NFL: Rookie Watch After Week 10 – Who’s the Next Generation?

The rookie class is on its head: some top picks in this year’s draft are not quite finding their way into the NFL pace. On the other hand, a number of late rounders are surprisingly good and already among the best in their position. Time for SPOX to draw an interim summary.

NFL – Rookie Watch: Not arrived yet

Many rookies find it difficult to get into the NFL, and top picks usually have more difficult starting conditions than later drafted players: On the one hand, they usually come to worse teams, where they also have poorer support on the field, and on the other hand, they are usually the most talented player in position on the team – and therefore need to play a lot of snaps quickly, although some learning time would be helpful.

The #1 pick of the 2022 draft is an example of this: Travon Walker has the most pass rush snaps of the Jaguars to date, but uses fewer pressures per snap than his teammates. In a league comparison, he is of course also far from midfield. Top 5 pick Kayvon Thibodeaux it’s pretty much the same in New York, although his only sack so far has been the dramatic game-winner against Baltimore. In Detroit could Aidan Hutchinson most likely to master the difficult learning curve for edge defenders and his 28 pressures are ex aequo with chiefs edge George Karlaftis the highest value of the rookies. but you can also see the need to get used to the NFL speed. He was dominant from time to time (against Washington, in Dallas) – but he can’t constantly call up his potential.

Exemplified by the Texans Derek Stingley Jr. at the cornerback position, how drastic the NFL learning curve can be. Lovie Smith’s zone-heavy defense requires different skills from him than he was able to show in college, but even in man coverage, which should actually be his strength, he is still too often overwhelmed by the NFL’s wide receiver talent. After a rather difficult early few weeks, in which he allowed 6 catches and 70+ yards in four of five games, he hasn’t allowed more than 3 catches for 40 yards in a game since. Here the development could make up for the problems shown by the end of the season.

Right tackle was required for the Giants Evan Neal learned a similar lesson in the first few weeks when he was rolled over by the Dallas pass rush with 5 pressures, including 3 sacks. Since then he has allowed 6 pressures and only 1 sack in four games. So what has been shown so far is mixed here, but the direction could be right. First, though, Neal needs to recover from a sprained knee (MCL) he sustained against the Jaguars.

In addition to these top picks, which still have a lot of work ahead of them, there are also a number of rookies who made an impression.

NFL – Rookie Ranking: Just missed the list

Charles Cross & Abraham Lucas, offensive tackles, Seahawks

The main reason for the Seahawks’ feel-good story this year is the rookie vintage, which made the offensive line solid in one fell swoop: Lucas became an average starter on right tackle right away, and his pass blocking even shows for the position towards the top 5 in places. With slightly improved run blocking, it would be a total home run for a third-round pick. As a top 10 pick on left tackle, Cross often pulls the more difficult opponents and accordingly sometimes has a harder time than Lucas, but he also excels in pass protection rather than run blocking and is therefore partly responsible for the Geno Smith experience. After a pretty dismal performance in Week 1 against Denver, Cross has settled into mid-league left tackle.

Breece Hall, Running Back, Jets

Weeks 4-7 only the Cowboys’ Tony Pollard had more yards per carry and Hall looked like a dynamic playmaker just getting started. But his season only lasted seven weeks. At the time of his ligament tear, Hall was the bookies’ favorite for offensive Rookie of the Year, which is obviously a poor consolation prize but gives hope for the future.

Tariq Woolen, cornerback, Seahawks

Woolen leads the league’s cornerbacks in interceptions, which is quite remarkable for a fifth-round pick. As is usual with big plays, though, some of it is quite random – like when Leonard Fournette subdues a deep ball on Tom Brady on a trick play. Woolen is having a good season from down to down, but he’s also had 4 TDs and lacks consistency. Trevon Diggs was a similar player at Dallas last year, but Woolen could draw even more attention to the position due to his physique.

Ikem Ekwonu, offensive tackle, Panthers

Ekwonu is playing a pretty similar season to Charles Cross: a rude awakening in week 1 – which can happen against Myles Garrett – but since then a solid left tackle in the league midfield. He is a corner better than his colleagues in Seattle, especially in run blocking, and he is partly responsible for the good Panthers running game, especially in zone runs.

Martin Emerson, cornerback, Browns

Emerson was an excellent tackler in college and his physique allows him to stay close to opponents, especially in man coverage. His 8 forced incompletions are not only tops among rookies but also 4th in the league.

Braxton Jones, Tackle, Chicago

The dismantling of Teven Jenkins put Jones, who was drafted in the fifth round, in play as a starter on left tackle and he’s steadfastly held the post ever since. In pass protection it took a few games (and a smack against the good Washington defensive line) before he became solid, but in run blocking – especially if he is to block clearly man-to-man – he is already one of the better tackles in the league.

Daniel Bellinger, Tight End, Giants

On the refreshing and creative Giants offense, Bellinger is surrounded by wide receivers who scare no one. It is all the more remarkable that as a rookie, Bellinger has developed into one of quarterback Daniel Jones’ top pass stations. He was due to return from his eye injury in week 11.

Jamaree Salyer, Tackle, Chargers

Since Rashawn Slater’s injury, Salyer has started as a rookie on left tackle and has yet to concede a sack. Only Bucs all-pro right tackle Tristan Wirfs has played more no-sack snaps since Week 4. He still has room for improvement when it comes to run blocking – especially gap plays where he has to block a direct opponent – but considering he was originally drafted as a guard in the sixth round, his performance on left tackle has been more than satisfactory so far.

Isaiah Likely, Tight End, Ravens

Likely became the top backup behind Mark Andrews in the summer and has been a good all-round package ever since. He’s already caught 2 touchdowns as a receiver, and since Andrews’ injury, Likely has also gotten more work as a run blocker over the past two weeks. He looks like one of the best tight ends in the league in this crucial role on the Ravens offense.

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