Aaron Donald heard it all in the lead up the draft: he’s too small, he wasn’t strong enough, he couldn’t play more than one position. The St Louis Rams heard all of these knocks on Donald but simply saw what a lot of dedicated draft followers saw, an out-of-this-world playmaker. Donald has lived up to this billing in the infancy of his NFL career and becomes the first defensive lineman to feature in the Rookie IDP Rundown.
It’s rare for defensive tackles to register on the IDP radar in anything other than DT specific leagues. They simply don’t have the usual statistical production that their edge rushing counterparts have. However, there are exceptions to that rule and Donald most certainly is one. Entering the league there was a lot of talk amongst the draft community that the Pittsburgh product was the new Geno Atkins, a smaller, penetrating tackle who could be a team’s premiere pass rusher from the three-tech position. Donald’s explosiveness instantly stood out on tape when you watched him in college and that’s followed through into the NFL. In week 7 against the Seahawks, Donald played 53 of 73 snaps and produced five tackles (four solos and 1 assist) along with an impressive sack of Russell Wilson. That was the second sack of the year for Donald and with the rest of the Rams defensive line rounding into form, it’s an inevitability that Donald will continue getting to the Quarterback. Donald was an early pick in most rookie drafts but if owners in your league simply aren’t paying the attention they should be, now would be an excellent time to acquire Donald before his star shoots out of the stratosphere. He is already a borderline DT1 in leagues that force you to start a defensive tackle and will be at minimum a DL2 for owners by the end of the season.
Telvin Smith was another rookie who impressed NFL observers for his impressive performance in week 7, he was awarded the AFC defensive player of the week award for his efforts in the Jaguars’ first win of the season. Smith was all over the field, impressing in coverage and against the run, he finished with the statline of four tackles (three solos and one assist), one sack and one interception after playing 40 out of 77 snaps. At first glance, the low snap count and tackle total, may ward off fantasy owners contemplating putting in a claim for Smith as he sits on their waiver wire. Quite simply, they shouldn’t hesitate to add him. Smith is playing for a defence that will be on the field a lot and with an obvious nose for the ball, he will have a much higher tackle floor as his snap count increases and that will certainly happen in the coming weeks. The Jags’ leading tackler and IDP stud, Paul Posluszny, has been placed on Injured Reserve after a season ending injury and won’t be around in the middle of the Jaguars defence to hoover up tackles. Although Smith plays on the outside compared to Posluszny’s middle linebacker position, the Jags will have to compensate for his loss somehow and that will be through increased playing time for Smith. The kind of playmaking skills that Smith posseses gives owners the big play upside that is often rare in players in Telvin’s position.
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The final feature player in this weeks Rookie Rundown is the Cleveland Browns third round pick from May’s draft, Chris Kirksey. The former Hawkeye is performing well for the Browns on a weekly basis and he has the statistical production to back it up. Kirksey had nine tackles (seven solos and two assists) and a sack in his week seven matchup against the Jaguars, doing this all on 39 out of 74 snaps. The Browns can’t continue to ignore the production that Kirksey is producing week in and week out, with their defence struggling, the time is now for the Browns to move Kirksey into a full time role. He is a better player in all facets of the game than his veteran counterpart, Craig Robertson who offers no upside for either the Browns or fantasy players. Playing alongside All-Pro, Karlos Dansby, Kirksey has the opportunity to flourish and make impact plays on the ball, much like his impressive sack this week. Kirksey’s arrow is pointing up so grab him before the word gets out on this future LB2.
Returning this week after a two week hiatus is our Rookie Waiver Wire Watchlist, here are some rookies who will likely still be on the waiver wire but may end up headlining this column in future weeks:
Haha Clinton-Dix: The Packers first round pick is now an every snap player for Green Bay and he’s making the most of his opportunities, finishing with nine tackles in week 7. Clinton-Dix should probably be owned but if he’s not, snap him up.
Chris Borland: Whilst Patrick Willis is out, Chris Borland is a LB2 who is making the most of his opportunities. He had eight tackles and a sack in week 7 and these numbers will only increase when they play a more run heavy team than the Broncos.
TJ Carrie: Carrie has featured in this portion of the column before and the Oakland seventh round pick is continuing to impress. He is an impressive form tackler as well as a pretty decent cover man who is firmly in the DB3 tier.
Thanks very much for reading and my apologies for the absence of this column last week, illness got the better of me.