Rookie Recap: NFC South
The NFC South was uneven when it came to rookie success - the Bucs and Panthers found undoubted talent for the future, while the Falcons and Saints were largely left ...
Rookie Recap: NFC South
Our Rookie Recap series takes us to the NFC South where the Atlanta Falcons ran away with the division crown, while the other three teams sported identical 7-9 records. Atlanta did their damage without much help from their rookie class, as they combined for just 83 offensive and defensive snaps, save for Peter Konz who started 10 games at guard. The Carolina Panthers found three starters in the draft, while the Tampa Bay Buccaneers picked up four cornerstone players for their rebuilding efforts. The New Orleans Saints were hamstrung by previous trades, as well as “BountyGate” punishment, so their limited lot of picks was likely a big reason for their regression.
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.
Here’s a breakdown of every rookie in the NFC South.
Notes: The only Falcons draft pick to see significant snaps, Konz was overwhelmed at times during his rookie season. He graded at -12.7 overall as he moved to right guard after playing center in college. He allowed 25 pressures on his 406 pass block attempts, good for a -10.5 grade and Pass Blocking Efficiency (PBE) of 95.1 that ranked 65th among guards.
Other Falcons rookies:
Third-round offensive tackle Lamar Holmes played all seven of his snaps as an extra tight end in Week 15. Fifth-round defensive end Jonathan Massaquoi rushed the passer on 20 of his 27 snaps, with only one hurry to show for it. Week 15 was the only time sixth-round safety Charles Mitchell saw action as well, as he played two snaps at free safety. Seventh-round defensive tackle Travian Robertson saw the field for 47 plays and notched two pressures on his 24 pass rush attempts.
Notes: The season started slowly for Kuechly, who played weakside linebacker the first four games, but a shift to the middle proved to be a good decision and he finished at +5.2 overall for the year. He was fantastic against the run as he graded at +8.8 and notched a Run Stop Percentage of 13.4 while playing middle linebacker, good for fourth at the position. Though he was expected to become an impact player against the pass, Kuechly graded at only -4.0 in coverage, with five of his 11 missed tackles coming in the passing game.
Amini Silatolu, OG
Draft: Second round, 40th overall
Snaps/Usage: Started 15 games at left guard
Notes: It was not a good showing for Silatolu for much of the season, though he finished strong before missing the last game of the year. His -16.8 overall grade ranked 77th out of the top 81 guards, while his -11.4 pass block grade ranked 78th. He surrendered 31 pressures on his 485 pass block attempts for a PBE of 95.0 that ranked 67th out of the Top 72 qualifiers at the position. He graded at -2.3 in the running game, though three straight positive grades to finish the year are more in line with his scouting report as a mauler coming out of Midwestern State.
Frank Alexander, DE
Draft: Fourth round, 103rd overall
Snaps/Usage: 562 snaps, 317 at defensive right end on a four man line
Notes: Alexander rushed the passer on 64% of his snaps and finished with a +1.5 grade as a pass rusher. He notched 35 pressures on his 360 rushes for a Pass Rush Productivity (PRP) of 7.8 that ranked 26th among 4-3 defensive ends. Alexander struggled against the run where he graded at -7.2.
Josh Norman, CB
Draft: Fifth round, 143rd overall
Snaps/Usage: 788 snaps, 710 at RCB
Notes: Norman started the first 13 games at RCB and finished at -6.9 overall for the season. His 1.50 Yards/Cover Snap ranked 93rd out of the Top 116 cornerbacks and he missed a tackle once every 6.7 attempts, a mark that ranked 86th at the position.
Other Panthers rookies:
Though he played only 22 snaps on offense, fourth-round wide receiver Joe Adams averaged 11.5 yards on 11 punt returns and 23.1 yards on nine kick returns. Sixth-round punter Josh Nortman ranked 29th at the position with a +5.4 overall grade. Seventh-round safety D.J. Campbell started the last four games of the season and graded at -1.3 overall. Undrafted defensive tackle Nate Chandler played 135 snaps and picked up four pressures on his 85 pass rushes for a +0.4 pass rush grade.
Click below for the Saints and Bucs…