First-Round Rookie Report Card Grades at NFL's Quarter Mark

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistOctober 2, 2019

First-Round Rookie Report Card Grades at NFL's Quarter Mark

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    Matt York/Associated Press

    When a team takes a player in the first round of the NFL draft, that player is usually expected to make an immediate impact. There are exceptions, of course. But for the most part, the days of rookies waiting and learning from the sidelines are over.

    Unsurprisingly, the days of waiting to grade rookies have also passed.

    Most of this year's first-round class has seen the field during the first month of the 2019 season. We're here to judge which players have shined and which have stumbled.

    Letter grades will be assigned based on in-season performances—statistically and on film only. There won't be a curve here, as players can't control where in the first round they are taken, only how they perform after the fact.

    Presented in the order in which they were drafted, here's a look at all 32 rookies from Round 1.

           

    You know Stick to Football covered all these rookies intensely leading up to and after the draft. Here's their latest podcast that looks at way-too-early NFL awards (including rookie of the year), an interview with Jerry Rice and more. Check it out here

1. Kyler Murray, QB, Arizona Cardinals

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    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    Through four weeks, Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray has looked a lot like a rookie quarterback. That's unsurprising because, well, Murray is a rookie quarterback. He's made some bad decisions, held onto the ball too long at times and taken unnecessary sacks.

    That's the bad, and it's to be expected to a degree.

    The good news is that Murray hasn't looked completely overwhelmed as a Day 1 starter. He's played a confident brand of football and isn't in danger of being pulled as long as he stays healthy.

    Murray's talent has been on full display, too. He's already passed for 1,071 yards and rushed for another 113. He's operated Kliff Kingsbury's offense well, even with excruciatingly poor play from the line in front of him.

    Could Murray be performing better? Sure, but he's far from the biggest reason the Cardinals sit at 0-3-1.

    Grade: B+

2. Nick Bosa, Edge, San Francisco 49ers

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    Tony Avelar/Associated Press

    The sack numbers haven't been there for San Francisco 49ers edge defender Nick Bosa. He has just one on the season. However, his presence off the edge has been felt early and often. The goal moving forward must be learning how to finish.

    "It's coming together. I just got to keep going. The finishing part is tough because you never practice it," Bosa said, per Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area. "Sometimes it's like, 'Wait a minute, I beat the lineman, so what do I do now?' It's just getting used to finishing plays, and that will come."

    The finishing part is the one thing keeping Bosa from a perfect grade here. Once he's able to consistently turn pressures into sacks, he's going to be a viable Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate.

    Grade: A-

3. Quinnen Williams, DT, New York Jets

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    Seth Wenig/Associated Press

    It's difficult to put a grade on Jets defensive tackle Quinnen Williams because he's missed the past two games with an ankle injury. It isn't impossible, however.

    Williams did play in the season opener, and he failed to record a tackle. According to FootballGuys, he played 24 defensive snaps in that game against the Buffalo Bills, which equated to 35 percent of the total snaps. Though the Jets never planned to start him out of the gate, he was expected to be a bigger and more impactful piece of the defense.

    The good news is that Williams should be "good to go," according to head coach Adam Gase. We should see much more from the Alabama product in the coming weeks.

    For now, though, Williams' limited and lone appearance has left a lot to be desired.

    Grade: C-

4. Clelin Ferrell, Edge, Oakland Raiders

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    Jim Mone/Associated Press

    The Oakland Raiders turned a few heads when they made Clemson's Clelin Ferrell the fourth overall pick in the draft. Not many draftniks viewed him as one of the best pass-rushers in the draft, and Bleacher Report draft analyst Matt Miller had him ranked sixth among edge rushers.

    While Ferrell hasn't proved the Raiders are geniuses—he has just one sack on the season—he's been a solid all-around player for the new-look defense. In addition to racking up the one sack and 10 tackles, he has two passes defended through four games.

    The problem is that the Raiders drafted Ferrell to spark their pass rush, and that's an area in which they are still struggling. They're tied for 25th with just five sacks on the year.

    Grade: B-

5. Devin White, LB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    The Ferrell pick was even more surprising because it left inside linebacker Devin White on the board. With the short-passing game becoming more prevalent in the NFL, linebackers who can run, hit and cover like White are in high demand.

    Unfortunately, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have only gotten a limited look at White, as he's missed the last two games with an MCL sprain in his left knee.

    Based on what we saw in Week 1, however, White is likely to be a star. He racked up six tackles, five of which were solo, in his NFL debut. He had two more tackles in Week 2 before leaving early with the knee injury.

    The former LSU standout should get back to racking up tackles whenever he is able to return.

    Grade: B

6. Daniel Jones, QB, New York Giants

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    Adam Hunger/Associated Press

    New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones is 2-0 as a starter. He led the Giants to a comeback victory in his debut, and he's certainly a more dynamic player than an aging Eli Manning.

    However, Jones has been far from perfect.

    While he has produced five touchdowns in two games—three passing, two rushing—he's also turned the ball over five times. His win over the Buccaneers in Week 3 was impressive, but it only came after Tampa missed a field-goal attempt on its final drive.

    There is still plenty of room for growth here.

    Still, Jones' positives are obvious. He's mobile, can avoid pass-rushers and can gain yards on the ground (66 so far). Plus, the pro game does not appear too big for him. It's too early to call Jones a star in the making, but New York should feel excellent about its future at the quarterback position.

    Grade: B

7. Josh Allen, Edge, Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Stephen B. Morton/Associated Press

    Many folks, including Bleacher Report's Matt Miller, viewed Kentucky's Josh Allen as the second-best pass-rusher in the 2019 draft. So far, the Jacksonville Jaguars rookie has lived up to expectations.

    Allen has started three of four games and has already amassed 12 tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble.

    "They brought me here to do one thing: to make plays," Allen said, per Alex Butler of UPI.com.

    Between Allen and quarterback sensation Gardner Minshew II, the Jaguars should feel fantastic about how their rookie class is developing.

    Grade: A

8. T.J. Hockenson, TE, Detroit Lions

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    Rick Osentoski/Associated Press

    Eighth overall may feel a bit high for a tight end, but Iowa's T.J. Hockenson isn't your average tight end. He's a legitimate playmaker as a pass-catcher, and that's why the Detroit Lions were willing to scoop him up with a top-10 selection.

    So far, Hockenson has been as advertised. He made his presence known immediately, catching six passes for 131 yards and a touchdown in the season opener. For the year, he has 11 catches, 166 yards and two scores.

    Unfortunately, Hockenson suffered a nasty-looking hit in Week 4 and is likely to spend a fair bit of time in the concussion protocol. Once he's able to return, though, he should go right back to being one of Matthew Stafford's favorite new weapons.

    Grade: B+

9. Ed Oliver, DT, Buffalo Bills

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    Adrian Kraus/Associated Press

    Based purely on statistics, Buffalo Bills defensive tackle Ed Oliver hasn't been especially impressive. He has just five tackles and a batted pass in four games.

    However, Oliver has been more valuable than those stats would indicate. He's started all four games, has played multiple positions along the line and has been able to generate pressure from the interior, though he has yet to finish with a sack.

    "He's got a lot of work to do just in terms of the overall down in and down out execution, coordination with the rush plan," head coach Sean McDermott said, per Mike Johnson of the Buffalo News.

    As is the case with Bosa, Oliver will grade out even higher once he's able to finish consistently.

    Grade: B+

10. Devin Bush, LB, Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Justin Berl/Getty Images

    The Pittsburgh Steelers traded up to 10th overall to snag former Michigan linebacker Devin Bush. Part of the reason was likely to keep him away from the rival Cincinnati Bengals at No. 11.

    The Steelers should surely be glad they made the move.

    Bush hasn't been perfect during his first month of NFL action. He's still learning to cover premier tight ends like George Kittle, though plenty of veterans have failed to cover that guy. But he has been everything the Steelers have needed since losing Ryan Shazier to a spinal injury two years ago.

    Bush has played true sideline-to-sideline defense, and he's repeatedly found his way to the football. Through four weeks, he already has 37 tackles, a sack, a batted pass and a league-leading three fumble recoveries.

    Right now, Bush looks like the front-runner for Defensive Rookie of the Year.

    Grade: A+

11. Jonah Williams, OT, Cincinnati Bengals

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    John Minchillo/Associated Press

    The Cincinnati Bengals used the 11th overall pick on former Alabama offensive tackle Jonah Williams. The plan was for him to be the new anchor on the offensive line. Unfortunately, he suffered a torn labrum in the spring and was placed on injured reserve.

    For Williams, there likely won't be anything to grade until the 2020 season.

    Grade: Incomplete

12. Rashan Gary, Edge, Green Bay Packers

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    Matt Ludtke/Associated Press

    Green Bay Packers rookie Rashan Gary hasn't seen a ton of pass-rushing opportunities this season. However, that says more about the Packers defense than it does about Gary.

    Green Bay's primary pass-rushers are Preston Smith and Za'Darius Smith, who have combined for 7.5 sacks through four games.

    Gary has a sack of his own, though, to go with five tackles and a solid amount of rotational work.

    Right now, Gary's value lies in his ability to give one of the Smiths a break without the Packers losing a lot in the pressure department. This is the role Green Bay envisioned for him when he was drafted, and he hasn't disappointed. Should he finish his rookie campaign with five or six sacks in a rotational role, it should be considered a success.

    Grade: B-

13. Christian Wilkins, DT, Miami Dolphins

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    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    The Miami Dolphins have had few bright spots this season, but rookie defensive tackle Christian Wilkins has been one of them.

    Yes, Wilkins was benched by head coach Brian Flores for a dumb unnecessary roughness penalty in Week 4. However, he was also one of the most disruptive players on the field. According to Pro Football Focus, he was the highest-graded player on the entire team Sunday.

    There will likely be many weeks in which Wilkins is Miami's best player. He's a terror at the point of attack and has already racked up 17 tackles and nine solo stops, which are impressive numbers for a 3-4 defensive end.

    Wilkins looks like a future centerpiece of Flores' defense.

    Grade: A

14. Chris Lindstrom, G, Atlanta Falcons

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    Michael Reaves/Getty Images

    Atlanta Falcons guard Chris Lindstrom has a limited but promising resume. He suffered a high ankle sprain in the season opener and was forced to undergo foot surgery.

    "Chris had has surgery," head coach Dan Quinn said, per D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "He did that [Wednesday] and is doing well."

    Though Lindstrom has been forced to withdraw—he's now on injured reserve—he did so with a passing grade. According to Pro Football Focus, he committed just one penalty and didn't allow a sack in his NFL debut.

    Grade: C+

15. Dwayne Haskins, QB, Washington Redskins

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    Adam Hunger/Associated Press

    Former Ohio State star Dwayne Haskins finally saw the field in Week 4, and the results weren't pretty. He completed just 52.9 percent of his passes for 107 yards and three interceptions.

    Blaming Haskins alone for his poor debut isn't exactly fair, though. Head coach Jay Gruden was looking to spark his offense when he put Haskins on the field, and the plan backfired.

    "The rookie QB was simply the unlucky desperate measure at a time when Washington has been without Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams, stud tight end Jordan Reed and, at New York on Sunday, top receiver Terry McLaurin, starting center Chase Roullier and Pro Bowl right guard Brandon Scherff," Andy Benoit of Sports Illustrated wrote.

    Haskins wasn't ready to see the field, and that's OK.

    The fault lies with Gruden for placing him in such a difficult situation with so little offensive support. Gruden's ineptitude isn't being graded here, though; Haskins' on-field performance is, and that wasn't good.

    Grade: D

16. Brian Burns, Edge, Carolina Panthers

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    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    Florida State product Brian Burns wasn't the first pass-rusher off the board, but he's been the most productive among first-rounders in the stat that counts. He has already given the Carolina Panthers 2.5 sacks, which is more than any defender drafted above him has produced. He also has 11 tackles.

    According to Burns, he and the Panthers are just beginning to find their groove on defense.

    "Honestly, y'all ain't seen nothin' yet," Burns said after the defense racked up 14 sacks in the first two weeks, per Panthers reporter Max Henson.

    Carolina is currently tied for the NFL lead with 18 sacks, and Burns has been a big part of the success.

    Grade: A

17. Dexter Lawrence, DT, New York Giants

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    Michael Reaves/Getty Images

    The Giants should be happy with what they've seen from Daniel Jones thus far. They should be equally pleased with how rookie defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence has performed. The Clemson product has been a force in the interior and has already racked up eight tackles and a sack.

    "As a rookie playing interior d-line, you're gonna have some bumps and bruises. But I definitely see growth in him every game. I like him in there and I like his ability to be more than just a run-stuffer," former Giants defensive lineman Justin Tuck said, per Anthony Rivardo of Empire Sports Media.

    Lawrence was largely viewed as a run-stopping tackle entering the draft, but he's proving to be a complete player and a smart pick at No. 17 overall.

    Grade: B+

18. Garrett Bradbury, C, Minnesota Vikings

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    Bruce Kluckhohn/Associated Press

    Minnesota Vikings rookie offensive lineman Garrett Bradbury has produced some good and some bad this season. He's managed to hold down the starting center spot, which is good. He's also helped spring a running game that has averaged 155.3 yards per game, and that's even better.

    However, Bradbury has been a liability in pass protection, which is obviously bad. He has only been responsible for one sack, affording to Pro Football Focus, but he's had three penalties and has appeared overwhelmed by power rushers such as Grady Jarrett and Kenny Clark. To be fair, plenty of centers are overwhelmed by those two.

    Quarterback Kirk Cousins has looked skittish in the pocket this season, and his lack of quality interior protection could be a big reason why.

    Only Bradbury's ability to open interior running lanes keeps him from a failing grade.

    Grade: D

19. Jeffery Simmons, DT, Tennessee Titans

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    Mike Stewart/Associated Press

    Mississippi State defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons suffered a torn ACL while preparing for the scouting combine. The Tennessee Titans drafted him knowing he probably wouldn't see the field until the 2020 season.

    While he came into the draft with the potential to be a top-10 selection, we'll likely have to wait another year to give Simmons a definitive grade.

    Grade: Incomplete

20. Noah Fant, TE, Denver Broncos

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    Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

    Quarterback Joe Flacco likes throwing to his tight ends. According to Ryan O'Halloran of the Denver Post, at least one tight end ranked among the top five in terms of receptions for the Baltimore Ravens each year during Flacco's tenure there.

    Knowing Flacco's affinity for pass-catching tight ends, the Denver Broncos scooped up Iowa's Noah Fant with the 20th overall pick.

    While Fant hasn't been as explosive as his former teammate T.J. Hockenson, he's been a consistent piece of the Denver passing attack. He has caught at least two passes in every game this season and has 11 catches for 130 yards on the year. He also caught his first NFL touchdown in Week 4.

    Expect Fant to continue to develop as a receiving weapon throughout his rookie campaign.

    Grade: B+

    6.2.6

21. Darnell Savage, S, Green Bay Packers

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    Stacy Revere/Getty Images

    The Packers entered April's draft looking for a fast, physical and productive safety to add to their secondary. They got the perfect candidate in Maryland's Darnell Savage Jr.

    Savage has been one of the most productive players on Green Bay's emerging defense. He's started all four games and has already racked up 17 tackles, three passes defended, a forced fumble and an interception.

    Savage's ability to make impact plays has made him stand out in Mike Pettine's defense.

    While Savage is still adjusting to being an NFL cover man, he has delivered big plays that have helped Green Bay go 3-1 to start the season.

    Grade: A

    6.2.6

22. Andre Dillard, OT, Philadelphia Eagles

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    Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

    The Philadelphia Eagles drafted Washington State tackle Andre Dillard as the heir apparent to longtime left tackle Jason Peters. They've stuck with that plan, as Dilliard spent the bulk of September on the bench.

    According to Pro Football Focus, Dillard has played only nine snaps this season.

    There's nothing wrong with grooming a lineman to be a future starter, though it does leave us with little to grade for the time being.

    Grade: Incomplete

    6.2.6

23. Tytus Howard, OT, Houston Texans

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    Meg Oliphant/Getty Images

    The Houston Texans offensive line has been a disaster this season. Houston traded away a pair of first-round picks to acquire Laremy Tunsil from the Dolphins, but the line has still been the team's biggest weakness.

    Quarterback Deshaun Watson has already been sacked 18 times, which puts him on pace for 72 on the year.

    While the Texans can't be happy with the overall play of their line, they have to be pleased with the progress of rookie right tackle Tytus Howard. The Alabama State product has started each of the last three games and has allowed only one sack and drawn two penalties, according to Pro Football Focus.

    Considering how poorly the Texans line has been as a whole, Howard should be considered one of the better pieces of it.

    Grade: B-

    6.2.6

24. Josh Jacobs, RB, Oakland Raiders

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    AJ Mast/Associated Press

    Heading into the draft, Alabama running back Josh Jacobs drew some comparisons to New Orleans Saints star Alvin Kamara. That was largely due to Jacobs' athletic profile and his limited workload in college, and the Raiders had to be thrilled to land him at 24.

    Through four weeks, Jacobs hasn't been the next Kamara. He's been far less valuable in the passing game and has only three receptions on the season.

    That's partially a product of the Raiders offense, though. Jalen Richard leads all backs with only six receptions.

    As a pure runner, Jacobs has been phenomenal. He's already rushed for 307 yards and two touchdowns and has averaged 5.0 yards per carry. He rushed for only 3.7 yards per carry in the season opener but has topped four yards per carry in every game since.

    In time, Jacobs should become a bigger presence in the passing game. But he's already performing like a workhorse runner, which should make the Raiders ecstatic.

    Grade: A

    6.2.6

25. Marquise Brown, WR, Baltimore Ravens

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    Gail Burton/Associated Press

    The Baltimore Ravens made wideout Marquise Brown the first receiver off the board at No. 25 overall, largely because of his breakaway speed. That speed has been on display early in the season, as he has both produced big plays and helped open up room for the running game.

    During Brown's first NFL game, he caught four passes for 147 yards and two touchdowns.

    Though Brown does need to work on his route-running and consistency—he was held to only four catches and 22 yards on seven targets against the Cleveland Browns in Week 4—his potential is undeniable.

    He's helping to expand the Ravens passing attack, both as a receiver and as a decoy, and he has enough big-play ability to top the 1,000-yard mark even with only a handful of catches per game.

    Grade: B+

    6.2.6

26. Montez Sweat, Edge, Washington Redskins

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    Mark Tenally/Associated Press

    Montez Sweat hasn't broken out as a pass-rusher yet, although he did get his first career sack in Week 3. Regardless, he's been an active member of Washington's defense.

    He's started all four games and has amassed 18 tackles and a sack.

    The Redskins didn't bring Sweat in to be a run-stopper, but he's had an encouraging start. It's better to be active against the run while learning the nuances of NFL pass rushing than to be a complete non-factor on defense.

    Expect Sweat to continue racking up tackles as he continues to expand his pass-rushing repertoire.

    Grade: C+

    6.2.6

27. Johnathan Abram, S, Oakland Raiders

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    Peter Joneleit/Associated Press

    The Oakland Raiders used the 27th overall pick on Mississippi State safety Johnathan Abram, hoping that he could add some bite to the back end of their defense. He did exactly that in his NFL debut, finishing with five tackles and a batted pass.

    Unfortunately, Abram also suffered a torn rotator cuff during the game, which caused him to land on injured reserve.

    "Big blow to our team," Raiders head coach Jon Gruden said at the time, per Paul Gutierrez of ESPN. "No question it's a big loss."

    The Raiders only got a limited look at Abram and likely won't see him again in 2019. However, what they saw was encouraging.

    Grade: C+

    6.2.6

28. Jerry Tillery, DT, Los Angeles Chargers

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    Gregory Bull/Associated Press

    Los Angeles Chargers defensive tackle Jerry Tillery finally started to flash a bit in Week 4 against the Dolphins. He made two tackles and got a half-sack, although the numbers aren't all that impressive against a Miami team that isn't equipped to win.

    In fact, Tillery hasn't been impressive at all so far.

    He has only four tackles on the season, and while he's playing a rotational role, one would think he'd be more productive to this point. After all, he does get to play between two of the NFL's top pass-rushers.

    Still, Tillery's slow start shouldn't be surprising. He underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum in March and missed a significant amount of offseason work because of it. 

    Tillery has failed to make a real impact to this point, but that should change as he continues to develop and adjust to the pro game.

    Grade: C-

    6.2.6

29. L.J. Collier, DE, Seattle Seahawks

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    Not all rookies are going to see extensive playing time, even when they're drafted in Round 1.

    Still, it's tough to see a first-round pick being a healthy scratch, as Seattle Seahawks defensive end L.J. Collier has been twice this season.

    "He's just so new," head coach Pete Carroll said, per Joe Fann of NBC Sports Northwest. "He had a good opportunity last week because of the numbers on the roster and all that. We're just trying to work him back up."

    Collier appeared in Week 2 and again in Week 4, but he hasn't had much of an impact even when he's been active. He has only one tackle on the season.

    Grade: D+

    6.2.6

30. Deandre Baker, CB, New York Giants

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Giants cornerback Deandre Baker has had an up-and-down rookie season, although it's mostly been down.

    Baker finished Week 3 ranked 106th out of 107 qualifying cornerbacks by Pro Football Focus, according to Dov Kleiman, and has has yet to defend a pass.

    It's fair to say that Baker hasn't made a quick transition to the pro game.

    "He's a rookie corner and he's learning how to play the game at this level," Giants head coach Pat Shurmur said, per Mark Cannizzaro of the New York Post. "I think he keeps challenging and he'll keep getting better, because he has the skill and the ability to do it."

    However, Baker bounced back a bit in Week 4, helping to hold the Redskins to just 121 yards passing. He should continue to improve, but his first month as a pro has been difficult.

    Grade: F

    6.2.6

31. Kaleb McGary, OT, Atlanta Falcons

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    The Atlanta Falcons offensive line has not played well this season. It has allowed 10 sacks and has helped spring a pedestrian 4.0 yards per carry.

    However, rookie tackle Kaleb McGary has rarely been part of the problem.

    The Washington product has started all four games for the Falcons and has been responsible for only one sack and two penalties, according to Pro Football Focus. Those aren't bad numbers for a guy playing the first four games of his NFL career.

    McGary has also shown some toughness. He exited Week 2 with a knee injury only to return in the fourth quarter and finish out the game.

    The Falcons should be relieved that he escaped without a serious injury, and they should be glad to have him anchoring the right side of their offensive line.

    Grade: A-

    6.2.6

32. N'Keal Harry, WR, New England Patriots

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    Duane Burleson/Associated Press

    The New England Patriots lost star tight end Rob Gronkowski to retirement in the offseason. However, they added another potential offensive mismatch by drafting former Arizona State wideout N'Keal Harry with the final pick in Round 1.

    Unfortunately, the Patriots don't yet know what they have in Harry.

    He caught two passes for 36 yards in the preseason opener before landing on injured reserve with an ankle injury. According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, the Patriots are expected to bring Harry back at some point this season, but he can't return until Week 9 at the earliest.

    For now, however, New England is operating without its first-round pick.

    Grade: Incomplete

    6.2.6

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