With the NFL back in full swing, I will be taking a look each week at how the league’s crop of young talent is doing.
Ronnie Stanley has immediately slotted in as the Raven’s starting left tackle. Right next to him fourth round draft pick Alex Lewis has also broken into the starting lineup at left guard. So far the Ravens have only amassed 267 rushing yards and Joe Flacco has been sacked 6 times in the first three games. Both rookies show a great amount of promise to shore up the offensive line going forward.
Wide Receiver Tyler Boyd has served as the Bengals slot receiver for the first three games of the season. He has only accumulated 120 yards from 11 receptions. Given he is in the same corps as A.J. Green it is understandable for his numbers to be so mediocre. Unfortunately for the Cincinnati faithful, they will not see first round draft pick William Jackson III until 2017 after losing him to a pectoral injury in the preseason.
The Browns continue to be as lucky as well… the Browns. After a hot start to the season first round pick Corey Coleman will miss 4-6 weeks with a broken hand. Given the uncertainty of the QB situation in Believeland I would not expect to see Coleman rushed back into action. On the bright side, DE Emmanuel Ogbah has appeared in and started all three games this season.
The Stillers are attempting to reinvent the old Steel curtain with a defensive heavy draft in 2016. So far, first round draft pick Artie Burns has seen limited action the first three games of the season. Second round DB Sean Davis has seen slightly more action and has recorded ten solo tackles in the first three games.
WR Will Fuller has been a fanta
stic deep threat across from DeAndre Hopkins with two one hundred yard games out of the first three of the season. The wide receiver convert, Braxton Miller has seen limited action so far in his short NFL career with only 2 receptions for a total of 9 yards. Unfortunately, second round pick Nick Martin has not seen the field this season due to a high ankle sprain.
To protect their star quarterback Andrew Luck, the Colts invested in C Ryan Kelly and OT Le’Raven Clark. Still, Luck has been sacked a total of nine times this season and Indianapolis has had a tough time rushing the ball so far. Even though both of these results were touted highly in the draft, they seem to still have a way to go in becoming a productive first team player.
In my personal opinion, the Jags drafted the two best players in the draft in Jalen Ramsey and Myles Jack. So far, the first round draft pick has been able to shut down Randell Cobb, Steve Smith Sr., and Mike Wallace. Even though he has only been in the league for three games the young rookie already looks like one of the dominant DBs in the league. While Jack has not seen much of the field so far, being able to develop behind pro bowl linebacker, Paul Posluszny will do wonders for Myles.
Fifth round draft pick Tajae Sharp has shown a great deal of promise through the first three games. Given the anemic nature of the Titan’s offense, he has shown flashes of greatness through his 157 yards gained. Look for an improved output as he gets more comfortable with his QB, Marcus Mariota. Former Heisman winner Derrick Henry has been quiet behind Pro Bowler DeMarco Murray. Henry shows immense promise, but will be limited in his carries as long as Murray is healthy and productive.
Not much has gone well for Buffalo’s 2016 draft class so far.The Bills have not seen first round draft pick Shaq Lawson yet this season due to a shoulder injury. I would not expect to see him in action until at least halfway into the season. Second round pick Reggie Ragland was lost for the season due to a torn ACL. Hopefully, these two will be able to get back on the field and contribute in the near future.
After a predraft debacle that caused his stock to plummet, Laremy Tunsil dropped to the Dolphins at pick 13. So far Tunsil has thrived at LG for the Dolphins and could potentially move to his favorite position LT in the near future. RB Kenyan Drake has forced his way into a starting role after injuries to Arian Foster. Look for him to get a lot of touches in this next week’s game.
New England Patriots
After Jimmy Garoppolo was injured, rookie Jacoby Brissett stepped up and thrived for the Patriots. In the span of two games, he threw for 195 yards with a 60% competition percentage and a rushing touchdown. Brissett seems ready to start once again this week if Garoppolo is unable to play. Brissett has stepped up to help the Pats survive until superstar Tom Brady returns from his suspension.
New York Jets
First round pick Darron Lee has been a solid contributor for the Jets at LB so far this season. He has recorded 17 tackles and half a sack in the first three seasons. Look for him to continue to have a greater role as he gets more acclimated to the league. I would not expect to see second round draft pick Christen Hackenberg soon even given Fitzmagic’s mediocre start to the season. Given Hack’s horrendous preseason I would not expect him to succeed in his current situation.
Paxton Lynch was selected by the Broncos to be the future starting quarterback for the team. So far he has road the bench behind Trevor Siemian. Denver looks to be more focused on Lynch’s long-term development rather than throwing him into the fray. I would be shocked to see him this season barring an injury. Running back Devontae Booker has seen a light workload behind C.J. Anderson and has given no inclination of competing for the starting job. I would not expect to see much of Booker unless Anderson succumbs to an injury.
Kansas City Chiefs
The season has been very quiet for the Chief’s rookies so far. Without a first round draft pick, the first selection for Kansas City was DT Chris Jones in round two. So far he has only appeared in one game and recorded two tackles. The only stat of note for the rookie class is one fumble recovery by 4th round pick S Eric Murray.
The former Mountaineer Karl Joseph has forced his was into a starting safety role for the Raiders. In Sunday’s matchup versus the Titans, Joseph had a team-leading ten tackles and played a total of 61 snaps. A standout performance like this is always great to see from a first round pick. Look for him to solidify the back end of Oakland’s D going forward this season.
San Diego Chargers
After being unable to come to terms with 3rd overall pick Joey Bosa, the Chargers have not seen their first round pick in action so far this season due to a hamstring injury (probably because he didn’t get to do that whole training camp thing). Given his late start to the season, I would expect to see Bosa play and dominate once he is able to get on the field. Second round pick Hunter Henry is quickly becoming one of Phillip River’s favorite targets given play makers Danny Woodhead and Keenen Allen are lost for the season. I would expect Rivers to look for Henry going forward since the Chargers backup receivers will have a difficult time getting open down field.
OLB Leonard Floyd has already established himself as a playmaker for the Da Bears. Through the first three games, Floyd has recorded 13 tackles and half a sack. Floyd will be an immediate asset to the floundering Chicago defense. After missing the entirety of 2015, former first round pick Kevin White has cemented himself as the WR2 across from Alshon Jeffery. Given his long absence from the field, his 132 total yards so far this season suggests he will be a big asset to the Bears going forward.
First round pick LT Taylor Decker has struggled so far. During Saturday’s matchup versus the Packers, Decker was responsible for two sacks on Mathew Stafford. It is still early in the season so I would give the rookie the benefit of the doubt. Though, given Detroit’s pass heavy offense Decker needs to improve to retain his starting gig.
Green Bay Packers
DT Kenny Clark has been quite so far this season, only registering seven tackles through three games. And second round pick Jason Spriggs has yet to see the field so far. Given the already dominate state of the Packers, giving the young guns time to develop will do wonders for the future of the team.
Laquon Treadwell has yet to record a catch in his short pro career. Treadwell has not performed well enough in practice to earn more snaps during games. Hopefully, the standout wide receiver will adjust to the league sooner rather than later. Also, my personal favorite prospect, Moritz Boehringer, has cemented a spot on the Vikings practice squad.
Second Round draft pick OLB Deion Jones had the game of his life on MNF where he returned an interception for a touchdown to seal the win for the Falcons. On top of the interception, Jones has also recorded 25 tackles through the first three games. After being injured for the first two weeks of the season, S Keanu Neal made his first appearance on Monday versus the Saints. While he only recorded three tackles his return to the field is a vast improvement.
After limited appearances in the first three games of the season, first round pick Vernon Butler will miss a few weeks with an ankle injury. CB James Bradberry has already established himself as Josh Norman’s replacement in the Panthers’ secondary with 11 tackles and an interception so far this season.
New Orleans Saints
The Saints have lost DT Sheldon Rankins for a majority of the season after breaking a bone in his leg. Best case scenario he returns later this season and can begin to get acclimated to the league. WR Michael Thomas has thrived in the Saint’s pass heavy offense with 185 yards and one touchdown. I expect Thomas to continue to put up good numbers with Drew Brees at the helm.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Vernon Hargreaves has cemented himself as a starting corner for the Bucs and has shown signs of improvement each week he has played. Things have not been going well for the second round kicker (yes I didn’t understand this one either) Roberto Aguayo. He is only 1/3 on field goals and 7/8 for extra points. After his dominate college career Aguayo has not lived up to his hype. Hopefully, this talented young player will be able to overcome his extremely high expectations.
Behind Dallas’ impressive offensive line, Ezekiel ” Zeke” Elliot has thrived through the first three games. Elliot has earned 274 yards and two rushing touchdowns from scrimmage. After compiling the “legion of room” the Cowboys seem to finally have a running back able to take advantage of this favorable situation. Even more impressive, fourth round pick QB Dak Prescott has stepped up to fill in for starting quarterback Tony Romo. In the first three games, Dak has thrown for 767 yards and a touchdown. Given the issues with Romo’s health, Dak has given a sense of stability to the city of Dallas.
New York Giants
First round pick CB Eli Apple has been solid so far in the Giant’s secondary. Though, on Sunday he was limited to only a few snaps due to a nagging hamstring injury. WR Sterling Shepard has been a fantastic option across from OBJ. Shepard has racked up 233 receiving yards and two touchdowns so far this season. Given that defenses will continue to focus on Odell, Sterling will have plenty of opportunities going forward to become a playmaker.
The new hope of Philadelphia, Carson Wentz has played beyond his years thus far this season. In the first three games, Wentz has led the birds to a 3-0 record on 769 passing yards and five touchdowns. So far, the Eagle’s gamble to trade up for North Dakota State product seems to be paying off. Wendell Smallwood had a breakout game on Sunday versus the cross-state rival Steelers. Smallwood was able to rack up 79 rushing yards and a touchdown while Ryan Mathews was dealing with an injury. He could be an intriguing option going forward if Mathews continues to have issues.
TCU standout WR Josh Doctson has been underwhelming so far this season with only 66 receiving yards from scrimmage, albeit he has been hampered by inconsistent and mediocre play by his quarterback, Kirk Cousins. Doctson did no play in week 3 due to an Achilles injury. Su’a Cravens has been a great addition to the Redskins’ secondary and came up with a clutch interception versus the Giants. If Josh Norman can get going, the Redskins will have a solid pass defense.
There has been little to no production from the Cardinal’s draft class so far this season. First-round pick Robert Nkemdiche has yet to see the field this season due to a nagging ankle injury. CB Brandon Williams has seen his defensive snaps decrease each week all the way down to zero during week three. Hopefully, this negative trend turns itself around in the coming week.
Los Angeles Rams
First overall pick QB Jared Goff has served as the Ram’s backup so far this season. Given Goff’s role as the future signal caller for the city of angels, the Rams seem to be taking a very cautious approach with their highly touted prospect. Fourth-round TE Tyler Higbee has seen very limited use and only one reception through the first three games. The Rams are also hopefully new deep threat Pharoh Cooper will be back from a shoulder injury in the near future.
San Francisco 49ers
To the surprise of no one Chip Kelly drafted another Oregon duck in DeForest Buckner. So far he has been on the field for a majority of the first three games and has been able to rack up 16 total tackles. Buckner will be a threat from the edge as he becomes more accustomed to the league. Their other first round pick, OG Joshua Garnett, has been a limited contributor only seeing the field during a few special team snaps.
Offensive lineman Germain Ifedi has not played in a game this season due to an injury but has the potential to return this upcoming week. The possible replacement to Marshawn Lynch, C.J. Prosise, has only seen one carry this season while being inactive for week three. Undrafted free agent Trevone Boykin filled in valiantly for Russell Wilson during week three with 65 passing yards and a touchdown. Boykin may get his first start of the season in week 4 if Wilson is unable to play due to an ankle issue.
Feature image provided by: philly.com