Thirteen 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.
The debut season from our first-round rookies is entering the final stretch, and while some are shooting for rookie of the year honors, others just want to end the year on a high note and look to show something they can build upon in the offseason.
[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: 75.1
The sad and seemingly inevitable conclusion of Joe Burrow’s woeful offensive line was realized last week after a knee injury prematurely ended his season. He will now have to rehab and hope to come back 100% in 2021 while the Bengals desperately focus on upgrading his pass protection.
What we saw from Burrow this season was tremendously encouraging despite circumstances that were not terribly conducive to high-end quarterback play. The only real question mark about his future is the severity of the injury and the length of time it will keep him out.
PICK NO. 2: EDGE CHASE YOUNG, WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM
2020 overall grade: 78.0
Chase Young had a solid outing against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday night in Washington’s major upset against the league’s only (formerly) undefeated team. Young had three total pressures from 47 pass rushes, but pass rushing was actually the weakest area of his game thanks to the sheer volume of such snaps for him. He had a pair of defensive stops and was a significant part of a defensive front that gave the Steelers all they could handle.
Young has better-than-average grades in every facet of play so far this season. He likely would have been even better but for an injury that forced him to miss some time early in the year and knocked his progress back a step or two.
PICK NO. 3: CB JEFFREY OKUDAH, DETROIT LIONS
2020 overall grade: 41.8
Jeffrey Okudah didn’t play this week; he missed the Thanksgiving game, as well. Here’s what we said after Week 11:
Jeffrey Okudah isn’t an every-down starter anymore, but that can’t hide him from opposing offenses when he does see the field. Against Carolina this week, he saw 24 snaps of action and was targeted six times, allowing a catch in each instance. Those receptions went for 79 yards and a 118.8 passer rating. The good news for Okudah is that his run defense and tackling were solid, and this is a season in which coverage is a struggle for most cornerbacks and virtually all rookies.
It’s been a tough season for the No. 3 pick, and it would be difficult to pick out many positives, but he can at least take comfort in the schadenfreude of knowing that he’s not alone. The Lions will be hoping that this season is laying the groundwork for better play in the future.
PICK NO. 4: OT ANDREW THOMAS, NEW YORK GIANTS
2020 overall grade: 64.4
Andrew Thomas had the best game of his career this week against the Seattle Seahawks as part of the Giants' upset win. The Seahawks' lack of pass rush has meant a career day for more than one tackle this season, but it’s still encouraging to see Thomas take advantage of that for a big day — favorable opposition hasn’t always translated to good play during his rookie season.
Thomas didn’t allow any pressure on 26 pass-blocking snaps, his second consecutive game doing so, and also had the best run-blocking performance of his season.
Thomas started slowly this year, but, like the Giants, he has turned it around as of late and has been playing impressive football for the past few weeks.
PICK NO. 5: QB TUA TAGOVAILOA, MIAMI DOLPHINS
2020 overall grade: 60.1
Tua Tagovailoa made his return to the starting lineup this week against the Cincinnati Bengals and had a solid day. On 40 dropbacks, Tua was pressured just six times by the Bengals. But from a clean pocket, he completed 25-of-34 attempts for 287 yards (8.4 per attempt) and a touchdown. The Bengals have been a good defense this season for opposing quarterbacks to get back on track, so it’s not surprising to see Tua perform well against the unit.
Overall, Tua has looked capable in limited snaps in the NFL but has yet to have the kind of “wow” performance we have seen from both Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert. It doesn’t mean he isn't capable of such outings, but we are still waiting for him to bust them out.
PICK NO. 6: QB JUSTIN HERBERT, LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
2020 overall grade: 73.1
Justin Herbert was part of a Chargers team that was out-coached and outplayed by the New England Patriots across all levels of the game. You don’t lose 45-0 without pretty much everything going against you. The Chargers saw how badly the Miami Dolphins caused problems for Herbert during their meeting and likely were expecting more of the same, but the Patriots attacked with something else — and Los Angeles had no answer.
Herbert was under pressure on 19 of 59 dropbacks despite New England blitzing just five times. The rookie signal-caller struggled, completing only three passes that traveled further than 10 yards from the line of scrimmage, but he was far from alone in a complete team disaster this week.
He has greatly exceeded expectations so far in his rookie season, but Herbert may be seeing some of his unsustainable play regress as the season wears on.
PICK NO. 7: DI DERRICK BROWN, CAROLINA PANTHERS
2020 overall grade: 56.3
The Panthers were on a bye this week; here’s what we said after Week 12:
The Panthers as a team read the game plan that the Minnesota Vikings wanted to execute with no Adam Thielen available to them and did a very good job of stuffing the run. Derrick Brown was a part of that effort, even if he still had some plays where he failed to maintain his gap adequately.
Brown also added four total pressures as a pass-rusher. As the season has gone on, he has become more of a factor in that area than he has been against the run — the reverse of what people expected given his traits as a prospect at draft time.
PICK NO. 8: LB ISAIAH SIMMONS, ARIZONA CARDINALS
2020 overall grade: 61.8
Isaiah Simmons was back to being a much bigger part of the defensive rotation this week after playing only 16 snaps against the Patriots. In Week 13, he was on the field for 32 plays and made a couple of defensive stops. However, he was attacked in coverage at key times during the game.
He was thrown at five times, allowing a catch each time, including a touchdown. Overall, Simmons was beaten for a 132.1 passer rating and had his lowest PFF coverage grade since his debut back in Week 1, in which he was mercilessly attacked by Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers.
Simmons is an impressive athlete who is currently better coming forward than he is in coverage, but the team is still working out a clear role for him.