The Chicago Bears spent an early 4th-round pick on Temple’s Evan Rodriguez, a tight end who they intended to convert to fullback. It would have been an early selection for any fullback, but especially for one with limited experience at the position.
But so far it’s worked out brilliantly. Pro Football Focus, which grades players at each position, currently has Rodriguez as the highest-rated fullback through two games.
It’s probably unrealistic to expect Rodriguez to keep up that pace, but it’s definitely encouraging to see him excel in this role early in the season.
Houston Texans 1st-round pick Whitney Mercilus was expected to be used as a pass-rush specialist this season, but he’s failed to carve out a niche for himself in the Texans defensive scheme so far.
Through two games Mercilus as been on the field for just 24 plays, 18 of them as a pass rusher. In those 18 plays, he’s recorded just one quarterback hurry and zero sacks according to Pro Football Focus.
It’s far too early to be concerned about Mercilus, but the Texans defense would definitely benefit from him emerging as a serious pass-rush threat at some point this season.
The Indianapolis Colts drafted Coby Fleener, at least in part, due to his connection to Andrew Luck. And so far, the strategy has worked. Fleener has developed into Luck’s safety net – when all else fails, Luck checks down to Fleener.
According to Pro Football Focus, Luck has attempted 33 passes between 0 and 9 yards down the field. Of those 33, eight have been targeted at Fleener and seven were caught.
This is exactly what the Colts had in mind when drafting Fleener. He hasn’t been a serious threat in the passing game, but he’s done just enough to make sure Luck’s comfortable. Even if Fleener doesn’t develop into an elite tight end, he has already serving his purpose in Indy.
The Tennessee Titans presumably drafted Kendall Wright in the 1st round with the hope that he would add a new dimension to their offense.
However Wright is slightly undersized and didn’t play in a complex offense at Baylor. His route running skills definitely need some work, but one area where he could help immediately would be to stretch the field. Wright is likely the fastest receiver on the Titans roster, and was a serious deep threat during his days in college.
But through two games, Wright has been targeted beyond 10 yards just twice (both incompletions).
Instead the Titans have used Wright on quick routes, hoping to allow him to make plays after the catch. All seven of Wright’s catches have been less than 10 yards down the field and two have come behind the line of scrimmage.
Wright is definitely dangerous with the ball in his hands but it’s hard not to wonder if the Titans are limiting him by preventing him from stretching the field.
Tennessee Titans 3rd-round pick Mike Martin came off the bench on opening weekend and was fairly impressive in 35 snaps, recording one hit and two hurries according to Pro Football Focus. The Titans coaching staff must have been impressed, as Martin was inserted into a starting role for Week 2.
Martin replaced Karl Klug, who saw his playing time decrease considerably on Sunday against the Chargers. Martin responded by recording his first career sack.
Pro Football Focus tracks a statistic called Pressure Percentage, which is actually a weighted percentage based on number of sacks, hits and hurries. Among qualifying defensive tackles, Martin currently ranks second. In 35 pass rush snaps Martin has recorded seven pressures (1 sack, 2 hits, 4 hurries).
Cincinnati Bengals 3rd-round pick Mohamed Sanu has yet to see any meaningful action, taking the field for a grand total of five plays through two games.
Sanu was used for five plays in the season opener against Baltimore, all five of which were running plays. Sanu was active again in Sunday against the Browns, but did not see the field.
The Bengals have used six receivers so far this year, including Sanu, but Sanu is the only one who has yet to run a route. 5th-round pick Marvin Jones has apparently jumped Sanu on the depth chart, based on the fact that he’s taken the field for a total of 23 plays in both games.
The Cincinnati Bengals gave Vontaze Burfict his first taste of NFL action on Sunday against the Browns. He was originally expected to start in place of the injured Thomas Howard, but the Bengals opened up in a nickel package so he ended up coming off the bench and playing 22 snaps at strong-side linebacker.
Despite reports prior to the game that Burfict would be the Bengals starter, actions speak louder than words. Burfict and Manny Lawson each played 22 snaps on Sunday, indicating that the job is still very much up for grabs in Howard’s absence.
Seattle Seahawks 1st-round pick Bruce Irvin recorded his first career sack on Sunday against the Cowboys and is developing into an asset as a pass rush specialist.
Through two games Irvin has been used as a pass rusher on 53 of his 64 snaps (82.8%).
While Irvin has done a nice job in this role (he’s recorded a sack, hit or pressure on 9.1% of his pass rush plays), their use of him in this role begs the question: is it worth drafting a pass-rush specialist in the 1st round?
No matter how well Irvin performs in this role, the fact remains he’s a part-time player. He certainly hasn’t looked like a bust, but until he develops into a a true three-down lineman it will be hard to give the Seahawks a strong grade for their selection.
Jacksonville Jaguars 1st-round pick Justin Blackmon has just three catches through his first two games, and was shut out on Sunday against the Texans.
Blackmon was on the field for 24 pass plays and was targeted three times, but failed to come down with a catch.
The issue for Blackmon is his route running and it really shouldn’t come as a surprise. Oklahoma State ran a fairly basic offense, which required very little of Blackmon other than to go deep. He was bigger, stronger and faster than most Big 12 defensive backs and wasn’t forced to refine his route running skills. He has the ability to develop into an elite receiver, but it will clearly take time.
Minnesota Vikings 1st-round pick Matt Kalil hasn’t wasted any time living up to expectations.
According to Pro Football Focus, Kalil has allowed zero sacks, zero quarterback hits and just one quarterback hurry. PFF’s weighted Pass Block Efficiency rating ranks Kalil among the game’s elite with a 98.9 percent rating.
It’s only two games and we shouldn’t draw conclusions – good or bad – based on this small sample size. But it’s certainly encouraging for the Vikings to see Kalil hit the ground running.