NFL Rookie Report: Week 4 Grades for Every Team's Rookie Class
Week 4 in the NFL boasted plenty of excellent rookie performances. We saw Ryan Tannehill top the 400-yard mark, Greg Zuerlein connect on a 60-yard field goal, and Vontaze Burfict stuff the stat sheet. These three were only some of the strong performances.
There were also those rookies who continue to disappoint. Luckily, this article focuses on each team's entire rookie class, so some of those disappointing rookies are overlooked because of the strong play of others.
Check out this article to see what grade each rookie class received for their Week 4 performance.
Dallas Cowboys: B
Picks: Morris Claiborne, Tyrone Crawford, Kyle Wilber, Matt Johnson, Danny Coale, James Hanna and Caleb McSurdy
Morris Claiborne has been one of the better rookies in the league so far this season. That doesn't mean he has been perfect. This week against the Chicago Bears, he bit on a double move by Devin Hester and was burnt for a touchdown. However, some of the blame needs to fall on the shoulders of Rob Ryan.
Ryan continues to ask his cornerbacks to play man coverage, which leaves them vulnerable to allow big plays. This means we can expect some mistakes from Claiborne from time to time. However, he's still on the path to becoming an elite cornerback.
Tyrone Crawford continues to see some time in the defensive line rotation. He has been able to take advantage of his opportunities. Crawford needs more time to develop, but it's obvious he has some upside.
New York Giants: C
Picks: David Wilson, Rueben Randle, Jayron Hosley, Adrien Robinson, Brandon Mosley, Matt McCants and Markus Kuhn
David Wilson had a major impact on this past week's game. However, that impact came as a kick returner and not on offense. Wilson tallied over 200 return yards while boasting a 36.2 average per attempt. His effort set the New York Giants up with great field position on several occasions.
The issue New York has with Wilson is that he's unable to earn touches on offense. New York tried to get him involved with a shovel pass, but he misplayed the ball. With both Ahmad Bradshaw and Andre Brown playing well, Wilson will continue to have a tough time earning offensive snaps.
Rueben Randle saw his most action of the season against the Philadelphia Eagles. He had one target on offense and fielded three punts. Because Hakeem Nicks' knee isn't healing as fast as the Giants would like, Randle may get another opportunity to work his way into the wide receiver rotation.
The issue is that he'll have to outperform Ramses Barden and Domenik Hixon. Both are currently playing at a high level.
Jayron Hosley was inactive for the game against the Eagles. It's likely he hasn't fully recovered from a hamstring injury he suffered a few weeks ago.
Philadelphia Eagles: B
Picks: Fletcher Cox, Mychal Kendricks, Vinny Curry, Nick Foles, Brandon Boykin, Dennis Kelly, Marvin McNutt, Brandon Washington, Bryce Brown and Damaris Johnson (undrafted)
Fletcher Cox is quietly making a major impact along the Philadelphia Eagles defensive line. He has provided excellent all-around play including strong run support and a good pass rush. Cox really stepped up his game against the New York Giants.
He played a big role in the Eagles' ability to control the line of scrimmage. His quick first step, inside hand placement and good initial jolt helped hold the Giants to just 57 yards rushing.
Philadelphia gave Brandon Boykin the tough assignment of trying to shut down Victor Cruz. While he did have tight coverage, Cruz was able to top the 100-yard mark and score a touchdown. Boykin absolutely learned from this experience.
As usual, Mychal Kendricks flew to the football and made plays behind the line of scrimmage. His quickness makes him a threat to make plays sideline to sideline.
Damaris Johnson continues to get work on both offense and special teams. Philadelphia realizes that he possesses the quickness to create in space. This is why they target him on a few swing passes and wide receiver screens, as well as use him as a punt returner.
Bryce Brown still isn't getting a lot of carries, but is showing that he's a capable backup to LeSean McCoy.
Washington Redskins: A-
Picks: Robert Griffin III, Josh LeRibeus, Kirk Cousins, Keenan Robinson, Adam Gettis, Alfred Morris, Tom Compton, Richard Crawford and Jordan Bernstine
Alfred Morris is challenging the theory that Mike Shanahan rarely settles on lead running back. On the season, Morris has a total of 82 carries compared to the next top running back, Evan Royster, who has seven carries.
Shanahan feels comfortable giving Morris the bulk of the carries, because he's performing at a high level. His ability to average 4.6 yards per carry helps the Washington Redskins keep the chains moving. It also serves as a complement to Robert Griffin III's passing attack.
Griffin continues to be one of the more explosive players in the NFL. He's making plays with both his arm and feet. I love how he has been able to overcome an injury to Pierre Garcon and keep playing at a high level. Typically, young quarterbacks struggle when their No. 1 target is forced out of the lineup.
Buffalo Bills: C-
Picks: Stephon Gilmore, Cordy Glenn, T.J. Graham, Nigel Bradham, Ron Brooks, Zebrie Sanders, Tank Carder, Mark Asper and John Potter
The Buffalo Bills game against the New England Patriots continues to bring bad news. It appears that starting left tackle Cordy Glenn will miss a few games with an ankle injury. This is a major blow, because Glenn was playing at an extremely high level.
Stephon Gilmore is quickly learning that things are much more difficult in the NFL as opposed to college. His play hasn't been terrible, but Tom Brady was able to take advantage of him on a few occasions. However, Gilmore possesses the mental makeup and athletic ability to improve.
The Bills are making an effort to get T.J. Graham the football. He was targeted eight times, including several wide-receiver screens and a few shots down the field. It's obvious that Graham possesses an explosive first step and the ability to make plays in space. Look for him to continue making an impact the rest of the season.
Nigel Bradham remains an important part of the Bills' special teams. He's doing a good job quickly getting down the field on coverage teams.
Miami Dolphins: A+
Picks: Ryan Tannehill, Jonathan Martin, Olivier Vernon, Michael Egnew, Lamar Miller, Josh Kaddu, B.J. Cunningham, Kheeston Randall and Rishard Matthews
This past weekend's game against the Arizona Cardinals was a breakout performance for Ryan Tannehill. He torched a talented Cardinals secondary for a total of 431 yards and a touchdown. Tannehill showed off his strong arm, made quick reads and delivered an accurate football.
A lot of his success was because of the game plan drawn up by the Miami Dolphins. They allowed Tannehill to establish a rhythm by starting the game off with a short passing attack. This limited the pressure and helped dictate where the ball should be delivered.
Of course, he still made some rookie mistakes. Tannehill needs to continue to develop, but this game showed his potential.
Each week, Jonathan Martin is making major improvements. His combination of athleticism and sound technique has helped him become one of the better offensive linemen on the roster. He's doing a great job in pass protection. Martin's quick feet help him reach the edge, while his balance allows him to anchor after contact.
Olivier Vernon's ability to generate pressure off the edge has earned him a spot in the defensive line rotation. The Dolphins are putting him in the lineup on third down and letting him rush the passer.
The quick recovery by Reggie Bush cut into the rushing attempts for Lamar Miller. However, he tied Daniel Thomas for the second most carries on the team. More importantly, Miller outperformed Thomas and could be making a move to be come Bush's backup.
New England Patriots: B-
Picks: Chandler Jones, Dont'a Hightower, Tavon Wilson, Jake Bequette, Nate Ebner, Alfonzo Dennard and Jeremy Ebert
Chandler Jones struggled some against the Buffalo Bills and Cordy Glenn. However, once Glenn went down with an injury, Jones found some success. The issue Jones had early in the game was that he didn't keep his pads low. His first step was straight up, which limited his power and quickness.
Jones possesses a ton of potential, but he still has plenty of areas he needs to improve. He'll continue to have a major impact this season. However, there will be points in the season where he struggles.
The one bad thing to come out of the Patriots' win over the Bills was the injury to Dont'a Hightower. He was forced to leave the game with a hamstring injury. The extent of the injury is unknown at this time, but if he misses a few games, the Patriots defense will be less effective.
I've been surprised with the way Tavon Wilson has performed. His versatility allows Bill Belichick to use him in multiple formations. He really impressed with his ability to cover the tight end.
New York Jets: D+
Picks: Quinton Coples, Stephen Hill, Demario Davis, Josh Bush, Terrance Ganaway, Robert T. Griffin, Antonio Allen and Jordan White
Quinton Coples was the only New York Jets rookie who saw meaningful snaps against the San Francisco 49ers. He continued his strong play by working his way into the backfield and making plays behind the line of scrimmage. It's still a mystery why the Jets refuse to give him more opportunities.
The one area in which he struggled was keeping contained. On a few occasions, he took an inside move and gave the edge to the ball-carrier. This might be the reason the Jets are limiting his snaps. However, New York isn't in a position to keep such a talented player off the field.
Arizona Cardinals: C
Picks: Michael Floyd, Jamell Fleming, Bobby Massie, Senio Kelemete, Justin Bethel, Ryan Lindley and Nate Potter
It's apparent that the Arizona Cardinals' coaching staff is becoming more comfortable with Michael Floyd. He has gone from getting zero targets in Week 1 to being targeted eight times against the Miami Dolphins. His increased role has a chance to really help the explosiveness of the Cardinals offense.
With Floyd in the mix, Arizona can move Andre Roberts to the slot where he's at his best. The combination of Floyd, Roberts and Larry Fitzgerald has the potential to be a very dangerous group.
Bobby Massie had a rough day dealing with Miami speed-rushers like Cameron Wake. He just doesn't have the foot speed to beat speed-rushers to the edge, and his technique isn't far enough along to win with angles.
Despite the disappointing performance, Massie showed a lot of fight and potential.
Jamell Fleming continues to get a lot of playing time in the secondary.
San Francisco 49ers: F
Picks: A.J. Jenkins, LaMichael James, Joe Looney, Darius Fleming, Trent Robinson, Jason Slowey and Cam Johnson
The San Francisco 49ers didn't have a single rookie active for its game against the New York Jets. I understand that players like A.J. Jenkins and LaMichael James need some time to develop, but failing to have even one active rookie is a disappointment.
When the 49ers selected A.J. Jenkins, players like Janoris Jenkins, Doug Martin and Alshon Jeffery were still on the board. It's early to call anyone in this draft class a bust, but San Francisco could've done a better job adding impact players.
Seattle Seahawks: B-
Picks: Bruce Irvin, Bobby Wagner, Russell Wilson, Robert Turbin, Jaye Howard, Korey Toomer, Jeremy Lane, Winston Guy, J.R. Sweezy and Greg Scruggs
On paper, Russell Wilson had a terrible day against the St. Louis Rams. However, it's hard to pin any of his three interceptions solely on Wilson. Two of them came on tipped balls, and the other was taken right out of the wide receiver's hands.
When a rookie is starting at quarterback, others on the team need to step up and help him. Wilson didn't get much help from his wide receivers in this game, and the tipped balls are something to keep a close eye on. Because of Wilson's lack of height, tipped balls could be a long-term issue.
It was concerning to see the Seahawks running the ball with under two minutes left and trailing by six points. This shows that they aren't completely comfortable putting the ball in Wilson's hands with the game on the line.
The Seattle Seahawks finally made a point to give Robert Turbin more touches. He responded by tallying 58 offensive yards while averaging 7.3 yards per touch. His explosiveness and quick cuts allowed him to make defenders miss in space. Seattle needs to use him more as a change of pace to Marshawn Lynch.
Defensively, Bruce Irvin and Bobby Wagner remain staples in the lineup. Wagner possesses good closing speed, strong instincts and sound tackling skills. He's the type of player that should have a very long and successful career at middle linebacker.
Irvin wasn't able to register a sack, but still generated some pressure. His combination of quickness, use of leverage and strength makes it difficult for any blocker to handle him one on one.
St. Louis Rams: A+
Picks: Michael Brockers, Brian Quick, Janoris Jenkins, Isaiah Pead, Trumaine Johnson, Chris Givens, Rokevious Watkins, Greg Zuerlein, Aaron Brown and Daryl Richardson
The St. Louis Rams finally got to see Michael Brockers in some regular-season action, as he was dealing with an ankle injury that forced him to miss the first few games. Against the Seattle Seahawks, Brockers got the start and showed some glimpses of his talent.
However, he struggled with consistency and conditioning. It was obvious that he was a little out of shape, as there were several plays on which he failed to give 100 percent. His fatigue also resulted in a high pad level, which limited his effectiveness. Still, Brockers did show a good anchor and the ability to push the pocket.
St. Louis also worked both rookie wide receivers into the game plan. Brian Quick and Chris Givens each had a few targets, with Givens pulling in a 52-yard reception. The Rams made a point to utilize Givens' speed by taking a few shots down the field.
Isaiah Pead has been a major disappointment this season. Luckily, Daryl Richardson looks like someone who has a bright future. He possesses good quickness through the hole and the ability to contribute in the passing game.
The secondary continues to get a boost from the rookie class, with both Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson making an impact. Johnson recorded an interception because of his ability to read the quarterback and quickness breaking on the ball.
Greg Zuerlein is quickly becoming one of the better kickers in the league. On this season, he's a perfect 12-of-12 with a 60-yarder against the Seahawks.
Denver Broncos: C+
Picks: Derek Wolfe, Brock Osweiler, Ronnie Hillman, Omar Bolden, Philip Blake, Malik Jackson and Danny Trevathan
The Denver Broncos gave Ronnie Hillman an opportunity to showcase his quickness against the Oakland Raiders. He wasn't able to get much going on the ground, but he did make some plays in the passing game. Hillman looked hesitant and unwilling to explode through the hole. This could be some first-game jitters, because he possesses excellent quickness.
Derek Wolfe remains a major part of the Broncos defensive line. He's doing a good job holding at the point of attack and stuffing the run. When lined up at defensive end, Wolfe sets the edge and is able to make plays away from his frame.
He hasn't been doing a great job generating pressure on the quarterback. He doesn't have that elite burst off the line needed to get the edge. This really isn't his fault, as he's playing out of position at defensive end. Wolfe is more of a 3-technique type of player.
Kansas City Chiefs: C-
Picks: Dontari Poe, Jeff Allen, Donald Stephenson, Devon Wylie, DeQuan Menzie, Cyrus Gray, Jerome Long and Junior Hemingway
Dontari Poe possesses a ton of talent, but is very raw. However, he's showing improvement each and every week. The biggest thing I've noticed is that he's playing with more tenacity and quickness. This is likely because he's more comfortable in the system.
It could take a few seasons before Poe reaches his full potential, but that doesn't mean he can't make an immediate impact.
Jeff Allen stepped in and started at left guard because of the injury suffered by Rodney Hudson. Allen really struggled in his debut. He had a hard time holding at the point of attack and was blown back into the pocket on several occasions.
Despite a poor performance, Allen still possesses a lot of upside. He showed the ability to adjust and improve as the game progressed. His play in the coming weeks will get much better.
Oakland Raiders: C-
Picks: Tony Bergstrom, Miles Burris, Jack Crawford, Juron Criner, Christo Bilukidi, Nathan Stupar and Rod Streater (undrafted)
Miles Burris has been the top rookie performer for the Oakland Raiders. However, he didn't make much of an impact this week because the Denver Broncos ran a lot of multiple receiver sets. The Raiders decided that Philip Wheeler and Rolando McClain were better equipped to handled the Broncos' pass-heavy offense.
Oakland is now using Jack Crawford as a major part of the defensive line rotation. His quickness off the line and non-stop motor give him a chance to make an impact this season. Crawford still needs work to perfect his skill set, but there is upside here.
Juron Criner surpassed Rod Streater in targets and catches this week. Criner is a more explosive player, making him more of a big-play threat.
San Diego Chargers: C+
Picks: Melvin Ingram, Kendall Reyes, Brandon Taylor, Ladarius Green, Johnnie Troutman, David Molk, Edwin Baker and Michael Harris (undrafted)
Melvin Ingram isn't having quite the impact the San Diego Chargers expected. After four games, he has failed to register a sack. San Diego is using him more in coverage than as a pass-rusher. This is a concern, because Ingram's strength is his ability to generate pressure on the quarterback.
One reason for his struggles might be the fact that Shaun Phillips and Antwan Barnes are doing a better job rushing the quarterback. San Diego isn't going to drop Phillips into coverage with him playing at such a high level.
It's still early in the season, so Ingram will have plenty of opportunities to enhance his pass rush.
Kendall Reyes is stuck in a very deep defensive line rotation. The Chargers are using Reyes, Cam Thomas, Aubrayo Franklin, Vaughn Martin and Corey Liuget along the defensive line. Having this many contributors has limited the snaps for Reyes.
However, he has shown enough potential that he should continue to see increased playing time as the season progresses.
Chicago Bears: C+
Picks: Shea McClellin, Alshon Jeffery, Brandon Hardin, Evan Rodriguez, Isaiah Frey and Greg McCoy
The Chicago Bears' wide receiver position has significantly more size this season, thanks to the additions of Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. Chicago has inserted Jeffery in the starting lineup, and he is the second most targeted wide receiver on the team.
Jeffery's size and strong hands make him a nice target for Jay Cutler. However, there are times that he looks to be running at half speed. Prior to the draft, questions arose surrounding the limited explosiveness of Jeffery. This is something to keep an eye on as the season progresses.
Shea McClellin doesn't lack explosiveness, but it's obvious that he needs more time to develop a feel for the game. For example, there were a few plays where he lost containment because he was too anxious to rush the quarterback.
He possesses a ton of upside, but he needs time to become a more complete player.
Detroit Lions: D-
Picks: Riley Reiff, Ryan Broyles, Dwight Bentley, Ronnell Lewis, Tahir Whitehead, Chris Greenwood, Jonte Green and Travis Lewis
The Detroit Lions have no choice but to use Dwight Bentley as one of its starting cornerbacks. However, he is struggling to play solid football. Against the Minnesota Vikings, Bentley was called for two key pass-interference penalties that led to Vikings scores.
He was called for the interference penalties, because he didn't get his head around. Bentley needs to do a better job finding the ball, because that would help him avoid penalties and possibly generate some turnovers.
The rest of the Lions draft class didn't have a chance to make an impact. However, special teams players like Tahir Whitehead and Ronnell Lewis played a role in the Lions' poor performance in that phase of the game.
Green Bay Packers: B-
Picks: Nick Perry, Jerel Worthy, Casey Hayward, Mike Daniels, Jerron McMillian, Terrell Manning, Andrew Datko and B.J. Coleman
Jerron McMillian and Casey Hayward have been the most productive rookies for the Green Bay Packers. Both are playing major roles in the secondary and providing solid coverage. McMillian has showed a lot of versatility and good ball skills.
Green Bay must be disappointed in the lack of production from Nick Perry. He was brought in to provide a pass rush off the edge, but has failed to produce. In fact, the Packers are playing Erik Walden over him in passing situations.
Both Jerel Worthy and Mike Daniels continue to be staples in the defensive line rotation. Worthy has flashed some ability to make plays behind the line of scrimmage, but is struggling with his snap timing. He had an encroachment penalty that helped the New Orleans Saints pick up a key first down.
Minnesota Vikings: A-
Picks: Matt Kalil, Harrison Smith, Josh Robinson, Jarius Wright, Rhett Ellison, Greg Childs, Robert Blanton, Blair Walsh, Audie Cole and Trevor Guyton
Josh Robinson is quickly becoming an important part of the Minnesota Vikings secondary. Each week, he is earning more playing time and responsibilities. Against the Detroit Lions, Robinson was asked to follow Calvin Johnson around the field.
He used his good size and speed to make Johnson's day difficult. There's no doubting Robinson's raw talent. However, the speed at which he is developing as a cover man must be a pleasant surprise for the Vikings.
The Lions were only able to register two sacks, and a lot of that had to do with the play of Matt Kalil. His quick shuffle and balance helped him hold up against the likes of Cliff Avril and Kyle Vanden Bosch. In the running game, Kalil was smart enough to let the aggressive defensive ends take themselves out of the play.
Harrison Smith is already one of the leaders of this Vikings defense. He plays a key role in ensuring everyone understands the coverage and is in the right position. Minnesota asks him to fill multiple roles, including playing deep coverage and supporting the run.
Blair Walsh missed his first field goal of the season, but still was able to connect on a 49-yarder.
Baltimore Ravens: B-
Picks: Courtney Upshaw, Kelechi Osemele, Bernard Pierce, Gino Gradkowski, Christian Thompson, Asa Jackson, Tommy Streeter and DeAngelo Tyson
The Baltimore Ravens have gotten a nice contribution from offensive tackle Kelechi Osemele, although he really struggled Thursday night against the Cleveland Browns. Jabaal Sheard used a combination of speed and power moves to throw Osemele off balance.
It's a learning curve for most rookie offensive linemen. Osemele just needs to take this as an experience and move forward.
Courtney Upshaw is developing into a real difference-maker for the Ravens defense. He's doing an excellent job holding the edge against the run while providing a bit of a pass rush. Look for his role to increase as the season progresses.
The Ravens are getting a lot of production from backup running back Bernard Pierce. He's taking advantage of the minimal amount of carries he receives by averaging over five yards per carry. If he keeps producing like this, he'll get more touches in the future.
Cincinnati Bengals: B
Picks: Dre Kirkpatrick, Kevin Zeitler, Devon Still, Mohamed Sanu, Brandon Thompson, Orson Charles, Shaun Prater, Marvin Jones, George Iloka, Dan Herron and Vontaze Burfict (undrafted)
In a major surprise, Vontaze Burfict has been the most productive rookie for the Cincinnati Bengals. Marvin Lewis and company were willing to take a chance, and so far it's paying off. However, Burfict is showing some signs of the questionable maturity that got him in trouble in college.
On several plays, he made contact with someone after the whistle. None of the hits drew a penalty, but he's starting down a dangerous path. If he can keep himself under control, Burfict has a chance to develop into a real difference-maker.
Kevin Zeitler continues to play solid football along the offensive line. He's holding up in pass protection and generating a good push off the line. His play won't make headlines, but does have a major impact on how the offense performs.
Both Marvin Jones and Orson Charles are seeing time on offense. Neither are a major part of the game plan, but it's easy to see the Bengals want to start working them into the mix. They are explosive athletes who have some big-play potential.
Cleveland Browns: B
Picks: Trent Richardson, Brandon Weeden, Mitchell Schwartz, Josh Gordon (supplemental), John Hughes, Travis Benjamin, James-Michael Johnson, Ryan Miller, Emmanuel Acho, Billy Winn, Trevin Wade, Brad Smelley and L.J. Fort (undrafted)
Despite some unimpressive numbers, Trent Richardson is having a solid start to his career. He's already the Cleveland Browns' top playmaker and one of the few reliable performers. Richardson's versatility allows the Browns to get him involved in both the running and passing game.
This is a team that really lacks explosive players on offense, so the Browns know they must get Richardson touches.
Brandon Weeden isn't playing great football, but a lot of his struggles are not his fault. Cleveland's wide receivers continue to run poor routes and drop the football. It's obvious Weeden has no confidence in his targets and is starting to lose confidence in himself.
When Cleveland landed Billy Winn late in the draft, I knew they got a steal. Winn is a talented football player who can hold up against the run and penetrate the pocket. He's really establishing himself as future building block for the Browns.
John Hughes is also playing solid football. Moving forward, Cleveland has a good four-man rotation at the defensive tackle spot. The combination of Wynn, Hughes, Phil Taylor and Ahtyba Rubin has a very bright future.
The Browns are getting a nice contribution from Travis Benjamin. He's still raw as a route-runner, but his speed makes him a vertical threat. Benjamin is quickly becoming the Browns' most reliable receiver.
Pittsburgh Steelers: F
Picks: David DeCastro, Mike Adams, Sean Spence, Alameda Ta'amu, Chris Rainey, Toney Clemons, David Paulson, Terrence Frederick and Kelvin Beachum
The Pittsburgh Steelers are on a bye week, so here's a quick look at the rookies' production up to this point.
Pittsburgh is still dealing with the loss of David DeCastro and Sean Spence to injury. Losing DeCastro stung the most, as the Steelers were counting on him being a major part of the offensive line.
The biggest disappointment of this group is Mike Adams. Pittsburgh game him a shot to win the starting left tackle job, and he fell flat on his face. Adams possesses the talent to develop into a top-notch offensive lineman, but he lacks the focus at this point in his career.
Chris Rainey is the only rookie to receive consistent playing time. He's being used as a do-everything running back. However, he hasn't produced the explosive plays the Steelers were expecting.
Atlanta Falcons: F
Picks: Peter Konz, Lamar Holmes, Bradie Ewing, Jonathan Massaquoi, Charles Mitchell and Travian Robertson
Another week and another limited impact from the Atlanta Falcons rookie class. The majority of the group remains on the inactive list, but even those on the roster aren't seeing playing time. Atlanta knew that when they traded up for Julio Jones they were sacrificing the talent level of future drafts.
Peter Konz might not be a starter right now, but he will be in the future. He's a talented offensive lineman who can play either guard or center. Konz possesses the strength, leverage and balance to develop into a top-notch run-blocker.
Carolina Panthers: A+
Picks: Luke Kuechly, Amini Silatolu, Frank Alexander, Joe Adams, Josh Norman, Brad Nortman and D.J. Campbell
Despite struggling as a team, the Carolina Panthers are getting some excellent contributions from their rookie class. They have as many as five rookies making a difference on a week-to-week basis. Luke Kuechly is quickly becoming one of the better young linebackers in the league.
His ability to cleanly flow to the football allows him to always be in position to make a play. He has such a great nose for the ball that it's tough to keep him from making an impact. Kuechly's top-end closing speed helps him make tackles behind the line of scrimmage.
Frank Alexander's ability to generate pressure on the quarterback is one of the biggest surprises of the Panthers' draft class. Each week he is improving, and he could soon make a move into the starting lineup. Carolina really needs another pass-rusher to line up opposite Charles Johnson.
Along with Alexander, the Panthers got a steal in cornerback Josh Norman. He's an aggressive and tenacious defender who isn't afraid to play physical. Norman loves to support the run and deliver a pop to the ball-carrier.
Despite the Atlanta Falcons piling up the passing yards, Norman did a good job in coverage. He still has a lot to learn, but he possesses a ton of upside.
Amini Silatolu continues to develop into a solid offensive guard. He shows a strong push off the line and ability to anchor after contact. His quickness allows him to quickly climb to the second level and seal off linebackers. Silatolu needs to improve his foot work and technique, but the sky is the limit.
Brad Nortman had another great punting day. He averaged over 45 yards per punt and pinned two balls inside the 20-yard line.
New Orleans Saints: D+
Picks: Akiem Hicks, Nick Toon, Corey White, Andrew Tiller and Marcel Jones
Corey White is proving to be a pesky defender who sees a lot of time in nickel and dime situations. He does a good job coming up and supporting the run, but also boasts the ability to hold up in coverage. White isn't capable of handling the league's top playmakers, but can hold his own in zone coverage.
The New Orleans Saints continue to work Akiem Hicks into the defensive line rotation. Because of his need for experience, the Saints are wise to give Hicks snaps. The best way for Hicks to develop is by getting on the field.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: B+
Picks: Mark Barron, Doug Martin, Lavonte David, Najee Goode, Keith Tandy, Michael Smith and Drake Dunsmore
Everyone needs to get used to seeing Lavonte David leading the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in tackles. He's an explosive athlete who plays with an extremely high motor. His ability to make plays from sideline to sideline makes him an impact player.
David finished the game against the Washington Redskins with 12 solo tackles, including three tackles for loss. Don't rule David out of the race to win the Defensive Rookie of the Year award.
Mark Barron also has a chance to win that award. Being such a physical player, a lot of his plays will be featured on highlight reels. His hit on Robert Griffin III shows the type of powerful hits he can deliver.
Barron isn't only a big hitter, as he also does a good job in coverage. It's only a matter of time before he starts creating a lot of turnovers.
The Buccaneers are starting to give LeGarrette Blount more touches in the running game. This is mainly because Doug Martin is struggling to move the chains. His 3.5 yards per carry is one of the more disappointing stats of any rookie.
Houston Texans: D-
Picks: Whitney Mercilus, DeVier Posey, Brandon Brooks, Ben Jones, Keshawn Martin, Jared Crick, Randy Bullock and Nick Mondek
The Houston Texans look like one of the top teams in the NFL, but isn't getting much production from its rookie class. Top-pick Whitney Mercilus can't get snaps on the defensive side of the ball because of Connor Barwin and Brooks Reed. He's relegated to special-teams duty with some spot snaps on defense.
Keshawn Martin is the lone rookie seeing consistent snaps. He's being used at the No. 3 receiver spot behind Andre Johnson and Kevin Walter. Martin has overcome some problems hanging onto the ball to remain in the game plan.
The Texans have given Ben Jones some time at guard as they try and determine the future of the position. So far, he hasn't been able to unseat Antoine Caldwell as the starter.
Indianapolis Colts: B+
Picks: Andrew Luck, Coby Fleener, Dwayne Allen, T.Y. Hilton, Josh Chapman, Vick Ballard, LaVon Brazill, Justin Anderson, Tim Fugger and Chandler Harnish
The Indianapolis Colts are on a bye week, but they must feel very good about how the rookie class has performed.
Andrew Luck leads the group with his solid play at quarterback. He's having some issues with interceptions, but look for him to fix that as the season progresses. Luck is too smart of a player to allow this problem to continue.
The Colts got an excellent game from T.Y. Hilton against the Jacksonville Jaguars. He was able to use his speed to attack the deep part of the field. His 40-yard touchdown reception shows just what type of potential he possesses. With Austin Collie out for the rest of the season, Hilton can expect to get a lot more snaps moving forward.
Indianapolis continues to feature a lot of two tight-end sets. Both Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen boast the versatility to open running lanes and attack the seam.
It's only a matter of time before Vick Ballard starts to take more carries away from Donald Brown. The Colts can't continue giving Brown the ball if he's only averaging 3.6 yards per carry.
Jacksonville Jaguars: C
Picks: Justin Blackmon, Andre Branch, Bryan Anger, Brandon Marshall, Mike Harris and Jeris Pendleton
The Jacksonville Jaguars finally got Justin Blackmon involved in the game play. However, they really didn't have a choice, because Laurent Robinson missed the game with a concussion. Blackmon finished the game with a team-high 10 targets, six catches and 48 yards.
While Blackmon made some nice plays, he also had a few drops. Jacksonville needs him to become a more consistent player.
Andre Branch has yet to register a sack this season, but he's showing signs of improvement. He possesses the quick first step, length and motor needed to develop into a good pass-rusher. However, he needs to develop more rush moves and a feel for when to utilize them.
Because of the poor production of the Jaguars offense, Bryan Anger is putting up great numbers. He is averaging nearly 50 yards per punt and leads the league in total punt yards.
Tennessee Titans: C+
Picks: Kendall Wright, Zach Brown, Mike Martin, Coty Sensabaugh, Taylor Thompson, Markelle Martin and Scott Solomon
One of the lone bright spots this season for the Tennessee Titans has been the opportunity to give a lot of young players meaningful reps. However, their youth is part of the reason they're struggling to play competitive football.
Zach Brown is a perfect example of this scenario. He's extremely talented, but he lacks the feel for the game to play at a high level. His game is filled with a lot of mental mistakes and poor reads. However, the best way for him to improve is by playing.
The Titans appear to be in a full rebuilding mode, so playing Brown is a wise decision.
Mike Martin has shown that he possesses the initial burst and hustle to make plays behind the line of scrimmage. He isn't strong enough yet to hold at the point of attack, but that is something he'll improve over time.
Whether it's Jake Locker or Matthew Hasselbeck at quarterback, Kendall Wright will be one of the more targeted players on the roster. His ability to both stretch the field and create in space forces the Titans to feed him the football.