Seven weeks of NFL action are officially in the books, and it's once again time to check in on each first-round rookie.
The Justin Herbert show continues unabated, and he was rewarded this week with a win, but we also saw how tough life can be for a rookie in the NFL from some of the other first-rounders.
[Editor's Note: PFF's advanced statistics and player grades are powered by AWS machine learning capabilities.]
PICK NO. 1: QB JOE BURROW, CINCINNATI BENGALS
2020 overall grade: 74.6
Outdueled by Baker Mayfield again this week after it looked like the Bengals might be able to snatch a victory, Joe Burrow was once again dealing with a nightmare scenario in terms of protection, even if the group actually platooned together well enough to mitigate the issue.
Left tackle Jonah Williams went down, forcing a reshuffle up front that put Fred Johnson on the blind side and Billy Price at center. Burrow’s PFF grade was average overall, but most of the issues came when he was under pressure. He connected on more deep passes in this game than he had in any of his other outings this season put together (three versus two) but ultimately came out on the wrong side of the result once more.
PICK NO. 2: EDGE CHASE YOUNG, WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM
2020 overall grade: 82.0
Chase Young had another strong game as he works his way back to being the force he was before injury caused him to miss some time. He had four total pressures against Dallas and also notched three defensive stops while feasting upon a weak Cowboys offensive line.
Young did the majority of his damage against serial liability Cam Erving, so a strong showing was always likely, but he continues an impressive rookie campaign that has him already taking aim at the better edge defenders in the league. Washington will be particularly pleased with his effectiveness against the run, where his 77.2 PFF grade actually beats his pass-rushing grade so far this season.
PICK NO. 3: CB JEFFREY OKUDAH, DETROIT LIONS
2020 overall grade: 39.0
Jeffrey Okudah’s gauntlet of coverage assignments continued this week, as he had to deal with the Atlanta Falcons' array of receiving weapons. Okudah saw a little of several receivers, with Detroit’s more diverse coverages over recent weeks sparing him from just playing man coverage every snap against a receiver with the class and experience to eat his lunch.
Okudah allowed five catches for 51 yards from nine targets this week but also had a pass interference penalty on a deep shot to Calvin Ridley that was saved from his coverage stats. Overall, Okudah’s rookie season so far has been a tough run, but his assignments have been brutal.
PICK NO. 4: OT ANDREW THOMAS, NEW YORK GIANTS
2020 overall grade: 58.3
The bad news for Andrew Thomas is that he earned a 56.0 PFF grade on Thursday night against the Eagles, which is basically back around his rookie baseline after a brief bright spot against Washington the week before. The good news is that Matt Peart didn’t get a chance to see much playing time and outplay him the way he did that previous week.
Thomas continues to struggle through a rookie year in which he is dealing with new pass sets and things he hasn’t done before. The NFL is a tough environment to learn on the job, and we’re just seeing the growing pains of a position that is already difficult to transition to this level with the added burden of reworking some of his technique. Thomas has now allowed 37 total pressures — the most in the NFL.
PICK NO. 5: QB TUA TAGOVAILOA, MIAMI DOLPHINS
2020 overall grade: 72.8
Miami is on a bye this week. Here’s what we said after Week 6:
Tua Tagovailoa made it onto an NFL field! With Ryan Fitzpatrick leading a comfortable win against the New York Jets, Tua saw a couple of minutes of action late in the game and even attempted two passes (completing both) to see out the win.
PICK NO. 6: QB JUSTIN HERBERT, LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
2020 overall grade: 75.8
Justin Herbert’s play continues to amaze, at least on the high end. Some of the inconsistency we saw from his college tape showed up more against the Jaguars than it has in other games, but he still made four big-time throws, the second-most by a quarterback this week.
Herbert’s ability to play at his current level despite the protection in front of him has been remarkable — only Sam Darnold and Daniel Jones have been pressured on a greater percentage of dropbacks than Herbert’s 38.5% rate this season.
He is also the No. 1 ranked quarterback in terms of PFF passing grade on third down (90.4). The only issue is using those highly unstable numbers to project future performance. As impressive as Herbert has been, those data points will almost certainly regress, and then we will see a more accurate reflection of his NFL baseline.
PICK NO. 7: DI DERRICK BROWN, CAROLINA PANTHERS
2020 overall grade: 56.9
After bouncing between awful and excellent for the first few weeks of his rookie season — largely depending on how good the opposing offensive line was — Derrick Brown has found some middle ground. For the second week in a row, h finished with a PFF game grade in the 70.0s.
He had just one pressure against the Saints but also notched four pass-rushing wins that didn’t get a chance to become pressure because of how fast Drew Brees got rid of the ball. Brown had a relatively quiet game against the run but still held his own against the New Orleans interior.
PICK NO. 8: LB ISAIAH SIMMONS, ARIZONA CARDINALS
2020 overall grade: 60.0
Isaiah Simmons came up with one of the biggest plays in the game on Sunday Night Football to help the Arizona Cardinals upset Seattle in overtime. It wasn’t reflective of a greater role overall, however, and despite almost an extra quarter of football, Simmons played a season-low number of defensive snaps — just five.
He has made a couple of plays over the past few weeks, but it appears to be largely due to no longer having a giant bullseye on his back and a role large enough to actively go after. Simmons has played just 83 defensive snaps across seven weeks of action.