It’s the middle of the NFL schedule and I expect the number of NFL Rookies to start growing each week. Last week was no exception to that rule. We had a few new starters and continued to see some solid and improving play from Rookies already in key slots for their teams. So let’s get to it here…
NFL ROOKIES Progress Report – Week 8
D.J. TURNER #20 CB Michigan 5’10/190 Starter Round 2, Pick 60 PP# 70
Let’s start by saying this man is a full-time starter in the Bengals secondary. And we’ll add that he turned a lot of heads at the 2023 Combine as he ran a 4.26/40… yikes. He was set to be a secondary starter as soon as he showed up for Rookie OTA’s. Has a long way to go, but covers up some of his failings with recovery speed and basic coverage skills.
He’s holding his own and seems to have a positive attitude about accepting coaching and direction. Is a work in progress in run D support. but he had 2 solo tackles in their win over the 49ers. Was on the field for 42 plays, which amounted to 72% of their defensive snaps. Let me take the positive road here and say that his presence as a starting Corner is not hurting their overall Defense the vast majority of the time, and should only get better.
JALEEL McLAUGHLIN #38 RB Youngstown State 5’8/185 CFA PP# Unranked 300+
One of the few College Free Agents to make a roster as NFL Rookies this season. He showed out in Training Camp with a combination of quickness, toughness, and versatility in both running and catching the ball. His stats from the Broncos’ victory last week give you an idea as to why he’s the 3rd component in a solid RB room in Denver so far. 4 carries/33 yards/8.3 ypc; 2 targets/2 catches for 6 yards. He can also see action in return duty. Always great to hit on a freebie (i.e. not a Draft Pick) to help your roster.
Los Angeles Chargers
QUENTIN JOHNSTON #1 WR TCU 6’3/215 Starter Ruined 1, Pick 23 PP# 24
Life just changed in the past two weeks as JOHNSTON became a full-time starting WR because of the season-ending injury to Mike Williams. JOHNSTON’s college career can almost be summed up by saying he was used as a “go long” flag football-type weapon. He was getting snaps sparingly as the season began. But with the injury to Williams, his role has increased tremendously beside vets ALLEN & PALMER. He still scares opposing secondaries as a long ball weapon but is beginning to expand his route running and learning what a “route tree” really is. In the Chargers Win over the BEARS he was targeted 6 times and had 5 catches, for 50 yards. He still has a long way to go as a starting NFL wideout, but he shows promise.
LOS ANGELES RAMS
KOBIE TURNER #91 DT Wake Forest 6’2/288 Starter Round 3, Pick 89 PP# 205
Despite skepticism of his being a Top 100 Pick in the 2023 Draft (including from yours truly), TURNER has been a starter since Game One of the regular season. And he’s holding his own while playing alongside AARON DONALD most of the time. He’s an effort guy, with a high work ethic. Word is that MR. DONALD put in a pre-draft word with RAMS hierarchy that he would like to play beside the high-energy TURNER. And DONALD wasn’t wrong in his endorsement. Transferred from the Richmond football program and caught the scout’s eyes for his play at Virginia. In the game with the Cowboys, in a losing effort, TURNER never throttled it back. He had 3 T, 1 of them solo, which was a TFL. He also got credit on a PD after knocking down a DAK pass. Slightly undersized for the Nose position, he fits the RAMS mold of more speed and effort outweighing bulk on most snaps. He was on the field last weekend on 58% of their defensive snaps.
New York Giants
DEANTE BANKS #25 CB Maryland 6’/205 Starter Round 1, Pick 24 PP# 19
After a special 2022 season with the Terps, this guy shot up Draft Prospect charts to become a first-rounder and is holding down a starting CB job quite nicely. He’s a very physical Corner who plays through the whistle most downs. He is best in press-cover but can do it all. He was on the cusp of the First Round until he blew it up with a 4.35/40 and 42″ Vert at the Combine, which clinched his lofty status. In the 10-13 Loss to the JETS BANKS had 3 Tackles, all solo, and 1 PD. Has demonstrated good ball skills. If the G-Men can fix their Offense BANKS and several other young defenders will lead a solid Defense. He’s not just a starter… he is a star already.
JOEY PORTER, Jr. #24 CB Penn State 6’3/195 Starter Round 1, Pick 32 PP# 18
Despite Mike Tomlin’s penchant for NOT playing Rookies if at all possible the injury to starting CB Levi Wallace forced his hand with Porter, who just happens to be the son of former elite pass-rusher J.P. Sr. The genes are showing out already. The long, lean Porter, with his 34″ arms, seems to fit the Steelers’ defensive style quite nicely. Porter has gotten burned a few times in-game action, but he has also made some big plays with breakups and tackles. Last week against the Jaguars was his first official start. He had 5 tackles, 4 of them solo. He also battled receivers for throws on several occasions. Porter was on the field for 59 snaps, 83% of the defensive game total. As far as I can see this guy is a permanent starter for them.
WILL LEVIS #8 QB Kentucky 6’3/230 new Starter Round 2, Pick 33 PP# 12
The biggest news of all is when a team finds itself a Franchise QB. LEVIS was a lightning rod of sorts last season when his injuries and OL issues led up to the Draft. I refused to budge off my Number 12 spot on him because I felt he had little to no chance to excel for Kentucky last year. But his arm and legs, when healthy, are legit pro-level. He got his first start last weekend against the Falcons and led his team to victory. He went 19/29- 65.5%- 238 yards- 4 TD- 0 INT.
Those are some big numbers, and the lack of an Interception is huge for NFL Rookies. Ask D-HOP how he likes the new guy, with the deep throw arm. This should only help the Titans run game with a young, strong-armed QB at the helm. Now I just hope that HC VRABEL will be able to leave LEVIS in as his new starter for the remainder of the season, not pull him with his first bad game performance, which we all know will occur at some point.
With 4 teams on byes this weekend I think it is the perfect time for me to put together my mid-season All-NFL Rookies squad for you to peruse and protest about. Look for it next Friday.