Welcome to the Rookie Report! Each week you’ll find me here recapping how the newest class of NFL players are doing. After last season’s rookie explosion with Odell Beckham Jr, Mike Evans, Sammy Watkins and others, drafting players who are just entering the NFL has become trendy. While not every rookie will be a star right away, some will be must owns this season.
A good, late round rookie can be overlooked on the waiver wire or buried on someone’s depth chart but if you can get to these guys first, you’re season can turn around.
How many people won their leagues last year because of Beckham? And since Beckham was so good last year, every manager is going to have their eyes peeled for rookies this year. Hopefully, I can give you a heads up on who played great the week before and who’s been on a bit of a hot streak.
Obviously, no meaningful games have been played yet but we can still pull stuff from the preseason.
Let’s take a look at a few rookies of interest.
Marcus Mariota, QB, Tennessee Titans
Back in his college days, everyone knew Marcus Mariota as one of the most efficient quarterbacks of all time. He racked up yards and points while rarely turning the ball over. Last season he only had four interceptions all year! Man that guy knows how to take care of the ball. So wouldn’t you know in his first preseason game he throws a pick six on a screen play. Ouch.
His first preseason game was a turnover filled one (he ended with two giveaways) but since that rough first outing, he’s bounced back nicely. While you always have to take preseason stats with a grain of salt, Mariota was able to translate one of his best skills from the college game, his accuracy, to his first NFL action. He completed 21 out of 30 passes for for a 70% completion rate. I know it’s the preseason but he showed the ability to make reads and get he ball out of his hands and to his skill players. He even threw his first NFL touchdown!
More importantly than his receiver taking the ball into the end zone was, if you watch Mariota’s eyes, he goes through a few progressions before finding his receiver streaking open across the middle of the field. Rookie QBs often have trouble going though their progressions so seeing Mariota do that is a positive sign.
Jameis Winston, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The other quarterback to go in the first two picks was Jameis Winston. His first few games at the helm of the Buccaneers did not go as well as Mariota’s. He threw 17 more passes than Mariota but only completed two more. If we do that math he only had a 48.9% completion percentage. Again it’s the preseason so those numbers could be a big red flag, or they could be something everyone laughs at when Winston is the leading the ROY chase after Week 8.
Winston’s offensive line didn’t do him a lot of favors as he faced a lot of pressure and was sacked seven times. Mike Evans was also banged up through the preseason so he didn’t have his full complement of weapons out on the field. The one thing Winston did show that impressed me was stepping up into pressure. He had an up and down preseason making some great plays mixed in with some bad ones. All in all he did pretty well considering that team and players he was on the field with. And he still is just a rookie which gives him some more slack.
Amari Cooper, WR, Oakland Raiders
I am excited about Amari Cooper. Heading into the NFL draft lots and lots of analysts said he was an NFL ready receiver. Then he went to training camp and definitely looked like an NFL ready receiver completely turning around Oakland Raiders cornerbacks. That alone would have convinced me Cooper was definitely worth the high draft pick.
But he didn’t stop there. Then he started turning around Pro Bowl corners like Patrick Peterson. Cooper only hauled in eight receptions but those catches went for 124 yards. I put a little more stock in these stats than some other preseason numbers because it shows that Cooper can get downfield and get open. And with his previously mentioned footwork, he should be a productive receiver this season. He didn’t catch a touchdown in the preseason but I don’t think we’ll be waiting very long before we see him in the end zone.
Derek Carr was sneaky good last season and the duo of Carr and Cooper could put up some big numbers
Matt Jones, RB, Washington Redskins
One of the hottest deep league sleepers this season has been who? Matt Jones! The Washington Redskins back up running back had 20 carries and he turned them into 7.0 yards per carry. Now that is a number I like to see. Sure, back up running backs get some carries against second string defenses but that yards per carry says to me Jones knows how to read the defense and follow his blockers. I counter with the fact that he played only two games, making his numbers look a lot more legit. And they were the second and third games which have a lot of starters playing, just adding to the (early season) legend of Matt Jones.
The Redskins don’t have a lot of weapons and with Kirk Cousins stepping in to the starting QB slot, the coaching staff will likely lean on that running game to help ease Cousins along. I wrote up Jones back in early June and a lot of the things I liked about him back then have been shown on the field. His stock is on the rise and if anything happens to Alfred Morris, Matt Jones could be a Top 15 running back. Remember where you heard it first!
Check back next week for the regular season version of the rookie report.
- Rookie Report: Rookie of the Year Awards Edition! - December 31, 2015
- Week 13 Rookie Report: The Amari Cooper Experience - December 1, 2015
- Week 12 Rookie Report: Jameis To The Rescue - November 24, 2015