There have been a few really great seasons by rookies this year. Some rookies were hyped early on and but did not meet expectations for a variety of reasons. These were talented players that were drafted based on the help they were assumed they could offer. There will always be busts in every draft. But I’m not ready to move on quite yet.
Pull up a chair. Here’s another six guys I’ve been thinking about.
1. RB Kenneth Dixon (BAL) – Dixon was hyped in the preseason but was not active until Week 5 and played sparingly until Week 9. Terrance West was the full-time back until Week 10 when Dixon finally was given more work. The split has been more even for the last four weeks when Dixon totaled 183 yards on 31 carries for a 5.9 yard average. He is gaining in use and caught four passes in each of the last two games. Dixon was slower to develop because of a sprained knee and West did rush well for a time. What I like even more is that West is on a one-year deal that expires and the Ravens are going to have to decide if they want to lean on Dixon next year or re-sign West. Marty Morinwheg became the offensive coordinator in Week 5 and it says a lot that Dixon is gaining ground now.
2. TE Austin Hooper (ATL) – The ex-Stanford star was the second tight end drafted in April and at 6-4/248 lbs., he is very much in the mold of a receiving tight end. The Falcons have not relied on the position much this and occasionally Levine Toilolo catches a touchdown. But Hooper was the third round pick with every expectation to become a part of the offense. I like him to make a second year leap as most good tight ends do. I’ll be watching him next summer.
3. RB Wendell Smallwood (PHI) – We are all waiting on Smallwood to take a step forward and each time he had a decent game, he tends to follow it up with a disappoint. Surprisingly, Ryan Mathews has missed just one game this year and he’s been productive enough with eight touchdowns already. And Darren Sproles had a stretch of productive games. Smallwood has made some inroads to more playing time and OC Frank Reich’s first season has preferred the committee. Both Mathews and Sproles are signed through 2017. But Sproles turns 34 next year and he’s tailed off as a rusher for the last month. Hard to believe he will continue to be a factor in 2017.
4. WR Josh Doctson (WAS) – I was very interested in Doctson since he had a very good backstory and was mature. He was the third overall wideout selected and was a four-year starter. He was known as a serious student of the game and was a walk-in at TCU. But he injured his Achilles in the offseason and then re-injured. He only had two catches all year though one went for 57 yards. Both DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon are free agents next year though there is talk about Jackson re-signing. The Redskins passing offense has really come to life this year and Doctson can still meet his expectations – it’s just going to take a year longer than thought.
5. WR Laquon Treadwell (MIN) – He’s already easy to forget about with only one catch and playing for a team that doesn’t throw all that much anyway. He’s reported to have had problems running routes and he’s certainly failed to make a mark like a first-round wideout should. Treadwell came in as the prototypical possession receiver and left with a stat line of 82-1153-11 as a junior. The Vikings offense could be different next year (or so they hope). Cordarrelle Patterson and Adam Thielen are free agents next year and Charles Johnson would be a restricted free agent. There’s so much to fix on the offense and Treadwell gets a pass on this year – but he needs to pick it up in the OTA’s and preseason.
6. RB Paul Perkins (NYG) – The Giants rushing game has been average at best and typically a liability. Paul Perkins was the fifth-round pick last April and he’s become part of the committee that is now ran by first-year OC Mike Sullivan. He’s never been allowed more than 11 carries in a game and has just a 3.7 yard rushing average. Rashad Jennings is signed through next year but will be 32 year old and has an even worse 3.2 yard rush average. There’s plenty to fix on the Giant’s offensive line to spend another pick on a running back. Perkins can buy himself a better role in 2017 with what happens in the final weeks.
And an extra point…
Will the Cowboys rest players? They are currently three games ahead of the NFC with four left to play. A win in New York this week could really beg the question of what they will be playing for in the final two games against the Lions and at the Eagles? They will have already wrapped up the #1 seed. Week 17 in Philly is highly probable to be meaningless but Week 16 could as well.
First – this whole winning thing is kind of new. No one this team has any experience in this situation. I am not worried. Week 16 is at home and that will motivate being the final home game in this wildly improbable season. Ezekiel Elliott will chase the record for a rookie running back and the Cowboys as a team should play a complete game against the Lions. Week 17? This is why it should never be used.