The season is winding down, and even though there’s a couple weeks left to go in the season, it’s not too early to give out grades on the rookie class and their first year in the league and compare the results to what grades were given out right after the Draft. Below you will find each player and my initial Draft Day grades as well my comments, and then current grades and comments.
1.1 – CB Trae Waynes, Colts. INITIAL COMMENTS: The Colts moved up one spot to get their man, Trae Waynes. In a draft where there’s no clear cut obvious first overall pick, it’s usually a safe pick to go with the best CB on the board. Some have argued that Micah Price might have been the better pick here, but Waynes is the most complete Corner in the draft. At 6’1” he is one of the tallest pass defenders in the draft, and no one can best his 96 SPD. Waynes also comes in with relatively high football smarts and phenomenal acceleration. The biggest knocks on Waynes are his small frame (182 lbs) and average hands.
SO FAR, SO GOOD?: Waynes has not had the best rookie season, to be sure, but certainly not the worst. The Michigan State alum has been thrown in for a trial by fire and the results are mixed. Waynes’ biggest impact has been through notching 54 tackles, which is good, but not usually what you hire a DB to do. He has recorded 2 tackles for loss and a forced fumble, but this isn’t what the Colts hired him to do, either. Waynes has 1 pick on the year and 18 deflections. His 45 catches allowed are second most among the rookie class, not a tremendous distinction. He has shown flashes, but it’s been a long season already.
INITIAL GRADE: A-
ROOKIE SEASON GRADE: C+
1.2 - HB Jeremy Hill, Eagles. INITIAL COMMENTS: The first major surprise of the draft comes at the second slot overall. The Eagles came into the draft with many needs and many had Philly taking a WR to give second year QB Malik McNabb some high end targets. Hill is a good player and legitimately a Top 10 prospect (though arguably not even the best HB available), but it feels like a bit of a reach. Not that Hill won’t be a stud someday, but with the recent signing of LeGarrette Blount, it seems the Eagles might be best served going in another direction.
SO FAR, SO GOOD?: Truthfully, it’s hard to find the bright spots for the lackluster season Hill has endured. This isn’t to say Hill won’t be a good back in the future, just that the promise of his rookie season hasn’t lived up to the 2nd pick overall. So far this season Hill has amassed 777 yards rushing, a 3.9 yards per carry average, and 0 TDs. Scoring 0 TDs is hard to do. In fact, it’s the most yards anyone’s ever rushed for without a score (second best: Joseph Addai’s 566 yards in 2011). When a HB has more tackles (3) and sacks allowed (3) than TDs, it’s not a good sign. Still, there are glimpses. Hill recorded his first 100 yard game last week and is within shouting distance of a 1000 yard season.
INITIAL GRADE: B
ROOKIE SEASON GRADE: C-
1.3 – DT Leonard Williams, Patriots. INITIAL COMMENTS: The consensus seemed to be the Patriots would go Tackle – just maybe on the other side of the ball. No matter – the Pats land one of the best prospects in the entire draft. Defensive Tackles aren’t usually sexy picks, but many feel as good of an interior lineman as he projects to be, Williams on the outside may be just as formidable.
SO FAR, SO GOOD?: The Patriots have probably the biggest defensive line in the league. Coming out of college Williams played Tackle and would have made an amazing 4-3 DT. No one even comes close to his blend of speed and agility. The Patriots moved Williams to DE to play in the 3-4, where he also has the skills to excel. So far in 2018 Williams has 5 sacks, quite respectable for a rookie. However, I can’t stop wondering what he’d have been like moved inside.
INITIAL GRADE: A+
ROOKIE SEASON GRADE: B
1.4 – OT Bonaventure Royer, Saints. INITIAL COMMENTS: Many expected Iowa’s Brandon Scherff to be the first Offensive Lineman off the board, but Royer is an undeniable talent and may end up even better than Scherff. Royer is the fastest Tackle in the draft and pairs that with a respectable 93 STR. Additionally, he’s one of the most pro ready Tackles with great awareness and polished blocking skills.
SO FAR, SO GOOD?: As noted above, Royer was initially perceived as having a higher ceiling but in need of polish. Royer has been an incredible addition to the Saints this year, leading all rookies in pancakes (75) while only giving up 3 sacks. Royer had 22 pancakes in 2 games in the middle of the season and didn’t allow a sack thru the first 7 games. Royer is a lock for the All-Rookie team and in the conversation for Rookie of the Year.
INITIAL GRADE: A
ROOKIE SEASON GRADE: B+
1.5 – HB Todd Gurley, Bucs. INITIAL COMMENTS: This Georgia alum seemed destined to end up a Raven, but Tampa Bay, swooped in and nabbed his prize. Many considered Gurley the best HB in the class, and it’s hard to argue with them. Gurley is slightly weaker than Hill, but has a good advantage in terms of pure speed. Perhaps the only knock on Gurley is his average agility, though this is a minor criticism. Expect the Bucs’ running game to be in top form in no time.
SO FAR, SO GOOD?: Gurley burst out of the gate in week 1 with a huge 142 yard game against division rival New Orleans, but then seemed to slow down through the first half of the season. Thru the first 7 games Gurley had managed 581 yards, 1 TD and had a 3.8 average. However, Gurley had the opposite of a rookie wall – in the next 7 games he hit 888 yards, 7 TDs and averaged a stunning 5.3 yards per carry. At this point Gurley is the likely Offensive Rookie of the Year and a tremendous value here.
INITIAL GRADE: A
ROOKIE SEASON GRADE: A+
1.6 – CB Micah Price, Texans. INITIAL COMMENTS: If all of the CBs in the draft were the exact same height, Price likely wouldn’t be in the Top 10 of the DBs available this year. He has great awareness, but beyond that has pretty average attributes across the board. However, the fact of the matter is, not all CBs measure up exactly the same, and Price’s 6’3” has many GMs drooling. There’s little doubt that when considering the whole package, Price will be a beast for Houston, especially through some Training Camp development.
SO FAR, SO GOOD?: Price’s first year stats don’t look that great upon first inspection. Price has 2 picks, which isn’t bad, but also only 7 deflections on the year against 26 catches allowed. These numbers work out to a 2.36 CB Efficiency Rating, which is below average, even for a rookie. Price had a horrible day back in week 5 when he allowed 9 catches and only managed a single deflection. He didn’t have a deflection for 6 straight games in the middle of the season. Still, when you comb thru his game stats, it doesn’t look as bleak as it does on the surface. Much of the damage was done in Price’s first 4 games where he totaled a CB Efficiency of 3.33, which is pretty dreadful. From week 6 on, Price has leveled out a bit. Though he hasn’t had as much playing time recently, His last 9 games has featured a pick, 3 deflections and 6 catches allowed. That’s a 1.20 CB Efficiency, which isn’t bad at all. It may take some time, but he’s shown some true promise.
ROOKIE SEASON GRADE: B
1.7 – OLB Dante Fowler, Dolphins. INITIAL COMMENTS: Not sure what the Dolphins have in mind with Fowler. They look like they played a 4-3 defense last year, but have Defensive Ends that look more suited to a 3-4. Fowler would be an exceptional Linebacker, but I like him primarily as a 4-3 DE. There’s no denying his talent as he was often projected to be a Top 10 pick, but I actually like Randy Gregory as a DE more, and Shane Ray as an OLB more. That being said, I’ve not spent too much time looking at the Dolphin roster and either way, Fowler is exceptional across the board and will be an impact player.
SO FAR, SO GOOD?: The Dolphins have switched back and forth from the 4-3 to the 3-4 all season but it would appear Fowler has spent most of his time as an Outside Linebacker. The results so far have been pretty good – Folwer leads all rookie OLBs in sacks (though he has had 2 and the other two rookies with sacks have had 1 each). Fowler notched 51 tackles, slightly lower than Shane Ray and Randy Gregory. He’s also recorded 9 tackles for loss, which is also among the best for OLBs. Fowler has had a good rookie season, but as the highest OLB pick in league history, you want a little more impact.
ROOKIE SEASON GRADE: B-
1.8 – OLB Shane Ray, Ravens. INITIAL COMMENTS: Like most everyone else, I was convinced the Ravens would go HB here. But then reality happened and the Ravens watched both top prospects go. Ray is just an incredible specimen. He’s the fastest OLB in the class, and one of the strongest. But his real eye-popping attributes are his agility and acceleration. Baltimore may be bummed it didn’t get a HB (or not – who knows), but having Ray is a nice consolation prize.
SO FAR, SO GOOD?: All four of the OLBs taken in the first round are bunched together in terms of production. Ray, the 8th pick overall, has arguably been the best so far. Gregory has more tackles, but Ray’s 16 tackles for loss are best among rookie OLBs, almost by a factor of 2. In fact, they are tied for second overall in the league among all OLBs. Add in his single sack on the season and he is definitely has the inside track. Ray had an amazing 10 tackle, 3 tackle for loss game in week 11 and has managed consistency all season.
ROOKIE SEASON GRADE: B+
1.9 – OG Zack Martin, Seahawks. INITIAL COMMENTS: Curses, Seattle! I cannot tell you how much I was salivating to get Martin before the draft started. My last mock had Martin falling to me at 1.11. Martin is the strongest lineman in the draft and one of the fastest. He’s solid across the board and will definitely be a difference maker on the Seattle line for years to come. Martin comes into the league having played Guard in college, but his attributes are so good, he could easily be moved to Tackle. The only knock on Martin are his average run blocking skills, but they will develop with playing time.
SO FAR, SO GOOD?: Zack Martin has been the most consistent of the rookie Guards. Only 4 of the drafted have seen significant play time, and each has their merits. Kouandjio and Zebedee have more pancakes, but Martin has the fewest sacks allowed (3). His pancake to sack ratio is the best of the group. Martin has not had a game where he has allowed more than a sack, and really only 1 poor performance on the year (0 pancakes, 1 sack allowed). In 8 games, Martin has recorded at least 5 pancakes.
ROOKIE SEASON GRADE: A
1.10 – OT Brandon Scherff, Lions. INITIAL COMMENTS: Wow, did Scherff fall far. Most mocks had him as the first O-Lineman off the board and he falls here landing as the third overall. Probably the reason for the fall is Scherff’s lack of elite speed, even though his is still slightly above average. Still, Scherff was arguably the best overall linemen available, with the highest awareness, best combination of agility and acceleration, and the most polished blocking skills in the class. The Lions made a dramatic trade to land the Iowa product and he’s going to be a keeper for them for sure.
SO FAR, SO GOOD?: As mentioned above, Scherff was considered by some to be the best overall lineman. His rookie season has not disappointed. Scherff has 60 pancakes and only 1 sack allowed so far. He trails Royer in pancakes by a significant margain (80 to 60) but has fewer sacks allowed (though the difference is 3 vs 1). Scherff didn’t allow a sack until week 11 versus the Falcons and followed up that game with his best on the season – 8 pancakes and no sacks. Not too shabby.
ROOKEI SEASON GRADE: A