’s Jason Peters on opening night, but there were flashes to say inferior tackles might get worked over.
Ali Marpet, OG, Buccaneers: Encouraging debut with some good work in the run game.
Deiontrez Mount, OLB, Titans: Looked good, but playing time (just 29 snaps) may hold him back.