It doesn’t seem like it could possibly be, but the 2019 NFL season is already a quarter over. This is typically one of the milestones analysts like to use to take the pulse of the NFL and check in on how the various teams are doing.
NFL Network draft expert Daniel Jeremiah has decided to take the opportunity to update his Rookie Rankings, which he first put forth following the preseason. So far he is very impressed with the New York Giants’ draft class.
I’ll offer my thoughts on the concept and on the players themselves later on, so let’s get to what Jeremiah has to say.
3. Daniel Jones
Jones is smooth and athletic. He’s shown the ability to extend plays, and he’s been excellent on third down since the team made him the starter in Week 3.
21. Ryan Connelly
Connelly was having a phenomenal rookie campaign before suffering an ACL tear vs. the Redskins on Sunday. He should be a key member of this defense in the years to come.
25. Oshane Ximines
Ximines looks like another home-run pick from this talented Giants rookie class. He uses his length and speed to generate consistent pressure in the passing game.
Before getting in to what Jeremiah actually wrote, I have to ask: Have we really gotten to the point where we are having game-by-game referendums on rookies?
Apparently we can’t even give rookies one year to play, develop, and establish a body of work to use as a baseline anymore — let alone the three years pretty much everyone agreed you needed to evaluate a rookie class back in in the ancient days of two years ago.
Yes, one of the unintended consequences of the 2011 CBA is that rookies producing on cost-controlled contracts has become an incredible competitive advantage. But we also recognize even the most pro-ready rookies need development, and we won’t know what they truly are for at least a year yet.
To put this in context, when Jeremiah was a scout for the NFL, he likely watched at least five games from players who had spent at least three years at their level of competition before grading them. Now we’re grading players on a quarter way through their first year at this level of competition?
Power rankings are bad enough, now we’ve gone a step beyond to combine the hottest of takes with the smallest of sample sizes.
I expect better from someone like Jeremiah.
Okay, now on to what Jeremiah actually wrote, and I’m going in reverse order, starting with Oshane Ximines.
I thought Ximines would have a quick transition to the NFL level and could be productive early in his career. While Jeremiah calls out his length and speed, what has always stood out about Ximines has been his technique. He brought a remarkably polished arsenal of pass rush moves with him from the college level, and that has made his transition much more seamless than you would expect of a player from Old Dominion. Granted, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive line has issues and the Washington Redskins have a whole mess of problems, but Ximines has been winning at a rate similar to much more highly regarded pass rushers. While other rookies have gotten more press, Ximines might be the Giants’ best and most consistently good one right now.
If I’m being completely honest, the “big” plays he has made haven’t impressed me. Both interceptions were more the result of poor quarterback decisions than great coverage. He was in position to get the sack of Winston because he was tied up with a Buccaneers’ blocker and didn’t get any penetration (and for some reason the offensive lineman just ... stopped blocking).
That doesn’t take anything away from his play in my eyes, however. What made Connelly exciting to me is his mental processing and quick decision making. The speed with which Connelly takes in information and commits to a course of action is legitimately impressive. He will probably always be at his best playing downhill and limited in space, so finding a space player to pair with him should be a priority in 2020.
Connelly got his career off to a really nice start to his career, and now we’ll have to hope that his injury won’t cost him going forward.
Jones has been far from perfect since being handed the keys to the franchise, but while he’s clipped a few (metaphorical) mailboxes, he has kept things between the lines and rubber side down.
The two areas that Jeremiah mentions, athleticism and third down conversions, have been the area of biggest improvements for the Giants. Jones’ athleticism seemed to take both Tampa and the Washington Redskins by surprise, likely contributing to some of the failed tackle attempts we saw in both games — as well as a touchdown and a few third down conversions.
And those third downs have been the other area of marked improvement for the Giants’ offense. While they certainly benefited from some inept play and timely penalties from Washington, Jones has been able to extend drives, give the offense more chances to score, and take some pressure off of the defense.
He has areas of his game that need work, such as his pocket presence and a tendency to stare down receivers, and it will be interesting to see how he fares facing two of the best defenses in the NFL in the span of a week.