The 2017 NFL Draft was loaded with talent, so much that the Offensive Rookie of the Year more than likely won’t be a first-round pick. This article will look at the leagues most prominent rookies, offensive, and defensive. The most exciting thing about the NFL Draft is that there is always talent in the later rounds. This year, players like Alvin Kamara, Kareem Hunt, Cooper Kupp and Juju Smith-Schuster were all drafted after the first round. They were also the more than likely all in the top 5 for Offensive Rookie of the Year. Then on the defensive side of the ball, there are players like Carl Lawson, Malik Hooker, Rueben Foster and Derek Barnett were not drafted first at their position. Here we will look at their Pre-Draft profile, as well as look at their production in the NFL.
2017 Rookie Review: Offense
Alvin Kamara has made a case for not only Rookie of the Year, but also an argument for Offensive Player of the Year. Kamara does it all for the New Orleans Saints. Kamara caught 81 passes for 820 yards this season, which would be good for a rookie receiver. However, Kamara also added 728 rushing yards on 120 carries, an insane 6.1 YPC. While those may not be amazing numbers, Kamara shares carries with Mark Ingram. Kamara should have a long NFL career, and that is because of a few reasons. Alvin Kamara has had the benefit of being in a committee style backfield, which has reduced the wear and tear on his body. Kamara also has the perfect skill set for today’s NFL, and more importantly Sean Payton’s offense. Alvin Kamara is capable of running between the tackles when needed, but he excels in the passing game. Kamara jumped into the Saints’ offense and learned exactly how Payton and Brees want the plays run. That is not an easy task for any position, especially the running back position.
Kareem Hunt has been the only running back to challenge Alvin Kamara for the full length of the season. Hunt exploded onto the scene after a huge first game against the New England Patriots. One stat that defines running backs is fumbling, rightly so. The number of yards gained means little if the other team has the ball at the end of the play. Hunt’s season started off in a scary way, as he fumbled on his first play; however, Hunt did not fumble again all season. Hunt more than made up for that fumble with over 1,300 rushing yards, and nearly a 5 YPC average. He also added 455 receiving yards on 53 receptions. It can be argued that Kareem Hunt was the engine that drove the Kansas City offense. Hunt led the NFL in rushing, which is insanely impressive for a rookie.
Cooper Kupp was a 3rd round pick, so how did he compare to first-round wide receivers? Kupp outgained the first four receivers picked combined. Cooper Kupp is all the more impressive because he doesn’t rely on pure athleticism like many rookie receivers. Kupp ran a 4.62 forty yard dash, which is .09 seconds faster than Saints tackle Terron Armstead. Kupp builds his game around short area quickness, toughness, and reliability. Cooper Kupp was consistently got open in the middle of the field catching passes in traffic. Anytime a play broke down it felt like Goff was trying to find Kupp, who undoubtedly found a hole in the defense. Kupp won’t be a game breaker, but he has the ability to have big games.
When thinking of Juju Smith- Schuster what is the first thing that comes to mind? Okay maybe the second thing, the first thing is more than likely his celebration referencing his stolen bike. Smith- Schuster put up nearly 1000 yards as the third or fourth option on the Steelers’ offense. So how did he do it? Much like Antonio Brown, Schuster isn’t the fastest guy, but he does have exceptional quickness. Smith-Schuster also does an excellent job of getting yards after the catch, using his size, speed, and agility. Once he has the ball in his hands he turns into a running back, while most receivers prefer to use speed as their main tool after the catch.
2017 Rookie Review: Defense
Carl Lawson was picked in the fourth round partially due to his injury history. However, most of the time that won’t stop teams from picking their guy, so what stopped a team from picking Lawson? That is a great question, it could be that the NFL values tall and long pass rushers and Lawson stands at six foot two inches tall. Lawson proved his value in the passing game, notching 8.5 sacks in his rookie year. Lawson didn’t provide much value on first and second down, but as a situational pass rusher, Lawson proved his value to the NFL.
Just how good was Malik Hooker before his injury? He had the Colts secondary looking like an NFL secondary. When a corner got beat deep Hooker was jumping over the top to break up the play, with his elite range. Hooker had three interceptions in seven games and added 4 passes defended. Hooker could have been near the top of the league in interceptions had it not been for a torn ACL. Malik Hooker should be a centerpiece for the Colts’ defense for years to come.
Rueben Foster had to deal with falling in the draft due to off-field issues and injuries. However, he made the 49ers very happy. Foster has been the undoubted leader of the 49ers defense, he flies around and makes plays from sideline to sideline. Foster put up more than 70 tackles in just 10 games, including two games with 10+ tackles. Reuben Foster battled back from an ankle sprain this season, but he flashed big-time playmaking ability. The 49ers built their defense from the defensive line back, and Foster will be the anchor in the middle for a long time.
Derek Barnett has mainly been stuck in a rotational role with the Eagles, but he still put up five sacks. Barnett even flashed big game ability with two multiple sack games and flashed the ability to get the ball away from the quarterback. Coming out of college Barnett was pegged as a pass rush specialist, but with the Eagles, he has shown plenty of run stopping ability. Barnett does an excellent job using his hands to disengage offensive linemen in both the run and pass game. Derek Barnett may not start right now, but he has the ability to make a serious impact once he is the full-time starter.