Ethan Hewett | December 18th, 2019
As the end of the regular season approaches, analysts and fans alike are brainstorming all the different ways that their teams could somehow capitalize on their 1% chance at the playoffs. But to take your mind off of that for a moment, let’s look back at the rookie performers who dazzled in week 15 of the NFL season. This week was offensively heavy as several running backs are looking to make their mark as the season comes to a close. However, a few household defensive names continue to impress. Let us proceed now into these rankings starting, as always, with a couple of honorable mentions.
Diontae Johnson, WR – Johnson had a solid performance in the Pittsburgh Steelers loss to the Buffalo Bills. Johnson put up over 60 receiving yards for the second week in a row including a 29-yd bomb from Devlin Hodges this past weekend. While he didn’t have much last game, Johnson has been one of the better punt returners in the NFL this season. Look for Johnson to try and carry some of this momentum into this week’s game against the New York Jets.
Trayvon Mullen, CB – Mullen has been a bit of a boom or bust player in the Oakland Raiders secondary but last week he put up some impressive numbers racking up seven tackles (six solo) along with three passes defended. Mullen had a chance to ice the game late in the fourth quarter on his third pass breakup but wasn’t quite able to reign in the interception. Mullen now has nine passes defended along with one interception. Mullen will look to capitalize this week against a struggling Los Angeles Chargers pass offense.
15. Marquise Brown, WR, Baltimore Ravens
Week 15 Stats: 4 Receptions, 45 Yards, 1 TD
Brown was able to notch his first receiving touchdown this past Thursday against the New York Jets since week 12, and he did it spectacularly. Brown reigned in a 24-yard pass from quarterback Lamar Jackson in the back of the end zone showing off the body control and just a little bit of “toe-drag swag.” His game-breaking speed helped him get over the top of the defense as he has been able to do all season. While Brown hasn’t reached the 100-yard mark since week one, his speed and ability in space have kept him involved. Brown and this Ravens offense will look to continue their domination this week against a Cleveland Browns team that has seen better days.
Projected Stat Line vs Cleveland: 5 Receptions, 75 Yards, 1 TD
14. Juan Thornhill, S, Kansas City Chiefs
Week 15 Stats: 4 Total Tackles, 1 INT
Thornhill showed off the toughness and resilience this week that you love to see in the young hard-hitting safety. After going down with what looked like an injury early in the game, Thornhill stayed in and was able to help ice the game for the Chiefs late in the third quarter picking off an underthrown pass in the end zone. On top of this Thornhill was also able to rack up four tackles bringing his total on the year to 53. With this interception, Thornhill brings his total to three on the year along with five passes defended. Thornhill has become a big part of this Kansas City Chiefs defense and he will look to shine once again this week against the Chicago Bears.
Projected Stat Line vs Chicago: 5 Total Tackles, 2 PD
13. Noah Fant, TE, Denver Broncos
Week 15 Stats: 2 Receptions, 56 Yards
Fant didn’t see as many touches this week against the Kansas City Chiefs but he made the most of what he got averaging 28 yards a reception. Most of Fant’s yardage came on a fourth-down conversion in the second quarter on a 43-yard lob from Drew Lock. This catch helped to set up the only points the Broncos would score all game. Fant sat out some of the game with an injury but he was able to haul in a 13-yard reception early in the third quarter. With this performance, Fant brings his receiving yard total to 548 on the season. Fant and the Broncos will look to bounce back this week against the Detroit Lions.
Projected Stat Line vs Detroit: 4 Receptions, 88 Yards, 1 TD
12. Gardner Minshew, QB, Jacksonville Jaguars
Week 15 Stats: 17/29, 201 Yards, 2 TD
Minshew and the Jaguars were able to grab their first win since week eight this past weekend against the Oakland Raiders. This was mostly due to Minshew leading a huge drive late in the fourth quarter which ended with him throwing his second touchdown and the game-winning score to Chris Conley with just 30 seconds left to win the game 20-16. Minshew’s first touchdown came on a laser between two defenders to who else but Conley. In a lost season for the Jaguars, who will most likely be seeing a lot of new faces next season, Minshew has emerged as a solid NFL starter who has a lot of potential. Look for Minshew to continue to make his case this week against the Atlanta Falcons.
Projected Stat Line vs Atlanta: 22/34, 240 Yards, 2 TD
11. Mack Wilson, LB, Cleveland Browns
Week 15 Stats: 7 Total Tackles, 1 INT
Wilson continues to be a consistent and bright spot in what has been a strange and wild season for the Browns. Wilson racked up a total of seven tackles along with his first career interception which he grabbed in the middle of the second quarter last week against the Arizona Cardinals. Wilson showed off the athleticism with the leaping catch and then took it back about 20 yards before being pushed out of bounds. Ever since his first start in week three Wilson has played nearly every single snap for the Browns defense as he brings his total tackle number to 68 on the season, and will look to try and slow down the Baltimore Ravens this week.
Projected Stat Line vs Baltimore: 8 Total Tackles, 1 TFL, 1 PD
10. Taylor Rapp, S, Los Angeles Rams
Week 15 Stats: 10 Total Tackles
Rapp has been one of the more consistent pieces in this Rams secondary. He was a consistent tackler racking up 10 total tackles against the Dallas Cowboys, but it wasn’t enough as the defense had several miscommunications leading to the Cowboys crushing the Rams 44-21. Rapp has been slightly inconsistent in coverage, but in run support and tackling he has been phenomenal with 88 total tackles on the year, which is third amongst rookies and first among rookie safeties. Rapp and this Rams secondary will look to bounce back this week against the San Francisco 49ers.
Projected Stat Line vs San Francisco: 11 Total Tackles, 1 TFL
9. Devin Singletary, RB, Buffalo Bills
Week 15 Stats: 21 Carries, 87 Yards
Singletary has turned into a strong force for offensive coordinator Brian Daboll and this Bills offense. Averaging 4.7 yards a carry, Singeltary was able to surpass 80 rushing yards for the second week in a row and the third time in the past four games. While he didn’t have the home run style of carrying, he was a strong and consistent runner in the Bills win over the Pittsburgh Steelers last week. Singletary has brought his rushing totals to 729 yards, which is second amongst rookie running backs, paired with just two touchdowns. Singletary could make a statement this week against one of the better run defenses in the New England Patriots.
Projected Stat Line vs New England: 18 Carries, 80 Yards, 1 TD
8. Dwayne Haskins, QB, Washington Redskins
Week 15 Stats: 19/28, 261 Yards, 2 TD
Just as the Redskins have had a bad season, Haskins had been having a rough season up to the past couple of weeks. Haskins was able to grab his first and second wins in weeks 12 and 13, and he almost got himself his third win this past weekend against the Philadelphia Eagles. Haskins kept the ball clean against the Eagles and he had a huge 75-yard pass to Terry McLaurin early. Even after the Eagles took a 31-27 lead late, Haskins got his team across the 50 until he fumbled away the game as the Eagles would score to ice the game. Haskins has shown a lot of potential these past few weeks and the question at quarterback for the Redskins could be answered. Haskins will look to take advantage of a weak New York Giants secondary this week to solidify his case.
Projected Stat Line vs NY Giants: 20/30, 250 Yards, 3 TD
7. Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, DB, New Orleans Saints
Week 15 Stats: 8 Total Tackles, 2 TFL, 1 PD
Johnson has stepped up in a big way this season for the Saints secondary. When he is on the field he is a versatile and talented defensive back that the Saints can and have used all over the field. Johnson made his presence known on the line of scrimmage tallying two big tackles for loss against the Indianapolis Colts. Whether he is in the box or downfield he is a playmaker. Johnson has put up respectable numbers this season for a player who hasn’t seen the field consistently with 36 tackles, five tackles for loss, five passes defended, and one interception. With Vonn Bell dealing with an ankle injury, Johnson could see more playing time this week against the Tennessee Titans if he plays due to a concussion.
Projected Stat Line vs Tennessee: 9 Total Tackles, 1 TFL
6. Josh Jacobs, RB, Oakland Raiders
Week 15 Stats: 24 Carries, 89 Yards, 2 Receptions, 20 Yards
Jacobs returned this week against the Jacksonville Jaguars and had himself a day topping 100 scrimmage yards. While his average was down this past week, he still managed to put up a strong 89 yards on the ground. Jacobs also caught both passes thrown his way for a total of 20 yards. Jacobs continues to be the only rookie with over 1,000 rushing yards but his campaign could be in jeopardy as the shoulder injury which has been bugging him since week seven is starting to become more severe. Jacobs is currently listed as questionable for the team’s matchup this week against the Los Angeles Chargers.
Projected Stat Line vs LA Chargers: 18 Carries, 70 Yards, 1 TD (If Healthy)
5. Sean Murphy-Bunting, CB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Week 15 Stats: 8 Total Tackles, 1 INT, 1 TD
While it may seem crazy that a Buccaneers secondary player is on this list, Murphy-Bunting put together a solid game last week in their win over the Detroit Lions. The Detroit native was able to grab his third interception on the year and his first career pick-six on a 70-yard return when he undercut Danny Amendola’s out route to take it to the house for six. Bunting essentially iced the game with this score late in the fourth quarter giving the Bucs a 31-17 lead. On top of this, he racked up an impressive eight total tackles on the night. Bunting will look to carry this momentum into this week and slow down Deshaun Watson and this Houston Texans offense.
Projected Stat Line vs Houston: 6 Total Tackles, 1 TFL, 1 PD
4. A.J. Brown, WR, Tennessee Titans
Week 15 Stats: 8 Receptions, 114 Yards, 1 TD
Brown once again surpassed the century mark in receiving yards last week against the Houston Texans. Brown came flying out of the gate on Tennessee’s first drive hauling in a 60-yard bomb from Ryan Tannehill on just their second offensive play of the game. The connection with Tannehill is clicking right now, as Brown caught seven more of the 13 passes thrown his way and also picked up a touchdown early in the fourth quarter. With this, Brown now has three games over 100 yards in the past four bringing his total on the year to 893 which leads all rookie pass-catchers. Brown will look to stay strong this week against a tough New Orleans Saints secondary.
Projected Stat Line vs New Orleans: 7 Receptions, 90 Yards, 1 TD
3. Tony Pollard, RB, Dallas Cowboys
Week 15 Stats: 12 Carries, 131 Yards, 1 TD
Pollard has been quiet for most of the season but he finds himself on this list for the second time this year after putting up 131 yards in the Cowboys’ rout of the Los Angeles Rams. With Dallas leading 28-7 at the half, Pollard saw an increased amount of opportunities in the second half. He made the most of it topping 100 yards for the second time this season and also taking a 44-yard scamper to the house in the fourth quarter. The last time Pollard eclipsed the century mark, fellow running back Ezekiel Elliot also did the same and it happened once again this week. Pollard most likely won’t see as many carries this week against the Philadelphia Eagles but he is still a big-play threat for a recovering Dallas offense.
Projected Stat Line vs Philadelphia: 6 Carries, 40 Yards
2. Terry McLaurin, WR, Washington Redskins
Week 15 Stats: 5 Receptions, 130 Yards, 1 TD
McLaurin came back strong and once again torched the secondary this past weekend in the Redskins loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. Catching all five passes thrown his way McLaurin was able to top the 100-yard mark for the third time this season. McLaurin got behind the Eagles secondary on a 75-yard touchdown late in the first quarter that showcased both his phenomenal speed and ball skills for his seventh touchdown of the season. McLaurin set a personal best in yards this week topping his week one performance of 125. He will now take with him a two-game touchdown streak into a week 16 matchup against a vulnerable New York Giants secondary.
Projected Stat Line vs NY Giants: 6 Receptions, 100 Yards, 1 TD
1. Miles Sanders, RB, Philadelphia Eagles
Week 15 Stats: 19 Carries, 122 Yards, 1 TD, 6 Receptions, 50 Yards, 1 TD
Sanders put up monster numbers this past week against the Redskins as he topped the century mark in rushing yards for the first time this season. Averaging 6.42 yards a carry, Sanders ran all over the Reskins defense including a 56-yard sprint early in the fourth quarter. On top of this Sanders hauled in all six passes thrown his way including a 15-yard touchdown. Sanders sits at 1,120 scrimmage yards this season which is an Eagles rookie record as he is becoming one of the better dual-threat running backs in the NFL. Sanders has caught fire at the perfect time as the Eagles take on the Dallas Cowboys this week in a game that will decide the NFC East.
Projected Stat Line vs Dallas: 18 Carries, 90 yards, 1 TD, 4 Receptions, 40 Yards
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