Anthony Barr of the Minnesota Vikings, Ryan Shazier of the Pittsburgh Steelers, CJ Mosley of the Baltimore Ravens and Jeremiah Attaochu of the San Diego Chargers all showed up as big time performers in their NFL debuts. With week 1 of the NFL season in the books, it’s clear that these players are rookies IDPs that are must-owns for discerning owners in 2014.There were, however, some rookies who put up good stats in their debut that owners would be wise to avoid. Snap counts are provided by www.profootballfocus.com.
Would you believe that Anthony Barr has only been playing defence for three years? Anyone watching the rookie linebacker in his NFL debut certainly wouldn’t think that. Barr looked like a seasoned pro against the run-heavy Rams offense, putting up a statline of 6 solo tackles and 1 assist. Barr was considered a very raw prospect coming out of UCLA, he figured to be primarily used as a pass rusher as a rookie but Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer appears to have worked wonders with him. Barr appears to have a safe floor as a run defender in the Vikings scheme as well as having big play upside as a nickel pass rusher. Barr is a must-own in big play leagues.
Attaouchu in particular caught the eye with his impressive performance against the Arizona Cardinals. The rookie out of Georgia Tech registered a sack with a forced fumble alongside 4 solo tackles. Going up against a replenished Cardinals offensive line, he provided the Chargers with an impressive presence off the edge. For owners in a big play league, Attaouchu is somebody that simply must be owned, with the potential for more snaps as the season goes ahead, the sky is the limit for the Nigerian born linebacker.
Ryan Shazier is a player that I highlighted in this very column last week and he did not disappoint in his season debut. Shazier was all over the field in the Steelers opener agains the Browns. He displayed impressive speed and finished with a solid statistical line of 5 solo tackles, 1 assist and 1 pass deflection. He played 60/68 snaps against the Browns and figures to be an ever present in the Steelers’ young defence, as he adapts to the speed of the game and is able to act on instinct instead of over thinking things, Shazier will be able to rack up consistent double digit tackle totals.
CJ Mosley was the other ILB drafted in the first round of May’s NFL draft and he finished with a similar stat line to his counterpart, Shazier. He made 5 solo tackles and played 67/67 snaps, the polar opposite of his teammate Arthur Brown’s debut last year. The Ravens coaching staff are obviously very pleased with Mosley and have already put enough trust in the rookie out of Alabama to leave him on the field for all three downs. Mosley was highly drafted in rookie drafts and is a must own for everyone. In tackle heavy leagues in particular, he could finish the season as a strong LB2.
Preston Brown in Buffalo actually finished week 1 with the most tackles for rookies, putting up a nice stat line of 7 solo tackles and 1 assist. He played an impressive 74/74 snaps for the Bills at strongside linebacker. His on field performance however didn’t match up with his stat line as he struggled in pass coverage, giving up 7 receptions on 7 targets. Brown is a player that owners should keep an eye on but with Nigel Bradham returning from his 1 week suspension, it may cut into the Louisville rookie’s snaps going forward.
Some rookies joined the ever growing list of viable DB starters following their impressive week 1’s. The most prominent of these is Justin Gilbert in his role as number 2 cornerback for the Cleveland Browns. Gilbert will have plenty of tackle opportunities playing opposite of Joe Haden, he made the most of these in week 1, making 6 solo tackles. There is talk out of Cleveland that Mike Pettine may reduce the number of snaps that Gilbert plays going forward, however Pettine will likely ride out the rough with the smooth as options behind Gilbert are very limited in Cleveland.
Kyle Fuller, the cornerback the Chicago Bears took 14th overall in the NFL draft was a big favorite of mine throughout the predraft process. He posted a solid stat line of 3 solo tackles, with 2 assists on just 36 snaps. Fuller is a physical cornerback who excels in run support and was even used as an in the box linebacker at times whilst in college. As the Bears continue to have issues on their defence, there will be plenty of opportunities for Fuller to make impact plays against the run. Fuller is also an interesting option as a blitzing defensive back, this can add value in big play leagues.
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Haha Clinton Dix, Calvin Pryor and Deone Bucannon were the three safeties drafted in the first round of the NFL draft and all made an impact in their first weeks as pros. Clinton Dix and Bucannon made 5 tackles and Pryor made 4, they currently reside within the huge DB3 tier but certainly have potential to move into lineups as permanent fixtures as their playing time increases.
As I stated in my column last week, there are very few rookie defensive linemen with the potential to make an impact early on in their rookie seasons. Aaron Donald was the only rookie to post a vaguely interesting stat line, with 4 solo tackles to his name. Donald has huge potential in big play leagues and with the injury to Chris Long, there is talk coming from St Louis that Donald could be used as a defensive end for a while. This will increase Donald’s opportunities for rushing the passer.