Week 5 of the NFL season saw a ton of rookie production for teams like the Cleveland Browns, New York Giants, and Cincinnati Bengals. At this point we’re starting to get a good idea of who will be impactful as rookies and who will not. Hopefully as teams start faltering will see more rookies inserted into starting lineups as teams try to figure out what they have this season.

Rookie of the Week

Denzel Ward, CB, Cleveland Browns

  • We are five games into the 2018 NFL season and the Cleveland Browns already have two wins. Their upset OT victory over the Baltimore Ravens can essentially be credited to rookie cornerback and 4th overall pick, Denzel Ward. The Browns won 12-9. Not only did Ward play terrifically in coverage all game, but he made two of the biggest plays of the game. With the Ravens on the Browns 2-yard line, Ward intercepted Joe Flacco stopping at least three points. On top of that before halftime Ward blocked a Justin Tucker field goal, saving another three points. Ward even broke up another pass in the end zone to force a FG later in the game. Denzel Ward has been everything the Browns could have hoped for to this point.

Week 5 Rookie Power Rankings

*In brackets is where the rookie ranked last week

  1. Derwin James, DW, Los Angeles Chargers (1)

  • Against the Raiders Derwin James had his worst game of the season and he was still one of the most impactful rookies of the week. He was flagged for defensive pass interference and missed a tackle. Still, he made some major plays. James had a big TFL on a screen pass, made a handful of big hits, and showed off his relentless motor always finishing around the ball. James finished with 5 tackles and a TFL.
  1. Denzel Ward, CB, Cleveland Browns (4)

  • Denzel Ward is the rookie of the week because his game against the Ravens will be one of the best rookie games of this season. With the clutch INT, blocked FG, and PBU on 3rd Down in the end zone, it’s hard to deny his elite performance. He was tight in coverage downfield all game. The hip fluidity, footwork, and aggressive style are impressive. With the INT and blocked FG, he also had 5 tackles and 3 PBU’s.
  1. Baker Mayfield, QB, Cleveland Browns (6)

  • Heading into Week 6 the Browns have a .500 record thanks to Baker Mayfield. After leading the Browns to a win in Week 3 he did it once again in Week 5. Against a hardnosed stout Ravens D Mayfield looked like an NFL vet. His quickness through progressions, velocity on the ball, and poise in the pocket were all showcased. He threw a bad INT early, but bounced back. In the win he threw for 342 yards while completing 58% of his passes on 7.9 YPA with a TD and the INT. The Browns have their franchise QB.
  1. Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants (9)

  • The rushing numbers don’t do justice to the impact Saquon Barkley has had on the Giants offense. Behind their terrible O-line Barkley didn’t do a ton of damage on the ground with very few holes being opened. He repeatedly broke first contact when being hit in the backfield. His jump cut is a thing of beauty and if the Giants O-line can even be average the numbers will start popping. Barkley made a major impact as a pass catcher with a 57-yard TD grab on a double pass from Odell Beckham. He also had a leaping TD on a pass from Eli Manning to put the Giants up late. Barkley finished with 129 total yards and 2 TDs on 19 touches.
  1. Harold Landry, EDGE, Tennessee Titans (5)

  • Sacks are a fine metric for evaluating pass rushers, but they don’t always tell the whole story. Harold Landry has just 1 sack this season, but has been the most disruptive rookie edge rusher in this class. Against the Bills he once again had a meh box score, but the tape showed him putting in work. Landry had three pressures in total. One he was held on when breaking out a bull rush and another one led to Josh Allen throwing an interception. Landry also had a run stop in the game.
  1. Calvin Ridley, WR, Atlanta Falcons (3)

  • In a tough loss to Pittsburgh Calvin Ridley didn’t have the same crazy stats he’s put up the last few weeks. Ridley finished with just 4 receptions for 38 yards on 5 targets. Matt Ryan struggled to get in a rhythm and was under fire. He had Ridley open a few times and didn’t get the ball to him. Ridley’s route running and release off the line were impressive once again. Of his four catches, two converted 3rd Downs, and another went for a 21-yard gain.
  1. Darius Leonard, LB, Indianapolis Colts (2)

  • Unfortunately, Darius Leonard missed the Colts Thursday Night Football loss to the Patriots with an ankle injury. His absence was felt as the Patriots attacked with underneath routes. Leonard is normally there in the Tampa 2 D to swallow them up immediately, but the Patriots had a lot of YAC on those plays. Without him the defense looked lost.
  1. Fred Warner, LB, San Francisco 49ers (7)

  • It was a quieter week for Fred Warner as the 49ers defense struggled with the Cardinals. Warner had just 3 tackles, but he still showed some good. Multiple times in coverage he used his athleticism to have great positioning and showed that he’s a true three-down linebacker. Warner also flashed his terrific motor finishing around the ball constantly. It wasn’t a great stat week, but still the rookie looked good.
  1. Quenton Nelson, OG, Indianapolis Colts (8)

  • The Colts offensive line has been dreadful and that continued against the Patriots. Once again rookie Quenton Nelson showed he’s the clear best offensive lineman they have. Despite lacking any true RB1, Nelson was opening up holes using his mauling style. He smoothly worked his way to the second level on multiple occasions. Nelson is getting stronger in pass pro too, using heavy hands and his anchor to lock up Malcolm Brown.
  1. Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Buffalo Bills (10)

  • Even with the Bills offense being a bit of a train wreck, Buffalo pulled out a big win against the Titans thanks to their defense. Tremaine Edmunds is only going to get better and he’s been great this year. Edmunds had a big forced fumble that Matt Milano recovered on the Titans opening drive that led to a Bills TD. He also had a big pressure on a blitz and showed his range in coverage. The closing speed he possesses is impressive, Edmunds and Milano are a great duo. Edmunds finished with 8 tackles, the forced fumble, a PBU, and a QB hit.
  1. Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Miami Dolphins (12)

  • Even in blowing a 17-0 lead over the Bengals the Dolphins had a few defensive standouts, rookie Minkah Fitzpatrick was one of them. Fitzpatrick is a Swiss Army knife and Miami has done a good job of using him that way. He showed nice blitzing skill coming off the edge for a pressure, hopefully they’ll use him like this more. The new FitzMagic also showed his aggressiveness blowing up a bubble screen for a TFL. He was even doing a nice job on AJ Green in coverage.
  1. Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Dallas Cowboys (17)

  • The rise of LVE has been a quick one and a needed one for the Cowboys. All of a sudden the Dallas defense is young and impressive with LVE and Jaylon Smith leading the way. Against the Texans LVE helped shutdown the run with multiple run stops. He also had a tackle at the line of scrimmage on a short throw, showing impressive closing speed and instincts. Most impressive was his ability to move in coverage, he’s a gifted athlete. LVE racked up a whopping 14 tackles.
  1. Jessie Bates, S, Cincinnati Bengals (23)

  • One of the most consistent rookies so far this season has been Bengals safety Jessie Bates. Once again he showed off his great centerfield abilities in their win over the Dolphins. Late in the game he used his great instincts in coverage and ball skills to intercept a pass to help seal the victory. He also had a run stop and a few stick tackles in the game.
  1. Deadrin Senat, IDL, Atlanta Falcons (21)

  • Few rookies have been as impactful without showing up in the box score as Deadrin Senat. Against the Steelers, Senat had 5 tackles, but the Falcons gave up 131 yards rushing. That wasn’t on him. He was handling Steelers Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey all game. Senat even threw him to the ground a few times. This is a 1-Tech who can anchor the Falcons run D going forward.
  1. Kerryon Johnson, RB, Detroit Lions (14)

  • The use of Kerryon Johnson in the Lions offense is bordering on inexcusable at this point. Once again Johnson looked fantastic, rushing for 70 yards on just 12 carries in the Lions win over the Packers. Yet, they gave Legarrette Blount 12 carries. They need to hand the keys to Johnson. His patients paired with his explosiveness is something the Lions haven’t had in a decade. Johnson also showed off nice contact balance and his pass catching ability.
  1. Donte Jackson, CB, Carolina Panthers (11)

  • Coming off the bye week, Panthers rookie corner Donte Jackson showed some good, but struggled. Twice he gave up big gains to Sterling Shepard and Russell Shepard, respectively. It looked like he was supposed to have safety help, but he also wasn’t in great position. On a positive note he kept everything else in front of him and three times made tackles short of the sticks.
  1. Phillip Lindsay, RB, Denver Broncos (13)

  • In a brutal loss to the Jets, the Broncos didn’t go to the run game too frequently, but Phillip Lindsay still looked good. He had 81 total yards on 14 touches, including an impressive 29-yard run that showed off his great quickness and burst. Lindsay’s jump cut was also looking nasty. They need to use him and Royce Freeman together better.
  1. Josh Rosen, QB, Arizona Cardinals (18)

  • It was a hot start for Josh Rosen, who led to Cardinals to their first win of the season. On his opening play of the game he aired one out deep to Christian Kirk for a 75-yard TD. Throughout the game Rosen showed off his nearly perfect mechanics. His throwing motion was crisp and his feet and eyes were in unison. Rosen was making quick reads and the correct reads all game. The issue was his accuracy. He missed a lot of throws, many of them high. The game could have been a lot better for Rosen if his accuracy was there, he needs to clean that up. Rosen threw for 170 yards and a score, but completed just 40% of his throws.
  1. Da’Ron Payne, IDL, Washington (27)

  • Washington got destroyed by the Saints and their defense looked pretty terrible. One bright spot was rookie Da’Ron Payne. Payne did a good job controlling the line of scrimmage and getting some run stops. He even snuffed out a screen pass and forced a fumble. Payne also got to Drew Brees for a sack.
  1. Sam Hubbard, EDGE, Cincinnati Bengals (30)

  • One of the best rookies nobody seems to be talking about is Sam Hubbard. Hubbard has been awesome in the Bengals D-line rotation this season. Against the Dolphins Hubbard broke up a pass on a swing route, recovered a fumble and returned it for a touchdown, and had a few run stops including a TFL. His hand use and hustle are going to make him the Bengals starting base defensive end very soon.
  1. Roquan Smith, LB, Chicago Bears (16)

  2. Royce Freeman, RB, Denver Broncos (15)

  3. Will Hernandez, OG, New York Giants (28)

  4. Sam Darnold, QB, New York Jets (40)

  5. Keke Coutee, WR, Houston Texans (39)

  6. Genard Avery, EDGE/LB, Cleveland Browns (22)

  7. Sony Michel, RB, New England Patriots (49)

  8. Maurice Hurst Jr., IDL, Oakland Raiders (24)

  9. Kemoko Turay, EDGE, Indianapolis Colts (20)

  10. Josh Jackson, CB, Green Bay Packers (32)

  11. BJ Hill, IDL, New York Giants (29)

  12. Mike Hughes, CB, Minnesota Vikings (25)

  13. Bradley Chubb, EDGE, Denver Broncos (19)

  14. Taron Johnson, CB, Buffalo Bills (44)

  15. Nyheim Hines, RB, Indianapolis Colts (33)

  16. Da’Shawn Hand, IDL, Detroit Lions (42)

  17. Jerome Baker, LB, Miami Dolphins (48)

  18. Courtland Sutton, WR, Denver Broncos (41)

  19. DJ Moore, WR, Carolina Panthers (NR)

  20. Ito Smith, RB, Atlanta Falcons (34)

  21. Jaire Alexander, CB, Green Bay Packers (31)

  22. Michael Dickson, P, Seattle Seahawks (26)

  23. Taven Bryan, IDL, Jacksonville Jaguars (50)

  24. Tre’Quan Smith, WR, New Orleans Saints (NR)

  25. Frank Ragnow, OG, Detroit Lions (46)

  26. Mike McGlinchey, OT, San Francisco 49ers (45)

  27. Christian Kirk, WR, Arizona Cardinals (NR)

  28. Desmond Harrison, OT, Cleveland Browns (35)

  29. Justin Reid, DB, Houston Texans (NR)

  30. Equanimeous St. Brown, WR, Green Bay Packers (NR)

Start the Rook

This Week:

Equanimeous St. Brown, WR, Green Bay Packers

  • The Packers actually started Equanimeous St. Brown in Week 5 due to injuries, but they should be starting him all of the time. St. Brown was a top 100 prospect, he was 52nd on my board, and slid for attitude reasons. The Packers snagged the Notre Dame product in the 6th-round. With the inconsistent play of Green Bay’s receivers St. Brown deserves a shot to start. His combination of size, athleticism, and big play ability is something the Packers desperately need. In Week 5 against the Lions he showed off some of what he can do with wonderful route running and mismatch ability. He finished with 3 receptions for 89 yards. St. Brown can replace Geronimo Allison and be Aaron Rodgers big play threat.

Rashaan Gaulden, DB, Carolina Panthers

  • With the addition of Eric Reid at safety the Panthers DB group is definitely trending in the right direction. James Bradberry is one of the more underrated corners in the league and Donte Jackson has been one of the best rookie corners. If they can find a way to get rookie Rashaan Gaulden on the field more that would be ideal. Gaulden is best playing nickel and Captain Munnerlyn isn’t what he used to be. In Week 5 against the Giants, Gaulden was flashing while on the field, he had a big TFL on a run play. With his size and aggressiveness at the nickel spot he can add a lot more upside than Munnerlyn. Gaulden also has experience playing safety.

Braden Smith, OL, Indianapolis Colts

  • After starting at right tackle on Thursday Night Football and the injury to Matt Slauson, Braden Smith starting the rest of the way seems inevitable. Its likely Smith will be the starting right guard for the Colts going forward, this is a good thing. Indianapolis’ O-line has struggled a lot this year and inserting the size and athleticism of Smith will be beneficial. Smith is long, mean, and moves extremely well for an interior offensive lineman. His explosiveness and ability to move can be huge for the Colts run game, I compared him to Kyle Long when he was at Auburn. Smith and Quenton Nelson starting at guard is going to be fun.

Previous Weeks:

  • Kerryon Johnson, RB, Detroit Lions
  • DJ Moore, WR, Carolina Panthers
  • Baker Mayfield, QB, Cleveland Browns
  • Mike Hughes, CB, Minnesota Vikings
  • Sam Hubbard, EDGE, Cincinnati Bengals
  • Uchenna Nwosu, LB, Los Angeles Chargers
  • Dante Pettis, WR, San Francisco 49ers
  • Christian Kirk, WR, Arizona Cardinals
  • Justin Reid, DB, Houston Texans
  • Marcus Davenport, EDGE, New Orleans Saints
  • Courtland Sutton, WR, Denver Broncos
  • Genard Avery, EDGE/LB, Cleveland Browns

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Author Details
I’m Canadian as can be, other than the fact that I don’t care about hockey. I love football. The NFL is my life. I consider myself a football guy and I’d rather watch tape than anything else. I’m the Armchair NFL Draft analyst here. You can read my Armchair Scout columns and call me out for my draft misses. I’m also part of two podcasts at Armchair. Our NFL Draft podcast, 7 Rounds in Heaven, and the main NFL pod, Resting the Starters. I cheer for the Steelers, Raptors, Blue Jays, Oregon, and I guess the Leafs.
I’m Canadian as can be, other than the fact that I don’t care about hockey. I love football. The NFL is my life. I consider myself a football guy and I’d rather watch tape than anything else. I’m the Armchair NFL Draft analyst here. You can read my Armchair Scout columns and call me out for my draft misses. I’m also part of two podcasts at Armchair. Our NFL Draft podcast, 7 Rounds in Heaven, and the main NFL pod, Resting the Starters. I cheer for the Steelers, Raptors, Blue Jays, Oregon, and I guess the Leafs.


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