Today, we look at the performances of a number of 2023 NFL rookies during Week 5.
2023 NFL Rookies Progress – Week Five
After surprising many with their selection of RB/BIJAN ROBINSON with the 8th Pick of the 2023 Draft, the team surprised again in Round 2 with the selection of Syracuse OT MATTHEW BERGERON with the 38TH Pick overall. Lo and behold he won a starting position during the Summer, inside at LG. And after watching him closely in their Week 5 Win over Houston I think he may be entrenched in that spot for some time to come. He may not be the strongest IOL in the league but is certainly among the more athletic ranking group.
Clearly working on his footwork and balance out on the edge makes him even more effective working inside. He looks quick off the snap of the ball and can get to second-level blocks quite quickly. Bergeron played in a balanced offense at the ‘Cuse and holds up well in pass-pro. He is already a solid starter in the NFL. I had I’m ranked just a tad lower than their Pick, PP#54, but those are both Round 2 grades.
The quiet, astute drafting of GM NICK CASERIO, continues to impress. IMO, his maneuvers to end up with STROUD & ANDERSON in Round One are already looking good. But the selections he made go even deeper into the Draft. I had LB HENRY TO’OTO’O ranked as my 113th prospect, and Caserio jumped all over him with Pick 167 in Round 5. TO’OTO’O has moved right into a starting LB spot and has been highly productive. Against Atlanta, he tallied 12 Tackles, 6 of them solo.
His field action vision is elite, and we knew that coming out of ‘Bama. He may not be a super athlete, but he trusts his eyes and gets to the ball with regularity, including showing solid coverage skills and response quickness in shallow coverage. He plays with energy and clearly has a high FBI. At 228 lbs. he’s not stout, but he displays strength beyond that weight.
To my eyes, the COLTS struggled on Offense last season, especially while trying to replace long-time slot receiver T.Y. HILTON. So they reached out to draft JOSH DOWNS in Round 3, at Pick 79. (He was my 79th-ranked prospect, BTW.) Like Hilton, Downs is a smallish guy, at 5’9/170, but uses some speed, and even more quicks, to get open and then produce RAC yards. He makes a great complimentary piece when playing alongside bigger guys PITTMAN/PIERCE. He has developed slowly, but steadily, and recorded 6 catches for 97 yards last weekend against the Titans. His long catch and run was a 38-yard long play. I anticipate even bigger numbers from him as the season progresses.
JORDAN ADDISON was the Vikings top Pick at 23 (PP#29, and was part of the game plan which allowed them to part ways with ADAM THIELEN, who was a CFA who lasted 10 years in Minnesota as a key complementary. ADDISON was positioned in the slot most of Training Camp and started the season in that spot, complimenting vets JEFFERSON & OSBORN. And his quickness and explosion have fit in well. He’s a spindle guy with good speed and reliable hands. ADDISON caught 6 balls, against the CHIEFS for 64 yards and 1 TD. They will likely be looking for more from him with JEFFERSON being placed on the Injury List, which requires a minimum of 4 weeks of absence. We’ll see how he responds to the more significant role for the rest of this month.
NEW YORK JETS
JOE TIPPMANN/OC/Wisconsin (PP#44) was selected the JETS in Round 2, with Pick 43. Given the question marks about several of the team’s OL spots, he got plenty of action during the Summer. He has emerged as a starting OG for the team. He’s a long guy (6’6/315) for the IOL, but very athletic. Watching him over the past couple of games they are using his athleticism on sweeps, pulls, and second-level blocks. He could use a bit more upper body strength but has good functional strength overall. The team may have plans to seek even more talent along their OL next off-season, but I am guessing TIPPMANN is likely to remain as a solid young piece of that unit whether it be OG or OC.
If you are fan of sci-fi movies or Greek mythology you are likely aware of the infamous undersea monster known as the Kraken, whom Poseidon, God of the Seas, was responsible for. Whenever I see a video of the Rookie DT JALEN CARTER (ex-UGA, current EAGLES Rookie) hitting the field I think of the movie scenes of ZEUS ordering Poseidon to “unleash the Kraken” to demolish some enemy. CARTER is seeing more and more action in the very deep DL rotation in Philadelphia.
And he is wreaking havoc with his size, strength & overall athleticism. He literally tossed some folks aside in the tilt against the Rams. Carter finished the game with 3 Tackles/1 solo and 2 Sacks. He may be listed at 6’3/315, but he looks even bigger to me. The Eagles drafted him at Pick 9 (PP#6) and he clearly was downgraded by some teams for his off-field driving issues. But he is special, and with COX suffering an injury, he likely will see more snaps in the weeks ahead.
Not all news is good news as players make their transition from college to pro. A sad reminder of that fact was the poor play of Washington CB/Emmanuel FORBES their Round 1, Pick 16 currently starting. His play, against Chicago on Thursday night, was atrocious. He seems to be playing at the same speed he did in college, and hasn’t realized yet that means he’s a second or two behind the pro-level action.
Forbes broke way too late on several throws looking for picks and ended up allowing long completions. And his tackling attempts were often miserable. His overall play killed his own defense. At this pace the Commanders need him on the field less… a lot less. Here’s hoping he awakens and plays like a pro, not a collegian, very soon. I confess I had him too high, at #46, in Round 2.
That’s it for this week. Will work on finding more Rookies who are earning their pay in the big time next week. End of the month I will unveil my mid-season All-Rookie team.