First-Round Rookie Report Card Grades at NFL's Midseason Mark
With November upon us, the majority of the NFL's 32 teams have reached the midway point of their season. And 27 of the 32 players selected in the first round of the 2019 NFL draft have already started at least one game.
So don't tell us it's too early to hand out grades.
Entering Week 9 of the 2019 season, here are our mid-term report cards for the three quarterbacks, 15 front-seven defenders, three defensive backs, two tight ends, six offensive linemen, two wide receivers and one running back taken in the opening round back in April.
1. Kyler Murray, QB, Arizona Cardinals
Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray has been far from perfect in an up-and-down rookie season, but the key is that a one-year college starter has turned the ball over just four times in nine games.
The 22-year-old is green, low on support and working with a rookie head coach. His rate-based numbers aren't pretty overall, but he's limited his mistakes, he's on pace to rush for over 500 yards, and he's already experienced some clutch moments.
Murray led a fourth-quarter comeback in his very first start, and he's since led game-winning drives against the Cincinnati Bengals and Atlanta Falcons. His passer rating was 85.8 overall entering Week 9, but it was 96.1 in the fourth quarter or overtime of one-score games.
He'll have to learn to react better to pressure and take fewer sacks, and eventually he'll have to become more consistent. But the tantalizing Oklahoma product has pretty much lived up to lofty expectations thus far.
2. Nick Bosa, Edge, San Francisco 49ers
Thirty-eight years ago, Lawrence Taylor was crowned Defensive Player of the Year as a rookie. A first-year player hasn't accomplished that feat since, but there's growing buzz in favor of San Francisco 49ers edge-defender Nick Bosa.
"Right now, he should be in line for defensive MVP," veteran 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman said of Bosa after the 22-year-old recorded three sacks and an unreal interception and return in a statement Week 8 victory over the Carolina Panthers.
If a dude is earning DPOY consideration eight games into his career, he deserves a top grade. And not only was he the October Defensive Rookie of the Month, but he was also the Defensive Player of the Month.
And Bosa might just be scratching the surface. He was limited by an ankle injury for much of September, but he was one of the most dominant players in professional football throughout the month of October.
Only he and Aaron Donald have more than 10 tackles for loss, and only four players have more quarterback hits.
3. Quinnen Williams, DT, New York Jets
New York Jets rookie defensive tackle Quinnen Williams broke through with the first half-sack of his NFL career in a Week 8 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, but the former Alabama star has generally failed to stand out.
In Williams' defense, an ankle injury limited him to just 23 snaps in September, and that entire Jets team has been a raging dumpster fire thus far. Still, as a No. 3 overall pick out of the SEC, he's expected to eventually make an impact in his maiden NFL campaign.
The Jets schedule is about to become comically easy, and Williams has had a chance to get comfortable. He's in the spotlight even more so now that the team has traded veteran Leonard Williams, and we'll see if he can make some splash play in order to bolster his grade in November and/or December.
4. Clelin Ferrell, Edge, Oakland Raiders
Surprise No. 4 overall pick Clelin Ferrell picked up a crucial sack in the fourth quarter of his first-ever NFL game, but the Oakland Raiders edge-defender hasn't laid a finger on an opposing quarterback since then. Meanwhile, he's struggled at times against the run, and he's been penalized four times in six games.
"He now ranks 116th among 117 qualifying edge defenders in overall grade," wrote Mark Chichester of Pro Football Focus this week, "and last among all rookie edge defenders in pass-rush win rate."
It's not a good sign that his playing time has decreased the last couple weeks, although that could be related to the fact the Clemson product missed the team's Week 5 London game due to a concussion. Per Vic Tafur of The Athletic, he also lost 15 pounds due to a stomach virus on that trip.
So we're not condemning a 22-year-old for failing to flourish within one of the league's worst defenses this early on, but he'll need more than one sack and 11 tackles on 255 snaps to merit a top-five selection.
5. Devin White, LB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Like the defensive players selected ahead of him, Tampa Bay Buccaneers rookie linebacker Devin White's first half-season in the NFL has been impacted by injury. In the LSU product's case, a sprained MCL has essentially cost him all but three games.
White has struggled in coverage against backs and tight ends and he's yet to make any splash plays from scrimmage. But he does have 23 tackles, including 15 in his last two outings. And he deserves credit for blowing up Tennessee Titans punter Brett Kern and forcing what should have been a game-altering fumble in Week 8.
It feels like it's only a matter of time before the 2018 Butkus Award winner becomes a weekly difference-maker and a tackle machine in Tampa.
6. Daniel Jones, QB, New York Giants
This one's complicated. If he hadn't led an unbelievable comeback victory over the Buccaneers in his first career start, it'd be hard to give Daniel Jones a passing grade. But the New York Giants rookie quarterback generated four touchdowns in a clutch performance that day, and he helped himself to four more touchdown passes in Week 8 despite losing to the Detroit Lions.
In the four games between those two performances, the Duke product threw nearly twice as many interceptions (seven) as touchdowns (four). He was the league's fourth-lowest-rated qualified passer during that stretch, but let's not pretend he had much support in a banged-up offense that lacked depth to begin with.
He hasn't been consistent at all, and his 13 turnovers and 17 turnover-worthy plays prevent him from earning a decent grade. But few expected Jones to make an early impact in this league, and yet he's done exactly that as both a passer and a rusher. And he's done so despite being under constant pressure (on and off the field) as part of a bad team.
The jury remains out, but there's reason to believe Jones can become something special.
7. Josh Allen, Edge, Jacksonville Jaguars
Jacksonville Jaguars rookie edge-defender Josh Allen has started just three games and played fewer than 70 percent of his team's defensive snaps, but the Kentucky product is tied with Bosa for the rookie lead with seven sacks.
He also has 23 tackles, a pair of forced fumbles, a dozen quarterback hits and twice as many pressures as Ferrell, according to PFF.
He's probably benefited from the fact he's surrounded by talent up front in Jacksonville, but the fact that his raw talent is already flashing at the NFL level indicates stardom awaits. It might not be long before the 22-year-old makes either Calais Campbell or Yannick Ngakoue expendable.
"[Allen] is going to get so much better," Jags head coach Doug Marrone said Sunday, per ESPN.com's Michael DiRocco. "He's playing well for us, but we really have high expectations for him."
8. T.J. Hockenson, TE, Detroit Lions
If not for a massive NFL debut, Detroit Lions rookie tight end T.J. Hockenson might have a failing midseason rookie grade. But that six-catch, 131-yard performance counts for something.
The problem is the No. 8 overall selection has since caught 13 passes for a grand total of 109 yards. He's caught fewer than 60 percent of the passes thrown his way and is averaging fewer than 9.0 yards per reception. He's one of just four qualified pass-catchers below both of those plateaus since Week 2.
Football Outsiders ranks Hockenson outside of the top 25 at his position in terms of both DYAR (Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement) and DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average), which is another indication that his Week 1 showing was probably an anomaly.
That doesn't mean the 22-year-old Iowa product is destined to become a bust. Tight ends—even highly drafted ones—typically struggle as rookies. That includes the likes of Greg Olsen, Vernon Davis and Tony Gonzalez.
But for now, Hockenson deserves a poor grade.
9. Ed Oliver, DT, Buffalo Bills
While physically enticing, Buffalo Bills top-10 selection Ed Oliver was also considered somewhat raw coming out of Houston. Bills head coach Sean McDermott even noted this summer that the defensive lineman had "a long way to go."
Yet Oliver has already become an anchor of one of the league's top defenses.
He's not an every-down player just yet, but he is a starter and has 18 tackles, four quarterback hits and a sack through seven games. And progress is critical. Thirteen of those tackles have come in the last three weeks, and Oliver was much more of a disruptive presence in October than he was in September.
The 21-year-old will eventually have to start making more splash plays in order to live up to his draft position and lofty comparisons to Aaron Donald, but there's little reason to doubt Oliver based on the first two months of his NFL career.
10. Devin Bush, LB, Pittsburgh Steelers
In almost any other season, Devin Bush would be running away with the Defensive Rookie of the Year award. Nick Bosa is spoiling that party, but the linebacker remains a DROY candidate as he continues to perform at a Pro Bowl level for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Bush is the only player in the NFL who has recorded at least seven tackles in every game his team has played this season, and the ESPN Week 8 Monday Night Football broadcast noted he's tied for the league lead with six takeaways (two interceptions and four fumble recoveries).
The Michigan product really has been all over the field, he's performed well in coverage, and he also has a sack and a touchdown under his belt as we enter the third month of his maiden season. He'll ideally start to cut down on missed tackles, but that's a nitpick for a 21-year-old who already looks like a superstar.
11. Jonah Williams, OT, Cincinnati Bengals
As a three-year starter at Alabama, Cincinnati Bengals No. 11 overall pick Jonah Williams was supposed to make an immediate impact as part of Cincinnati's oft-maligned offensive line. But Williams suffered a torn labrum in the spring and has been on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list ever since.
He hasn't yet been ruled out for the season, but for now, we've got nothing to grade.
12. Rashan Gary, Edge, Green Bay Packers
Green Bay Packers rookie edge-defender Rashan Gary has yet to be on the field for more than 40 percent of the defensive snaps in any of the team's first eight games. They're bringing the Michigan product along slowly, which is a luxury that comes with having Za'Darius Smith and Preston Smith on the roster.
Gary is a project, but he's still managed 10 tackles and a sack, and he's looked better as of late. He flashed in run defense in limited snaps two weeks ago against the Raiders, and he helped orchestrate a Za'Darius Smith sack on Matt Moore on Sunday night against the Kansas City Chiefs.
It's far too early to call Gary a bust, but it's not ideal that he's yet to at least rise above Kyler Fackrell on the Packers' outside linebacker depth chart.
13. Christian Wilkins, DT, Miami Dolphins
Only about a dozen interior defensive linemen have more tackles this season than Miami Dolphins rookie defensive tackle Christian Wilkins, who has 23 despite the fact he's basically played in just six games.
Miami has had its bye, and Wilkins was ejected for throwing a punch just two snaps into the team's Week 7 game against Buffalo. Considering he was also benched and chastised for a personal foul two weeks earlier against the Los Angeles Chargers, it's been a rocky start for the No. 13 overall pick.
Beyond those penalties, the Clemson product has generated a little pressure but has yet to lay a finger on an opposing quarterback. Still, those tackle numbers are strong, and he's performed well against the run.
There's a lot of room for this grade to climb or drop, but for now, he's just short of average.
14. Chris Lindstrom, G, Atlanta Falcons
Boston College product Chris Lindstrom performed well enough this spring and summer to earn an opening-day starting job at right guard, but he played just 45 snaps before a foot injury brought an end to his debut.
He hasn't been ruled out for the rest of the season, but it wouldn't be fair for us to judge the 22-year-old until he's played in a complete game or two.
15. Dwayne Haskins, QB, Washington Redskins
Washington Redskins rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins has dropped back to pass 28 times in his young NFL career. Eight of those dropbacks have resulted in either an interception or a sack, while only six have resulted in a first down.
Haskins is stuck in a bad environment on a team that has already fired its head coach, and he was always going to need time as a one-year college starter. But the fact that he's yet to beat out Case Keenum and Colt McCoy is problematic.
He's performed terribly in two relief appearances this year, with three of his four deep pass attempts resulting in interceptions. And while Redskins interim head coach Bill Callahan recently praised the Ohio State product's work on the practice field, there's still plenty of reason for concern.
"Multiple people with knowledge of Haskins's development said Haskins is struggling to learn the team's plays," wrote Les Carpenter of the Washington Post on Tuesday, "and they expressed surprise that he doesn't know them yet."
16. Brian Burns, Edge, Carolina Panthers
After shining in September, Carolina Panthers rookie edge-defender Brian Burns has seen his playing time decrease in each of the last four weeks. And while he was penalized three times against Jacksonville in Week 5, the drop-off in snaps might not be an indictment on the coaching staff's confidence in the Florida State product.
It has a lot to do with veteran Bruce Irvin's return from a hamstring injury, and while Burns expressed his frustration after playing a career-low 22 snaps in Week 8, Panthers head coach Ron Rivera admitted he held Burns back because the 21-year-old underwent wrist surgery during the team's Week 7 bye.
"Just trying to get him used to playing with the cast and having had the procedure done a week ago," Rivera said, per The Athletic's Joseph Person. "He'll learn. He'll learn how to play with it and we'll go from there."
For now, the NFL's Defensive Rookie of the Month for September has the benefit of the doubt.
17. Dexter Lawrence, DT, New York Giants
The Giants aren't good, and their rookie quarterback is hogging all the attention, which might explain why nobody's talking about the team's second first-round pick, Dexter Lawrence.
But the defensive tackle out of Clemson has quietly put together a superb rookie season—one that has displayed his great run defense as well as his ability to bring pressure. He's already got 21 tackles, three quarterback hits, a pair of sacks and a forced fumble, and his 81.3 grade at Pro Football Focus ranks third among rookie first-round picks to this point (behind only Bosa and Josh Jacobs).
His pass-rush win rate at PFF ranks second among qualified interior defensive linemen, behind only Oliver. And while he might lose some playing time with Leonard Williams joining a line that already contains Dalvin Tomlinson and B.J. Hill, expect the 21-year-old to continue to flourish in sub-packages.
18. Garrett Bradbury, C, Minnesota Vikings
Minnesota Vikings rookie center Garrett Bradbury spent the month of October attempting to recover after an abysmal start to his NFL career.
Minnesota had a lot of success on the ground early on despite Bradbury, who after Week 4 was on pace to surrender 52 pressures on the season. That would have been a record-high in the PFF era. But he's rebounded a tad with better run-blocking and four consecutive decent performances as a pass-blocker.
The North Carolina State product had several rookie moments early, but those have largely been replaced by moments in which he looks like a man on a mission. He's got a relentless, mauling playing style, and we all owe him an apology for judging him so harshly in September.
The future looks bright.
19. Jeffery Simmons, DT, Tennessee Titans
Jeffery Simmons probably deserves a high grade just for the fact the rookie Tennessee Titans defensive lineman is back in action just eight months after tearing his ACL.
Nobody really expected the two-time first-team All-SEC Mississippi State product to make much of an impact in 2019, but he's already got a start, a sack, two tackles for loss and seven tackles under his belt.
Most of that came in a monster performance in his debut against the Los Angeles Chargers, but it was a good sign that his snap count at least grew in Week 8. And the Titans Film Room Twitter feed has a great thread highlighting Simmons' impact beyond the stat sheet in that victory over the Buccaneers.
What's scary is that the 22-year-old probably isn't completely up to speed yet.
20. Noah Fant, TE, Denver Broncos
Midway through his rookie season, Denver Broncos tight end Noah Fant has yet to put together a 40-yard game as a receiver. He's scored just one touchdown, and he's averaging just 9.3 yards per reception.
The Iowa product has gained 20-plus yards on four catches this year, but it's not a good sign that none of those receptions came in October. His role seemed to decrease that month, although Denver's continued struggles on offense have to be factored in.
As was mentioned in regard to Hockenson, tight ends frequently struggle early, but Fant's still off to a particularly sad start. He's dropped five passes already, according to The Athletic's Nicki Jhabvala, and only one qualified tight end ranks lower in terms of DYAR and DVOA.
21. Darnell Savage, S, Green Bay Packers
Green Bay Packers rookie safety Darnell Savage missed two games and much of a third in October as a result of an ankle injury, and his Week 8 return to the lineup might have been the worst game of his young career. But that's only because he set the bar awfully high in September.
The Maryland product compiled 17 tackles, three passes defended, a forced fumble and an interception without missing a defensive snap that month, and his passer rating allowed in coverage was just 16.7 at the three-week mark, according to PFF.
Savage needs to become a more disciplined tackler, but he's already emerged as a key member of a strong defense. It seems like he's always around the ball, and he's likely to make some big plays during the second half of his first year in the league.
22. Andre Dillard, OT, Philadelphia Eagles
Philadelphia Eagles rookie offensive tackle Andre Dillard has spent the last two-and-a-half games protecting Carson Wentz's blind side in place of the injured Jason Peters, giving us our first significant regular-season peek at a player who stood out in the offseason but wasn't supposed to play much in 2019.
And while the Washington State product far too often resembled a turnstile in those first two appearances—he allowed 14 pressures on 68 pass-blocking snaps against the Minnesota Vikings and Dallas Cowboys, according to Pro Football Focus—he knocked off the rust with a much better performance Week 8 against the Bills.
He was still responsible for a pair of sacks in Buffalo, but he's making progress and has had some extremely tough matchups. The baptism by fire might be over, and now Dillard should be viewed as only a slight liability moving forward. The question is when we'll see him next, because Peters could be close to a return.
23. Tytus Howard, OT, Houston Texans
In Tytus Howard's most recent full game as Deshaun Watson's right tackle, Watson was hardly touched by the Atlanta Falcons defense. The rookie out of Alabama State had been making substantial progress ever since struggling mightily at guard in his Week 2 debut with the Houston Texans.
But Howard has missed each of Houston's last two games due to a partially torn left MCL, and Watson has been sacked six times in those outings.
They miss him, which is a strong indication that the 23-year-old has lived up to expectations as the No. 23 overall pick in the 2019 draft. The good news is it isn't expected to be a long-term injury, and Howard should be back soon to help bolster a bad offensive line.
24. Josh Jacobs, RB, Oakland Raiders
Josh Jacobs was the first running back off the board in April's draft. And while it was fair to question that pick considering Jacobs' position and lack of college experience, those critical of Oakland's decision have to admit the Alabama product has delivered in a major way.
So much so that Jacobs might have a chance to become the fourth running back in a five-year span to win Offensive Rookie of the Year honors.
PFF's highest-graded rookie first-rounder through eight weeks is the league's sixth-leading rusher and one of the most elusive backs in the league. He runs hard, and he's a closer who has been at his best in big moments. He's tied for the league lead with three runs of 12 yards or more in the fourth quarter of one-score games, which is particularly impressive considering Oakland is 3-3 with a negative-41 scoring margin.
Throw in that he's one of just two qualified backs who are averaging 3.0-plus yards per attempt after contact, and the October Offensive Rookie of the Month is officially off to a monstrous start.
25. Marquise Brown, WR, Baltimore Ravens
Marquise Brown exploded onto the scene with 147 yards and two touchdown catches in his NFL debut back in Week 1, but the Baltimore Ravens rookie wide receiver saw his production decline in each of the following four weeks before missing the next two games due to an ankle injury.
Even though it came a while ago and against the Miami Dolphins, that Week 1 performance can't be ignored. But that ensuing mediocre four-game sample still trumps that outing. He caught just 50 percent of the passes thrown his way and scored only one touchdown during that stretch.
"Hollywood" still needs to refine his game. The good news is he's on track to return from injury in order to work on that in Week 9, but the bad news is he'll be facing the New England Patriots defense.
26. Montez Sweat, Edge, Washington Redskins
You have to feel for rookies who are introduced to the NFL in toxic environments like the one that has surrounded the Washington Redskins this season. With that in mind, Redskins rookie edge-defender Montez Sweat isn't off to a horrible start.
The Mississippi State product has yet to explode as a pass-rusher, but he ranks second among first-round front-seven defenders with 30 tackles in eight starts. His run defense has been exceptional, and he hasn't made any critical mistakes in that discipline.
The problem is he has only 1.5 sacks and 11 total pressures at the midseason mark, despite the fact he's essentially been a full-time pass-rusher. With that in mind, he falls short of an A or B grade.
27. Johnathan Abram, S, Oakland Raiders
Oakland's third and final first-round selection started strong, but safety Johnathan Abram's rookie campaign ended before his debut was complete when he tore his rotator cuff in a victory over the Broncos.
The former Mississippi State star is on injured reserve with only 48 snaps under his belt, and thus he lacks a grade for the time being.
28. Jerry Tillery, DT, Los Angeles Chargers
Los Angeles Chargers first-year defensive tackle Jerry Tillery has enjoyed an uptick in playing time the last two weeks as a result of an injury to veteran Brandon Mebane. But he has just three tackles and hasn't touched an opposing quarterback in two starts since Mebane went down.
That's got to be disappointing for Chargers fans who hoped to see a spark from Tillery after the Notre Dame product was held to just five tackles and two quarterback pressures while serving in a limited role during the first six weeks of the season.
He's got a sack-and-a-half under his belt, and he did blow up a David Montgomery run without getting credit on the stat sheet in the first quarter Sunday, but he's generally been missing in action. Throw in that he's already been penalized three times, and it's ugly.
29. L.J. Collier, DE, Seattle Seahawks
It's no surprise that the Seattle Seahawks are bringing rookie defensive end L.J. Collier along slowly, mainly because they've already got Jadeveon Clowney and Ezekiel Ansah on the edge. But it's not a good sign that the 29th overall selection out of TCU continues to lag behind second-year third-round pick Rasheem Green and third-year UDFA Branden Jackson on the Seattle depth chart.
Collier has just two tackles on 65 snaps, and he's yet to contribute in a meaningful way as either a run-defender or a pass-rusher.
A preseason ankle injury could be factoring in, but he returned from that injury in Week 2 and has been a healthy scratch on two occasions since. The 24-year-old talked this summer about making a big impact as a rookie, but at this point, that appears to be extremely unlikely.
30. Deandre Baker, CB, New York Giants
Giants first-round cornerback Deandre Baker has been badly burned in coverage in three particular games this season. The first two were somewhat forgivable because they were also the first two games of the Georgia product's career, but after a few weeks without major damage, he was again beaten badly on several occasions in a Week 8 loss to the Lions.
At the very least, it was an indication that this'll be an up-and-down season for the first corner selected in the 2019 draft.
Baker's been on the field pretty much all season, but he has just one pass defended and has yet to intercept a pass. Splash plays can compensate for inconsistent play in general, but it's essentially been all bad for Baker outside of a couple good showings against the Buccaneers and Redskins (not exactly the toughest of challengers).
31. Kaleb McGary, OT, Atlanta Falcons
While Atlanta's initial first-round pick hasn't been a factor this season, its second selection from Round 1 has at least started all eight games at right tackle. And while Kaleb McGary is by no means the primary reason the Falcons offensive line has struggled mightily, his lack of consistency hasn't helped.
He's now surrendered five sacks in half a season, which according to PFF is tied for the fourth-highest total in the NFL. He's also taken a few penalties and hasn't done much to pave the way as a run-blocker for a backfield that is averaging just 3.7 yards per carry. Atlanta ranks 26th in the league in terms of adjusted line yards when running behind the right tackle, according to Football Outsiders.
That's not to say McGary can't become something special. He's a grinder who has been hampered by a sprained knee after missing much of training camp and the preseason following a heart procedure. He's shown signs of improvement, too. But thus far, he's yet to ace the test.
32. N'Keal Harry, WR, New England Patriots
Even with veteran Mohamed Sanu now on board, the New England Patriots lack depth in the pass-catching corps. Rookie first-round wide receiver N'Keal Harry could eventually come to the rescue when the No. 32 overall selection returns from an ankle injury, but that's yet to happen. The Arizona State product remains on injured reserve.
Until Harry sees the field, he'll be without a grade.