Despite only being the second overall pick in this year’s draft, Houston’s C.J. Stroud is outperforming first-overall pick Bryce Young by a wide margin. In fact, in NFL betting circles, American online sportsbooks have made Stroud the clear favorite to win Offensive Rookie of the Year. His play is a big reason why the Texans are 3-3 after six weeks and could be an actual contender to make the playoffs.
Ironically, Stroud’s performance in Week 6 might have been the worst of his young career. For the first time, he completed fewer than 50% of his passes and failed to throw for at least 200 yards. Stroud also threw the first interception of his career against the Saints. However, Stroud did throw two touchdown passes for the fourth time in his last five games. More importantly, he guided the Texans to a win, as Stroud continues to show far more maturity and poise than anyone expected of the rookie.
The Vikings didn’t necessarily want to lean on Jordan Addison this much this early in his career. But they don’t have much of a choice with Justin Jefferson sidelined for the foreseeable future. K.J. Osborn brings some experience to Minnesota’s wide receiver room. But the Vikings are largely inexperienced and unproven otherwise as long as Jefferson is out. That makes Addison the best option for explosive plays in the passing game.
In Minnesota’s first game without Jefferson, Addison scored the only touchdown the Vikings had in an ugly 19-13 win over the Bears. However, he only managed three catches for 28 yards in five targets. Kirk Cousins looked far more comfortable looking at tight end T.J. Hockenson or checking down to running back Alexander Mattison. Moving forward, there is no question that Addison is going to be on the field. But he needs to do a better job of making himself open and available to Cousins because the Vikings need him to step up and become a reliable playmaker in Jefferson’s absence.
The early returns on first-round pick Zay Flowers have been positive in Baltimore. After six weeks, he leads the team in receptions and receiving yards. Flowers even has more targets than tight end Mark Andrews, which is a little surprising. That’s a sign that Lamar Jackson is comfortable throwing the ball to the rookie out of Boston College.
In fact, Flowers took another step forward in Week 6 by scoring the first touchdown of his career in Baltimore’s win over the Titans in London. On the play, Flowers managed to get open while Jackson scrambled out of the pocket. While his overall numbers aren’t that eye-popping, Flowers has amassed at least 48 receiving yards in all six games this year, including three games with at least 60 receiving yards. For a team that hasn’t gotten enough from their wide receivers in recent years, Flowers is proving to be a great addition who is producing consistently.
The days of the Seahawks having a top-notch secondary appear to be back. The addition of rookie cornerback Devon Witherspoon is a big part of that. The fifth-overall pick out of Illinois made his presence known early in the season with two sacks and a pick-six. But Witherspoon has turned out to be much more than who likes to blitz and apply hard hits.
In Week 6, the rookie faced arguably his toughest test of the season against Ja’Marr Chase and Cincinnati’s outstanding wide receiver corps. But Witherspoon stepped up and showed that he’s capable of being a good coverage cornerback as well. He was targeted in coverage five times, allowing just three catches for 14 yards against the Bengals. He also had three defended passes in the game, adding to his total of seven on the season. It was an impressive performance for Witherspoon, who is now among the top contenders for Defensive Rookie of the Year honors.
Las Vegas Raiders
Without question, it’s been a complicated, up-and-down season for the Raiders, who have already suffered a three-game losing streak. But there is hope for them after back-to-back wins to get to 3-3. There is also hope for rookie tight end Michael Mayer, who enjoyed a breakout game in the Week 6 win over the Patriots.
As the 35th overall pick, the Raiders have high hopes for Mayer despite his slow start to the season. After catching just three passes in the first five weeks, the former Notre Dame tight end hauled in five passes for 75 yards against New England. Mayer is a surprising downfield threat with two of his eight catches going for 20-plus yards. While it’s just one game, it was a big step in the right direction for Mayer, who could be a great complement to Davante Adams and Jakobi Meyers.
The Colts are no doubt disappointed to see quarterback Anthony Richardson suffer a season-ending injury. However, on the other side of the ball, the team’s second-round pick Julius Brents is making big strides. Despite being absent from the first two games of the season, Brents has moved into the starting lineup and is starting to assert himself.
In Indy’s Week 6 loss to the Jaguars, Brents totaled seven tackles and two defended passes while also registering the first interception of his career. He also played a big role in limiting Trevor Lawrence to just 181 passing yards with wide receivers Christian Kirk and Calvin Ridley staying quiet for large chunks of the game. At 6’3’’, Brents surely has the size and physical tools to play in the NFL. But just a few games into his rookie season, he’s showing the Colts that he’s ready to put those tools to good use and produce on the field.