While a first impression isn’t the end-all, be-all of how an NFL player is perceived, it certainly doesn’t hurt a rookie to have his first regular-season experience be a good one.

Tracking the rooks is the theme of this week’s version of the power rankings. While the entire 16-game schedule will be the determinant of their first-year fate, having the first step to be a positive one definitely helps. And for these 32 players, Week 1 was exactly that.

Our NFL Nation reporters focused on the best first-year performances for their teams while helping put together this week’s power rankings. How we rank: Our power panel — a group of more than 80 writers, editors and TV personalities — evaluates how teams stack up throughout the season.

Previous rankings: Preseason

Preseason ranking: 1

Rookie who flashed: Isaiah Wynn, OT

How the newcomer starred: The 2018 first-round draft choice, who had missed his rookie season with a torn Achilles tendon, played all 70 snaps protecting Tom Brady‘s blind side and held his ground in a promising performance. Wynn’s ability to slide and play light on his feet is impressive to watch. Of course, there aren’t too many more important jobs in New England than ensuring Brady is well protected, and the Patriots seem confident in entrusting Wynn with that crucial role. — Mike Reiss


Preseason ranking: 2

Rookie who flashed: Juan Thornhill, S

How the newcomer starred: Thornhill stood out among Chiefs’ rookies mainly because he was the only one starting. Thornhill had been a backup throughout the preseason but was promoted on Sunday and led the Chiefs with eight tackles. Thornhill was impressive in training camp because of his range and playmaking ability. Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said during camp he usually didn’t trust rookies enough to start them in the season opener, but Thornhill played well enough to be an exception. — Adam Teicher

play

4:00

Michelle Beisner-Buck looks back at the Saints’ past two postseasons to find the reason behind their seemingly bad luck.

Preseason ranking: 3

Rookie who flashed: Erik McCoy, C

How the newcomer starred: The new starting center sure seemed to hold up well on a night when the Saints ran for 148 yards on 21 carries (a 7.0 average) and threw for 370 yards on 44 dropbacks. Drew Brees was sacked only once. Perhaps some more subtle miscues will show up on film, but the second-round pick obviously wasn’t a weak link on New Orleans’ loaded offensive line. “Give him credit,” Brees said. “First game out and to have a win like this on Monday football has to mean something.” — Mike Triplett


Preseason ranking: 4

Rookie who flashed: Taylor Rapp, S

How the newcomer starred: The versatility of the second-round pick was on display throughout the 32 snaps (48%) he played on defense. Before the game, defensive coordinator Wade Phillips said Rapp would not be used only as a backup and noted his “short-area quickness” and tackling ability. Against the Panthers, Rapp took the field often as a third safety, alongside John Johnson III and Marqui Christian (Eric Weddle left the game due to injury) and lined up in multiple spots. He finished with three tackles. — Lindsey Thiry


Preseason ranking: 5

Rookie who flashed: Miles Sanders, RB

How the newcomer starred: His stat line (11 carries, 25 yards) doesn’t tell the whole story. Sanders saw a touchdown run called back because of a holding penalty and broke off a 19-yarder that showed off the burst and wiggle that coaches and teammates have been talking up all summer. He’s sharing a backfield with Jordan Howard, Darren Sproles and Corey Clement, and snap distribution will change from week to week, but look for Sanders to be featured more and more as the season goes along. — Tim McManus


Preseason ranking: 9

Rookie who flashed: Tony Pollard, RB

How the newcomer starred: The Cowboys had only two rookies active for the game, so the choice by default is Pollard, a fourth-round running back. He was nearly the starter before Ezekiel Elliott signed in the middle of last week. Pollard’s numbers do not look that strong — 13 carries, 24 yards — but some of that was a product of being in a run-out-the-clock situation late in the game. The Cowboys believe he will develop into a good complement to Elliott. Their top pick, second-round defensive tackle Trysten Hill, was inactive, which is a sign that he has a way to go to earn the coaches’ trust. — Todd Archer


Preseason ranking: 6

Rookie who flashed: Drue Tranquill, LB

How the newcomer starred: The fourth-round selection didn’t play a snap on defense. However, he played 16 snaps on special teams, finishing with a tackle and a partially blocked punt in his first NFL game. If he can continue to make plays on special teams, the Notre Dame product could earn some defensive snaps for the Chargers down the road. — Eric D. Williams

Preseason ranking: 17

Rookie who flashed: Marquise Brown, WR

How the newcomer starred: The No. 25 overall pick showed why he was the first wide receiver selected in this year’s draft. With his electric speed, “Hollywood” scored on his first two catches, recording touchdowns of 47 and 83 yards. Brown’s 147 yards receiving were the most in a player’s first NFL game since Anquan Boldin in 2003. Brown became the much-needed deep threat for quarterback Lamar Jackson, gaining 30-plus yards after the catch on each of his two touchdowns. Last season, Ravens receivers had three catches on which they gained at least 30 YAC. — Jamison Hensley


Preseason ranking: 12

Rookie who flashed: Alexander Mattison, RB

How the newcomer starred: While Dalvin Cook stole the show in the Vikings’ 28-12 victory over Atlanta, Mattison — a third-round draft pick — had a handful of big runs in a game in which he notched nine carries for 49 yards, including a run to the 1-yard line that set up a Minnesota score. “He’s got a chance to be a good complementary back to Dalvin,” coach Mike Zimmer said. “It was good to see.” — Courtney Cronin


Preseason ranking: 13

Rookie who flashed: Darnell Savage, S

How the newcomer starred: While top pick Rashan Gary (No. 12 overall) played just six snaps, the 21st overall pick never came off the field. He showed off the sideline-to-sideline range the Packers coveted in him on the way to three tackles, a quarterback hit and a pass breakup. Along with veteran free agent Adrian Amos, Savage has revamped the Packers’ safety position. — Rob Demovsky


Preseason ranking: 15

Rookie who flashed: DK Metcalf, WR

How the newcomer starred: After arriving to CenturyLink Field in a throwback Steve Largent Seahawks jersey, Metcalf caught four passes for a team-high 89 yards to break Largent’s 43-year-old club record for most yards by a rookie receiver in his debut. His catches of 42 and 25 yards set up a pair of touchdowns. The 25-yarder came on a scramble throw that Pete Carroll called a “great illustration” of Metcalf’s understanding that the play is never over with Russell Wilson. And for all the chatter about Metcalf supposedly being able to run only go routes, his first two grabs came on slants, and he drew a pass interference call in the end zone on a corner route (he was also called for two penalties that were declined). — Brady Henderson


Preseason ranking: 14

Rookie who flashed: Cullen Gillaspia, FB

How the newcomer starred: With first-round pick Tytus Howard (finger), defensive end Charles Omenihu and cornerback Xavier Crawford inactive, tight end Kahale Warring on injured reserve and Zach Fulton getting the start over second-round pick Max Scharping, the Texans did not have a rookie contribution on offense or defense. Gillaspia and cornerback Lonnie Johnson did play on special teams. Gillaspia recorded a special-teams tackle, so he wins. — Sarah Barshop

Preseason ranking: 7

Rookie who flashed: David Montgomery, RB

How the newcomer starred: Matt Nagy freely admitted after Week 1’s loss to Green Bay that the rookie running back needs more touches. Montgomery carried the ball only six times for 18 yards against the Packers, but a few of those were tough runs that resulted in first downs. Montgomery also caught an important 27-yard pass, which tied for Chicago’s second-longest play from scrimmage versus Green Bay. — Jeff Dickerson


Preseason ranking: 20

Rookie who flashed: A.J. Brown, WR

How the newcomer starred: Brown quickly showed that he will be an impactful pass-catcher for the Titans. Known for his ability to generate yards after the catch, Brown turned a short pass into a 51-yard gain on the first play of the second half, helping him to a 100-yard receiving performance on three receptions. He played 26 snaps, which was four more than free-agent addition Adam Humphries. Brown’s big plays (47- and 51-yard receptions) both came with him lining up on the outside as opposed to the slot role that some analysts felt was his only position. Most important, he’s earning the trust of quarterback Marcus Mariota. — Turron Davenport


Preseason ranking: 8

Rookie who flashed: Rock Ya-Sin, CB

How the newcomer starred: Ya-Sin, who quickly moved up the depth chart during training camp, started on the outside with veteran Pierre Desir on Sunday. The second-round pick out of Temple had two tackles in his NFL debut. Unfortunately, he also had a welcome-to-the-NFL moment against the Chargers. Ya-Sin, a physical player with a high school wrestling background, couldn’t go up and muscle the ball away from Chargers receiver Keenan Allen on a 50-50 touchdown pass in the end zone in the second quarter. Safety Malik Hooker took part of the blame on the play by saying he has to be quicker to come over and help in those situations. — Mike Wells

play

1:31

Stephen A. Smith goes off on the Steelers for their performance against Tom Brady and the Patriots in Week 1.

Preseason ranking: 11

Rookie who flashed: Devin Bush, LB

How the newcomer starred: Bush played the most significant role among Steelers rookies, leading the team with 11 tackles. He stood out in that he was bringing Patriots players to the ground, but that’s not so good when most of the tackles were on chunk-yardage plays for the offense. Bush gave up a big gain on a pick play but otherwise looked ready. Rookie receiver Diontae Johnson is an intriguing option after three catches for 29 yards. The lights didn’t look too bright for him. — Jeremy Fowler


Preseason ranking: 10

Rookie who flashed: Jamie Gillan, P

How the newcomer starred: One of Cleveland’s few Week 1 bright spots was Gillan, a rookie punter who averaged almost 47 yards on five punts, including three downed inside the 20-yard line. The Browns terminated veteran Britton Colquitt because of Gillan’s potential. He did not disappoint in his debut. — Jake Trotter


Preseason ranking: 18

Rookie who flashed: Brian Burns, OLB

How the newcomer starred: Burns was brought in to pressure quarterbacks as an edge rusher, and he responded in his first start with two quarterback hurries and one tackle for loss. The difference is the Panthers didn’t use as many 3-4 fronts as anticipated, and Burns’ strength was supposed to be coming off the edge as an OLB, not an end. — David Newton


Preseason ranking: 16

Rookie who flashed: Chris Lindstrom, G

How the newcomer starred: Although he wasn’t flawless, the Falcons’ top pick looked strong at times at right guard before exiting with a broken foot. Lindstrom played 48 snaps at right guard, his final action for at least the next eight weeks. Lindstrom is bound for injured reserve but will be eligible to return. You can tell in warm-ups how focused Lindstrom is on playing with the proper technique. — Vaughn McClure


Preseason ranking: 22

Rookie who flashed: Nick Bosa, DE

How the newcomer starred: Who else? Bosa made his NFL debut after returning from an ankle sprain and made an impact. Although he whiffed on an early sack opportunity as Jameis Winston evaded him, he managed to finish with three tackles, a sack, a tackle for loss and two quarterback hits in unofficial statistics. His pressure also helped contribute to cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon‘s game-clinching pick-six in the fourth quarter. It was a promising start for the No. 2 overall pick and leaves one to wonder what could lie ahead when he is at full speed. — Nick Wagoner


Preseason ranking: 21

Rookie who flashed: T.J. Hockenson, TE

How the newcomer starred: Hockenson set a rookie record for yards from a tight end in his debut with a six-catch, 131-yard, one-touchdown effort against Arizona. While it’s usually hard for tight ends to acclimate to the NFL, this is a continuation of what Detroit saw all camp long. Hockenson was a playmaker throughout the spring and preseason and it continued Sunday, when he had close to 100 people who traveled to Arizona to watch his first-ever NFL regular-season game. — Michael Rothstein


Preseason ranking: 25

Rookie who flashed: Devin Singletary, RB

How the newcomer starred: First-round pick Ed Oliver turned in a strong effort at defensive tackle, but Singletary was arguably the Bills’ most dynamic playmaker Sunday. He accounted for 98 yards on nine touches. He started ahead of Frank Gore and should get a far heavier workload moving forward. — Marcel Louis-Jacques


Preseason ranking: 26

Rookie who flashed: Josh Jacobs, RB

How the newcomer starred: Jacobs, who never carried the ball more than 20 times in a game at Alabama and rushed only 251 times total in college, showed he was more than ready for prime time. His patience, vision and cutting ability kept Broncos edge rushers Von Miller and Bradley Chubb at bay. And Jacobs’ 85 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries proved him prophetic — his play spoke for itself. — Paul Gutierrez

Preseason ranking: 19

Rookie who flashed: Gardner Minshew, QB

How the newcomer starred: Minshew completed his first 13 passes — the most by a rookie quarterback to begin his career over the past 40 years, per Elias Sports Bureau research — en route to 275 yards and two touchdowns. Minshew completed 22 of 25 passes, with one of the incompletions a pass that bounced off Leonard Fournette‘s hands and was intercepted. Minshew’s completion percentage (88.0%) was the highest in league history for any player with at least 15 pass attempts making an NFL debut. It is also a franchise single-game record among players with at least 25 pass attempts. — Mike DiRocco


Preseason ranking: 23

Rookie who flashed: Dalton Risner, G

How the newcomer starred: It wasn’t the best of opening weeks for the Broncos’ rookie class given that Drew Lock is injured and first-rounder Noah Fant was flagged multiple times in a rocky outing in the loss to the Raiders. But against a defensive front that features plenty of bulk, Risner (second round) showed that he’s NFL-ready in the run game. The Broncos repeatedly found some room behind him when they could commit to the run. — Jeff Legwold


Preseason ranking: 24

Rookie who flashed: Quinnen Williams, DT

How the newcomer starred: Williams wins by default because he’s the only rookie who played a semi-significant role. The No. 3 overall pick didn’t finish the game because of a second-half ankle injury. It was a quiet debut. He played 23 defensive snaps, with no tackles and two pressures. On one play, he affected the center, which resulted in a botched snap. Aside from that, Williams has to do a better job of defeating his man in one-on-one situations. — Rich Cimini


Preseason ranking: 28

Rookie who flashed: Michael Jordan, G

How the newcomer starred: Cincinnati’s rookies had a relatively quiet day, but Jordan held his own at left guard against a quality Seattle defensive front. Jordan played every snap of the 21-20 loss and had a solid performance, according to first-year coach Zac Taylor. — Ben Baby


Preseason ranking: 29

Rookie who flashed: Terry McLaurin, WR

How the newcomer starred: The Redskins were comfortable releasing Josh Doctson because of what they had in McLaurin and he responded well, catching five passes for 125 yards and a 69-yard touchdown. He was in position for another long touchdown, but was overthrown. McLaurin’s speed makes a big difference in the offense, and the play design helped create open areas for him down the field. In three seasons with Washington, Doctson never cracked 100 yards receiving in a game. — John Keim


Preseason ranking: 30

Rookie who flashed: Kyler Murray, QB

How the newcomer starred: Murray showed why he was the first overall pick in April’s draft during the fourth quarter of a Week 1 tie against Detroit. If it wasn’t for him, the Cardinals wouldn’t have been in position to pull even after three dismal quarters of offense. Murray shined in the fourth quarter, going 15-for-19 for 154 yards and two touchdowns in the final stanza. He finished with 308 yards overall on 29-for-54 passing, and once the offense got into a rhythm, he showed how dynamic he could be, running the Cardinals’ up-tempo offense nearly flawlessly while utilizing his feet and arm. — Josh Weinfuss


Preseason ranking: 27

Rookie who flashed: Devin White, LB

How the newcomer starred: The No. 5 overall pick had five solo tackles — six combined — in the Bucs’ 31-17 loss to the 49ers. He played a key role in a second-quarter, red zone stand that forced the Niners to settle for a field goal and preserved a Bucs lead. He did it while battling tonsillitis in the week leading up to the game, too, as he struggled to eat and suffered from dehydration. “That’s exactly what I would expect of the guy,” coach Bruce Arians said. “He’s tough … he fought through it.” — Jenna Laine


Preseason ranking: 31

Rookie who flashed: Ryan Connelly, LB

How the newcomer starred: It was hard to find any of the Giants’ 10 draft picks who excelled in that debacle against Dallas. Three didn’t dress. Daniel Jones fumbled in his limited playing time. Deandre Baker struggled badly. Dexter Lawrence was mostly invisible. Julian Love and Corey Ballentine barely saw the field. That leaves only fifth-rounder Connelly and third-round edge rusher Oshane Ximines to make any sort of positive contribution. Each had a tackle for loss, the Giants’ only two in the 35-17 loss. — Jordan Raanan


Preseason ranking: 32

Rookie who flashed: Preston Williams, WR

How the newcomer starred: There weren’t many bright spots in the Dolphins’ embarrassing Week 1 loss, but Williams — Miami’s undrafted free-agent find out of Colorado State — showed that he has a real NFL future. He got the start and caught his first career touchdown pass. He called the moment “bittersweet” because of the loss, but he hopes it’s the first of many scores he’ll catch as a Dolphin. For a team faced with a lot of doom and gloom, Williams provides a sliver of hope. — Cameron Wolfe


Source link