No more hazing, no more singing college fight songs in the team cafeterias, no more Dora the Explorer nap-sacks to wear on road trips, and no more carrying veterans’ shoulder pads to and from practice.
Well, maybe they’re still carrying pads … but nonetheless rookies around the NFL are now neck deep in the week-to-week grind of the NFL.
So how are they doing after four weeks?
These young men are being counted on by teammates, coaches, and fans to make plays on a weekly basis.
Organizations stake their immediate and often long-term future on first round picks in these quick twitch times where half of the 32 head coaches in the league have held that title for less than three years with their current teams.
With the first quarter of the season signed sealed and delivered, it’s the perfect opportunity to see how the top rookies have transitioned to the pro game.Let’s toss around some early grades for all the first rounders.
Many became starters on day one, others play significant snaps as rotational players, and a few have made debuts on special teams.
1) Andrew Luck – Colts
The number one pick hasn’t set the world on fire, but he has been consistent since a poor debut performance in Chicago when he threw 3 interceptions.
Week two in Minnesota, Luck played the best game of his young career handing the Vikings their only loss to date.
2) Robert Griffin III – Redskins
RG3 kicked in the door to the NFL with a monster week one performance in New Orleans.
He has been consistent, as his 103.2 passer rating suggests, making normal plays look spectacular and spectacular plays look out of this world.
3) Trent Richardson – Browns
Richardson hasn’t made the sudden impact many anticipated, but his three rushing touchdowns and highlights at this point in the season show what kind of talent Richardson has.
4) Matt Kalil – Vikings
It has been a solid start for Kalil.
Despite some issues in pass protection, he has done a good job protecting second–year quarterback Christian Ponder and opening up running lanes for Adrian Peterson.
5) Justin Blackmon – Jaguars
Just 79 yards in 4 games, but 7 of his 10 receptions have resulted in first downs.
6) Morris Claiborne – Cowboys
Claiborne has been solid in coverage so far, but there have been no turnovers forced by the ball hawk from LSU.
I’m sure Jerry Jones and the Cowboys would love to see some interceptions after moving up in the draft to grab Claiborne.
7) Mark Barron – Buccaneers
Barron has been all over the field in Tampa Bay, collecting 27 combined tackles and a forced fumble.
The Bucs have a special player at safety for the next five to ten years.
8) Ryan Tannehill – Dolphins
Tannehill has looked the part of a rookie with limited college experience.
His 3:1 interception to touchdown ratio is troubling, but he has had a few Wow moments as well.
9) Luke Kuechly – Panthers
Kuechly has amassed 26 tackles for a disappointing Panthers team that is sitting at 1-3.
He still has played very well next to Jon Beason in the Carolina linebacking corps.
10) Stephon Gilmore – Bills
Gilmore has played physically with 20 tackles through four weeks, but he has been burned in coverage a few times.
Not surprisingly, Gilmore has played almost exclusively in press coverage.
11) Dontari Poe – Chiefs
Poe has been a rotation tackle for the Chiefs with just two solo tackles for a struggling Chiefs defense.
12) Fletcher Cox – Eagles
Statistics don’t tell the story with Cox. He has one sack and seven hurries while playing about half the defensive snaps for the 3-1 Eagles.
Cox has been a disruptive force in an Eagles front that has 73 quarterback hurries through 4 weeks.
13) Michael Floyd – Cardinals
Just five receptions for the former Notre Dame standout, totaling 43 yards. He did catch a touchdown against the Eagles in week three.
14) Michael Brockers – Rams
Brockers sat out the first three weeks with an injury and was eased back into the rotation by head coach Jeff Fisher in week four. He should be up to speed in a week or two. Has to get on the field before he can earn a grade.
15) Bruce Irvin – Seahawks
A surprise pick at number 15 on draft day, the pass rushing specialist has lived up to his draft position with two and a half sacks and multiple pressures along with the rest of Seattle’s front four.
16) Quinton Coples – Jets
No sacks for the pass rusher from North Carolina. He is a part time rotational player for the Jets.
17) Dre Kirkpatrick – Bengals
He hasn’t played a snap this season, missing all four games because of injury. He has been practicing lately and could debut this weekend. Just like Brockers, no grade if you aren’t healthy enough to get in the game.
18) Melvin Ingram – Chargers
Ingram has been a situational pass rusher for the Chargers behind Shawn Phillips and Jarrett Johnson. He has one forced fumble and three pass deflections.
19) She McClellin – Bears
Two sacks as a pass rushing specialist on a stingy Bears defense.
20) Kendall Wright – Titans
If Wright keeps up his pace, he’ll end with 72 receptions in his rookie campaign. With Kenny Britt’s on and off the field struggles, those numbers could go up.
21) Chandler Jones – Patriots
Talk about an impact! With three sacks and 17 tackles, it has been an impressive start for one third of the Jones brothers, who was named defensive rookie of the month.
Chandler’s brother Arthur is a defensive end for the Ravens, and other sibling Jon is the UFC light heavyweight champion.
22) Brandon Weeden – Browns
After a historically horrific start to his career, throwing four interceptions and struggling his way to a 5.2 passer rating week one against the Eagles, the 28-year old rookie has looked far more comfortable. He has put up solid numbers despite his team’s 0-4 start.
23) Riley Reiff – Detroit
He started in week four for the first time. Reiff is the swing tackle off the bench for Jim Schwartz.
24) David Decastro – Steelers
On injured reserve since a preseason injury ended his rookie season. An unfortunate start to a talented young mans career.
25) Dont’a Hightower – Patriots
Big debut for Hightower, who had a fumble recovery touchdown in week one. He has 17 tackles overall for a much improved Patriots defense.
26) Whitney Mercilus – Houston
It has been a slow start playing minimal snaps for Wade Phillips and the top-ranked Texans defense.
27) Kevin Zeitler – Bengals
As the starting right guard in Cincy, he has played well, especially in pass protection in front of second year quarterback Andy Dalton.
28) Nick Perry – Packers
Perry has one sack and 15 tackles for the man playing opposite Clay Mathews in Lambeau Field.
29) Harrison Smith – Vikings
With 22 total tackles, he has been solid but hasn’t necessarily stood out for the surprising Vikings.
30) A.J. Jenkins – 49ers
Jenkins has made zero impact for the 49ers offense, with no receptions in the first month of the season.
31) Doug Martin – Buccaneers
Martin is averaging 18 carries a game for the Bucs, which shows Tampa Bay’s willingness to feed the rock to Martin despite all the passing weapons Josh Freeman has at his disposal.
32) David Wilson – Giants
Wilson has been in head coach Tom Coughlin’s doghouse since a week one fumble against the Cowboys.
He has, however, made a mark on special teams by averaging over 30 yards per kick return last week against Philadelphia.