Perspective Of An Average Steelers Fan: Updating The Rookies (Part Four)

The 2018 regular season is over, and the Steelers top three draft picks are done for this year. Some of their rookie counterparts continue to play if the playoffs. Several updates were posted during the season. Here are the previous reports to see how these young players progressed during the season:

Rookies Tale of the Tape Preseason Report

Checking Out the Rookies after 4 Games

Checking Out the Rookies Midway of Season

Checking Out the Rookies after 12 Games

Now, this is just evaluating these players after one season. There will be ups and downs in all their careers. It will be interesting to revisit this group after the fourth year of their rookie contracts to see how each has developed.


Quarterback Summary

All five of the quarterbacks picked in the first round ended the season as their team’s permanent starter. Lamar Jackson who started the season as a gadget player will be leading his team into the playoffs. Mayfield has emerged from the earlier chaos in Cleveland to be the class leader. Mason Rudolph gets an incomplete as the 3rd rounder has yet to see the field of play.

Passing stats for the 2018 regular season (stats via Pro Football Reference):

Name G GS Snaps Snap % Cmp Att Cmp % YDs TDs INTs Sack Y/C Y/G Rating
Josh Dobbs 5 0 30 2.69 6 12 50.0 43 0 1 0 7.2 8.6 24.0
Mason Rudolph 0 0 0 0.00 0 0 0.0 0 0 0 0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Baker Mayfield 14 13 906 83.04 310 486 63.8 3725 27 14 25 12.0 266.1 93.7
Sam Darnold 13 13 810 80.92 239 414 57.7 2865 17 15 30 12.0 220.4 77.6
Josh Allen 12 11 719 67.89 169 320 52.8 2074 10 12 28 12.3 172.8 67.9
Josh Rosen 14 13 781 82.91 217 393 55.2 2278 11 14 45 10.5 162.7 66.7
Lamar Jackson 16 7 585 49.2 99 170 58.2 1201 6 3 16 12.1 75.1 84.5

Synopsis of each listed quarterback for the 2018 season:

Mason Rudolph (3rd/76 overall) did not appear in a game. The Steelers placed Rudolph on the inactive roster for all 16 games. Dobbs was active on gamedays but only appeared in 5 games. His season highlight was picking up a critical first down versus the Baltimore Ravens when Ben Roethlisberger had to briefly leave the game. However, he flunked an opportunity to spell Ben during the loss to the Raiders. He led 4 drives in the 2nd half throwing an interception and completing only 4 of 9 passes for a very low quarterback rating of 12.

Baker Mayfield (1st/1 overall) He is now the starter for the Cleveland Browns. He had a 5-2 record in his last 7 starts and nearly led the Browns on a game winning drive to beat Baltimore in the final game of the season. His impressive 93.7 quarterback rating led all the rookies and included 4 game winning drives and 3 come from behind victories in the 4th quarter. He has the confidence and brashness but backed it up with 27 TD passes. Cleveland fans may have finally found their franchise quarterback.

Sam Darnold (1st/3 overall) He started 13 games for the New York Jets missing 3 due to a foot injury. He had a couple good games near the end of the season throwing five TD passes and no interceptions before being iced by the Patriots in the season finale. He needs to be more careful with the ball. His 15 interceptions were second to only Ben Roethlisberger’s 16 in 2018. Right now, the big question is who will be coaching Darnold in 2019 since Todd Bowles was one of the 8 head coaches fired this season.

Josh Allen (1st/7 overall) He started 11 of 12 games played for the Buffalo Bills, including starting the final 6 games with a 3-3 record. Allen sprained his right elbow and missed four games. Josh is back playing and appears fully recovered. In addition to passing he ran the ball 89 times for 631 yards & 10 TD’s. He does throw the ball downfield. He averaged 12.3 yards per catch which was 6th in the NFL & tops among the rookies. Buffalo will be looking to build some pieces around their new quarterback.

Josh Rosen (1st/10 overall) He became the Arizona Cardinals starting quarterback after his debut in week 3 and started all the games since then. His overall numbers are not too impressive. It is concerning that he was sacked 45 times which was the 7th most in the NFL this year and most among the rookies. The Cardinals will need to build up their offensive line if they want this young quarterback to stay upright.

Lamar Jackson (1st/32 overall) Jackson appeared in all 16 Baltimore Ravens games. He started their last 7 games finishing 6-1. He will be the Ravens starting quarterback in the playoffs.  In his 7 games as a starter he completed 92 of 158 passes for 1,114 yards, 5 TD’s & 3 interceptions.  In those some games he has ran the ball 119 times for 556 yards and 4 TD’s. He did fumble 10 times in those 7 games. The Joe Flacco era is over. Lamar Jackson is now Baltimore’s quarterback.


Wide Receiver Summary

James Washington does not compare favorably to the other rookie wide receivers. All the other listed rookies have been contributing to their teams. All fit well into their offensive schemes. Of course, 6 were drafted ahead of him but he has not really produced except for his 47-yard catch against the Bengals. His catches, yardage and catch% is close to DJ Chark’s statistics. However, Chark had over 200 less snaps than Washington. All the other receivers appear to be performing up to their draft positions.

Rookie receiving stats for the 2018 regular season (stats via Pro Football Reference):

Name G Snaps Snap% RECs Yds Y/C Y/G Catch % TDs
James Washington 14 526 47.13 16 217 13.6 15.5 42.1 1
DJ Moore 16 733 69.28 55 788 14.3 49.3 67.1 2
Calvin Ridley (I) 16 644 60.75 64 821 12.8 51.3 69.6 10
Courtland Sutton 16 819 76.26 42 704 16.8 44.0 50.0 4
Dante Pettis (I) 12 452 42.76 27 467 17.3 38.9 60.0 5
Christian Kirk 12 542 57.54 43 590 13.7 49.2 63.2 3
Anthony Miller (I) 15 576 53.58 33 423 12.8 28.2 61.1 7
DJ Chark (I) 11 291 27.98 14 174 12.4 15.8 43.8 0
Michael Gallup 16 739 68.68 33 507 15.4 31.7 48.5 2

Synopsis of each listed wide receiver for the 2018 season:

James Washington (2nd/60 overall) Washington finally got some production in his last 4 games. 8 catches for 140 yards doubled his production from the rest of the season. However, his numbers clearly lagged his contemporaries. We will have to wait until next season to see if will develop into a reliable receiver.

DJ Moore (1st/24 overall) Moore became a regular starter after week 10. He caught 55-of-82 targets for 788 yards and 2 TD’s for the Carolina Panthers. His long reception was 82 yards. Not a bad start for the top drafted wide receiver in 2018.

Calvin Ridley (1st/26 overall) Ridley’s 10 touchdown receptions ranked 6th in the NFL. He only started 5 games but saw significant action playing in over 60% of the Atlanta Falcons offensive snaps. His 64 receptions & 821 yard receiving led all the rookies. As did his catching 69.6% of his targets and averaging over 51 yards a game of receiving yardage. A very strong rookie season.

Courtland Sutton (2nd/40 overall) Sutton is a long ball threat that averaged 16.8 yards a catch. He only caught half of his 82 targets but has settled in as the number two Denver Broncos receiver following the trade of Demaryius Thomas.

Dante Pettis (2nd/44 overall) Pettis injured his knee on a punt return in week 4 resulting in three missed games. He finished the season strong with 20 catches for 359 yards and 4 TD’s in his last 5 games. But he missed the season finale due to a sprained MCL. We’ll see how he bounces back from his injury in 2019.

Christian Kirk (2nd/47 overall) Unfortunately, Kirk’s rookie season was cut short when he injured his foot. The Arizona Cardinals will have a new coach, so we will see how he is incorporated into their attack. He finished with 43 receptions and 3 TD’s in 12 games played. He also returned 21 punts averaging 7.8 yards a return. The Cardinals expect a full recovery for the 2019 season.

Anthony Miller (2nd/51 overall) The Chicago Bears are getting their monies worth from Miller. He is only targeted 3 to 5 times a game but has scored 7 TD’s on his 33 receptions. That’s a TD every 4.71 catches! If JuJu scored TD’s at the same rate, he would have had over 23 TD’s this season.

DJ Chark (2nd/61 overall) Chark only has 33 targets in 11 games played for the Jacksonville Jaguars. He injured his quadriceps and missed five games. He appeared in the finale but did not have any catches. Of course, having quarterbacks Blake Bortles & Cody Kessler throwing him balls did not help his cause.

Michael Gallup (3rd/81 overall) The Dallas Cowboys did not use Gallup too much earlier in the season.  He did have 6 of his 33 receptions in the last two games including the game winning TD against the New York Giants. We’ll see if he adds any heroics in the playoffs.


Safety Summary

Terrell Edmunds ended up near the back of a strong safety pack. Minkah Fitzpatrick and Derwin James who were selected well ahead of him are playing lights out. Jessie Bates who the Bengals picked in the 2nd round is very solid as is Justin Reid. Derwin James made the Pro Bowl and will be in the playoffs as will Reid. Would love to see an analysis with tape of these players side by side to see how Edmunds really stacks up. The difficulty in direct comparisons is that teams may use their players differently which impacts expectations.

Rookie safety stats for the 2018 regular season (stats via Pro Football Reference):

Name G Snaps Snap% INTs PDs FF FR Sacks Tackles TFL/QBH
Terrell Edmunds 16 966 92.53 1 4 0 1 1.0 78 1/3
Minkah Fitzpatrick 16 944 86.69 2 9 0 0 0 80 2/0
Derwin James 16 1027 99.13 3 13 0 0 3.5 105 4/6
Jessie Bates III 16 1114 98.67 3 7 0 0 0 111 0/0
Justin Reid 16 906 84.75 3 10 1 2 0 88 2/1
Ronnie Harrison 14 328 32.03 1 3 0 0 1.0 32 3/1


Synopsis of each listed safety for the 2018 season:

Terrell Edmunds (1st/28 overall) Edmunds started 15 of 16 games played. He has been up and down in coverage. His 78 total tackles ranked second on the team. He made some impact plays but was not dominant. He played about half the Steelers special team snaps the 6th most on the team.

Minkah Fitzpatrick (1st/11 overall) Fitzpatrick showed versatility by playing safety and cornerback. He is credited with 9 passes defended with 2 interceptions. He did have a pick-6 for the Miami Dolphins in their loss to the Vikings.

Derwin James (1st/17 overall) James made 111 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 13 pass breakups and 3 interceptions. He was the Charger that snagged Ben’s floater out of the air when they played the Steelers. He was named to the Pro Bowl and is a strong candidate for defensive rookie of the year. The Los Angeles Chargers are pleased as he has been a big contributor to their defense. Let’s see how he does in the wildcard game against Baltimore.

Jessie Bates III (2nd/54 overall) Bates led the rookies with 111 total tackles. He also made 3 interceptions including a pick-6. His 1,114 defensive snaps easily top the other rookies. Bates bolsters the Cincinnati Bengals secondary starting all 16 games played this season. He defended two of Ben’s passes in the season finale.

Justin Reid (3rd/68 overall) Reid has Houston Texans fans smiling. He had 3 interceptions and credited with 9 passes defensed. His 101-yard interception return for a TD led the NFL. In addition to his 906 defensive snaps he has another 235 on special teams. He helped propel the Texans into the playoffs.

Ronnie Harrison (3rd/93 overall) Harrison started 8 of 14 games but often rotated out. He played a season high 76 snaps in their 6-0 win over the Indianapolis Colts after only playing 10 defensive snaps in the 3 prior games. He missed the last two games after injuring his knee.


The top three Steelers 2018 draft picks did not compare favorably to their contemporaries. Top pick Terrell Edmunds proved to be a solid starter but unspectacular impact player. Predictably, higher picks Derwin James & Minkah Fitzpatrick overshadowed him. But, so did Jessie Bates III & Justin Reid who were available in lower rounds.

2nd round pick James Washington lagged far behind other rookie wide receivers but did show a flash of what he could develop into in the last game of the season. Mason Rudolph did not see any action so cannot be compared, it is notable that all 5 of the quarterbacks picked in the 1st round became starters by the end of the season with the last one picked, Lamar Jackson leading his team into the playoffs. Baker Mayfield may be a fixture in Cleveland. It will be very interesting on how all three Steelers rookies fare in year 2 of their careers.

Your Music Selection

In the 2018 Memorial Day Weekend: Steelers Friday Night Five Questions, I committed to play songs that Steelers Depot respondents suggested might be the new Steelers anthem if Renegade by Styx was ever replaced. Here is entry 39 of 45 from Matt Manzo: Blitzkrieg by Metallica.

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