Ranking the Top 10 NFL Rookie Debuts of the Weekend

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At it’s core, a season of professional tackle football is like a prison. The NFL has an evil warden who commands an army of abusive guards. It has a hierarchy of people who run the place from the inside. It has Guys Who Can Get You Things. Snitches. Violent felons. Victims. And every year at this time, it has newbies. The fresh fish.

Week 1 in the NFL is the bus pulling in through the gate and unloading all the new guys so we can size them up to see which ones will be worth knowing and which ones won’t make it, and which will just end up in the laundry room with Boggs and the Sisters.

This weekend was a particularly good one relative to most seasons. A lot of new guys had solid-to-spectacular debuts, with a few more elite prospects like Myles Garrett, Mike Williams, Marshon Lattimore, and OJ Howard still yet to play. The best so far:

1. Kareem Hunt, KC running back
Stat line: 17 carries for 148 yards, 8.7 YPA, 1 rushing TD, 5 receptions for 98 yards, 19.6 YPC, 2 TDs
Get a load of this fucking guy. He fumbles the first carry of his career. And then rather than do the decent thing by going to the bench, wallowing in shame and losing all confidence, he goes on a scorched earth march against the Patriots and provides his own air support. And basically won the Fantasy week for anyone who started a 3rd round pick on the road in Foxboro on Banner Night.

2. DeShone Kizer, CLE quarterback
Stat line: 20 for 30, .667, 222 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
In addition to an impressive stat line against a divisional opponent with a good defense, Kizer looked the part. Parsecs more advanced than he looked losing at Notre Dame every week last year. He was poised, seemed to go through his reads well, looked in command of his offense. And kept the Browns in the game long enough to make you think that Joe Thomas won’t be having another quarterback name to remember before Antonio Cromartie has another baby’s name to remember. Not a bad look for a guy who’s the 3rd youngest QB to ever start an NFL game.

3. Leonard Fournette, JAX running back
Stat line: 26 carries for 100 yards, 3.8 YPA, 1 TD, 3 receptions for 24 yards, 8.0 YPC
While you wouldn’t buy a beer with an APV equal to his YPA, he was drafted to be the bellcow back for a team Doug Marrone has said he’d just as soon have run the ball every down. And he delivered.

4. TJ Watt, PIT outside linebacker
Stat line: 5 tackles, 1 assist, 2.0 sacks, 1 INT
I had a huge draft stiffy for Watt, and he already feels like the One That Got Away.

5. Tarik Cohen, CHI running back
Stat line: 5 carries for 66 yards, 13.2 YPA, 8 receptions for 47 yards, 5.9 YPC, 1 TD
Here’s the 5-6, 181 lb. future cult figure who can fill the Danny Woodhead-sized hole in America’s heart. His touchdown came with Desmond Trufant squared up on him on the goal line and Cohen got low and powered right through him. Because grit.

6. Kenny Golladay, DET wide receiver
Stat line: 4 receptions for 69 yards, 17.3 YPC, 2 TDs
Golladay proved what all the buzz out of Lions camp was all about. Most notably on a 45 yard catch at the goal line that he completely laid out for. He might lead the nation in Fantasy claims this week. And should.

7. Dashaun Watson, HOU quarterback
Stat line: 12-23, .522, 1 TD, 1 INT
Given the fact that the fact that the Texans had managed 55 yards total offense in the first half behind Tom Savage and Calais Campbell had more sacks in the first 30 minutes than any Jags player had ever had in a game, you could understand if Bill O’Brien opted not to subject his first pick to human sacrifice. But he came in an lead an immediate touchdown drive. Granted he had a pick called back and that was their only score. But he probably earned the starter’s job.

8. Christian McCaffery, CAR running back
Stat line: 13 carries for 47 yards, 3.6 YPA, 5 receptions for 38 yards, 7.6 YPC
A kind of a “Welcome to the Majors, Mr. Hobbs” performance you’d expect from a prospect who is supposed to be able to do it all.

9. Shaquill Griffin, SEA cornerback
Stat line: 10 tackle, 1 pass defended
When Jeremy Lane got ejected for the crime of being on the field for an Aaron Rodgers pick-6 that has to be called back by rule punching somebody, the third rounder out of UCF was sent in opposite Richard Sherman and Rodgers targeted him all night. But he held up his side of the field well enough and earned respect in a great secondary.

10. Jabrill Peppers, CLE safety
Stat line: 4 tackles, 1 pass defended, 1 fumble recovery, a 25-yard punt return
Peppers is a 4-down player who also returns kicks and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he ends up being the best player on this list.

@jerrythornton1

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