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NFL ROOKIES Progress Report – Week 11

NFL Rookies

Clearly, it has been a good (if not great) year for NFL Rookies this season. And now, as the marathon NFL season moves into its final 6 weeks of regular season action, we should see more Rookies get even more playing time. I had no problem finding more good Rookies in action last week to bring to your attention. 

NFL ROOKIES Progress Report – Week 11

CINCINNATI  BENGALS     

JORDAN BATTLE      # 27    S        6’1/210         Alabama      Round 3, Pick 95     PP# 86

The Bengals lost their starting safeties from 2022 to veteran free agency in Jessie Bates and Vonn Bell. One of their multiple moves to restock the position was the drafting of Jordan Battle in Round 3. He has seen more playing time as the season has progressed. And there is no denying that he has earned that additional playing time. His best work has come as an in-the-box run stopper, but he is athletic enough to provide short area coverage, with the athletic tools to improve with time and snaps.  

Even though BATTLE did not start the game he led the team with 10 solo Tackles last week in Baltimore. He is a good, not great, athlete with a nose for the ball and a high FBI. He also added 1 assisted tackle on Special Teams, where he has also been a key contributor all season. 

Sadly, the Bengals season has been derailed by injuries to JOE BURROW, who is done for this season following wrist surgery. This should provide a realistic approach to the Bengals Rookies seeing more action in December. BATTLE is destined for more work than ever. He has earned it.

DETROIT LIONS

COLBY  SORSDAL     #75      OG    6’6/315     William & Mary      R5, Pick 152      PP#   300+

The Lions’ current roster quality does not provide room for a huge Rookie class these days. But the Holmes/Campbell leadership team has clearly identified the type of players they want for their locker room and playing field. Add Colby Sorsdal to their list of “Lions-type” Rookies for this season. SORSDAL won a spot on the 53-man roster in September. Then when injuries struck their IOL group he replaced Jonah Jackson at LG. I am not sure Jackson is getting that job back any time soon. The small school athlete has been a driving force opening running holed between the tackles and has been adequate, and improving, in pass-pro. He’s at least a future starter, IMO.

GREEN BAY PACKERS     

JAYDEN REED      #11      WR/RS      5’11/185    Michigan State      Round 2, Pick 50    PP# 88

It has been difficult to pinpoint the most effective Rookies on the Packers roster, which contains the most Rookies in the NFL, currently with 15 on their 53-man. Most of them have serious roles to play on game day. Despite protests to the contrary by management, this team is retooling this roster with a major influx of young players. They also have 10 Rookies from 2022, on that active roster. 9 additional Practice Squad members are also 2023 Rookies.

Right now, I think Jayden Reed has distanced himself from the large group with his ability and versatility. His stats from the upset Win against the Chargers were impressive. QB Jordan Love targeted Reed 6 times, and Reed caught 4 of them for 46 yards. Reed was used on 3 rushing carries for another 46 yards and 1 TD. He also contributed 1 Punt return for 7 yards. He is clearly the Receiver 3 behind second-year players Christian Watson & Romeo Doubs

CARRINGTON VALENTINE    #37     6’0/190     Kentucky      Round 7, Pick 232     PP# 243

I believe it is safe to say that the first-season development of Carrington Valentine was a major factor in the team trading Rasul Douglas to the BILLS at the trade deadline. Valentine is a good athlete, with pro football-type measurements. His 32 1/4″ arms are a highly desirable CB asset. The Packers, and more than a few other organizations, saw upside in this player, and he has worked his way into a starting job with Jaire Alexander out injured and Douglas traded away.

Against the Chargers, he recorded 4 Tackles, 3 of them solo, and was credited with 3 Passes Defended. One of 4 Packers Round 7, 2023 Picks. They wisely took him rather than getting into a likely bidding war for him if he was an undrafted free agent. At the very least he looks like a long-range Nickel & Dime package DB to me. 

HOUSTON TEXANS      

TANK DELL      #3    WR/RS      5’9/165      Houston         Round 3, Pick 69      PP# 158  

Let’s state it clearly… at a couple of inches taller this man would have been challenging for a first-round selection spot. Some were surprised when he went early in Round 3. I found his play in 2022 to be exciting and productive. And he is becoming a favorite target for Texans star Rookie QB C.J Stroud. Somehow a lot of folks seem to have missed the fact that despite his smaller size he caught 109 balls and averaged 17 yds per Punt Return in his 2022 college season. He has 4.4/speed and is even quicker than fast.

He is a smaller target, but with a QB as accurate with his throws as Stroud it’s a perfect marriage. In the comeback Win over Arizona last Sunday “TANK” had 8 receptions on 10 targets, for 149 yards and 1 TD. He’s a scoring threat almost anytime he gets open. DELL is athletic and smart out on the field. He’s destined for my end-of-year All-Rookie team right now.

LOS ANGELES RAMS

ETHAN EVANS     #42      P        6’3/235       Wingate     Round 7, Pick 223     PP# 300+

Yes indeed, Punters/Kickers/Long Snappers are people too. And damn important ones at that. Just talk to a fan whose team has a crappy Punter about field position someday. As the Rams jettisoned as many expensive vets as they could after their Super Bowl collapse in 2022 it became clear that the Snead/McVay disdain for Draft Picks would be short-lived in the face of post-Super Bowl Cap issues. So a Punter (EVANS) was selected in their Round 5-7 Picks glut. And boy have they gotten themselves a gem. Ethan Evans was elected as NFC Special Teams Player of the Week for his punting in their W over the Sea Hawks. EVANS punted 5 times for a gross average of 52.6 ypp.

On the season to date, he is averaging 49.0 gross/42.2 net. It should also be mentioned that his hang times and directional punting are both above average. He led D-II Punters in 2022 and also handled kick-off duties. And the Rams actually are scheduled for a First Round Draft Pick in 2024. Can’t wait.

TAMPA BAY  BUCCANEERS 

YA YA DIABY     #0    DE/ER      6’3/270      Louisville          Round 3, Pick 82       PP# 72

Clearly, a young player who the BUCS saw the same way I did… as an NFL starter. The nice thing about YaYa Diaby is that he’s not “just” an edge rusher. He can pressure the pocket but also has the size and willingness to set the Edge in run game D. Diaby may be just a smidge over 6’3, but he sports nice 33 7/8″ arms and a Wingspan of over 80″. He had 9 Sacks last season in the Louisville defense. The BUCS have been giving him more and more playing time as the season has progressed. Last weekend, playing more of the defensive snaps ( 21 plays, 35%) he had 4 Tackles, which included 2 Sacks and 2 QBH. Next time you watch a  BUCS game keep an eye out for #0. I think he’s a Game One starter for them in 2024. 

I have to get over to my TV and catch Thanksgiving Day NFL action. Plenty more NFL Rookies to watch. Happy Gobbler weekend to you all.

Pigskin Paul 

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