Garrett Wilson, Tyler Smith, And Hard Knocks Star Malcolm Rodriguez Shine In Week 2

The Week 2 NFL Rookie report card gets a little closer to the names chosen at the top of the 2022 NFL Draft after the first week of the NFL season surprised us with performances from unexpected names.

However, a few of the names on the rookie report card that hail from the top of the NFL draft don’t want to show their parents their grades. They’re hoping they can turn things around before the semester ends.

NFL rookie report cards

We’ve been spoiled. Justin Jefferson and Ja’Marr Chase have ruined rookie receiving performances for us. Tristan Wirfs and Rashawn Slater have skyrocketed our expectations of rookie tackle play. The only position it seems we can remain grounded about is cornerback, and that’s more a product of how hard the league makes the position to play at a high level.

Jets WR Garrett Wilson: A

Nothing I saw this weekend in football was more pleasing than an uneventful downfield incompletion from Joe Flacco to Garrett Wilson. It showed exactly what it looks like when two unbelievable young talents meet on the field outside the numbers with no safety help over the top. In an age of middle-of-field-open off coverage, this was raw.

Wilson ran a hitch-and-go. He showed a beautiful extended gather step that let him stop on a dime and uncover, forcing Greg Newsome II to begin driving downhill. Maybe if Wilson sells it a tad less, he gets an extra half-step on the cornerback, but this play showed the ridiculous recovery speed the second-year cornerback has.

Wilson isn’t as advanced as Justin Jefferson as a route runner. But Wilson has that effortless flexibility that allows him to get in and out of breaks at high speed. That makes him incredibly dangerous when he is attacking soft coverage.

Fantasy owners might be happy with their flyer on the rookie. Joe Flacco acted like nobody other than No. 17 was running routes in the red zone. Wilson finished with eight catches on 14 targets for 102 yards and two touchdowns. And he could have done more damage with a slightly more accurate passer.

Cowboys OT Tyler Smith: B

Dr. Strange ran through 14,000,605 scenarios after Tyron Smith’s injury, and only one of them had Tyler Smith allowing just one sack in his first two NFL starts at left tackle. The Tulsa tackle turned guard turned back to tackle after an offseason learning guard wasn’t supposed to succeed.

His tackle tape at Tulsa was a good enough reason to move him inside at the NFL level. There would have been no odds juicy enough to bet that he’d be the best rookie tackle through two weeks of the season. Yet here we are.

Not only has he become more technically sound as a pass protector on the outside, but he also remains just as dominant a run blocker as he was at Tulsa. His physicality and athleticism got him drafted in the first round. His work ethic and ability to learn quickly could make him not just the long-term answer at left tackle but the reason Tyron Smith is no longer a Cowboy in 2023.

Lions LB Malcolm Rodriguez: B

This one has to feel so sweet for Lions fans. Year after year during the Bob Quinn era, fans saw unathletic linebacker after unathletic linebacker walk through their doors in Motor City. Now, an undersized sixth-round bowling ball has single-handedly changed the narrative.

Malcolm Rodriguez was a staple on Hard Knocks. The charismatic 5-foot-11 linebacker was battling for a starting spot and stealing camera time. Through two games as a starter in the NFL, he’s continued proving himself a downhill thumper. His seven stops tie Quay Walker for the most among rookie defenders.

Falcons WR Drake London: B

Kyle Pitts is invisible now, but apparently, Arthur Smith can still see the 6-foot-3, 220-pound Drake London. London caught eight of his 12 targets for 86 yards, one touchdown, and one two-point conversion. The game plan clearly wanted London to be featured. He was manufactured touches multiple times on screen and quick throws against off coverage.

But it’s the frequency with which Mariota targeted the receiver in the hurry-up offense that should inspire confidence in fantasy owners. The receiver’s large frame is tough to miss over the middle, and it’s still shocking to see such a large receiver with such wiggle to his game. If Smith can get both of his first-round weapons humming, this passing attack could be dangerous.

Jaguars LB Devin Lloyd: B

Devin Lloyd was a problem in coverage while playing at Utah. He wasn’t a problem for the defense but for opposing QBs. His interception against Matt Ryan was a gift, but it was also a bit of a “ball don’t lie” situation. Earlier, he’d made an outstanding play to change direction and get his hands on a pass from Ryan to his receiver in the end zone, preserving the shutout.

Lloyd also is tied for third amongst rookie defenders with six stops, and his two pass breakups are one short of Derek Stingley, who leads all rookies. Jacksonville needed to find a few playmakers on defense, particularly up the middle. They paid a hefty penny for Foyesade Oluokun in free agency and now have two great athletes patrolling the middle of the field.

Rapid fire NFL rookie report card grades

It’s time for some quick hitters.

Titans WR Treylon Burks: B

I’m not sure why we’re telling the same story, but here we are. He played only 25 offensive snaps and 17 passing snaps, yet he commanded six targets, catching four for 47 yards.

Lions DE Aidan Hutchinson: B

“But Dalton, he had THREE sacks!” Yes, he did, but two of them were Carson Wentz sacks, and the third was him coming untouched on a stunt. He played well against the run and was all around the ball, but there’s a reason why sacks don’t tell the whole story.

Panthers OT Ikem Ekwonu: D

This will be the first of a few failing grades from offensive tackles. As stated earlier, our expectations for young blockers have been poisoned by Wirfs and Slater. Ekwonu will be fine, but he’s got a lot of growing to do first.

Giants OT Evan Neal: D

Neal’s pass protection hasn’t been awful. Daniel Jones has a bit of the bad side of Carson Wentz in him. He’ll hold the ball for a fortnight. But Neal will have to improve in the run game going forward. Neal appears to simply need a bit of patience and trust in his own strength.

Ravens S Kyle Hamilton: C

I’m pleading with Mike McDonald; please, please keep Kyle Hamilton away from playing on the back end until he has a grasp for what’s going on defensively in Baltimore. Hamilton out-snapped Chuck Clark on the back end Sunday, and it was the root cause of a few coverage gaffes by Baltimore’s secondary. Otherwise, Hamilton has played well.

Dalton Miller is the Lead NFL Analyst at Pro Football Network. You can read more of his work here and follow him @daltonbmiller on Twitter and Twitch.

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