Earlier, I wrote about the most Intriguing NFL Sophomores this season. Now, I move onto NFL rookies. While I want to watch some of these prospects because I believe they’ll succeed, there are others that I want to watch because I have no clue how they’ll perform.
Jarrad Davis, ILB, Lions
If Davis did not tear his meniscus during his sophomore season at Florida, his draft stock could have elevated to a top ten pick in the 2017 draft. The University of Florida alum recorded 154 tackles and 17 tackles for a loss in his final two collegiate seasons before being drafted by the Detroit Lions.
I loved Davis as a prospect. He’s athletic and uses that athleticism to burst through gaps and tackle ball carriers efficiently. Additionally, Davis plays well in coverage due to his ability to jam TEs and mirror QBs in a zone defense. In Detroit, Davis should be the immediate starter, as their other returning linebackers were some of the worst in the NFL.
Davis still will need some time to develop as he could become more patient and take better angles towards the ball, but he should figure those issues out quickly.
Reuben Foster, ILB, 49ers
Rueben Foster was a consensus top 10 pick for the majority of the offseason–yet he fell to the 31st pick where San Francisco selected him. Foster slipped so far due to numerous reason, none of which should affect his ability on the field. First, he had surgery on his shoulder which caused other NFL teams to be cautious. Second, he was dismissed from the NFL combine following an altercation with a hospital worker. To top it all off, Foster “failed” a drug test with a diluted sample.
Make no mistake: Foster is a MONSTER. Earlier in the year, I wrote this about Foster’s tape “the first thing that jumps out is his explosiveness. He’s a vicious hitter that always seems to be involved in the tackle due to his elite lateral speed and smooth hips.” All of those skills should translate well to the NFL.
Malik Hooker, FS, Colts
Malik Hooker is a pure playmaking safety. In his senior year at Ohio State, he reeled in seven interceptions while roaming the secondary. While Hooker is somewhat of a liability in the run game due to somewhat raw tackling mechanics, he makes up it with his elite instincts, ball skills, and smooth transitions.
Last year, Indianapolis’ pass defense was atrocious, as they allowed 267 passing yards a game which ranked 25th in the NFL. Moreover, the Colts had just eight total interceptions, just one more than Malik Hooker. The putrid history of the Colts secondary makes the addition of Hooker even more intriguing. How much can of a help can one player be, no matter how talented?
In season one, Hooker will face adversity early on. He’ll be relied on to be a safety net for the defense both in the run and passing game. If the former Buckeye can secure just half of last year’s interception, I would call his rookie year a success.
Dalvin Cook, RB, Vikings
Though he was the third RB to come off the board, I think Dalvin Cook may have the biggest season out of all of them. While Leonard Fournette is more of a power back and McCaffery is on the agile side, Cook is a blend of both. Watching Cook’s tape is incredible.
Cook’s footwork and lateral agility are impeccable. He pairs those traits with great vision which makes him unstoppable in the backfield. He’s also a balanced powerful runner, who rarely goes down on first contact.
According to head coach, Mike Zimmer is extremely fond of the former FSU RB stating that he could “be something special”. Cook should be getting the majority of reps in Minnesota which will provide him with the perfect storm for a breakout.
Jabrill Peppers, S, Browns
I will be the first to admit that I did not like Peppers coming out of college, and I stand by that thought still. Peppers simply is not as gifted as the media portrayed him to be. Yes, he is an athletic specimen, but his lack of production (1 interception through all of college) worried me if he could succeed as a safety in the NFL. He did not display any intriguing qualities in coverage and did not appear as a first round pick on tape.
Yet the Browns drafted Peppers with the 25th pick. Cleveland had three first round picks, so selecting Peppers is not as much as a risk as it appears. The way Cleveland uses him will be quite interesting. He could function as a pure safety, but most likely he’ll be a hybrid safety/linebacker similar to Su’a Cravens‘ role in the Redskins’ defense last year.
Peppers was by far the most polarizing player in the NFL Draft, and only one group can be correct. Will Peppers perform well in the NFL? Only time can tell.