Raj’s Rookie Rankings – Week 1

Throughout the 21-22 season, the rookies from the 2021 draft will be under the spotlight and ranked by position on a weekly basis in Raj’s Rookie Rankings. With week 1 approaching, the current power rankings are based on each player’s impact during the OTA’s and preseason.

OFFENSE

Mac Jones vs Eagles

Quarterback

  1. Mac Jones – New England Patriots
  2. Trevor Lawrence – Jacksonville Jaguars
  3. Zac Wilson – New York Jets
  4. Justin Fields – Chicago Bears
  5. Trey Lance – San Francisco 49ers

The three week 1 starters take the top 3 positions. Jones has impressed in camp and preseason to wrestle the starting job from Cam Newton to the extent of waving him a goodbye from Foxborough. Lawrence and Wilson flashed during preseason, as did Fields and Lance. Don’t be surprised based on their first outings with their franchises to see Fields and Lance to get the starting jobs in their rookie season and potentially move up the rankings.

Wide Receiver

  1. Terrace Marshall Jr – Carolina Panthers
  2. Elijah Moore – New York Jets
  3. Jaylen Waddle – Miami Dolphins
  4. Rondale Moore – Arizona Cardinals
  5. Joshua Palmer – LA Chargers

No surprises that Terrace Marshall Jr is impressing for the Panthers under the guidance of his former LSU OC Joe Brady, with him taking reps primarily in the slot. Elijah Moore and Jaylen Waddle are already proving to be the comfort blanket in the slot for their inexperienced QB’s. Rondale Moore, based on his first preseason game, looks to be the gadget player Kingsbury has been looking for in his offense, mixing both pass catching sets and rushing attempts. Tennessee product Palmer has impressed at the Chargers, to add an extra option to an already loaded receiving corps at Herbert’s disposal.

Running Back

  1. Rhamondre Stevenson – New England Patriots
  2. Najee Harris – Pittsburgh Steelers
  3. Kenneth Gainwell – Philadelphia Eagles
  4. Jaret Patterson – Washington Football Team
  5. Kylin Hill – Green Bay Packers

Belichick may have struck gold with former Sooners RB Stevenson based on his eye-popping performances during preseason. Rushing for 217 yds and 5 TD’s on only 30 carries, those stats even during preseason cannot be ignored. Harris had limited reps, however that’s purely on a preservation basis as the Steelers offense will be running through Harris during the regular season. Gainwell, Patterson and Hill displayed plenty in their preseason outings to make their teams’ 53-man roster and solidify running back depth for each of their franchises.

Pat Freiermuth TD vs Lions

Tight End

  1. Pat Freiermuth – Pittsburgh Steelers
  2. Kyle Pitts – Atlanta Falcons
  3. Tommy Tremble – Carolina Panthers
  4. John Bates – Washington Football Team
  5. Hunter Long – Miami Dolphins

Freiermuth shone in preseason with a 2 TD performance against the Lions and has reportedly not dropped a pass throughout camp. Pitts hasn’t seen much of the field, however the 27yd catch and run against Cleveland in the final preseason game gave a glimpse of his talent. Tremble built up a rapport with PJ Walker during preseason, snagging an impressive TD vs the Colts. Bates showed his ability as a blocking tight end but has receiving capabilities which may be showcased more as TE2 behind Logan Thomas in Washington. Long looked to have suffered a serious injury in camp, however returned quicker than expected and will feature as TE2 behind Gesicki for the Dolphins.

Rashawn Slater vs LA Rams

Offensive Tackle

  1. Rashawn Slater – LA Chargers
  2. Sam Cosmi – Washington Football Team
  3. Spencer Brown – Buffalo Bills
  4. Alex Leatherwood – Las Vegas Raiders
  5. Stone Forsythe – Seattle Seahawks

Slater impressed in his brief rookie appearance against the Rams and looks to be the stud Left Tackle the Chargers have been craving for. Sam Cosmi looks to be challenging for the starting RT spot for WFT, whereas a pre-draft favourite of mine Spencer Brown mightily impressed for the Bills against Khalil Mack in particular versus Chicago. Leatherwood is the starting RT for Vegas and has shown flashes, and Ed’s (@Farradise) guy Stone Forsythe impressed at LT, especially week 3 against the LA Chargers.

Interior Offensive Line

  1. Royce Newman – Green Bay Packers
  2. Trey Smith – Kansas City Chiefs
  3. Creed Humphrey – Kansas City Chiefs
  4. Josh Myers – Green Bay Packers
  5. Kendrick Green – Pittsburgh Steelers

The best teams keep getting better. Both the Packers and Chiefs seem to have hit home run picks at both Guard and Center, and both OL units are a major strength to aide Rodgers and Mahomes. Kendrick Green claims the starting Center position for the Steelers, so all eyes will be on him and that line to keep Big Ben upright and create running lanes for Najee Harris.

DEFENSE

Levi Onwuzurike vs Steelers

Defensive Tackle

  1. Levi Onwuzurike – Detroit Lions
  2. Christian Barmore – New England Patriots
  3. Alim McNeil – Detroit Lions
  4. Osa Odighizuwa – Dallas Cowboys
  5. Milton Williams – Philadelphia Eagles

Despite opting out last year, Levi Onwuzurike made a splash impact in his opening salvo for the Lions versus the Steelers, where in addition fellow Lions DT McNeil, both have made enough of a statement to warrant starting in week 1. Barmore’s interior pass rushing capabilities have shone in a fearsome Patriots front seven. Podcast favourite Odighizuwa is in line for a starting berth as part of the Cowboys defensive front in order to generate some much-needed pass rush, whereas Williams will play as a rotational interior threat for the Eagles to showcase his freakish athletic ability.

Defensive End/Outside Linebacker

  1. Kwity Paye – Indianapolis Colts
  2. Gregory Rousseau – Buffalo Bills
  3. Rashad Weaver – Tennessee Titans
  4. Joe Tryon – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
  5. Chris Garrett – LA Rams

Paye has flourished already in his short time at Indianapolis and adds to an already formidable Colts defense. Rousseau displayed his pass rushing prowess against fellow rookie Penei Sewell in the Bills preseason opener versus the Lions. Weaver and Tryon both displayed their pass rushing ability on their debuts for their respective teams and small school star and 7th round pick Chris Garrett has emerged during training camp as a surprise pass rushing threat during OTA’s and preseason for the Rams.

Cowboys LB Micah Parsons

Inside Linebacker

  1. Micah Parsons – Dallas Cowboys
  2. Zaven Collins – Arizona Cardinals
  3. Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah – Cleveland Browns
  4. Nick Bolton – Kansas City Chiefs
  5. Hamsah Nasirildeen – New York Jets

Cowboys have their heir to Sean Lee’s throne, as Micah Parsons has been the most impressive rookie throughout preseason thus far and should be top of the DROTY conversation. Collins, Owusu-Koramoah and Bolton have already shown why they were high draft picks and are certain week 1 starters. Nasirildeen is the modern-day hybrid linebacker safety, who Robert Saleh will enjoy having as an important piece of the Jets defense.

Las Vegas Raiders cornerback Nate Hobbs vs. The Rams

Cornerback

  1. Patrick Surtain II – Denver Broncos
  2. Elijah Molden – Tennessee Titans
  3. Nate Hobbs – Las Vegas Raiders
  4. Jaycee Horn – Carolina Panthers
  5. Marco Wilson – Arizona Cardinals

Despite not being apparent need in the draft, the Broncos have hit the jackpot on Surtain based on his preseason performance. Kieran’s (@TheHimboF10Y) guy Elijah Molden is proving why it was a surprise to see him slip to round 3, having excelled in the slot for the Titans. Hobbs has translated his excellent athletic testing to have a great camp and earn the outside corner spot for the Raiders. Horn has had limited reps, however from what we have seen Panthers fans should be excited. Marco Wilson has justified his 4th round selection thus far and will look to play opposite Byron Murphy in a Cardinals secondary now missing future Hall Of Famer Patrick Peterson.

Safety

  1. Jevon Holland – Miami Dolphins
  2. Jamar Johnson – Denver Broncos
  3. Andre Cisco – Jacksonville Jaguars
  4. Tre’von Moehrig– Las Vegas Raiders
  5. Richard LeCounte – Cleveland Browns

Selected as the first safety off the board in the 2021 draft, Jevon Holland has shown in camp his playmaking ability to the extent the Dolphins were happy to release veteran Bobby McCain. Personal favourite Jamar Johnson impressed in camp as part of arguably the best safety duo in the league in Denver. Cisco and Moehrig are in line to start week 1 due to their impressive camps and former Georgia safety LeCounte looks to be a 5th round steal for an already loaded Browns secondary.


Follow Raj on Twitter – @The_Garch

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