Heading into the seventh weekend of the NFL season there have been surprises, disappointments and also plenty of what we predicted for the latest rookie class.
Among the obvious is that while the New York Giants are a disaster, second overall pick Saquon Barkley has been spectacular. Is there really anyone that could challenge him for the offensive rookie of the year award?
As always, I’ll break down this week’s NFL and scouting buzz I’m hearing.
It’s Saquon’s World…For Now
Through six games, Saquon Barkley has been extremely productive with 438 rushing yards (5.2 per carry), 40 receptions, 373 receiving yards and six total touchdowns.
Being a day one workhorse was always the plan for the number two overall pick, but being in an offense with a bottom five quarterback situation was not. Will teams begin to completely sell out on Barkley?
The good news is he’s not just a runner, but a special receiving threat coming out of the back field. It’s a long shot for anyone to challenge him for the offensive rookie of the year award for this very reason, but here are some candidates still in the picture:
Sony Michel, New England Patriots
It was a quiet Summer for Michel as he battled a banged up knee, but he now has 400 total rushing yards and 316 in his last three games.
This was always the plan for the talented runner out of Georgia, as the team used a premium selection on a running back to finally have a featured guy.
Unlike Barkley, opposing defenses can’t sell out against the run because that Tom Brady guy is still pretty good. Keep in mind we haven’t even seen Josh Gordon at his field-stretching best yet!
If any non-quarterback is going to give Barkley a run, I’m betting on Michel.
Sam Darnold, New York Jets
The third overall pick hit a rough patch weeks 2-4, but in the Jets last two games Darnold has been a star.
In those two contests he’s completed over 65% of his passes for 478 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions. Is he going to keep up that pace going forward? Probably not. But what if he comes close?
Quarterbacks seem to always have the upper hand in award contests. If the Jets hang around the wild card hunt and Darnold turns in a touchdown to interception ratio around 25:15, this can become a closer race than we expected.
Calvin Ridley, Atlanta Falcons
Julio Jones might not have a touchdown, but Falcons rookie wide receiver Calvin Ridley has six! His pace has hit a significant speed bump these past two weeks, but he can still sniff 1,000 yards and double digit touchdowns.
The biggest question is if he’ll miss any time with an ankle injury going forward.
Scouting Buzz of the Week
- While this section of the column dives into the college world more often than not, the Amari Cooper buzz has been loud this week with rumors of him being on the trade block. More than the actual trade rumors, I was intrigued by the leaks that the Raiders as an organization feel Cooper does not love football. Coming out of college, that was the last concern any scout had with the star wide receiver. He’s a dedicated worker with not only passion, but a high on-field IQ. This seems like a situation where a toxic environment has gotten the best of the player, but I believe a change of scenery would have Cooper right back to being an impact receiver. Expect him to be moved for a package of mid-round picks at some point.
- While the defensive line talent has been the face of this year’s class, the ever growing trend of a pass-happy NFL has teams prioritizing defensive backs. While LSU’s Greedy Williams has been the face of that group, look for Alabama’s Deionte Thompson, Georgia’s Deandre Baker, Clemson’s Trayvon Mullen and Washington’s Byron Murphy to entrench themselves in the round one conversation going forward.
- There was a lot of hype around the Clemson defensive line heading into this season from both a college and pro potential perspective, but it’s officially time to slow down on the latter. Edge pass rusher Clelin Ferrell is deservingly a top-15 lock, but there are question marks about the other three starters up front. Austin Bryant is viewed as an early day three player. Dexter Lawrence has not lived up to extreme top-ten pick expectations and might have to consider returning to school, especially up against interior players like Ed Oliver, Quinnen Williams, Raekwon Davis and Jeffery Simmons. Finally, for as rock solid as Christian Wilkins has been, he does not have any ‘special’ traits that will help him find his way into the top half of round one. It’s been a lot of fun to watch these four on the same defensive line at the college level, but outside of Ferrell I don’t expect any to be a star at the next level.
- It was a bit of a surprise when Kentucky’s Josh Allen returned to school last year, but that decision might pay off in a big way. With six sacks through six games, he’s viewed as a top-40 lock by multiple NFL teams for the 2019 draft.