Ten weeks of NFL action are officially in the books, so let’s dive into the PFF data to check in on all the first-round rookies.
This week featured some setbacks among the rookie quarterbacks, as well as some ugly performances on defense.
[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: 74.7
Things had been looking up for Joe Burrow after his disastrous showing against the Baltimore Ravens‘ defense in Week 5. And coming off a bye, there was some optimism that he might fare better against Pittsburgh despite the team's formidable pass rush.
That wasn’t the case, and Burrow failed to complete a single pass when pressured, the only time a quarterback has been pressured on more than 10 dropbacks this year without completing a throw. Burrow’s overall PFF grade for this game was worse than each of his outings other than the Ravens defeat. It showed that while he may be able to hang with most teams, he just isn’t able to overcome his offensive line against elite defensive fronts.
Burrow’s season has still been very encouraging overall, and he still ranks 16th among all passers in PFF grade (74.7).
PICK NO. 2: EDGE CHASE YOUNG, WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM
2020 overall grade: 73.4
Chase Young had a fairly quiet day against the Detroit Lions this week. That is, until he committed a game-changing penalty on the final drive to give the Lions a long field goal attempt to snatch the win, which is exactly what happened. Young had just two total pressures in the game, one of which was nullified by a penalty and came against a tight end, and the other of which was a simple pursuit play as Matthew Stafford took off from the pocket.
Young is still yet to get back to the form we saw from him early in the season before an injury caused him to miss some time, but he remains one of the best-performing rookie defenders this season in a league that has been all offense, all of the time.
PICK NO. 3: CB JEFFREY OKUDAH, DETROIT LIONS
2020 overall grade: 40.1
Okudah’s numbers against the Washington Football Team weren’t bad, but some mistakes still kept his overall PFF grade down (46.1) and added to his rough rookie season. Okudah was thrown at three times, allowing a catch on each occasion for 63 yards. He also missed a pair of tackles on Washington running back Antonio Gibson.
With Desmond Trufant healthy, Okudah has lost his starting job and was out-snapped by both Trufant and Amani Oruwariye against Washington. His rookie season has been ugly for significant stretches, but today’s NFL has seen little in the way of defense, and he isn’t alone in struggling.
PICK NO. 4: OT ANDREW THOMAS, NEW YORK GIANTS
2020 overall grade: 59.4
Andrew Thomas saw his PFF grade for the season go down after this game, but he has been trending up in recent weeks in terms of pass protection. He opened his rookie season with seven straight games of sub-60.0 PFF pass-blocking grades thanks to the team reworking some of his technique. However, his past three games have all cleared that 60.0 barrier, and they have come against three of the best defensive fronts he has faced.
This week, he allowed four total pressures against the Eagles on 36 pass-blocking snaps, but they were less severe losses than he was suffering earlier in the season. Thomas has been left behind by the rest of his rookie tackle brethren, but he may be closing the gap on them as the season wears on.
PICK NO. 5: QB TUA TAGOVAILOA, MIAMI DOLPHINS
2020 overall grade: 59.2
Tua Tagovailoa’s PFF grade this week will wind up worse than his box score stats thanks to one of the cleanest turnover-worthy plays you will ever see. On first-and-15, he threw the ball directly through the hands of fellow rookie Kenneth Murray, only to see the linebacker fail to capitalize on the gift as the ball went for a first-down catch.
That play alone would significantly change the perception of his performance — as well as drop his passer rating by around 25 points — but the rookie quarterback continued to flash potential and didn’t look out of place starting, further justifying the team’s decision to give him that chance despite the play of Ryan Fitzpatrick.
The Chargers are typically one of the least likely teams in football to blitz, but with Joey Bosa out and a rookie quarterback leading the opposition, they dialed it up more often. And Tagovailoa responded well, posting a 83.7 PFF grade against the blitz.
PICK NO. 6: QB JUSTIN HERBERT, LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
2020 overall grade: 73.2
The high-variance play that Justin Herbert had been riding successfully in his rookie season seemed to come back down to earth in Week 10 against Miami. He continued to miss too many routine throws, but this week differed because he didn’t offset that inefficiency with any big plays. He averaged just 5.8 yards per play and had zero big-time throws, marking the first time in his rookie season he has failed to register one of PFF’s highest-graded plays in a game.
Herbert has doubtlessly outperformed expectations so far in his rookie season, and the Miami defense is legitimate, but we might be about to see the other end of the unstable statistics that Herbert has been riding the high water mark of for some time.
PICK NO. 7: DI DERRICK BROWN, CAROLINA PANTHERS
2020 overall grade: 56.6
With Ali Marpet again missing for Tampa Bay, there was an opportunity for Derrick Brown to have a big day against a reshuffled Buccaneers offensive line. It was an opportunity he did not seize, and in fact, he was outplayed by sixth-round rookie teammate Bravvion Roy. Brown was solid, but the chance was there for so much more. He tied a season-high for total pressures with four on 32 pass-rushing snaps.
Overall this season, Brown has done most of his damage against sub-standard offensive linemen, but he has shown a more consistent ability to apply pressure in recent weeks.
PICK NO. 8: LB ISAIAH SIMMONS, ARIZONA CARDINALS
2020 overall grade: 67.5
Isaiah Simmons has now played 32 defensive snaps in back-to-back weeks, tied for his season-high, and that increased role in Arizona's defense seems to be bringing about better play. This week, Simmons had impressive PFF grades in every facet of defensive play and made his presence felt in all areas. He notched a hit and a hurry on six pass-rushing snaps, recorded a defensive stop and was targeted in coverage four times — where he spent the vast majority of his snaps.
The Cardinals seem to be getting a handle on a real role for Simmons as his rookie year wears on, and we could start to see his best play come to the forefront down the stretch.