What kind of impact have the nine rookies I’ve been highlighting had through the midway point of their first NFL seasons? [Note: the ranking from my final 2018 Big Board is listed in parenthesis]
Josh Allen, Bills QB (2)
Last week (v CHI)
DNP – elbow
54.0%, 832 yards, 2 TD, 5 INT // 35 carries, 155 yards, 3 TD
He’s yet to be ruled out for Week 10, but it makes sense for the Bills to hold out Josh Allen with the bye week up next. It’s unfortunate we won’t get our first AFC East battle between he and fellow rookie Sam Darnold, but hopefully they are both healthy for the December rematch. If Allen does end up playing on Sunday, Buffalo’s chances of a victory increase significantly because he can make off-script plays that Nathan Peterman or Derek Anderson simply can’t.
Jaire Alexander, Packers CB (8)
Last week (@ NE)
4 tackles, 1 pass defended
30 tackles, 1 interception, 7 passes defended, 0.5 sack, 1.5 tackles for loss
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick heaped praise on Jaire Alexander prior to last week’s game, and you could tell he was sincere when he basically ran through a quick scouting report when asked about what stands out about the rookie, saying:
“Yeah, everything. He’s a great player. He’s gonna have a great career in this league. We thought that in this draft, I thought that was an excellent pick; was a little bit ahead of where we were picking, and, you know, he was certainly one of the top players on the board. He’s a great kid. He’s got great energy. He loves football, and has great football skills: fast, athletic, good hands, good ball skills, can tackle, can play inside in the slot, can play outside on the perimeter, good zone vision, breaks on the ball, good man-to-man coverage, has good quickness, can match up with fast receivers, can match up with quick receivers. This guy’s a really good ball player, and I think he’s got a great future in this league; think he’ll be one of the top corners in this game for quite a while here.”
Alexander ending up in New England is a scary thought, but it sounds like it was close to happening.
Christian Kirk, Cardinals WR (11)
Last week (BYE)
31 receptions, 410 yards, 2 TD // 2 carries, 12 yards // 10 punt returns, 78 yards
Coming off the bye, Christian Kirk has a legitimate chance at a 1,000-yard season if he can play as well as he did in the first half while being featured more down the stretch. Also, I think he will make a big play as a returner at some point, so maybe it’ll come this weekend at Arrowhead Stadium as the Cardinals look to upset the Chiefs.
Mike Gesicki, Dolphins TE (13)
Last week (v NYJ)
No statistics recorded
16 receptions, 146 yards
Mike Gesicki wasn’t able to catch a pass last week against the Jets, as Brock Osweiler completed just 15 passes for 139 yards in an offensive struggle. The rookie will probably have a better chance at hitting pay dirt for the first time in his career when Ryan Tannehill (shoulder) is back in the lineup, but perhaps he will be a factor in Green Bay if the Dolphins are forced to throw more to keep up with Aaron Rodgers.
Kerryon Johnson, Lions RB (14)
Last week (v SEA)
12 carries, 37 yards // 3 receptions, 7 yards
89 carries, 503 yards, 1 TD // 24 receptions, 165 yards
Detroit has struggled over the past two weeks, and that’s largely due to the fact that the rushing attack has been shutdown with a combined 20 carries for just 59 yards from Kerryon Johnson. The Auburn product isn’t getting much help up front, though, and the blocking isn’t expected to be much better for a trip to Chicago this weekend. Theo Riddick (56% snaps played in Week 9) is back for the Lions, but I think Johnson needs to be featured in the screen game to keep Roquan Smith and the Chicago defense honest.
Josh Jackson, Packers CB (18)
Last week (@ NE)
2 tackles, 2 passes defended
21 tackles, 5 passes defended, 1 tackle for loss, 1 TD
NBC’s Cris Collinsworth said on the Sunday Night Football broadcast that Josh Jackson could eventually be moved to safety for the Packers, but that doesn’t sound like it will happen anytime soon, as the rookie will likely see plenty of snaps on the perimeter this weekend with Kevin King (hamstring) not expected to play. I think Jackson—who led the NCAA with eight interceptions at Iowa in 2017—will line up in King’s left cornerback spot (where he mostly played in college) against the Dolphins, and a promising showing could force Green Bay to keep him there for the remainder of the season. Last week, Jackson showed well with two passes defended against Tom Brady, so he should be confident heading into Week 10.
Nick Chubb, Browns RB (19)
Last week (v KC)
22 carries, 85 yards, 1 TD // 1 reception, 5 yards
74 carries, 403 yards, 4 TD // 3 receptions, 15 yards
Nick Chubb has gone for 75+ yards in all three of his starts since Carlos Hyde was traded, and his touchdown run last week showed why I was so high on him in the 2018 NFL Draft, as he showed elite patience, vision, and burst on a simple three-yard score. Locked into a weekly workload of 18-20+ touches the rest of the way, Chubb might be able to quietly steal the Offensive Rookie of the Year award with a strong showing over the final seven games of the season. Keeping Matt Ryan and the Atlanta offense off the field this weekend by riding the running game would be huge for Cleveland’s chances of an upset at home, and Dan Quinn’s defense probably isn’t quite healthy enough to stop the rookie.
Lorenzo Carter, Giants OLB (21)
Last week (BYE)
19 tackles, 2.0 sacks, 1 tackle for loss, 1 deflection
He hasn’t made a start yet through eight games, but at the very least, New York will probably increase Lorenzo Carter’s playing time for the second half as they go in evaluation mode. Fans tuning in for Giants-49ers will want something to watch on Monday night, and I think it will be fun to see Carter match up with No. 9 overall pick Mike McGlinchey.
Anthony Miller, Bears WR (28)
Last week (@ BUF)
5 receptions, 49 yards // 1 carry, 9 yards
19 receptions, 210 yards, 3 TD // 2 carries, 16 yards
We are still waiting for a huge game from Anthony Miller, but he’s coming off a season-high in receptions (five) and yards (49) from last week’s 41-9 victory in Buffalo. The dynamic slot receiver should get less attention from defenses with Allen Robinson (groin) back in the lineup, but it could also mean fewer targets for an offense that has a bunch of weapons. Still, heading into a big 12-day stretch (v DET, v MIN, @ DET) through Thanksgiving, the Bears shouldn’t forget about Miller, especially since Detroit can be attacked over the middle.