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2023 NFL Rookies Progress – Week Six

NFL Rookies

Today, we look at the performances of a number of 2023 NFL rookies during Week 6.

I guess the biggest news of the NFL Week, especially relative to Rookies, is the news that ANTHONY RICHARDSON/QB/Colts will undergo shoulder surgery and begin rehab for the 2024 season. A tough blow for the Colts, but maybe even more of a blow to Richardson personally. One never wants to see an injury to a QB that involves their throwing arm/shoulder. The team had just patched things up (or so it appears) with RB Jonathan Taylor and was hoping for a strong playoff run for the remainder of their season. We’ll see how well MR. MINSHEW can handle the reigns of their Offense in place of RICHARDSON.

And now…

2023 NFL Rookies Progress – Week Six

BALTIMORE RAVENS

ZAY FLOWERS    WR      Boston College     5’9/180       Round 1, Pick 22    PP Rank: 28

A new OC in TODD MONKEN and a revamped WR room are major additions to the Ravens team as they attempt to get more passing downfield and less running and dump-offs from star QB LAMAR JACKSON. Vets OBJ & AGHOLOR were vet additions to the receiver group this past off-season and FLOWERS is the Rookie addition. He is relatively small, but he’s a gritty little guy with excellent quickness and good speed.

He has been getting separation and being rewarded with more targets from LAMAR in recent games. In London, against the tough TITANS Defense, Flowers was a key offensive factor with 6 receptions, for 50 yards and 1 TD. Clearly, he is getting more comfortable as the weeks go by, and Lamar is trusting him accordingly. Look for his numbers to increase from game to game. He gets space on a regular basis and is a jitterbug after the catch. 

BUFFALO BILLS

DORIAN WILLIAMS    LB    Tulane  6’2/230     Round 3, Pick 91   PP Rank: 105

This past weekend marked the first start of the year for WILLIAMS, as he attempted to fill the rather big shoes of one MATT MILANO, who is out for the remainder of the season after being injured in the BILLS game against the Jaguars. The BILLS had their hands full at home against the Giants last Sunday night. Williams acquitted himself well for the first start of his pro career. He had 3 tackles, 1 solo, and 1 Sack. He was a defensive leader at Tulane and looked quite active against the Giants.

If he settles in quickly alongside last year’s 3rd Round Pick Terrel Bernard the BILLS could have one of the best young LB duos in the NFL by later in the season. They will certainly miss MILANO on the field, but the athleticism score just moved upward due to WILLIAMS. Just to put some beef behind WILLIAMS’ football ability, last season at Tulane he recorded 132 Tackles, including 5 Sacks and in coverage work, he had 2 INT and 7 PBU. 

CAROLINA PANTHERS

BRYCE YOUNG  QB      Alabama    5’10/204    Round 1, Pick 1      PP Rank: 1

I had thought about an evaluation of YOUNG’S play back in Week 2, vs. the SAINTS. But I held off on that after the Saints D absolutely embarrassed the Panthers OL, sending YOUNG scrambling for his life way too often. My first takeaway from the game against Miami was the OL still needed to protect better, but at least he had a chance in this game to show out a bit. My second take was that “size does matter”. Whenever the pocket collapsed Young pretty much disappeared in the gang of big bodies around him. My next thought was that if he is to improve he will need more talent in his skill position teammates.

By far, their most productive target has been veteran 33-year-old ADAM THIELEN who they picked up after the Vikings cut him for salary and age reasons. YOUNG is demonstrating an ever-growing mental understanding of the pro game, and it shows in the box scores. Against the Dolphins, he was 23/38- 60.5%- 217 yards- 1 TD- 0 Int.

When you consider how mediocre his weapons and OL are overall, those numbers aren’t bad. The 0 INT is probably the most encouraging stat. It will continue to be a challenging growth year but with some help from Rookies and VFA at skill positions next off-season YOUNG looks to have the toolset needed to charge up the Offense going forward. Now they have to keep him healthy for the remainder of this season. 

LOS ANGELES RAMS    

BYRON YOUNG     DE/ER      Tennessee        6’2/250     Round 3, Pick 77    PP Rank: 33

First, I must give the RAMS some credit for YOUNG and several other of his fellow Rookies who have been solid contributors to a team that purged its roster of over-aged and over-paid vets after falling from grace following their Super Bowl run two seasons ago. They dipped down to a  miserable 5-12 mark last season. YOUNG now looks like a solid player, who could soon be just as effective primarily as an Edge-Rusher as was departed VFA Leonard Floyd. Last weekend the team pulled off a solid 26-9 Win over the Cardinals. YOUNG gave the Cardinals OL fits with his explosion and upper body strength to post 6 Tackles, 1 Sack & 1 Forced Fumble. YOUNG is a mature 25-year-old who took a winding road to the NFL. He is also hungry for success. He looks to me like a solid fixture for their Defense already. 

TAMPA BAY BUCS     

CALIJAH KANCEY   DT     Pitt     6’1/280      Round 1, Pick 19    

KANCEY was another player I had intended to report on earlier in the season, but in his first game, he went out with an injury. This was his first start since the opener. I was taken aback by how “small” KANCEY looked as he lined up on the BUCS DL interior. Then I took a mental step back and decided that many players would look small lining up beside the behemoth named VITA VEA, at 6’4/345. KANCEY showed good quickness off the snap. However, once contacted by a blocker he all too often looked like a dancing partner. With no way to break the embrace of the bigger OL. But he did look more effective in the 2nd-half showing a bit more lateral quickness and avoiding the clinches at the line of scrimmage.

Doing most of his work in that second half he finished the game with 3 Tackles, 1 solo, and 1 Sack. He is not the second coming of AARON DONALD (also from PITT), but his quickness is confirmed already. Now if he can develop a few more rush moves to avoid getting tied up by blockers,  he could be leading his team in sacks for years to come.

TENNESSEE TITANS

PETER SKORONSKI    LG     Northwestern    6’4/313      Round 1, Pick 11    PP Rank: 11

The TITANS had a clear need to rebuild their OL after age, and Salary Cap woes forced them to cut ties with BEN JONES/OC and TAYLOR LEWAN/OT. They might have hoped that SKORONSKI could handle an OT spot, but with 32 1/2″ arms the odds were against him. No surprise then, that he was moved to IOL for the pro game.  But what surprised me the most was how often he seemed overpowered and got pushed aside, or walked back into the pocket,  by the RAVENS DL last weekend.  However, he showed above-average footwork and should make a solid second-level blocker in the run game.

I noticed several seal-off blocks from him that opened some nice holes for HENRY. He deserves his starting job, and I think it is highly likely that with pro coaching and a run-oriented Offense like the TITANS operate, he will improve and be a key starting piece for years to come. He’s not perfect, but he is off to a solid start as a pro.

WHAT’S NEXT

If you are still waiting for me to mention a Rookie on your favorite team please hang in there. I will only comment here on players I have been able to watch in full-game action. Your team may just not have been televised in my viewing area yet, or your favorite rookie may have missed playing in the one game I was able to watch.

Also a quick note of explanation for some of you who are not familiar with my writing. In the lead line for each player is a brief mention of size and Draft spot info. Then you will see a “PP Rank: “. That is to let you know where I had that player ranked in my final Prospect Rankings heading into the 2023 NFL Draft. 

Cheers 

Pigskin 

 

 

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