This is a rookie article about Week 1 of the NFL season. You may have noticed Week 2 has technically started already (I’m writing this while watching the Bengals walk on the Ravens). Since this is just Week 1, I won’t be taking into account Jessie Bates balling out, Sam Hubbard eating and Mark Andrews TD until next weeks’ article. Thursday Night Football is the worst, messing up when I write things.

So this week I mismanaged my time and didn’t get through all of the Week One games until Thursday. Cut me some slack it’s Week One. So please forgive me, going forward my weekly rookie articles will come out before Thursday Night Football. A quick run down of what the rookie article will look like. Each week I’ll choose a “Rookie of the Week,” breakdown any rookie news, power rank the rookies, and write about the rookies who should be starting. Enjoy!

Rookie of the Week

Denzel Ward, CB, Cleveland Browns

  • Most weeks the rookie of the week will probably differ from the top player on the rookie power rankings, but it’s Week 1 so it that’s not possible. Denzel Ward going fourth overall was criticized by some with Bradley Chubb still on the board, but the pick is already paying off. Ward took on the Steelers in Week One and held his own against a strong group of pass catchers. Ward picked off two passes and broke up three more. His elite movement skills were being showcased all game. It’s clear he’s the Browns best corner. It’s only been one game but Ward looks like a legit CB1. He’s got the fluidity, footwork, athleticism and the physicality needed to matchup with receivers like Antonio Brown.

Rookie News

Technically the Nathan Peterman era in Buffalo didn’t even last one game. Peterman was benched early in the third quarter in favor of first-round pick Josh Allen. The Bills made it official heading into Week 2 that Allen is their starter. Don’t blame the Bills for going with Peterman to start the year. He was their most consistent guy in preseason and they wanted to let Allen sit. Obviously it didn’t workout, but it was the right move. Going to Allen now is risky but it also seems like the right move. Josh Allen has his flaws but he’s physically gifted and clearly better than Peterman. Head coach Sean McDermott needs to stick it out with Josh Allen all year now, no matter what.

Looking at how the Bills should operate their offense with Josh Allen, I’ve heard a lot of Cam Newton comparisons. Let’s get one thing clear: saying Josh Allen is Cam Newton is like saying Josh Freeman is Ben Roethlisberger. Just because they’re both big with big arms, doesn’t mean they’re the same. Newton is a freak. He’s the most athletically gifted quarterback the NFL has ever seen and a dominant runner. Allen is physically gifted and moves well, but to suggest giving him 10-15 carries per game like Cam is the right move is a weird and confusing take.

The Bills need to take advantage of the movement skills with rollouts to cut the field in half and create easier reads for Allen. One of his biggest issues is working past his first reads on time. His athleticism helps makeup for his slow processing because of his pocket movement, but the Bills can’t rely on that. Allen needs quick reads, rollouts and deep shots to take advantage of the arm strength.

It feels annoying to bring up RPOs because every broadcast calls everything an RPO now, but utilizing them could help Allen. Bills OC Brian Daboll was a long-time Belichick assistant and he spent last year as Alabama’s OC. If he can implement some of the stuff he did with Jalen Hurts at Alabama it would help. The Bills need to do everything to make this easy on Allen to avoid David Carr syndrome behind their awful O-line.

Rookie Power Rankings

  1. Denzel Ward, CB, Cleveland Browns

  • The Browns lack of quality cornerbacks was taken advantage of all last season. With the addition of Denzel Ward, they already look improved. Ward had two interceptions and three pass deflections against Pittsburgh, one of the league’s best passing attacks. He was putting his body on the line to make plays and flashing the elite athleticism that made him a top five pick. That’s why he is the “Rookie of the Week.”
  1. Fred Warner, LB, San Francisco 49ers

  • No Reuben Foster? No problem for the 49ers. Fred Warner exceeded expectations starting at middle linebacker. His athleticism translates perfectly to the NFL and he was everywhere against Minnesota. On multiple occasions he filled gaps, blew up run plays and showed off terrific pursuit. He answered the questions about potentially struggling with getting off blocks and not playing violent enough. Warner had 12 tackles, one TFL, one forced fumble and a pass breakup that should have been an interception. Foster and Warner will be one of the league’s best linebacking duos. My dark horse Defensive Rookie of the Year is already making me look smart.
  1. Michael Dickson, P, Seattle Seahawks

  • The greatest punter prospect of all-time did not disappoint in his debut for the Seahawks. Michael Dickson was a weapon vs the Broncos, flipping the field constantly. At one point he punted the ball 69 yards and dropped it on the Broncos five-yard line. The ball must have gone close to 80 yards through the air. Dickson averaged 59 yards per punt with a ridiculous 57.5 net while dropping four of six punts inside the 20. Punters are people too and Dickson is already the best in the NFL.
  1. Derwin James, S, Los Angeles Chargers

  • Talk about a defensive weapon, Derwin James was used everywhere in Gus Bradley’s defense. The size, athleticism and violent on-field demeanor of James makes him a rare type of safety; the type of safety who plays four different positions in his first career game. James registered three tackles, two pass breakups, a sack, and another hit on the quarterback. His blitzing off the edge brought memories of Adrian Wilson. When he wasn’t prowling around the LOS, he was playing deep on the backend. One of his pass breakups came in the end zone on a deep ball. He’s on his way to becoming the leagues most versatile safety.
  1. Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants

  • You’re probably cussing me out for not having Saquon Barkley higher. He played a nice game with 128 total yards and a touchdown on 20 touches. Those numbers were boosted by his 68-yard TD run. There’s no denying he looked good, but he’s a boom or bust runner. Having 38 yards on your 17 other carries isn’t great. The offensive line did not do him a ton of favors, but Barkley didn’t play better than anyone above him. On a positive note his jump cut is so nasty, and his size and twitchiness is rare. The Giants need to utilize his pass catching ability more to take full advantage of his skills.
  1. Darius Leonard, LB, Indianapolis Colts

  • Just like Fred Warner, Darius Leonard jumped on the NFL scene quickly. The Colts had one of the worst linebacker cores in the league last year and spent a second-round pick on Leonard to help with that, and help he did. Against the Bengals, Leonard was sideline-to-sideline getting involved in almost every stop against the run. He’s their guy at weakside backer and the best linebacker on the team. Leonard racked up nine tackles and recovered a fumble against the Bengals. Don’t be surprised to see him in the Defensive Rookie of the Year race.
  1. Sam Darnold, QB, New York Jets

  • You’re definitely cussing me out for not having Sam Darnold higher as well. Here’s the thing, he didn’t play that well. I mean he did for a rookie on the road but he also got lucky. The opening drive pick six was god awful. He can’t do those things in the NFL. His ability to stay calm and unaffected is big time and very impressive. But on the Robby Anderson touchdown, he was bailed out and that should have been intercepted. He also had another interception dropped later in the game on a field goal drive. Even though they weren’t picked off, they still matter. His poise, mobility and ability to throw on the run were all excellent, but we can’t ignore his iffy ball placement. All in all he showed he has the makings of a potential franchise quarterback.
  1. Mike Hughes, CB, Minnesota Vikings

  • It was a quiet, but nice start to Week 1 for Mike Hughes versus the 49ers and then, bang, he hit the end zone and social media was popping. Hughes had a strong performance on special teams, covering punts like an ace. An injury forced him into a little more playing time on defense and he flourished in the nickel role. Hughes managed three tackles, three pass breakups, and an interception that he returned 28 yards for a score. His quick feet and physicality fit perfectly in the nickel spot of this defense. Hughes is an upgrade there and should start all season.
  1. Quenton Nelson, OG, Indianapolis Colts

  • One of the greatest guard prospect ever lived up to the hype in his debut. Quenton Nelson was easily the Colts best offensive lineman against the Bengals. He was mauling in the run game and holding strong in pass pro. The times he took on All-Pro Geno Atkins he fought hard and kept up with the relentless pass rusher. His anchor was impressive and his strong hands helped a lot. This looks like a home run pick. Just watch how angry and physical Nelson played in the run game.
  1. Deadrin Senat, IDL, Atlanta Falcons

  • There were some big name rookies playing in the opening game of the NFL season, but third-round defensive tackle Deadrin Senat was the only one who stood out. He more than stood out; he put his name on the map for casual NFL fans. Senat played beside Grady Jarrett on the D-line and didn’t disappoint. Playing as a 1-tech Denat was terrific versus the run. He’s short and stocky which helps him create great leverage and power, but he has underrated quickness. Senat had just three tackles but they were all run stops. Jarrett and Senat are going to be a dangerous duo.
  1. Will Dissly, TE, Seattle Seahawks
  2. Da’Ron Payne, IDL, Washington
  3. Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Miami Dolphins
  4. Phillip Lindsay, RB, Denver Broncos
  5. Dante Pettis, WR, San Francisco 49ers
  6. Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Buffalo Bills
  7. Genard Avery, LB, Cleveland Browns
  8. BJ Hill, IDL, New York Giants
  9. Jaire Alexander, CB, Green Bay Packers
  10. Bradley Chubb, EDGE, Denver Broncos
  11. Jessie Bates, S, Cincinnati Bengals
  12. Royce Freeman, RB, Denver Broncos
  13. Josh Jackson, CB, Green Bay Packers
  14. Harrison Phillips, IDL, Buffalo Bills
  15. Donte Jackson, CB, Carolina Panthers
  16. Kyzir White, LB, Los Angeles Chargers
  17. Billy Price, C, Cincinnati Bengals
  18. Will Hernandez, OG, New York Giants
  19. Justin Reid, DB, Houston Texans
  20. Nyheim Hines, RB, Indianapolis Colts
  21. Justin Jones, IDL, Los Angeles Chargers
  22. Parry Nickerson, CB, New York Jets

Start the Rook

Baker Mayfield, QB, Cleveland Browns

  • The Browns should have beat the Steelers. A big reason the Browns didn’t beat the Steelers was because of Tyrod Taylor. Tyrod is what he is. He’s good enough to start in the NFL, but he’s not a franchise quarterback. The leadership he brings to the locker rom is huge but he’s not going to win too many big games. He missed too many throws, didn’t take enough chances, and other than his mobility, he didn’t add anything more than Baker Mayfield could have. Mayfield looked ready in preseason. He’s more accurate that Tyrod, has more zip on the ball and can run a more diverse offense because he’s not afraid to take deep shots. If they want to take Mayfield slowly and tank, that’s fine, but he’s ready to play now. What’s the point in waiting?

Kerryon Johnson, RB, Detroit Lions

  • We all know the Lions have had a historically bad running game since Barry Sanders retired. They spent the offseason showing they’re committed to fixing that by drafting offensive linemen and running back Kerryon Johnson. Yet, here we are. The Lions lost and couldn’t run the ball. They gave LeGarrette Blount carries and wouldn’t commit to Kerryon. He’s clearly their best runner. He’s tough, patient, has nice contact balance, and enough burst for big plays. What gives Detroit, this is your guy. So run with him.

DJ Moore, WR, Carolina Panthers

  • Carolina having useless receivers for Cam Newton continues. They haven’t had consistent competency there since Steve Smith left. Now, they finally address it in the first-round with DJ Moore. A guy who has drawn comparisons to Smith due to his crisp route running, angry playing style and dynamic YAC ability. For whatever reason they barely played him Week 1 and went with their rag tag group of misfits. He might not be NFL-ready, but he’s absurdly talented compared to what you have. Get him on the field and get the ball in his hands. This is the guy who can help fix the passing attack.

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Vice President of Media | The Armchair All-Americans, LLC
I’m Canadian as can be, other than the fact that I don’t care about hockey. I love football. The NFL is my life. I consider myself a football guy and I’d rather watch tape than anything else. I’m the Armchair NFL Draft analyst here. You can read my Armchair Scout columns and call me out for my draft misses. I’m also part of two podcasts at Armchair. Our NFL Draft podcast, 7 Rounds in Heaven, and the main NFL pod, Resting the Starters. I cheer for the Steelers, Raptors, Blue Jays, K-State, and I guess the Leafs.
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Vice President of Media | The Armchair All-Americans, LLC
I’m Canadian as can be, other than the fact that I don’t care about hockey. I love football. The NFL is my life. I consider myself a football guy and I’d rather watch tape than anything else. I’m the Armchair NFL Draft analyst here. You can read my Armchair Scout columns and call me out for my draft misses. I’m also part of two podcasts at Armchair. Our NFL Draft podcast, 7 Rounds in Heaven, and the main NFL pod, Resting the Starters. I cheer for the Steelers, Raptors, Blue Jays, K-State, and I guess the Leafs.

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