We are well past the halfway point of the 2017 NFL regular season, and ESPN’s NFL Draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. took to ranking the best 25 rookies in the league. Before going any further, it’s worth looking at the parameters for Kiper to narrow down the Top-25:
Here are the parameters (same as always):
This is a measure for all games played this season -- not just last week.
Total snap count matters. Staying on the field is a measure of value.
Positional value matters, but overall performance and impact on the team matter more.
Relative value matters. I ask: Would this player be a starter on most teams or on a good team?
It shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone that the Pittsburgh Steelers have a pair of rookies who made this list. Check out where T.J. Watt and JuJu Smith-Schuster ranked among their rookie peers, and what Kiper thought of their first season in the NFL to date.
7. T.J. Watt, OLB, Pittsburgh Steelers
Previously ranked: 7 | Final 2017 Big Board rank: 48 | Where he was drafted: 30
The younger Watt brother had a dynamic debut with two sacks and an interception against the Browns in Week 1. He missed most of the Steelers' Week-2 victory over the Vikings and all of the Week-3 loss to the Bears, but he’s been disruptive since his return from a groin injury, although he has only two more sacks. Pittsburgh's defense is second in the NFL in sacks (29) and it’s been one of the best units in the league. I noted before the draft that Watt likely would start out as a situational pass-rusher in a 3-4 defense, but it’s been tough to keep him off of the field. He has 30 total tackles.
The other Steelers’ rookie to make the list was the excitable Smith-Schuster:
9. JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
Previously ranked: NR | Final Big Board rank: 39 | Where he was drafted: 62
The league's youngest player broke out in Week 8 with a seven-catch, 193-yard performance that included a 97-yard touchdown. He has five touchdowns and is averaging almost 18 yards per catch. He’s also eaten into the playing time of uber-talented wideout Martavis Bryant. Smith-Schuster had 20 touchdowns his last two seasons at USC, and he was in the first-round discussion for much of 2016. A 4.54-second 40-yard dash at the combine dropped him a little bit. He was my fifth-ranked receiver.
The Steelers aren’t the only team with two rookies to make the list, but they were only behind the New Orleans Saints in terms of having the most rookies make Kiper’s Top-10. The Saints had three rookies make the Top-10.
Check out the Top-10, and let us know in the comment section below if you would have ranked them differently:
1. Marshon Lattimore
2. Kareem Hunt
3. Alvin Kamara
4. Tre’Davious White
5. Ryan Ramczyk
6. Carl Lawson
7. T.J. Watt
8. Christian McCaffrey
9. JuJu Smith-Schuster
10. Jamal Adams