Rookie Watch – Week 5

Stock Up

Kyle Pitts:

Atlanta Falcons tight end Kyle Pitts was the star of NFL London this weekend where he racked up an impressive 9 receptions for 119 yards and a touchdown. He spent under 10% of his time in this game lined up as a true tight end, he was mainly lined up like a true no 1 receiver, like he did during his time in college. This isn’t just big progress in terms of a stat line, but in terms of usage in the offense, Pitts has now proven the Falcons can line up anywhere in the formation and utilise his elite athleticism. Falcons fans will be hoping that Pitts can still be a high usage player once number 1 wide receiver Calvin Ridley is back with the team, if they can find a way to utilise both of their stars I would expect this offense to keep growing under Arthur Smith.  

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 10: Kyle Pitts #8 of the Atlanta Falcons scores the first touchdown during the NFL London 2021 match between New York Jets and Atlanta Falcons at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on October 10, 2021 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
Clive Rose / Getty Images

Davis Mills:

Texans rookie, Davis Mills, bucks one of the most discussed trends in the NFL, which was the saying: “Bill Belichick always destroys rookie quarterbacks.” After having one of the worst QB performances in recent years in a loss to the Bills, Mills proved he was more than a match for this Patriots defense. Mills lit the box score up with 307 passing yards and 3 passing touchdowns, which led to a 22-9 lead for the Texans. In the end the Patriots came back to win the game, but that should not take away from a truly elite passing performance by the 2nd round pick. This is arguably the best rookie quarterback performance of the season and Texans fans will be hoping this trend can continue, as Quarterbacks Tyrod Taylor and Deshaun Watson remain out of the line-up.

New England Patriots v Houston Texans
Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Kadarius Toney:

New York Giants first round wide receiver Kadarius Toney has had a very disjointed start to his rookie campaign, however the last 2 weeks he has really shown he is a legitimate weapon for this offense. Toney finished Sunday’s loss to the Cowboys with 10 receptions for 189 receiving yards – this was an even better performance than the impressive one he had the week before in the win vs the Saints. Toney was running routes incredibly well and was able to get in and out of his breaks with extreme quickness. People were worried in the pre-draft that Toney was too much of a gadget player and couldn’t run all the routes in the offense, however early signs show Toney can attack defenses at every level. However Toney did end this game being kicked out for a punch on a Cowboys defender, the Giants will be hoping Toney can learn from this to stay on the field in the future.

Alijah Vera-Tucker:

The New York Jets suffered another tough loss this weekend when they faced the Falcons in London, however Jets rookie guard Alijah Vera-Tucker’s performances only continue to grow week by week. Vera-Tucker started the draft process as a tackle, but the Jets made the clever choice to move him to guard, something that suits his arm length much more. Vera-Tucker has been an impressive run blocker in all 5 weeks, but this week in London he had his most impressive performance from a pass blocking stand point. Over the past 2 weeks Vera-Tucker has given up 0 pressures and 0 penalties, which will be music to the ears of quarterback Zach Wilson.

Stock Down:

Alex Leatherwood:

Raiders offensive lineman Alex Leatherwood is back on our list again, which is becoming a regular occurrence unfortunately. This week Leatherwood is appearing on our list for the first time at the guard position, after the Raiders moved him from right tackle due to struggling performances. Although the Raiders moved him to his pre-draft projected position of guard, the results were still not great. Leatherwood allowed 3 total pressures, including a sack, and was flagged twice for penalties, which is the 4th game out of 5 in which he was flagged at least twice. The hope was that he could be a more stable performer at the guard position, but the early results are not great, however Leatherwood’s physical profile does project more towards being a guard at the pro level for the future.

Trevor Lawrence:

Last week vs the Bengals it looked like Jaguars quarterback had started to turn a corner with his stellar performance, however this week vs divisional rivals the Titans he was brought firmly back down to Earth with another poor performance. Lawrence did not look comfortable in the pocket and was constantly throwing too high towards his receivers. Lawrence had 2 red zone interceptions, 1 of which was called back for a hold. However both of these throws were very poor decisions that he did not need to make, this only added to his league high 11 turnover worthy plays that PFF have allocated to him. Lawrence still possesses the incredible arm talent he showed at Clemson, but his decision making and ability to read heavy blitz defenses is proving to be very lacklustre. NFL London fans will be hoping Lawrence takes a step forward when he makes his London debut this Sunday vs the Dolphins.  

Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence (16) launches an early second quarter pass to Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Jamal Agnew (39) against the Tennessee Titans on October 10, 2021. [Bob Self/Florida Times-Union]

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