4 most disappointing rookies through first quarter of NFL season

Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire

With the exception of Miami and Tampa Bay, every team has played four regular season games. While it is very difficult to decipher which NFL teams are for real and which are pretenders, this rookie class is emerging and could be quite strong.

However, which rookies have been the most disappointing? It is much more difficult to find newcomers to the league that fit this description rather than the opposite. Digging these guys up was so difficult that Myles Garrett almost made the list just because he has not yet been able to show what a dominant player he should become.

Here are a few names we came up with (in alphabetical order). Unfortunately, two of Garrett’s teammates are recognized.

Zay Jones, WR, Buffalo Bills

The Bills have been extremely surprising through the first month of the season. With subpar weapons, many expected Buffalo’s passing game to be among the worst in the NFL. While it certainly hasn’t been great, the Bills are winning games nonetheless. First-round pick Tre’Davious White was featured in our “Best Rookie” article earlier in the week.

No team in the league throws the ball less than Buffalo on a “percentage of play calls” basis. That is certainly by design. Charles Clay has clearly been Tyrod Taylor’s top receiving option in 2017, but now Taylor will be without Jordan Matthews for about a month. That puts a lot more pressure on Jones, who hasn’t looked up to the task.

Jones isn’t dominant in any particular area — that wasn’t the case even at the college level  — and has struggled to get separation in the NFL. Even at his best, he projects as a receiver closer to Robert Woods than Sammy Watkins. Jones will get targets over this next month — that will be critical to his evaluation.

Deshone Kizer, QB, Cleveland Browns

This probably isn’t fair to Kizer, who tied Jameis Winston as the youngest starting quarterback in NFL history on opening week against the Steelers. This team is a train wreck. The Browns don’t run the ball at all and the receivers are simply terrible. Kenny Britt has stood out as a negative impact player. Kizer is getting no help whatsoever from his supporting cast outside of Duke Johnson.

The Browns need to run the ball more. Still, although he was impressive in the preseason and clearly has starting traits, the game has looked too big for Kizer. His completion percentage is poor, as are his eight interceptions through four games. Kizer also holds the ball in the pocket far too long and doesn’t come off his first read quickly enough, which results in unnecessary sacks and hits.

Cleveland Browns quarterback DeShone Kizer, top, loses control of the ball under pressure from Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Carlos Dunlap (96) in the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/David Richard)

(AP Photo/David Richard)

With a wealth of draft capital for 2018, it will be very interesting to see how Kizer finishes his rookie season. The Browns might be smart to add another quarterback to the mix via the draft, or perhaps in free agency with Kirk Cousins or even Teddy Bridgewater.

Jabrill Peppers, DB, Cleveland Browns

This isn’t meant to pick on the Browns–honestly!–but Cleveland is the worst team in the NFL. Its many high draft picks are not paying off immediately. That isn’t to say this draft class won’t come through, but it hasn’t through the first month of the season. Those that were not high on Peppers as a draft prospect saw him as a player without a true position.

Those that liked him saw Peppers as a highly versatile and athletic movable chess piece that was perfect in today’s NFL. The Browns have used Peppers far from the line of scrimmage —  more than someone with his talents and background (he basically played linebacker in his final year at Michigan) should be expected to excel. While Derrick Kindred has been a bright spot as the opposite safety, Peppers has been a liability in all phases of the position.

Samaje Perine, RB, Washington Redskins

Many thought that Perine would have overtaken Rob Kelly for the early-down running back job in Washington by now. The reality is that Perine hasn’t come close to doing so and hasn’t looked comfortable this year. Chris Thompson has been the star of the Redskins’ backfield and Washington has once again shown it has one of the better offensive lines in the NFL. You can see why Perine would not be putting a dent into Thompson’s job in the passing game, but Kelly is playing great. Perine looks overwhelmed. Maybe the bye week will do Perine a lot of good.


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