The Jacksonville Jaguars had some major contributions from first-year players during the 2017 season, and that didn’t go unnoticed. Nick Shook of NFL.com recently released his rookie grades for the AFC South, and the Jags fared well.
Jacksonville received a “B+” for its Rookie Class, tying the Houston Texans for the best grade in the division. Here was Shook’s analysis:
“Fournette was the home run we expected him to be when he was selected fourth overall, but the true strength of this class lies in the success of Robinson and potential of Westbrook. The latter didn’t play in a game until Week 11 but put together a nice little stretch, catching 34 passes for 424 yards and a touchdown in 10 games (and eight starts, including playoffs). Robinson was everything a team hopes to get out of a first- or second-round pick at tackle, sliding into the Left Tackle position and playing well, especially for a rookie. Smoot joined an incredibly deep position group and still contributed when appearing in spots, playing 24 percent of regular-season defensive snaps. For finding a franchise running back, a solid left tackle and drafting for defensive depth, GM Dave Caldwell gets a firm round of applause.” GRADE: B+
Of course the class was headlined by Leonard Fournette, who finished his first career regular season with 1,040 rushing yards and 10 total touchdowns, and then added an additional 242 rushing yards and four touchdowns in the playoffs. But it was the play of second-round pick Cam Robinson and fourth-round pick Dede Westbrook that really caught Shook’s eye.
The writer also mentioned the signing of Keelan Cole in his “Notable rookie FA signings” blurb. After impressing in training camp and making the team, Cole went on to the lead the Jaguars in receiving yards with 748 on 42 catches, adding three touchdowns.
Dawuane Smoot didn’t play a ton of snaps, but he did appear in all 16 games this past season and was recognized in the article. Shook seems to like not only the starters, but the depth the 2017 rookies provided.
Shook then goes on to talk about potential free agency/draft needs for the Jaguars this offseason. He of course brings up the quarterback position, and also mentions that adding another receiver would be helpful for the Jags. But he ends his Jaguars section by saying “there aren’t many holes on this young roster” and that it is “brimming with potential.”
That last line is certainly a change of pace from past offseasons in recent memory. I agree with the B+ grade. I wouldn’t quite bump it up into the A- range because consistent production wasn’t always there, but this rookie class definitely achieved what was expected of them.
Fournette was the workhorse back he was supposed to be, but did have some health and consistency issues at times. Robinson held his own at left tackle despite some struggles. Having to be the No. 1 blindside protector from day one is no easy feat and I thought he did a fine job. Westbrook and Cole had to really step up in a depleted wide receiver corps and Smoot and Blair Brown provided necessary depth on defense. Colin Holba was another UFA who stepped in and produced at long snapper.
For those wondering, the Tennessee Titans received a “B” and the Indianapolis Colts had the lowest grade with a “C+” mark.
So, what grade would you give to this year’s crop of rookies? Let us know in the poll below.