We’re now more than half way through the NFL season, and boy was there some big time performances this week. Aaron Rodgers and Cam Newton put on a show in Carolina, with the Panthers doing enough to stay undefeated and upset the Packers QB, but the Broncos succumbed to the Indianapolis Colts to lose their perfect record.
Elsewhere, Blaine Gabbert (yes, the Blaine Gabbert) led the San Francisco 49ers to a win against an uninspiring Atlanta Falcons, and Dez Bryant made one of the catches of the year in the Cowboys’ loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
But I’m going off the beaten track with this week’s wrap; we’ll call this one the rookie edition. There have been some pretty impressive guys coming out of the class of 2015, as well as some that don’t appear ready to take the big step towards being an NFL superstar. Here are just a few that have stood out to me thus far, and not all for the right reasons:
Marcus Mariota is already a stud
Seriously, the guy out-duelled Drew Brees in his sixth NFL start. I might be a little bit biased, being a Ducks fan and all, but the 2015 Heisman Trophy winner has superstar written all over him. Coming out of college Mariota had very little experience playing under centre; the high-octane spread offense at Oregon allowed Mariota to flaunt his athleticism, but wasn’t quite the best preparation for the pro’s.
In training camp Mariota improved his footwork and pocket presence, showing that as well as being prodigiously talented, he is also highly intelligent and adaptable – something many young quarterback’s struggle with (I’m looking at you RGIII).
The four TD’s thrown by Mariota against the Saints was his second four TD game of the season, and earned him the AFC offensive player of the week, along with a slice of history:
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 11, 2015
Fantasy watch: Aloha, Marcus! Mariota’s 371 passing yards, four TD’s and 33.34 fantasy points make him an interesting option as a starter, though a lack of consistency makes that a risky move.
Amari Cooper and Derek Carr are going to be very fun to watch for a very long time
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: the best way to help a second year quarterback in their development is to surround them with offensive weapons – and that is exactly what the Oakland Raiders have done. Thankfully, Alabama’s Amari Cooper is living up to the hype of being a number four draft pick; in his first eight NFL starts, Cooper has 653 receiving yards and four TD’s. Not. Bad.
The synergy between Cooper and Carr has already spawned the coolest nickname in the NFL – AC/DC – and has provided Raiders fans with a window into a very bright future. With Peyton in the twilight of his career, we might just be witnessing the birth of the next AFC West powerhouse.
Fantasy watch: Amari Cooper gave the Steelers D all sorts of headaches on his way to 88 receiving yards, one TD and 14.80 fantasy points – but it wasn’t enough to get the W.
Todd Gurley might be one of the most important players in the NFL
For a St. Louis team that is currently relying on Nick Foles to run the offense, nothing could be more vital than establishing their running game. And, early on, they are doing just that through their rookie RB; Gurley’s 664 rushing yards from six games have him sitting fourth on the leader board, and his four TD’s have certainly gone a long way to keep this team competitive.
Many were worried about Gurley coming out of the University of Georgia after tearing his ACL in his junior season, but he has shown from week one that he can be the three-down back that the Rams need to make a real mark on the NFC East, and with the Seahawks struggling early, it might just be the perfect time for the Rams to strike.
Fantasy watch: Coming off a big outing against the 49ers (133 rushing yards, one TD), Gurley went head-to-head with rushing leader Adrian Peterson and turned in another impressive performance: 109 combo yards, one TD and 16.90 fantasy points kept the G-train rolling along nicely.
It’s definitely too early to tell, but Melvin Gordon could be a bust
While number 10 draft pick Todd Gurley is showing the NFL that it’s not just Marshawn Lynch who can engage Beast Mode, number 15 draft pick Melvin Gordon is struggling to make an impact for a San Diego Chargers team which is desperate for someone other than Philip Rivers to do some offensive damage.
The Gurley and Gordon comparison is perhaps the most interesting one to come out of this year’s draft – much more so than Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston. Gurley and Gordon are both power running backs, and both ended up on teams trying to worm their way into the playoffs.
Sadly, the numbers show a back that is struggling to find his rhythm in the big leagues: 413 rushing yards from nine games with an average of 3.6 yards per carry. Gordon’s performances at Wisconsin last year show that he certainly has the potential, but to thrive he needs one thing: an offensive co-ordinator with enough faith in him to feed him the ball repeatedly – give him that, and he could be great.
Fantasy watch: From a fantasy perspective, it’s best to steer clear of Melvin Gordon for now; he has yet to register a TD this year, and has a weekly average of 5.23 fantasy points.
Questions? Insults? Let us know in the comments section.