Last week, I took a look at nine of my favorite prospects (i.e. I was higher on them than anyone else was) from the pre-draft process, and they all ended up seeing the field in their NFL debuts. Every Friday over the next few months, I will check in with the progress of the rookies by listing their season stats, previous game stats, and my overall thoughts. [Note: the ranking from my final 2018 Big Board is listed in parenthesis]
Josh Allen, Bills QB (2)
Last week (@ BAL)
6/15 (40.0%), 74 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT // 4 carries, 26 yards
Nathan Peterman won the starting job for the Bills out of camp, but similar to Deshaun Watson last year with the Texans, Josh Allen took over in the second half of the opener and has been named the team’s new starter. In his debut, Allen was under constant pressure and had a couple drops (including a would-be touchdown to Kelvin Benjamin), but he was able to do some damage as a runner with two first downs on four attempts. Unfortunately, Allen will have to do a lot on his own behind one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL and a lack of skill-position talent around him, but I think he will show flashes of greatness starting this weekend against the Chargers.
Jaire Alexander, Packers CB (8)
Last week (v CHI)
On Sunday Night Football, Jaire Alexander showed why the Packers selected him in the first round despite missing most of his junior season with injuries, as he had very sticky coverage on Allen Robinson and others all game. The former Pro Bowl receiver got the better of him on a deep pass for a 33-yard gain, but it was really a perfect back-shoulder ball and an excellent adjustment by Robinson that overcame tight coverage with Alexander right on his hip. Also, the rookie would have had a potential pick-six if not for teammate Blake Martinez deflecting a pass that he was undercutting. Alexander should be ready for the challenge against Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen in Week 2.
Christian Kirk, Cardinals WR (11)
Last week (v WAS)
1 reception, 4 yards // 2 punt returns, 44 yards
Overall, the Cardinals simply couldn’t move the ball in their 24-6 loss to the Redskins, and Christian Kirk struggled to gain separation while playing 85% of the team’s offensive snaps. However, he did make an impact on special teams with a 44-yard punt return, and the Texas A&M product will have a shot at changing field position every week. I want to see offensive coordinator Mike McCoy scheme through Kirk a bit to take the pressure off Larry Fitzgerald and David Johnson, but he gets a tough secondary with a trip to face the Rams on Sunday.
Mike Gesicki, Dolphins TE (13)
Last week (v TEN)
1 reception, 11 yards
The New Jersey native was able to get his first NFL catch out of the way with a grab that resulted in a first down in the red zone, but two plays later, Ryan Tannehill was picked off when targeting him on a fade. The ball was clearly underthrown, though—especially considering the height advantage that Gesicki (six-foot-five) had over Malcolm Butler (five-foot-11)—, and both Ryan Tannehill and head coach Adam Gase said it needed to be a better ball after the game. Gesicki will get plenty more 50/50 balls thrown his way in the coming weeks and years.
Kerryon Johnson, Lions RB (14)
Last week (v NYJ)
5 carries, 17 yards // 3 receptions, 20 yards
Arguably the smoothest running back from the 2018 NFL Draft, Kerryon Johnson played just 16 snaps in his professional debut, but he received a touch on half of them and looked good when he was on the field. The highlight was an easy one-handed grab that Johnson effortlessly snatched and tucked away before gaining positive yards; I would think it’s only a matter of time before he’s featured, and it could came as soon as this Sunday considering Detroit’s struggles in the opener.
Josh Jackson, Packers CB (18)
Last week (v CHI)
The early returns on Josh Jackson and the aforementioned Jaire Alexander were great for Green Bay, as they both did a tremendous job against Chicago. Part of the reason that the Packers were able to keep getting off the field in the second half was Jackson’s coverage on Trey Burton, who didn’t catch any of his four targets with the rookie on him. It’s probably only a matter of time before Jackson is a full-time player ahead of 2017 second-rounder Kevin King, but defensive coordinator Mike Pettine has a versatile piece to work with in the former Iowa star.
Nick Chubb, Browns RB (19)
Last week (v PIT)
3 carries, 21 yards
He inexplicably only saw four offensive snaps in a game where Cleveland’s offense ran 89 plays, but Nick Chubb made an impact by ripping off a 17-yard run and converting a short-yardage carry in limited action. There is different feel with the rookie on the field instead of Carlos Hyde or Duke Johnson, but the Browns will continue to lose (or as we saw last week, not win) if Chubb barely plays, and I wouldn’t trust Cleveland’s coaching staff to realize it. We’ll see if things drastically change against the Saints.
Lorenzo Carter, Giants OLB (21)
Last week (v JAX)
1 tackle, 1 deflection
Lorenzo Carter wasn’t able to get to Blake Bortles in his NFL debut, but his potential was on full display as a dangerous edge defender, which has the coaching staff and fans excited. Defensive coordinator James Bettcher said after the Week 1 loss, “The more (Carter) played, the better he played,” which is a good early sign for his athletic gifts carrying over to the next level. In the fourth quarter, the rookie made a veteran play by identifying a play-action fake to pursue Bortles and deflect the pass. Perhaps he will record his first sack against the Cowboys on Sunday night.
Anthony Miller, Bears WR (28)
Last week (@ GB)
2 receptions, 14 yards
Chicago’s second-round pick played more than 50% of the offensive snaps in the opener, but I think he should have been featured more as the team looked to keep Aaron Rodgers off the field in the second half. Miller had one of his receptions go for a first down, and he could turn into a big-time threat in key situations for Mitchell Trubisky. The Seahawks are vulnerable at cornerback, and I’m not sure that they have anyone that can cover Miller one-one-one in their Week 2 matchup.