NFL Rookie Report: Week 5 Grades for Every Team's Rookie Class
Around the league, there's a good amount of rookies making a major impact this season. However, there's also a handful that are disappointing. Week 5 gave us another source to review to determine how each rookie class is performing.
This article breaks down the Week 5 performance of each team's rookie class. Here's a sneak peek of some of the top individual performers:
1. Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts
2. Trent Richardson, Cleveland Browns
3. Alfred Morris, Washington Redskins
4. Bruce Irvin and Bobby Wagner, Seattle Seahawks
5. Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins
Dallas Cowboys: B-
Matthew Emmons-US PRESSWIRE
Picks: Morris Claiborne, Tyrone Crawford, Kyle Wilber, Matt Johnson, Danny Coale, James Hanna and Caleb McSurdy
The Dallas Cowboys' aggressive approach in the 2012 draft paid off, as Morris Claiborne is playing at a very high level. He's proving to be more than worth what it cost the Cowboys to trade up to the No. 6 spot in the draft.
Claiborne's coverage ability has helped the Cowboys defense become one of the better units in the league. Rob Ryan is already showing a tremendous amount of trust in Claiborne. This is why he feels comfortable playing a lot of man coverage on the outside.
Dallas is slowly working Tyrone Crawford into the defensive line rotation. He still needs more time to develop, but he is showing some potential. Look for Crawford to see increased snaps as the season progresses.
New York Giants: B-
Anthony Gruppuso-US PRESSWIRE
Picks: David Wilson, Rueben Randle, Jayron Hosley, Adrien Robinson, Brandon Mosley, Matt McCants and Markus Kuhn
Somehow Eli Manning and the New York Giants keep finding a way to overcome injuries at the wide receiver position. This week Hakeem Nicks and Ramses Barden missed the game with injuries, but Rueben Randle stepped up and took their place.
Prior to the game against the Cleveland Browns, Randle only managed to haul in one pass for four yards. This is why his six-catch, 82-yard performance was such a surprise. It was quickly apparent that Randle possesses both good quickness and strong hands.
He did a good job attacking the football at its highest point. This is something that will help Manning develop confidence in the young receiver.
The Giants were also able to see some of the potential David Wilson possesses. Because of an injury to Andre Brown, Wilson was able to get some carries. He turned one of those carries into a 40-yard touchdown run. That run shows the type of game-breaking ability Wilson possesses.
Philadelphia Eagles: A-
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Picks: Fletcher Cox, Mychal Kendricks, Vinny Curry, Nick Foles, Brandon Boykin, Dennis Kelly, Marvin McNutt, Brandon Washington, Bryce Brown and Damaris Johnson (undrafted)
The Philadelphia Eagles defense continues to get a major boost from the 2012 draft class. Fletcher Cox, Mychal Kendricks and Brandon Boykin are all receiving major playing time. With Cox, the Eagles get a versatile player capable of stuffing the run and making plays behind the line of scrimmage.
Against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Cox showed a strong anchor and the ability to disengage. However, he had a rough time getting pressure on the quarterback. This was mainly because he didn't consistently get a good read on the snap. Being late off the line typically hurts a player's ability to get after the quarterback.
Boykin remains an important part of the Eagles' nickle and dime packages. He's the guy they ask to line up and cover the slot receiver. This is something both Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Nnamdi Asomugha struggled with last season.
Philadelphia's defense is playing much better this season thanks to the improvements made to the linebacking corps. The impact of Kendricks and DeMeco Ryans can't be stated enough.
Damaris Johnson is doing a good job returning punts. He not only has the speed to break off a long return, he's also very sure-handed.
Washington Redskins: B+
Brad Mills-US PRESSWIRE
Picks: Robert Griffin III, Josh LeRibeus, Kirk Cousins, Keenan Robinson, Adam Gettis, Alfred Morris, Tom Compton, Richard Crawford and Jordan Bernstine
The Washington Redskins are very dependent on Robert Griffin III to stay competitive. This is why there was a lot of concern when he was forced out of the game with a head injury. Griffin needs to do a better job protecting himself.
His injury occurred when he tried to pick up an extra few yards along the sideline. He was nowhere near the first down, and he would've been better served running out of bounds. Hopefully, Griffin learns from this situation and keeps himself better protected.
Alfred Morris had another spectacular game against the Atlanta Falcons. On the season, he's averaging nearly five yards per carry and currently has the fourth-most rushing yards of any running back in the league.
Despite Mike Shanahan's unpredictable use of the running backs, Morris has established himself as the clear-cut lead back in Washington. It's unlikely that we see anyone other than Morris get a bulk of the carries from here on out.
Buffalo Bills: C
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Picks: Stephon Gilmore, Cordy Glenn, T.J. Graham, Nigel Bradham, Ron Brooks, Zebrie Sanders, Tank Carder, Mark Asper and John Potter
Nothing went right for the Buffalo Bills against the San Francisco 49ers. They struggled to both move the ball and stop the 49ers offense. A lot of negative attention surrounds the Bills secondary. Stephon Gilmore is among those struggling.
It appears that the biggest issue for Gilmore is adjusting to zone coverage. He's giving too much space to the receiver and also biting on double moves. Gilmore is much more comfortable playing man coverage. This allows him to play close to the line and get physical with the receiver.
Still, he needs to improve his ability to play in multiple schemes.
The injury to Cordy Glenn really hurt the Bills offense. He was arguably playing the best out of all the Bills offensive linemen. It appears that Glenn will be out for a few more weeks, so Buffalo needs to find a way to survive.
Buffalo's lack of options at the wide receiver position means that T.J. Graham will continue to get opportunities. His quickness and big-play ability is the main reason the Bills want to get the ball in his hands. They've made a point to get him touches in space, and to also target him a few times down the field.
Miami Dolphins: B+
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Picks: Ryan Tannehill, Jonathan Martin, Olivier Vernon, Michael Egnew, Lamar Miller, Josh Kaddu, B.J. Cunningham, Kheeston Randall and Rishard Matthews
It's a very good sign for the Miami Dolphins that Ryan Tannehill is showing improvement. His improved decision-making has helped him avoid throwing interceptions. This is the main reason the Dolphins were able to pull off an upset win against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Tannehill gets a lot of help from his defense, as it forces turnovers and three-and-out situations. This gives Tannehill more opportunities to put points on the boards.
Joe Philbin and company have to feel pretty good about how Tannehill has progressed. Keep in mind that he's shown improvement despite not having a lot of talent at the wide receiver position.
Jonathan Martin is quickly developing into an above-average right tackle. His quick feet and balance help him protect the quarterback. In the running game, he's using inside hand placement and leverage to open running lanes.
Despite the fact that Reggie Bush was a little banged up, Lamar Miller was unable to get a carry this week. This is a major change from the past few weeks in which he averaged over seven carries per game.
Miami continues to get strong play from Olivier Vernon. He's doing a good job attacking the edge and generating pressure on the quarterback. Vernon remains a part of the defensive line rotation, and he figures to remain there for the rest of the season.
New England Patriots: A
Stew Milne-US PRESSWIRE
Picks: Chandler Jones, Dont'a Hightower, Tavon Wilson, Jake Bequette, Nate Ebner, Alfonzo Dennard, Jeremy Ebert and Brandon Bolden (undrafted)
Chandler Jones' numbers aren't eye-popping, but he's playing much better than his stats suggest. His wide range of pass-rush moves are why he's so effective. Even though he possesses both speed and power moves, his active hands and suddenness are what make him so dangerous.
One thing to take from the game against the Denver Broncos is that the opponent's coaching staff already realizes Jones is the New England Patriots' top pass-rush threat. This means he can expect to see a lot of double teams moving forward.
Tavon Wilson is a true ball hawk who is always around the football. His ability to come up and support the run is impressive. However, he also does a good job in coverage. Wilson uses a combination of quickness and instincts to help the Patriots secondary.
It's obvious that the New England coaching staff really likes Brandon Bolden. He has emerged as the No. 2 running back behind Stevan Ridley. He'll continue to get carries as long as the Patriots remain committed to the run.
Dont'a Hightower missed Sunday's game with a hamstring injury.
New York Jets: D-
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Picks: Quinton Coples, Stephen Hill, Demario Davis, Josh Bush, Terrance Ganaway, Robert T. Griffin, Antonio Allen and Jordan White
For the first time all season, Quinton Coples was unable to make an impact for the New York Jets. The Houston Texans, and their zone-blocking scheme, were able to keep Coples from working his way into the backfield.
The Jets offense is struggling without Stephen Hill, who missed another game with a hamstring injury. Due to injuries to Hill and Santonio Holmes, New York is thin at the wide receiver position. This is part of the reason why Mark Sanchez and the passing game is struggling.
Look for Hill to regain his spot in the lineup once he returns from injury. His combination of size and speed is something that gives him the potential to be a real difference-maker.
Arizona Cardinals: C+
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Picks: Michael Floyd, Jamell Fleming, Bobby Massie, Senio Kelemete, Justin Bethel, Ryan Lindley and Nate Potter
The big story for the Arizona Cardinals this past week against the St. Louis Rams was the struggles of the offensive line. This includes rookie right tackle Bobby Massie, who had a hard time dealing with the Rams' pass-rushers.
However, Massie actually held up better than Arizona's other tackle, D'Anthony Batiste. Where Massie struggled the most was his use of angles and quickness off the snap—too often he was beaten out of his stance by the defensive end.
This wasn't a great performance, but Massie still shows a lot of promise. He just needs time on the field to improve his feel for the game.
Michael Floyd continues to slowly work his way into the Cardinals' offensive game plan. He had three targets against the Rams and hauled in one pass for 17 yards. However, he did have a drop, which is the type of thing that can lead to a decrease in playing time.
San Francisco 49ers: F
Brett Davis-US PRESSWIRE
Picks: A.J. Jenkins, LaMichael James, Joe Looney, Darius Fleming, Trent Robinson, Jason Slowey and Cam Johnson
This is the second consecutive week in which the San Francisco 49ers didn't have a single rookie on the active roster. It's becoming more and more possible that we don't see any members of the 49ers' 2012 rookie class make an impact this season.
The two players who have a chance to work their way onto the active roster are A.J. Jenkins and LaMichael James. However, they'll likely need someone to suffer an injury before they get an opportunity.
Seattle Seahawks: A
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Picks: Bruce Irvin, Bobby Wagner, Russell Wilson, Robert Turbin, Jaye Howard, Korey Toomer, Jeremy Lane, Winston Guy, J.R. Sweezy and Greg Scruggs
The Seattle Seahawks are facing a tough decision with Russell Wilson. He's going through the typical rookie growing pains, but those issues might start to cost Seattle wins. They possess the defense and running game to make a run at the playoffs. However, Wilson isn't really playing at that level.
His biggest issue is his tendency to force the ball into coverage. This has resulted in Wilson throwing six interceptions on the season. If he continues turning the ball over, the Seahawks may give Matt Flynn a shot.
It's also important to note that several of Wilson's interceptions have come off tipped balls. His limited height makes this a long-term concern.
Seattle continued its strange use of Robert Turbin against the Carolina Panthers. He showed in the first couple games that he possesses the quickness to make an impact. That quickness makes him a perfect complement to Marshawn Lynch.
However, the Seahawks aren't committed to working him into the offensive game plan.
Bruce Irvin is quickly becoming one of the more feared pass-rushers in the league. His combination of quickness and use of leverage allows him to use several pass-rush moves. Irvin's two sacks against the Carolina Panthers gives him a total of 4.5 for the season.
It's also important to note his ability to generate turnovers. He has a good feel for the football and knows when to go for the strip. His forced fumble against Carolina, recovered by Seattle, sealed the victory.
Bobby Wagner is proving to be a real difference-maker for the Seahawks. His ability to make plays sideline to sideline is impressive. This past weekend he showed off his blitz timing by recording 1.5 sacks against the Panthers.
St. Louis Rams: A-
Scott Rovak-US PRESSWIRE
Picks: Michael Brockers, Brian Quick, Janoris Jenkins, Isaiah Pead, Trumaine Johnson, Chris Givens, Rokevious Watkins, Greg Zuerlein, Aaron Brown and Daryl Richardson
Janoris Jenkins is proving to be a fearless and talented cornerback. His good instincts mesh well with his aggressive style of play. Against the Arizona Cardinals, he made several strong plays when matched up against Larry Fitzgerald.
Even though Fitzgerald is bigger and stronger, Jenkins played physical and attacked the football. He has the potential to develop into one of the better cornerbacks in the league.
After missing the first few games with an injury, Michael Brockers is starting to finally get in game shape. This week he showed improved stamina, which helped him keep his pad level low. Brockers needs to keep low to maintain leverage and stuff the run.
It's going to take some time before he starts making plays behind the line of scrimmage. However, he's strong enough to provide solid play against the run. Look for Brockers to improve as the season progresses.
The St. Louis Rams are in need of weapons at the wide receiver position. That is why they are taking shots down the field with Chris Givens. His speed allows him to out-pace defensive backs and attack the deep part of the field.
Greg Zuerlein remained perfect on the season by connecting on a 53-yard field goal.
Daryl Richardson is still the No. 2 running back behind Steven Jackson. With Jackson's injury history, it's safe to say we'll see a lot of Richardson this season.
Denver Broncos: C+
Greg M. Cooper-US PRESSWIRE
Picks: Derek Wolfe, Brock Osweiler, Ronnie Hillman, Omar Bolden, Philip Blake, Malik Jackson and Danny Trevathan
Derek Wolfe was able to register a sack against the New England Patriots, but overall he isn't making a major impact for the Denver Broncos defense. His biggest contribution comes from his ability to anchor at the line of scrimmage.
However, he struggles to quickly disengage, which limits his ability to make a play on the football. Wolfe needs to do a better job fighting off blocks and making tackles away from his frame.
Most of his pass rush comes from hustle plays or collapsing the pocket. He doesn't have the quickness to consistently win the edge and generate pressure. Denver isn't doing Wolfe many favors by playing him at defensive end. He's much better suited for a role as a 3-technique.
The Broncos gave Danny Trevathan some playing time on both defense and special teams. He's someone who possesses some potential because of his good quickness and speed. However, he needs time to develop a better feel for the game.
Willis McGahee gets the majority of carries for the Broncos, but Ronnie Hillman is starting to see increased playing time. He's a good fit because he has the quickness McGahee lacks at this point in his career.
Kansas City Chiefs: C+
Denny Medley-US PRESSWIRE
Picks: Dontari Poe, Jeff Allen, Donald Stephenson, Devon Wylie, DeQuan Menzie, Cyrus Gray, Jerome Long and Junior Hemingway
The Kansas City Chiefs continue to see improved play from Dontari Poe. In each game, he is showing increased explosiveness and better technique. Against the Baltimore Ravens, he routinely got a push on the pocket. Poe even did a good job stringing out the play and making tackles away from his frame.
He still has a lot of room for improvement, but it's apparent he possesses a ton of upside.
Jeff Allen had another tough performance at left guard. He was slow off the ball and lacked the explosiveness to generate a push in the running game. Too often Allen was driven into the backfield, which disrupted the timing of the offense.
However, he did show signs of improvement as the game progressed.
Oakland Raiders: C
Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE
Picks: Tony Bergstrom, Miles Burris, Jack Crawford, Juron Criner, Christo Bilukidi, Nathan Stupar and Rod Streater (undrafted)
The Oakland Raiders are lucky that both Rod Streater and Juron Criner were able to provide some type of production. Due to injuries to Denarius Moore and Darrius Heyward-Bey, both players were asked to play a large part in the offense.
Neither produced great numbers, but each provided a solid target for Carson Palmer. The issue is that both offer little upside. This is why Oakland will start working them out of the rotation once everyone gets healthy.
The Raiders defense has received a spark from Miles Burris this season. He's an active linebacker who possesses good quickness and instincts. His ability to seize the weak-side linebacker spot helped solidify the unit. Burris possesses the upside to be a future building block for the Raiders.
Jack Crawford is starting to work his way into the defensive line rotation. In the playing time he received, he showed a decent first step and a high motor. However, the Raiders' decision to bring in Andre Carter could take snaps away from Crawford.
This is something to keep an eye on in the next few games.
San Diego Chargers: C+
Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE
Picks: Melvin Ingram, Kendall Reyes, Brandon Taylor, Ladarius Green, Johnnie Troutman, David Molk, Edwin Baker and Michael Harris (undrafted)
The San Diego Chargers defense has looked much better this season, thanks in large part to the play of the defensive line. This unit is doing a good job both holding up against the run and rushing the passer. Kendall Reyes has established himself as a major part of the rotation.
Against the run, Reyes uses his thick lower half and strength to hold at the point of attack. His heavy hands allow him to quickly disengage. He's able to then make a play on the ball-carrier because of his good short-area burst.
Reyes is still a bit raw, but he's showing that he possesses a ton of potential.
The Chargers continue to use Melvin Ingram at multiple spots. However, they're not really giving him much of an opportunity to rush the passer. Too often the Chargers have Ingram dropping into coverage, which doesn't really play to his strengths.
Ingram will continue to put up disappointing numbers as long as the Chargers keep using him as they have in the early part of the season.
Chicago Bears: C-
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Picks: Shea McClellin, Alshon Jeffery, Brandon Hardin, Evan Rodriguez, Isaiah Frey and Greg McCoy
The Chicago Bears got some bad news after their win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. Rookie wide receiver Alshon Jeffery is going to miss several weeks with a hand injury. This is a major blow, because Jeffery was an important part of the offense.
He was the starter opposite Brandon Marshall and gave the Bears another big target. His improvement from week to week was very noticeable. This injury not only knocks Jeffery out of the lineup, it also hurts his development.
The Bears continue to feature Shea McClellin mostly in passing situations. They love his quickness off the edge and ability to generate pressure on the quarterback. However, it's possible that Corey Wootton starts to take snaps away from McClellin.
Finally healthy, Wootton is starting to show some signs of promise. On the season, he has three sacks compared to the two registered by McClellin.
Detroit Lions: D+
Tim Fuller-US PRESSWIRE
Picks: Riley Reiff, Ryan Broyles, Dwight Bentley, Ronnell Lewis, Tahir Whitehead, Chris Greenwood, Jonte Green and Travis Lewis
The Detroit Lions were on a bye this past weekend, so this is more of an overall look at the rookie class.
Detroit's class hasn't contributed as much as the Lions would've hoped. The biggest contributor is Dwight Bentley, who has struggled at times this season. He's really only getting playing time because Detroit is so thin at the cornerback position.
Bentley has shown good athleticism and plenty of promise. However, he also makes several rookie mistakes per game. His struggles are magnified because of the all-around poor play of the secondary.
The fact that the Lions are also trying to make another run at the playoffs puts Bentley's play in the spotlight.
Detroit hasn't gotten much from Riley Reiff or Ryan Broyles this season. However, these are two players who will see more snaps down the line—especially Broyles, because he's still recovering from a knee injury he suffered in college.
Green Bay Packers: A+
Jeff Hanisch-US PRESSWIRE
Picks: Nick Perry, Jerel Worthy, Casey Hayward, Mike Daniels, Jerron McMillian, Terrell Manning, Andrew Datko and B.J. Coleman
The Green Bay Packers defense continues to get strong play from the rookie class. Each of the first five picks have earned a significant role in the game plan. Moving forward, the Packers have to feel good about the direction of their defense.
Jerron McMillian has been the biggest surprise of the group. His toughness and aggressive play has allowed him to make several key pass breakups. It's also his good ball awareness and timing that make him so effective.
If McMillian is the surprise of the group, Nick Perry is the biggest disappointment. Perry hasn't been able to generate consistent pressure on the quarterback. Green Bay brought him in to help take some pressure off of Clay Matthews. At this point, the Packers appear to trust Erik Walden more than Perry.
However, this past weekend against the Indianapolis Colts, Perry showed some of his upside. During one play, he sacked Andrew Luck and forced a fumble.
Despite struggling to generate pressure, Perry is doing a good job setting the edge against the run.
Casey Hayward is another player seeing a ton of playing time and producing. He was able to record the first interception of his career against the Colts.
Green Bay's defensive line is getting a spark from Jerel Worthy. It appears that he lost some weight, which has increased his explosiveness. Worthy is doing a great job firing off the ball, delivering a jolt and pursing the football. He looks ready to have a breakout performance at any time.
Minnesota Vikings: B
Brace Hemmelgarn-US PRESSWIRE
Picks: Matt Kalil, Harrison Smith, Josh Robinson, Jarius Wright, Rhett Ellison, Greg Childs, Robert Blanton, Blair Walsh, Audie Cole and Trevor Guyton
The Minnesota Vikings found an excellent building block in Matt Kalil. His ability to both protect the passer and open running lanes is one of the reasons the Vikings are off to such a hot start. Kalil uses his balance, long arms and quick feet to provide Christian Ponder with time in the pocket.
This allows Ponder to scan the field and locate open targets. On the season, Ponder is completing 69 percent of his passes. Kalil's protection has a lot to do with Ponder's ability to complete such a high percentage of his throws.
Harrison Smith is fortunate to not be suspended for his actions against the Tennessee Titans. He was ejected from the game because he made contact with a referee. This was a situation where Smith let his emotions get the best of him.
He must find a way to make better decisions, as the Vikings need him on the field.
Minnesota is doing a great job developing Josh Robinson. He's a terrific athlete, but he needs to refine his footwork. So far this season, Robinson is showing better balance and ability to identify routes.
Blair Walsh was a perfect 3-of-3, including a 42-yarder.
Baltimore Ravens: C
Mitch Stringer-US PRESSWIRE
Picks: Courtney Upshaw, Kelechi Osemele, Bernard Pierce, Gino Gradkowski, Christian Thompson, Asa Jackson, Tommy Streeter and DeAngelo Tyson
Courtney Upshaw's performance this season is flying under the radar, but he's playing good football and getting better each week. His ability to set the edge, anchor after contact and make plays away from his frame make him an excellent run defender.
He isn't an elite pass-rusher, but he can generate pressure on the quarterback. His use of leverage and hand placement is what allows him to use a power move to create pressure.
It might be time for the Baltimore Ravens to consider making a change along their offensive line. Kelechi Osemele is really struggling to protect the passer. He just doesn't have the foot speed to overcome his technique mistakes.
Osemele doesn't keep his feet moving, and too often he becomes stationary and tries to reach to make the block. This allows the pass-rusher to flatten out and generate pressure off the edge.
Baltimore continues to give Bernard Pierce a carry here or there, but nothing significant. Ray Rice is this team's workhorse.
Cincinnati Bengals: B-
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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)
Vontaze Burfict is making the most of the opportunity given to him by the Cincinnati Bengals. He's showing the talent that once had him in the discussion to be a first-round pick. His combination of size and quickness allows him to excel in all parts of the game.
However, Burfict still needs to improve in some areas. He must do a better job attacking the line of scrimmage and using his hands to take on blocks. Too often he'll look to avoid the blocker and open a running lane.
Despite the holes in his game, Burfict has a very bright future. He only needs to stay focused and out of trouble.
The Bengals offensive line really benefits from the presence of Kevin Zeitler. He plays with a lot of aggression while also staying disciplined. His strong base and balance plays a major role in his ability to be a good all-around player. This allows him to both anchor in pass protection and generate a push off the line.
Zeitler is quickly becoming the most dependable player along the Bengals offensive line.
Devon Still is still seeing some time in the defensive line rotation, but he has yet to make a major impact.
The Bengals are still waiting for Dre Kirkpatrick to fully heal before they make him active for a game. It could be a few more weeks before we see him make an impact.
Cleveland Browns: A
Jim O'Connor-US PRESSWIRE
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)
Trent Richardson is quickly erasing any doubt the Cleveland Browns might've had in picking a running back with the No. 3 overall draft pick. His ability to contribute in both the running and passing game gives Cleveland an all-around threat.
The Browns offense lacks both playmakers and players capable of performing on a consistent basis. Richardson is one of the few guys they can count on to make a play. Look for the Browns to get him more involved as the season progresses.
Brandon Weeden's play continues to feature a lot of highs and lows. His 62-yard touchdown pass to Josh Gordon showed the potential he possesses. However, the poor decisions he made on his two interceptions show his lack of experience.
It all goes back to Weeden's age (28), as he doesn't have the luxury of taking several seasons to develop.
The Browns have to love what Josh Gordon gave them against the New York Giants. He used his combination of size and speed to provide a vertical threat. It's obvious he has the talent to succeed at this level.
However, it's worrisome that he was only able to haul in two of his eight targets. Gordon needs to do a better job helping his quarterback by making tough catches.
L.J. Fort has earned himself a role on the defense because of his high motor. He'll continue to get playing time as long as he keeps flying to the football.
Pittsburgh Steelers: D-
Jason Bridge-US PRESSWIRE
Picks: David DeCastro, Mike Adams, Sean Spence, Alameda Ta'amu, Chris Rainey, Toney Clemons, David Paulson, Terrence Frederick and Kelvin Beachum
Things haven't been great for the Pittsburgh Steelers' rookie class. However, it appears that there's a chance David DeCastro makes it back on the field this year. DeCastro's knee injury really put the Steelers offensive line in a state of upheaval.
At this point, anything DeCastro can provide would be a major benefit for Pittsburgh.
This past week against the Philadelphia Eagles, Chris Rainey saw a decrease in touches. A lot of this had to do with the return of Rashard Mendenhall, but at the same time, Rainey hasn't really done much with his opportunities.
Atlanta Falcons: F
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Picks: Peter Konz, Lamar Holmes, Bradie Ewing, Jonathan Massaquoi, Charles Mitchell and Travian Robertson
The Atlanta Falcons still aren't getting any production from their rookie class. Most of the group can be found on the inactive list on game day. The only one that offers much hope for the future is Peter Konz. Atlanta sees him as a future starter at either guard or center.
This situation isn't a major problem for the Falcons because they're playing at a high level. Nobody is going to complain when the team starts the season 5-0.
Carolina Panthers: A+
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Picks: Luke Kuechly, Amini Silatolu, Frank Alexander, Joe Adams, Josh Norman, Brad Nortman and D.J. Campbell
The Carolina Panthers did a great job with their draft class by adding players capable of making an immediate impact. Luke Kuechly, Amini Silatolu, Frank Alexander, Josh Norman and Brad Nortman all look like building blocks for the future.
Kuechly continues to play at a very high level. His quickness and excellent closing burst allows him to make plays all over the field. He does a great job identifying the developing play and working his way to the football.
The most impressive part of his game might be his ability to drop into coverage. Kuechly possesses an excellent feel for the routes developing around him. His ball skills make him a threat to pull down interceptions.
Despite showing tons of promise, Kuechly needs to do a better job attacking the line of scrimmage. Too often he gets eaten up by offensive linemen. He must get stronger in to fight off blocks.
Alexander remains an important part of the defensive line rotation. His snap awareness and quick first step help him generate pressure on the quarterback. He also does a good job setting the edge against the run.
The Panthers secondary is much more physical with Norman in the lineup. He isn't afraid to support the run or get physical with a receiver. Norman continues to show a lot of promise.
Against the Seattle Seahawks, Norman averaged over 45 yards per punt while also pinning two balls inside the 20-yard line.
New Orleans Saints: C-
Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE
Picks: Akiem Hicks, Nick Toon, Corey White, Andrew Tiller and Marcel Jones
Against the San Diego Chargers, Akiem Hicks showed that he's continuing to develop. He did an excellent job holding at the point of attack. His size and raw strength are the main reasons he's a capable run defender.
Hicks has a long way to go until he's fully developed, but he is showing tons of potential.
The New Orleans Saints are still giving Corey White plenty of playing time. He's someone who's always around the football making plays. His best attribute is his ability to support the run and deliver big hits, but he needs to work on remaining patient in coverage.
Too often White will bite on play action or double moves.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: B
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Picks: Mark Barron, Doug Martin, Lavonte David, Najee Goode, Keith Tandy, Michael Smith and Drake Dunsmore
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were on a bye this past weekend, so this is more of an overall view of their rookie class.
Lavonte David has been the most productive and impactful rookie on the Buccaneers roster. He's second on the team in tackles, behind only Mason Foster. David's ability to quickly flow from sideline to sideline and make plays behind the line of scrimmage is what makes him such a difference-maker.
The Buccaneers are also getting strong play from Mark Barron. He's showing a lot of improvement from week to week. Everyone knew he'd be a strong run defender, but he's also doing well in coverage. Barron has yet to record an interception, but he has been able to get his hands on a lot of balls.
Doug Martin's low yard-per-carry average has been a disappointment. His struggles are making it tough for the Buccaneers to sustain drives. It's possible that LeGarrette Blount starts to take some carries away from Martin in the near future.
The Buccaneers can't survive with their top back only averaging 3.5 yards per carry.
Houston Texans: C-
Dale Zanine-US PRESSWIRE
Picks: Whitney Mercilus, DeVier Posey, Brandon Brooks, Ben Jones, Keshawn Martin, Jared Crick, Randy Bullock and Nick Mondek
The Houston Texans are one of the NFL's top teams despite not getting much production from their rookie class. At this point, Ben Jones is getting the most playing time as a rotational guard. Houston is still trying to figure out parts of its offensive line, which is why Jones is rotating in and out of the lineup.
Both Keshawn Martin and DeVier Posey are seeing some snaps on offense, but it's obvious that Matt Schaub doesn't trust either player. He'd rather target players like Owen Daniels, James Casey and Kevin Walter.
Still, the Texans will find a way to get both Posey and Martin some touches. They are by far more explosive than any other pass-catcher on the roster, besides Andre Johnson.
Whitney Mercilus is still having a hard time getting snaps on defense. At this point, most of his playing time will come on special teams.
Indianapolis Colts: A+
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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' upset win over the Green Bay Packers won't be much of a surprise as the season progresses. Andrew Luck possesses more than enough talent to lead the Colts to several more upset wins. He also has the poise and leadership ability to make those around him better.
Each week, T.Y. Hilton earns more and more targets. His speed and ability to stretch the field make him a dangerous target. However, he also did a good job coming back to the ball and helping his quarterback. Still, Hilton is raw and needs time to develop as a route-runner.
Luck also makes a point to target Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen. Both tight ends do a good job finding the open holes in the zone and providing Luck with a big target. Fleener has showed the ability to pick up yards after the catch. These two will continue to be a major part of the Colts' offensive game plan.
Donald Brown had knee surgery after the win against the Packers, which means we will see a lot more of Vick Ballard, who is starting this week.
Jacksonville Jaguars: C
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Picks: Justin Blackmon, Andre Branch, Bryan Anger, Brandon Marshall, Mike Harris and Jeris Pendleton
The inaccuracy of Blaine Gabbert is hindering the production of Justin Blackmon. Against the Chicago Bears, Blackmon saw eight targets but was only able to catch three passes for 40 yards. It's hard for any wide receiver to find success when stuck with a below-average quarterback.
Despite the struggles of the offense, Blackmon did do a good job finding the open zone and attacking the ball. His strength and aggressiveness means he'll rarely be out-muscled for the ball.
It appears that Andre Branch is starting to lose snaps to Austen Lane. This move appears to be an attempt to generate more pressure on the quarterback. Lane is one of three players on the Jacksonville Jaguars to record a sack.
Branch still has the potential to develop into an effective pass-rusher, but he needs to develop a better feel for the game.
Bryan Anger continues to earn his third-round price tag. Despite having a ton of attempts, he is still averaging nearly 50 yards per punt. This past weekend, Anger was also able to pin two kicks inside the 20-yard line.
Tennessee Titans: B-
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Picks: Kendall Wright, Zach Brown, Mike Martin, Coty Sensabaugh, Taylor Thompson, Markelle Martin and Scott Solomon
Due to the unreliable nature of Kenny Britt, Kendall Wright has become the Tennessee Titans' top wide receiver. With 11 targets against the Minnesota Vikings, he was the team's most targeted receiver. The reason he's targeted so much is because he does a good job creating in space.
Tennessee can get Wright the ball on wide receiver screens or underneath routes and let him pick up yards after the catch.
The Titans are getting a lot of production out of Mike Martin. He's doing a good job of penetrating the pocket and disrupting the timing of the offense. Martin is able to earn playing time because he's a solid all-around player. He can both hold up against the run and get some pressure on the quarterback.
Zach Brown is slowly showing progress as a football player. His top-end speed allows him to overcome some mistakes, but he'll need to develop a better feel for the game if he wants to excel. The biggest issues facing Brown are false steps and the need to become more physical.
He's trying to make plays with just his athleticism, but he must start to use his head more.