NFL Rookie Report
The start of a new NFL season is somewhat like the start of a new year in college. New faces show up, and they sometimes struggle to adapt to the new environment, whereas others thrive. Seven weeks into the 2016 season, some first-year NFL players (“rookies”) have been exceptional, and some have not. This Rookie Report will look at the studs and the duds from the first 6 weeks of the NFL season in 3 categories: Early Pick, Mid-Round Steal, and a Late Round/Undrafted Surprise.
Early Pick: Ezekiel Elliott (RB, Dallas)
The running back from Ohio State was drafted fourth overall by the Dallas Cowboys in this past year’s draft. In his first 7 weeks, Elliot has rushed for a league leading 703 yards, 116 more yards than the next highest player, LeSean McCoy of the Buffalo Bills. Guided by a monstrous offensive line, Elliot has run all over defenses, as the Cowboys have gone 5-1 over the past 6 weeks, and he does not appear to be slowing down.
Mid-Round Steal: Yannick Ngakoue (DE, Jacksonville)
We all know that the Cowboys hit a home run with quarterback Dak Prescott. But how about the third round pick out of Maryland who is making a name for himself in Jacksonville? In limited action, Ngakoue has already racked up 4 sacks (1 per game over the last 4 weeks), 3 forced fumbles, and an interception. Jacksonville’s defense has been somewhat of a surprise this year, and has utilized its recent plethora of high picks to bring young talent to the team. It will be interesting to see how Ngakoue continues to fit in with the Jags defense.
Late Round Surprise: Blake Martinez (MLB, Green Bay)
Green Bay’s defense has been known over the past few years for their strength at linebacker. With names like Clay Matthews, Nick Perry, and Julius Peppers, nobody would have thought that a rookie linebacker out of Stanford, taken in the fourth round would ever be able to earn a starting job. But, he did. Blake Martinez is now Green Bay’s starting inside linebacker alongside Sam Barrington, and is in charge of the defensive signal calling. In the first 6 weeks of this year, Martinez has racked up 34 tackles and an interception. Given that he is a rookie, it will be interesting to see how Green Bay uses him alongside the veterans in their LB core.
Jared Goff (QB Los Angeles)
The LA Rams have been somewhat successful with Case Keenum at quarterback, yet the first overall pick of this year’s draft has yet to see the field during the regular season. Goff was highly touted out of Cal but has yet to really show his talents at the NFL level. Ahead of him on the Depth Chart is Sean Mannion, the Rams 3rd round pick from 2015. There has been no reason for the Rams to turn to Goff thus far, which is strange given that Goff was the first overall pick, a pick which usually means a starting job in the NFL. If the Rams keep winning behind Keenum, I cannot see Goff seeing the field very much this year.
Germain Ifedi (OT, Seattle)
The thirty-first overall pick of this year’s draft has struggled to adapt to the NFL thus far. The OT out of Texas A&M did not make his NFL debut until a couple of weeks ago, and struggled mightily to protect QB Russell Wilson. Ifedi was a surprise pick of the Seattle Seahawks at the end of the first round and many scouts questioned the abilities of Ifedi, particularly in the run game. We shall see how Ifedi works to improve his run blocking abilities as he looks to make a more favorable impression on head coach Pete Carroll.
Noah Spence (DE, Tampa Bay)
He was a question mark because of his off-the-field issues which led to his dismissal from Ohio State; but after playing the rest of his career at Eastern Kentucky, Spence impressed scouts enough to label him as a potential first-round pick. Since being drafted, Spence has only seen the field in 2 games and has racked up only 2 tackles. For someone who was talked up so much and was disappointed to not be picked in the first round, 2 tackles in 6 weeks is the definition of a disappointment.