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Tuesday, 28 October 2014

NFL Rookies Off To Fast Starts: Watkins, Benjamin Impressing

This was the year of the receiver, with five going in the first round. Of those five, four of them have averaged more than 50 yards receiving, while the fifth one has recorded three touchdowns over his first three games. Sammy Watkins and Kelvin Benjamin rank 10th and 13th in receiving yards, respectively, while also recording five touchdowns each. Second-round pick Allen Robinson has topped 50 yards in six of his last eight outings, while teammate Allen Hurns caught four passes for 110 yards and two touchdowns in the season opener. Late-round picks have performed well too, with John Brown of the Cardinals and Martavis Bryant of the Steelers, both picked later than the second round, emerging as explosive playmakers, combining for 283 yards and four touchdowns over the past two weeks.

On the other side of the ball, there have been some outstanding linebackers. First-round pick C.J. Mosley has proven to be a steal, while second-round pick Preston Brown has more than adequately filled in for the injured Kiko Alonso. Khalil Mack and Anthony Barr were picked high and have been given high expectations, and both rookies have performed up to standards. Kyle Fuller of the Bears was the fourth ranked cornerback, behind Justin Gilbert, Bradley Roby, and Darqueze Dennard. Fuller has outperformed all three corners and is leading the NFL in forced turnovers, with three picks and three forced fumbles just midway through the season. A sixth-round pick out of Missouri, E.J. Gaines stepped as the starter opposite of Janoris Jenkins and has been one of the most impressive corners of the draft. Gaines has made rookie mistakes, but a day-three pick, he is most definitely a steal.

The quarterback draft class looked weak, with no surefire first-overall pick, and mostly questionable first-round picks. Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel, and Teddy Bridgewater were all picked in the first round, but all three quarterbacks have either not seen extensive playing time or have not played well in opportunities given. Derek Carr, the fourth quarterback taken, has easily been the most impressive of this draft class. With nine touchdowns and five interceptions, Carr's stats are not flashy, but he has been efficient and reliable.

They say that this is a passing league, but several rookie runners have made an impact. Bishop Sankey, Jeremy Hill, and Carlos Hyde were the first three backs taken off the board, and all three have made an impact on their teams, combining for 658 yards and six touchdowns. What has been more impressive, though, is the production of undrafted and late-round picks. Jerick McKinnon, a third-round pick, and Lorenzo Taliaferro, a fourth-round pick, have both carved out starting roles, while undrafted backs Branden Oliver and Isaiah Crowell have seen extensive playing time. Third-round pick Tre Mason has not seen too much time, playing in only three games, but he has played well against defenses like San Francisco and Seattle. This class will likely be remembered for its wide receivers, but there is definitely some value in this running backs.


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