With Week 15 in the books, our NFL rookies have reached the stretch run of their inaugural season. Whether their teams are competing for pride or a playoff berth, the last two weeks are about sending a message. For our NFL rookies, that message is that their teams made the right choice.
With two weeks remaining in the league’s regular season, some attention has shifted towards the 2020 NFL Draft. How much attention depends on each team’s draft position, but the conversations are taking place in every clubhouse during this time of the year. For our rookies, they have two more games to really drive home the message that their team’s faith in them was not misplaced, their positions are solidified, and shouldn’t be a high priority come April.
With two weeks left in the regular season, which rookies are reassuring their teams that their positions are no longer an issue? Which NFL rookies are potentially making their teams consider drafting their potential replacements? The Week 15 Stock Report breaks it all down for you!
A.J. Brown & Terry McLaurin
The Tennessee Titans have been notoriously short on talented wide receivers since the days of Kevin Dyson and Derrick Mason. The team hoped they solidified the position after the 2017 NFL Draft with the selection of Corey Davis. So far, Davis’ development has been non-existent. However, the 2019 NFL Draft found them a gem to replace what Davis could not become.
A.J. Brown has been everything the Titans hoped Davis would be, and more. Brown may have been overshadowed by his teammate D.K. Metcalf while at Ole Miss, but he’s come into his own during his rookie season in Nashville. Brown has arguably been the best rookie wide receiver in the league, and Week 15 reinforced that message. Brown turned 13 targets — his highest total of the season — into 8 receptions, his fourth 100+ yard game, and his 7th touchdown of the season.
If A.J. Brown is the top NFL rookie wide receiver this season, Washington’s Terry McLaurin isn’t far behind. In a season full of disappointments for Washington, “F1” has been one of the few bright spots for the team. The tandem of McLaurin and fellow NFL rookie and Ohio State teammate Dwayne Haskins has been working well as of late. There’s a lot of work to be done in Washington, but McLaurin’s performance has sent a message that they’re trending in the right direction. Week 15 solidified that message, to the tune of 5 receptions (and a 100% catch rate), 130 yards, and a touchdown.
Between these two and the aforementioned D.K. Metcalf, the 2019 NFL Draft wide receiver class has had an incredible rookie season. With two games remaining, all three should top 1,000 yards and 50 receptions, and each has an outside shot at double-digit touchdowns. Remember this as we look towards what could be a historic 2020 NFL Draft at the wide receiver position.
Week 15 was kind to a pair of NFL rookie running backs looking to send a message to their teams as well. While the message was different for each, both Miles Sanders and Tony Pollard sent theirs in style. The NFC East may not have given their fans great football all season, but these two rookies really gave us something to watch.
In Philadelphia, the Eagles have been searching for a running back who can carry the load as the team’s primary runner for years. With the game’s evolution in recent seasons, that doesn’t mean what it used to, but it’s still important. Miles Sanders has stepped up and taken the reigns in a big way.
While he was not one of the more highly-touted rookies coming into the season, Sanders has quietly put up some very solid numbers in his rookie campaign. Week 15 was one of his best, rushing for over 100 yards, 50 yards receiving, and two touchdowns — one of which was arguably the “Play of the Week,” a bullet in the back of the end zone from QB Carson Wentz.
When you walk into AT&T Stadium for a Dallas Cowboys game, you know what you’re going to get. You’ll likely witness a solid performance from Dak Prescott and a big play or two from Amari Cooper. But most of all, you’re going to get a healthy dose of Ezekiel Elliott. Elliott has been one of the best running backs since coming into the league, and he is showing no signs of slowing down. Even in Week 15, Elliott had himself a solid game. He topped 100 yards rushing, adding a touchdown as well. There’s no room for another running back in Dallas, right?
Well, rookie Tony Pollard had something to say about that. Pollard has not seen much work this season, topping double digits in carries only three times on the season. One of those three came Sunday, and Pollard made the most of his opportunity. On just 12 carries, Pollard racked up over 130 yards and one touchdown. Week 15 was by far Pollard’s strongest performance and may set the stage for an increased workload in Week 16 and beyond.
For some NFL rookies, the message isn’t as much about saying “I belong” as much as it is saying “I’m ready.” Such is the case for Broncos rookie quarterback Drew Lock. When Lock was drafted in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft, everyone knew he would be the eventual starter in Denver. It was never a matter of “if,” but “when.” Lock sent that message in Week 14 that he was ready to take up that mantle, and did he ever, throwing for over 300 yards, along with three touchdowns and only one interception, finishing with a 136.0 QB rating.
Week 15, however, was a step backward for Lock. It doesn’t erase his performance the week prior, but it shows that while he may be ready to be THE guy in Denver, there will be bumps along the way, like the one he had Sunday. Lock followed up his blazing Week 14 performance with a duck in the snow against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Fewer than 50% of Lock’s passes were completed, barely surpassing 200 yards, and failed to throw a touchdown. The weather certainly played a factor in Lock’s poor performance, but he’ll be looking to bounce back in a big way in the Week 16 matchup against Detroit. Now is the time for Lock to send the message that he can bounce back from a bad game and put it behind him.