Rookie Recap: NFC West
The last installment of our Rookie Recap series takes us to the NFC West. The NFC champion San Francisco 49ers featured a deep roster that had little use for its rookie class, but their development could have a major impact on their future. The Seattle Seahawks may have had the best draft in the entire league, especially with their third-round jackpot. The rebuilding effort in St. Louis has been accelerated with the plethora of draft picks from the Washington Redskins in their deal for the No. 2 overall pick before last year’s draft. The Rams had a number of first-year contributors last season. Finally, the Arizona Cardinals will need to see a lot of development in their rookie class as they fight to contend in what is shaping up to be one of the most competitive divisions in the NFL.
Be sure to check out our PFF Rookie of the Year and All-Rookie Team which are both good reference points for the best rookie performances of the season — and check out the rest of our recap series: AFC East, AFC North, AFC South, AFC West, NFC East, NFC North, NFC South.
Let’s take a look at the NFC West’s rookie class.
Notes: Floyd was the Cardinals’ third option for most of the season, though he saw an increase in playing time during the second half. He caught 45 of the 79 balls thrown his way for 562 yards and two touchdowns. His 1.35 Yards/Route Run ranked 63rd out of the Top 82 qualifying wide receivers, though he was certainly hurt by the Cardinals’ poor play at quarterback.
Bobby Massie, OT
Draft: Fourth round, 112th overall
Snaps/Usage: Starting right tackle for all 16 games
Notes: After a difficult start to his career, Massie turned his rookie season around and put together a top-notch second half. He graded at -25.3 through his first seven games before notching a +12.2 in his last nine. Perhaps helped by added motivation from PFF, it was a miraculous turnaround for Massie. When you add it all up, he finished 47th among tackles in Pass Blocking Efficiency 92.8 and he got his run blocking grade up to a league average 0.0.
Other Cardinals rookies:
Third-round cornerback Jamell Fleming saw action in parts of 10 games and graded at -2.1 overall, including -2.4 in coverage. Fifth-round guard Senio Kelemete graded at -3.0 on his 43 snaps, but his catch on a deflected pass was an inspirational highlight for offensive linemen everywhere. Sixth-round cornerback Justin Bethel played on 13 defensive snaps, but his 14 special teams tackles tied for seventh in the league. Fellow sixth-rounder Ryan Lindley was part of the quarterback carousel that saw four players get starting nods on the season. He graded at -18.2 in his six games. The Cardinals featured two rookie offensive tackles for much of the year, as seventh-rounder Nate Potter started six games on the left side. He graded at -10.6 overall with 24 pressures surrendered on 273 attempts to match Massie’s 92.8 PBE. Undrafted wide receiver LaRon Byrd caught one of the two balls thrown his way for 8 yards. Undrafted free agent center Scott Wedige graded at -0.6 on his 17 snaps. The other undrafted free agent to see the field was linebacker Zack Nash who played 42 snaps and was unable to notch a pressure on his 17 attempts.
San Francisco 49ers
Notes: Jenkins was unable to crack the 49ers’ depth chart as he saw most of his action in Week 17 mop-up duty. He dropped the only pass thrown his way.
LaMichael James, RB
Draft: Second round, 61st overall
Snaps/Usage: 57 snaps, all in the last four games
Notes: It took a while for James to see significant action as well, but he showed off his elusiveness with five missed tackles forced on only 27 carries. He also added three catches for 29 yards in his limited time.
Other 49ers rookies:
Seventh-round linebacker Cam Johnson played only 11 snaps and was held without a pressure on his eight pass rush attempts. Undrafted defensive end Tony Jerod-Eddie saw the field for only 10 snaps and he was shut out on his nine pass rushes.
Click below for the Seahawks and Rams
Notes: As the snap breakdown shows, Irvin was used primarily as a pass rushing specialist in his first season. He lined up at defensive left end on 79% of his snaps and graded at +4.0 as a pass rusher. Irvin notched 42 pressures on his 344 attempts for a Pass Rush Productivity (PRP) of 10.5, good for seventh among 4-3 defensive ends. Not surprisingly, however, Irvin has a ways to go against the run as he graded at -5.5 on only 98 run snaps.
Bobby Wagner, MLB
Draft: Second round, 47th overall
Snaps/Usage: 873 snaps as primary middle linebacker
Notes: After being eased into the lineup in the first four games, Wagner took over as the three-down middle linebacker in Week 5. He edged Carolina Panthers LB Luke Kuechly for First Team All-Rookie honors on his way to a +16.3 grade that ranked second among all inside linebackers. He led all ILBs in Run Stop Percentage at 14.4 while also picking up 11 pressures on his 57 blitzes for a PRP of 16.2 that ranked third at the position.
Russell Wilson, QB
Draft: Third round, 75th overall
Snaps/Usage: Starting quarterback for all 16 games
Notes: Our Offensive Rookie of the Year, Wilson emerged from third-round status to join Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III in the conversation for best rookie quarterback. He outplayed both of them in Year 1 as he finished at +39.4 to rank fifth among quarterbacks. Wilson also ranked fifth in the league in other key categories such as Deep Ball Accuracy Percentage (48.4) and Accuracy Under Pressure (66.0).
Other Seahawks rookies:
Fourth-round running back Robert Turbin picked up 394 yards on 92 carries and notched an Elusive Rating of 33.9. Fellow fourth-round pick, defensive tackle Jaye Howard spent all 22 of his snaps as a pass rusher, though he failed to create any pressure. Sixth-round cornerback Jeremy Lane graded at -0.8 on his 171 defensive snaps and he missed four of his 13 tackle attempts. Sixth-round safety Winston Guy made the most of his eight snaps with a +1.5 pass rush grade. Seventh-round guard J.R. Sweezy struggled in his conversion from college defensive lineman as he graded at -10.6 on his 311 snaps. Seattle’s other seventh-rounder, defensive end Greg Scruggs, saw the field for 209 snaps including 160 rushes that saw him pick up 11 pressures for a -1.2 pass rush grade. Undrafted defensive tackle Loni Fangupo played all seven of his snaps in Week 16. Undrafted free agent wide receiver Jermaine Kearse was targeted six times with three receptions and three drops. The final undrafted free agent to see time was tight end Sean McGrath, who was used as a run blocker on six of his eight snaps.
St. Louis Rams
Notes: It was a good debut for Brockers, who graded at +4.2 against the run and a neutral 0.0 as a pass rusher. It was more about holding the point rather than making plays in the running game, as his 5.9 Run Stop Percentage ranked 32nd among defensive tackles. As a rusher he picked up 18 pressures on 311 attempts, good for a PRP of 4.7 that ranked 16th at the position.
Janoris Jenkins, CB
Draft: Second round, 39th overall
Snaps/Usage: 982 snaps, 800 at RCB
Notes: Though he made a lot of splash plays throughout the season, Jenkins also had his struggles on his way to a -7.9 overall grade, including -11.0 in coverage. His biggest issues stemmed from his tackling woes, as his 18 misses tied for the lead among cornerbacks and his 5.3 attempts between missed tackles was fifth-worst at the position. He did show some ball skills defensing 10 passes and intercepting four more, but his 107 targets were fifth-most in the league.
Trumaine Johnson, CB
Draft: Third round, 65th overall
Snaps/Usage: 366 snaps, 266 at LCB
Notes: Johnson saw the field for only 50 snaps in the first eight games, but he finished the season as a much bigger part of the St. Louis defensive backfield. He graded at +6.9 overall, including +4.1 in coverage. Johnson surrendered 22 completions on 42 targets for 308 yards, allowing only 1.24 Yards/Cover Snap.
Chris Givens, WR
Draft: Fourth round, 96th overall
Snaps/Usage: 641 snaps, 530 at outside wide receiver
Notes: Givens had a five-game stretch with a reception of at least 50 yards, but after the streak was broken in Week 11, he didn’t have another 50-yard play for the rest of the season. He still remained a dependable big-play option, as he finished with 42 catches for 698 yards (16.6 yards/reception). His role as the team’s deep threat was well-defined as 32.5% of his targets went beyond 20 yards, seventh-highest among wide receivers.
Greg Zuerlein, K
Draft: Sixth round, 171st overall
Snaps/Usage: Starting kicker
Notes: It’s not often that a kicker gets showered with fun nicknames, but “Legatron” endeared himself to St. Louis fans with seven field goals of at least 50 yards. He finished fifth in our kicker rankings at +31.4.
Other Rams rookies:
The Rams used the first pick of the second round to select WR Brian Quick who caught only 11 of the 27 passes thrown his way for 156 yards and two drops. St. Louis had three second-round picks as RB Isaiah Pead rounds out the trio. He carried the ball only 10 times, but picked up 54 yards with four missed tackles forced. Fifth-round guard Rokevious Watkins played all 37 of his snaps at left guard in Week 1 — he graded at -3.4 overall. Seventh-round running back Daryl Richardson picked up 475 yards on his 98 carries (4.8 yards/carry) to go with 11 missed tackles forced, but he also fumbled three times. Undrafted free agent tight end Cory Harkey graded at +0.8 on his 28 snaps. Undrafted offensive tackle Ty Nsekhe played all eight of his snaps in Weeks 2 and 3. The New York Jets drafted RB Terrance Ganaway in the sixth round but he played five snaps for the Rams in Week 8. Two undrafted University of Virginia teammates saw time on the defensive side as DE Matt Conrath played five snaps grading at -1.1 and FS Ronny McLeod saw the field for three plays. The other undrafted player to play on defense was CB Quinton Pointer who graded at -0.9 on his six snaps in Week 16.
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