1) Marcus Mariota (QB) Tennessee Titans
Mariota delivered again. He finished with 367 yards and two touchdowns. He did throw two costly picks. But hey, that’s going to happen to the best of them. What was impressive about this one was that Tennessee jumped out to a lead, lost it and then the Heisman Trophy winner from Oregon was a missed two-point conversion from tying the Colts at 35 near the end of the game. Mariota led the Titans 80-yards for the potential tie. I know we are only three weeks in but he looks like the absolute real deal. Mariota is currently 8th in the NFL in passing yards (833), 4th in touchdowns (8) and 7th in passer rating (109.2). Mariota is on pace to obliterate most of every NFL rookie records… and with what or should I say with you around him?
2) Amari Cooper (WR) Oakland Raiders
Cooper matched up often against one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL in Cleveland’s Joe Haden and the rookie from Alabama won this battle. According to ProFootballFocus.com, Haden gave up a reception on all six targets against Cooper. He finished with eight catches in all for 134 yards. Cooper is the first Raider to have back-to-back 100 yard receiving yards since Randy Moss in 2005. Derek Carr said after their win in Cleveland that Cooper “is a home run waiting to happen.”
3) Jameis Winston (QB) Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Though the Bucs lost 19-9 to Houston, Winston played his best game to date. He finished 17/36 for 261 yards, one touchdown and one interception. His receivers didn’t help him with nine dropped passes. Winston looked much more comfortable in the pocket and was protected better against a good Houston front that features J.J. Watt. Winston seems to be settling in and really made some nice throws on the day. But he’s still a rookie and makes those first year mistakes like the interception he threw. It’s a work in progress with the entire offense that has a new coordinator and two other rookie starters in guard Ali Marpet and tackle Donovan Smith. Those two did have good games as well.
4) Kwon Alexander (LB) Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Speaking of Tampa Bay rookies, the Bucs found an outstanding one in former LSU star Kwon Alexander. He’s now manning the middle of the Tampa defense. Against Houston he finished with ten tackles along with his first career interception. Alexander also had two passes defended and a tackle for a loss. He plays fast and fits exactly into Lovie Smith’s scheme. This fourth rounder is a keeper.
5) Karlos Williams (RB) Buffalo Bills
Williams continues to shine in the absence of star running back LeSean McCoy. McCoy did see some action and actually found the end zone but it was Williams who was productive once again for the Bills on the road in Miami. This former Seminole rushed for 110 yards on only 12 carries and one TD. He did average over nine yards a pop. Williams is a nice story. He signed with FSU as an All-American safety and moved to running back only one year ago. He looks like he has quite the career running the rock ahead of him.
6) Thomas Rawls (RB) Seattle Seahawks
Playing for the injured Marshawn Lynch, this rookie free agent shined in the Seattle home opener, rushing for 104 yards on 16 carries. That’s a 6.5 yards per carry average for this running back from Central Michigan. The Seahawks struggled offensively. It was only a 6-0 halftime lead. Tyler Lockett returned the second half kickoff 105-yards for a touchdown. Rawls rushed for 98 yards in the second half alone. These two first year players were key in charging up Seattle during the final two quarters against the hapless Bears.
7) Ronald Darby (CB) Buffalo Bills
Darby and his teammate Karlos Williams have been regulars on this list as it looks like the Bills stroke gold drafting these two gems from Florida State. Darby had another big game against the Dolphins. This speedy Darby allowed four receptions on 11 targets versus Miami. He also recorded his second interception in three games. Darby had five tackle and four passes defended.
8) Hau'oli Kikaha (OLB) New Orleans Saints
Kikaha is going to be a very good player for this defense. He made this list one week ago and did again after his game against Carolina on Sunday. Kikaha finished with six tackles, one sack, and one tackles for a loss. He’s already a pretty disruptive player a few games into his professional career.
9) Trae Waynes(CB) Minnesota Vikings
Waynes saw his first real action for the Vikings and played well in the absence of starter Xavier Rhodes who went down with a concussion in the second quarter. In 42 snaps Wayne had five tackles and one pass defended. Waynes dropped what should have been a sure-fire interception. San Diego went after him, especially in the third quarter and Waynes responded. He may have given up some receptions but he kept everyone in front of him and tackled well. In Minnesota’s first two games he primarily played on special teams. Fellow rookie Eric Kendricks led the team in tackles with nine against the Chargers.
10) Delvin Breaux (CB) New Orleans Saints
There is some good news coming out of New Orleans despite their 0-3 start, namely Delvin Breaux. Remember the name because this guy shouldn’t even be playing football. He signed with LSU six years ago and never played a down because of a broken neck. Now he finds himself not only making the Saints roster as a rookie-free agent but starting. He’s got ball skills, he’s physical and plays with outstanding instincts. Breaux finished with a tackle and pass defended against the Panthers.
David Andrews (C) New England Patriots, Arik Armstead (DE) San Francisco 49ers, Vic Beasley (DE) Atlanta Falcons, Jamon Brown (OG) St. Louis Rams, Jamison Crowder (WR) Washington Redskins, Eric Kendricks (LB) Minnesota Vikings, Devon Kennard (LB) NY Giants, Tyler Lockett (WR/KR) Seattle Seahawks, Ali Marpet (OG) Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Mitch Morse (C) Kansas City Chiefs, David Parry (DT) Indianapolis Colts, Brandon Scherff (OG) Washington Redskins, Danny Shelton (NG) Cleveland Browns