Insider Buzz: Scouts React to NFL's Best in Week 1

Matt Miller@nfldraftscoutNFL Draft Lead WriterSeptember 10, 2019

Insider Buzz: Scouts React to NFL's Best in Week 1

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    Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

    It can be a bit overwhelming to sit down on a Sunday with 13 NFL games on the schedule.

    You're trying to track your fantasy team, your bets and how your own team is doing. It's exhausting, especially if you also want to keep an eye on the best young players in the league. Maybe you loved following them in college or hoped your team would draft them. But for now, they're on the periphery of your viewing experience.

    I'm here to help.

    After getting caught up on the Week 1 action and talking to scouting sources around the league, we put together a list of the 10 best performances from first- or second-year players.

    And yes, that might be a bit reactionary, but Miami Dolphins players are already asking for trades and Cleveland Browns fans are already cutting eye holes in their paper bags.

    Here we go.

         

Nick Bosa, EDGE, San Francisco 49ers

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    Mark LoMoglio/Associated Press

    Scout's Take: "Surprise, surprise. That guy is really f---king good."

    Sometimes it's that simple.

    Bosa was that good with one sack and a bunch of disruption caused in his first NFL game. The San Francisco 49ers were able to get a win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers thanks to him and the defensive line consistently frustrating quarterback Jameis Winston, which might be the team's modus operandi all season.

    Bosa's power, quickness and smart technique make him a special talent coming off the corner of the 49ers defense. That's why he was the no-brainer No. 2 pick in the 2019 NFL draft.

    With Arik Armstead and Dee Ford also notching sacks and other playmakers like Kwon Alexander and Richard Sherman attacking the Tampa offense, the 49ers proved they can win when the offense isn't elite. Bosa is already a huge part of that.

Marquise Brown, WR, Baltimore Ravens

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    Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

    Scout's Take: "They got defenses so worried about Lamar [Jackson] that safeties are getting sucked up into the box. Then they hit you with the speed over the top; it's a beautiful thing."

    Marquise Brown was the first receiver drafted in 2019 thanks to his elite speed and yards-after-catch ability. That was on display in his debut Sunday as he crushed the Miami Dolphins defense to the tune of 147 yards and two touchdowns on just four catches.

    Moving forward, Brown could be schemed against better than what we saw from Miami. Someone will have the sense to press him and bracket over the top with a coverage safety. But until the right matchup at cornerback can do that, he will remain one of the NFL's most promising speed threats at receiver.

    As far as debuts go, it's hard to top an 80 percent catch rate (four of five targets) and two scores.

Tre Flowers, CB, Seattle Seahawks

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    Lindsey Wasson/Getty Images

    Scout's Take: "This game was a lot closer than it should have been...credit the Bengals...but Flowers was a bright spot for Seattle. Maybe the only one."

    Flowers popped off the screen for the Seattle Seahawks despite a career day for Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton.

    His 10 tackles and one fumble recovery were among the biggest plays for a Seattle defense that seemed caught off guard by Dalton's 418 passing yards on a day without A.J. Green and with Joe Mixon leaving early after he suffered a sprained ankle.

    Flowers is in a great position to carve out a massive role in the Seattle secondary as the Legion of Boom is recreated. More days like the one he had in Week 1 will not only lead to a concrete role for him, but they will also earn him increased recognition.

Michael Gallup, WR, Dallas Cowboys

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    Ron Jenkins/Associated Press

    Scout's Take: "Probably the biggest surprise of the whole week was Gallup. Dude went O-F-F and has Dak [Prescott] looking like a real franchise quarterback."

    The Dallas Cowboys offense was flying on Sunday afternoon with new coordinator Kellen Moore at the controls. Amari Cooper, Randall Cobb and Jason Witten all got their touches, but it was the play of second-year receiver Michael Gallup that turned my head.

    Gallup displayed excellent body control, focus and soft hands while making plays over the middle of the field and stretching the defense. His seven catches for 158 yards led all Dallas receivers even on a day that saw Cooper turn heads with six receptions for 106 yards and a score.

    If Dak Prescott has the weapons that were on display for Dallas in the opener—and yes, we must note the New York Giants defense isn't much to write home about—the Cowboys will make plenty of noise in the NFC East.

    As Gallup emerges as the No. 2 receiver, he's a budding star to watch.

T.J. Hockenson, TE, Detroit Lions

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    Ralph Freso/Getty Images

    Scout's Take: "Hockenson did exactly what we all thought he'd do. He's George Kittle all over again, but as a top-10 pick."

    The best debut ever for a tight end now belongs to the Detroit Lions' T.J. Hockenson. With 131 yards on the day—coming on six catches and with a touchdown added—he was unstoppable in a game that shockingly ended in a tie after the Lions squandered a 17-point lead.

    Don't let the fourth-quarter heroics of Arizona Cardinals rookie quarterback Kyler Murray overshadow the fact that Hockenson was a rockstar for the Lions. Not only was he the team's go-to target in the passing game, but he also functioned as such at a position that rarely experiences early success in the NFL.

    The Lions' run game didn't get going quite as expected, and that's one area in which Hockenson can likely help moving forward. But the early returns were exceptional for the former Iowa Hawkeye.

Sam Hubbard, EDGE, Cincinnati Bengals

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    Abbie Parr/Getty Images

    Scout's Take: "I thought Hubbard played really well. He's powerful, quick, smart with his hands...kind of a poor man's Frank Clark."

    Hubbard was electric as the Cincinnati Bengals nearly pulled off the biggest upset of Week 1 against the Seattle Seahawks.

    His two sacks of Russell Wilson kept the Bengals' hopes alive and showed that after a rookie season where he played fewer than 50 percent of defensive snaps, he's ready to become the star defensive end the team expected after it selected him out of Ohio State in the third round of the 2018 draft.

    Taking down Wilson isn't an easy task, no matter how embattled his offensive line has been in the past. Hubbard getting him twice should be something fans both in and out of Cincinnati make note of.

Lamar Jackson, QB, Baltimore Ravens

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    Michael Reaves/Getty Images

    Scout's Take: "If Lamar is throwing like this...that division is in trouble because [the Ravens] already had a great defense and good run game."

    "Not bad for a running back" is how Jackson put it to reporters after the game. Not bad, indeed.

    Going 17-of-20 for 324 yards and five touchdowns is a great way to silence the critics and doubters. Jackson torched an overmatched Miami Dolphins defense, but perhaps most surprising was that he did so with his arm and not his legs.

    After being almost equal parts runner and thrower in 2018, Jackson spent the offseason working more on his mechanics and accuracy.

    That showed on Sunday, and not just on the stat sheet as Jackson's improved accuracy on outside routes was notable. That's a route with which he routinely struggled both at Louisville and during his rookie season, but Week 1 showcased his growing touch, timing and placement.

    That's great news for the Baltimore Ravens, who sit atop the AFC North after Week 1. It's terrible news for the rest of the division.

Gardner Minshew II, QB, Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Perry Knotts/Associated Press

    Scout's Take: "I loved this kid at Washington State, and you see why now. He doesn't know how to be afraid. Nothing is too big for him. Hell, he might take [Nick] Foles' job for good."

    Minshew was good on Sunday after he was pressed into duty when Foles left the game with an injury that would later be diagnosed as a broken clavicle. Foles is now out for an extended time, and Minshew has a big opportunity to make his statement.

    Facing a Kansas City Chiefs defense that had its ears pinned back with a comfortable lead, Minshew was a crisp 22-of-25 for 275 yards and two touchdowns. That's enough to provide belief he can carry the torch as the starting quarterback until Foles returns...and maybe longer.

    Minshew's perfect 13-of-13 start is the record for a debut performance in the NFL's last 40 years. That's a great first line on his professional resume.

Taylor Rapp, Safety, Los Angeles Rams

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    Grant Halverson/Getty Images

    Scout's Take: "Losing Eric Weddle could have crippled the defense, but Rapp really played well when asked to step up."

    One of the biggest surprises of the 2019 draft came when Washington's Taylor Rapp fell to the end of Round 2 before the Los Angeles Rams wisely drafted him to fill a future starting role at safety. The future started on Sunday when veteran Eric Weddle went down with an injury.

    The Rams, facing a speedy Carolina Panthers offense, needed Rapp to not only try stopping Christian McCaffrey in his numerous roles but also to keep tabs on tight end Greg Olsen. He had a few miscues, but his seven tackles and ability to step into a spot for which he wasn't prepared deserve a ton of praise.

    Rapp's status as a second-rounder means the Rams had plans for him to eventually become a starter. Until Weddle, who has entered the concussion protocol, is back healthy, he'll be asked to fill one of the most important roles in Wade Phillips' defense.

Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Dallas Cowboys

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    Roger Steinman/Associated Press

    Scout's Take: "LVE is just so poised and smart...plus really athletic. It's like watching a young, healthy Luke Kuechly again."

    No one would blame you if you forgot Dallas Cowboys standout linebacker Leighton Vander Esch was only starting his second year in the NFL. Not after he became one of the league's best at his position during his standout 2018 season.

    Paired with Jaylon Smith, Vander Esch is everything a team could want at linebacker. He showed that again in the Cowboys' opening-day beatdown of the New York Giants. Asked to take away the inside running lanes for Saquon Barkley and otherwise frustrate Eli Manning, he answered with 10 tackles, 0.5 sacks and one forced fumble.

    That's a pretty solid day for a player who is quickly outplaying the expectations.

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