Following the quarterback padawan theme of my prior post, I expanded my search for a first to third year player at each position that stood out in week one.
Quarterback Patrick Mahomes (KAN – 2nd year)
Known for his arm strength, deep ball passing and extending the play from college Mahomes did not disappoint in his 2018 season opener. He completed six pass plays of 20+ yards on only 27 attempts (22%). Mahomes had four touchdowns to zero interceptions. Admittedly two of those four touchdown passes were more like hand-offs down near the goal line that counted as forward passes. According to Pro Football Focus, Mahomes average depth of target was 14.6 yards downfield. The highest single season mark for the last decade is 13.4. Mahomes had the fourth highest passer rating (127.5) in week one. He should be an exciting quarterback to watch.
Running Back Phillip Lindsay (DEN – Rookie)
Undrafted free agent Phillip Lindsay is nominated for Rookie Player of the Week. He is the only nomination that was not a round one draft selection. Lindsay rushed for 71 yards on 15 attempts for a 4.7 yard average. As his long was 14 yards, his average was not overly inflated on one big play. He also caught two passes for 31 yards including a 29 yard touchdown reception. the 29 yard touchdown pass was a dump-off at the line of scrimmage.
Wide Receiver Kenny Golladay (DET – 2nd year)
In a disastrous opening day for the Lions one of the bright spots was the play of receiver Kenny Golladay. Golladay had seven receptions for 114 yards and a 16.3 yard average. Two of the receptions were for 20+ yards and six of the seven made first down. Golladay was the leading receiver on the Lions and accounted for 38% of the Lions receiving yards. He also forced a turnover with his hit on a Matt Stafford interception. Golladay was a 3rd round pick in the 2017 NFL draft.
Tight End Will Dissly (SEA – Rookie)
Selected in the fourth round of the draft for being viewed as the best blocking tight end, Will Dissly also showed that he has good hands. He was the leading receiver on the Seahawks and accounted for 35% of the receiving yards. Dissly had 105 yards receiving on just three receptions. Each reception made a first down and he had a long of 66 yards and one touchdown.
The next two players are from the Denver Broncos’ offensive line. In their win on Sunday the Broncos had the fourth most passing yards (324), the seventh most rushing yards (146) and the tenth best rushing average (4.6 yards). The one sack they gave up put them in the top eleven teams for sacks allowed. All five starters played all 74 snaps and the offensive line had zero penalties.
Offensive Tackle Garett Bolles (DEN – 2nd year)
A first round draft pick in the 2017 NFL draft, Bolles made All PAC-12 first team his senior season and the PFWA All-Rookie team in 2017. Bolles is an athletic tackle. At his 2017 combine he finished first and second among offensive linemen in the forty, 3-cone, broad jump and 20 yard shuttle. His NFL draft profile says ” plays with a mean streak and loves to finish”.
Offensive Guard Connor McGovern (DEN – 3rd year)
McGovern is another athletic lineman. His 2016 NFL draft profile stated that he is one of the strongest players in college football. McGovern has broken weight room records at Missouri. He was chosen in the fifth round of the 2016 NFL draft. He is said to have a great work ethic and is competitive and aggressive on the field.
Defensive End DeForest Buckner (SF – 3rd year)
In week one Buckner led defensive linemen in sacks and tied for first in total tackles among defensive linemen. He was third across all position groups in sacks with 2.5. Buckner was the seventh pick in the 2016 draft. He was the third defensive player selected with the first two being Joey Bosa and Jalen Ramsey. Buckner made the 2016 PFWA NFL All-Rookie Team. He led all NFL defensive lineman with 1,108 snaps on the 2016 season and ranked second with 73 tackles. His six sacks ranked fourth among rookies. In 2017 Buckner’s tackles (45) and sacks (3) significantly decreased. There were high expectations coming out of the 2016 NFL draft for Buckner. Per his nfl.com draft profile one NFC scout said “”His comp is going to be Calais Campbell or Arik Armstead but I think he’s more talented coming out than either one of those guys.”
Defensive Tackle Larry Ogunjobi (CLE – 2nd year)
Ogunjobi lined up against Steeler two-time first-team All-Pro center Maurkice Pouncey in week one and came away with seven tackles and a sack. The seven tackles was tie for a league high among defensive linemen. He was one of only eleven defensive tackles that had one or more sacks and one of only two defensive tackles with seven tackles. Larry went to college at North Carolina-Charlotte which was just starting a football program. He started every game in the school’s history and led the team in tackles for loss in each of his four seasons.
Linebacker Cory Littleton (LAR -3rd year)
Littleton led the Rams with 13 total tackles. He also recorded an interception and one pass defensed. His eleven solo tackles was tie for first among league linebackers. Littleton played all 74 defensive snaps in the Rams victory over the Raiders. Cory signed as an undrafted free agent following the 2016 draft. His rookie year he made 13 special teams tackles en route to winning the team’s Carrol Rosenbloom Memorial Award as the Rams’ top rookie. In 2017 he started four games and had an interception off of Marcus Mariotta. This year he has taken on the starting role and the defensive signal caller following the trade of Alec Ogletree to the Giants.
Safety John Johnson (LAR – 2nd year)
Johnson had nine tackles (six solo), two passes defended and one interception in the Rams victory over the Raiders. Johnson was a third round pick in the 2017 NFL draft. He started 11 games his rookie year and had 53 tackles, 11 passes defended and one interception. In 2017 he was graded solidly in both run defense (72.8) and pass coverage (82.9) by Pro Football Focus.
Cornerback Denzel Ward (CLE – Rookie)
Ward had two interceptions and three additional passes defended in his rookie debut. He ties three other players for most interceptions in week one and is the only rookie among the four players. Ward also had six tackles (2 solo). Ward was the fourth overall selection in the 2018 NFL draft. In his junior year in college in 2017 he was a consensus All-American.
Special Teams Jakeem Grant (MIA – 3rd year)
Grant returned a kickoff 102 yards for a touchdown. That was one of only two kickoff returns for touchdowns in week one. In college Grant had a career four kickoff returns for touchdowns. In his senior year Grant had a kickoff return of at least 30 yards in 8 of 12 games including a 103-yard touchdown return.