Week 14 NFL Rookie Rankings

Another week is in the books.  It’s safe to say it was a decent week for rookies.  The big hit was that we lost DeMarco Murray for the year.  That hurts big time.  He was having a fantastic rookie year.  However, it wasn’t a total downer of a week as several rookies had very nice games.  We should see some production from rookies in the final 3 weeks of the season as a lot of teams like to give them a chance to play.  That appears to be what is happening in Tennessee with Jake Locker.

Let’s hope for no injuries this week.  That seems to be the only thing slowing down some of these rookies.  Here are this week’s rankings.

1. Cam Newton QB Carolina Panthers (Last week #1)

With DeMarco Murray getting hurt, Newton has a firm hold on the number one spot for the rest of the year.  It was a tale of two halves for Newton this week.  The first half was spectacular.  The second half was pretty poor.  Overall, he put up decent numbers for the whole game.  He finished with 276 passing yards, 2 passing TDs and 36 rushing yards.  He did throw 2 interceptions though.  And his trend continued in that the Panthers haven’t won a game all year when Newton has committed a turnover.  He’s currently 8th in passing yards in the entire NFL, so I can’t be too critical of him.  He’s been a big time difference maker without a doubt.

2. DeMarco Murray RB Dallas Cowboys (Last week #2)

I’m leaving Murray at #2 because he had such a phenomenal stretch of games.  He was off to a good start this week with 25 yards on 5 carries.  Unfortunately, he suffered a severely broken ankle and will miss the remainder of the year.  He finishes with 897 rushing yards with a 5.5 yard average.  He also had 26 receptions with 183 yards.  Those are very solid numbers for a rookie.  The amazing part is that he did this in essentially 8 games.  He only received 20+ carries in 5 games.  If he can fully recover, he could lead the league in rushing next year.  He’s that good.  

3. A.J. Green WR Cincinnati Bengals (Last week #3)

Green didn’t have a monster game this week.  However, he still finished with 5 receptions for 59 yards.  He was facing tough coverage all game from Jonathan Joseph.  Green has shown that he can have good games against any corners in the league.  He’s a true number one WR as he can’t be completely stopped no matter what.  He will make plays regardless.  He’s almost a sure bet to reach 1,000 receiving yards which would make him the first rookie receiver to do so since Michael Clayton did it back in 2004.  Green is, without a doubt, the real deal.  

4. Andy Dalton QB Cincinnati Bengals (Last week #4)

Dalton didn’t have a super strong game this week.  However, he put his team in a position to win and limited his mistakes.  He did fumble once, but completed 57.1% of his passes, only took 1 sack and didn’t throw any interceptions.  As good as Cam Newton has been, Dalton has, arguably, been better as a pure passer.  He has a higher QB Rating, more TD passes, less interceptions and has been sacked 10 less times.  Dalton is better at limiting his mistakes than Newton is right now.  That’s probably why Cincinnati is 7-6 and Carolina is 4-9.  Dalton has 4 less turnovers on the year than Newton. 

5. Roy Helu RB Washington Redskins (Last week #5)

Wow is really all that I can say about this kid.  Helu continues to completely dominate when given the chance.  He ran for 126 yards on 27 carries this week against New England.  He now stands at 582 rushing yards for the year.  Considering he’s only been the main back for 3 games and he only has double digit carries 5 times this whole season, that is pretty impressive.  He also has 44 receptions which is 9th in the NFL among RBs.  And he’s 1 behind 5 RBs which means he could easily end up in the top 4-5 by the end of the year.  Helu should remain the starter for the last 3 games.  He has an outside shot at reaching 1,000 rushing yards.  If he did that, given his limited playing time at the beginning of the season, that would be quite a feat.  It’s been a successful rookie year either way.

6. Julio Jones WR Atlanta Falcons (Last week #8)

Just when I’m ready to write Julio off, he goes out and has a monster game.  He caught 3 balls for 104 yards and 2 TDs this week against the Panthers.  It’s still been a little bit of a disappointing rookie year with the hamstring issues.  However, Jones does have 670 yards and 4 TDs.  Considering he’s missed 3 games and been limited in a few others, that’s pretty solid.  In a great year for rookie receivers, Jones has been the 2nd best on the year.

7. Torrey Smith WR Baltimore Ravens (Last week #7)

Smith has another solid game this week.  He finished with 48 yards on 5 catches with one TD.  His numbers on the year are great for a WR who was hurt at the beginning of the year and was behind in terms of knowing the offense.  Smith is 4th in the league in yards per catch and has been a great compliment to Anquan Boldin this year.  He also leads his team in touchdown receptions.  Quite a rookie year so far.

8. Doug Baldwin WR Seattle Seahawks (Last week #13)

It’s time to really give this guy his due.  Baldwin had a great game last night against the Rams.  He finished with 93 yards on 7 catches with a TD.  He leads his team in receiving yards, receptions and receiving TDs.  Considering this guy is an un-drafted rookie, that’s absolutely amazing.  He and A.J. are the only 2 rookies that are leading their teams in all 3 receiving categories.  Baldwin has been a fantastic story this year and Panini finally has plans to put him into a set.  It’s about time this guy got some hobby love.

9. Christian Ponder QB Minnesota Vikings (Last week #6)

Ponder had a bit of an off week against the Lions.  He did throw 2 TD passes, but also threw 3 interceptions and for only threw for 115 yards.  However, the Vikings showed just how dumb they are in pulling Ponder.  Ponder is a rookie QB and there’s no excuse for pulling him.  The Vikings are 2-11.  They, obviously, aren’t going anywhere this year.  Why pull Ponder unless they are planning on playing Joe Webb the rest of the year?  Look, Joe Webb has some talent.  He certainly can run.  But, he’s not an NFL QB.  His so-called “rally” came late in the game.  His passing TD came against a defense that had softened up to not allow a big play.  Webb had a lower completion percentage, lower yards per attempt and a QB rating that wasn’t that much better than Ponder’s.  Anyway, I’ll quit ranting now.  I just don’t get it.  Ponder has been more than an adequate QB for a rookie.  Sure he’s made a lot of mistakes, but what rookie QB doesn’t?

10. T.J. Yates QB Houston Texans (Last week #10)

In all fairness to Yates, he probably should have moved up this week.  He had a very nice week with 300 passing yards, 36 rushing yards and 2 TDs.  I didn’t move him up because he doesn’t have much of a future with the Texans.  Unless he goes to the Super Bowl this year, Yates is probably going to be traded or benched next year when Schaub is healthy again.  Yates also has the best running back duo in the NFL.  Foster and Tate could both end up with over 1,000 rushing yards this year.  There is no doubt Yates has some talent.  His arm strength is legit for sure.  I’m just not sure that he isn’t a flash in the pan.

11. Jake Locker QB Tennesse Titans (Last week unranked)

Locker appears to be the full-time starter now.  It’s about time.  Locker has had limited playing time in 2 games.  He’s been very solid in both of them.  Sure his completion percentage is very bad at 46%.  The amazing part about that is that his QB Rating is still 96.6.  That means he’s doing an amazing amount when he’s actually completing his passes.  In fact, his yards per attempt are higher than any starting QB in the league not named Aaron Rodgers.  He has 4 total TDs and zero turnovers.  Locker showed that he belongs in the starting line-up.  I’m excited to see what he can do over the next 3 games.  

12. Mark Ingram RB New Orleans Saints (Last week #9)

Ingram missed a game this week with an injury.  He’s been on and off all year.  When he’s been fully healthy, he’s been relatively effective.  The problem is that he hasn’t been all that healthy.  He has shown flashes this year, but unless he can become a bigger part of the offense and stay healthy, his value will be extremely limited.  I don’t hate his long term potential, but I don’t love it either.

13. Greg Little WR Cleveland Browns (Last week #11)

I’ll give Little some slack this week.  His team was facing the Steelers and that’s a super tough match-up.  However, he continues to drop balls and that is becoming a major problem.  Little is still 2nd in receptions for rookies.  He’s also 5th in receiving yards.  I just want to see more consistency and more explosion from him.  The Browns desperately need a playmaker and I’m starting to wonder if Little will ever be it.  

14. Titus Young WR Detroit Lions (Last week #14) 

Young holds down the 14th spot on the rankings.  He had a much better week with 87 yards on 4 receptions with a TD.  He certainly rebounded from his benching nicely.  Young has shown some serious potential.  He’s simply making some rookie mistakes right now.  If he can eliminate those going forward, I think he will develop into a very good slot receiver.  He reminds me a lot of Davone Bess.  I think he’s a little faster than Bess, so he has more big play potential.  We shall see if he can harness his skills and make a career out of it.

15. Blaine Gabbert QB Jacksonville Jaguars (Last week #15)

Gabbert had an okay game against Tampa this week.  The good news was that he threw 2 TD passes and had a completion percentage of 57.6.  The bad news is that he still threw 2 interceptions and needed 33 passing attempts to get to 217 yards.  He is starting to show a little improvement.  I’m just not sold on him yet.  He has only thrown for over 200 yards 3 times in 11 starts.  He’s had 5 games with a completion percentage under 50%.  He’s dead last in QB rating.  He’s second to last in completion percentage.  The worst thing to me is that Jacksonville ranks dead last in total yards per game and passing yards per game.  And they are 28th in points per game.  Gabbert has simply done nothing to make this team better.  Until he changes that, I can’t think too highly of Gabbert.

16. Randall Cobb WR Green Bay Packers (Last week #17) 

Cobb was a little bit bigger part of the offense this week.  He caught 2 balls for 45 yards.  This may continue with Jennings out.  I could see Cobb having a nice finish to the year.  In addition to that, Cobb had another very solid game on special teams.  He had a 50-yard kickoff return and also had a 16-yard punt return.  Cobb definitely has some talent.  I think it’s only a matter of time until he really showcases it.

17. Daniel Thomas RB Miami Dolphins (Last week #12)

To say that Thomas has had an up and down year would be an understatement.  This week was definitely a down.  He finished with 4 rushing yards on 7 attempts.  He also caught 2 balls for 9 yards.  Thomas is now averaging only 3.6 yards per rush and he doesn’t have a rushing TD all year.  In addition to this, Reggie Bush had another great game and is firmly entrenched as the starter.  That’s the bad news.  The good news is that the Dolphins are going to have a new coach.  With a new coach comes the possibility of a new role for Thomas.  I can’t see anyone supplanting Reggie with Thomas right now.  But, that doesn’t mean it can’t happen next year.  Thomas still has 508 rushing yards on the year.  That’s not awful for a rookie RB who has missed 3 games.  

 

We certainly saw some solid performances this week.  I was most impressed with Roy Helu, Julio Jones, Doug Baldwin and Jake Locker.  I think Locker has a chance to be a real star.  It’s still amazing to me that we have five starting rookie QBs right now.  And honestly, all of them but Gabbert are playing pretty darn well.  The receivers continue to impress me as well.  It’s possible that we could see as many as four rookie receivers go over 1,000 yards.  It’s not likely, but possible.  I’m not sure that has ever happened.  I certainly can’t remember a time when it did.  

The running back position continues to be the position that struggles.  We finally have a very solid #2 rookie running back in Helu and now Murray is out for the year.  Mark Ingram, Ryan Williams, Mikel Leshoure, Daniel Thomas, Shane Vereen, Alex Green and Stevan Ridley are all either hurt or underperforming. Out of all the RBs taken in the first 3 rounds, only Murray has had a solid rookie year.  And other than Roy Helu, we haven’t seen any production at all from any of the later round picks.  Maybe someone breaks out in the next year or so like Taiwan Jones, Kendall Hunter, Jacquizz Rodgers, Delone Carter or Jamie Harper.  If not, this could go down as one of the worst drafts for running backs.  

I hope everyone has a great week.  If you’re still alive in your fantasy leagues, good luck this week in the playoffs.  If not, there’s always next year.  

Josh

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