Hey Rush Nation! It’s time for your weekly dose of Rookies to watch.

Injuries are starting to take hold for many teams which has allowed for some previous backups to take centre stage. We also have a special addition this week where a defensive Rookie really made a name for himself. I jump into my pick for Defensive Rookie of the Year at this early stage of the season.

So without further ado, let’s get to it.

Rookies who popped
Benny Snell Jr

When a backup pops it is usually at the expense of a starting player getting an injury. In this case, it was when James Conner left Week Six with a quad injury. Conner had already smashed the Chargers for 119 scrimmage yards and two TD’s before his injury in the second half. However, with the Steelers attempting to see out the game, Snell was handed 17 rushing attempts. On these attempts, he managed 75 yards and averaged 4.4 YPC.

With Jaylen Samuel out following a knee procedure and James Conner likely to be questionable in Week Eight after their bye expect Snell to carry the workload, if Conner doesn’t get healthy. The Steelers are more reliant on the run game with Big Ben out for the year. Therefore, this should mean higher volume and a larger ceiling for Snell in his relief of Conner.

Snell was drafted in the Fourth Round out of Kentucky and he is no stranger to carrying the load. In his three collegiate years, Snell finished with 737 attempts, 3873 and 48 TD’s whilst averaging 5.3 yards per carry. Despite limited usage in the passing game, he was used in the slot and on routes out of the backfield. Therefore, he does have some experience in taking over both factors of the offence if called upon.

Next up after the Week Seven bye is the lacklustre Dolphins and Snell should thrive with a big workload. If Conner can’t go, and Steelers pull out to an early lead, expect 20+ touches for Snell.

Snell is unlikely unavailable in Dynasty especially those with Taxi squads. Conner is clearly the top back in Pittsburgh. However, his injury history means opportunity will always come knocking.

Below Expectation
Marquise Brown

Brown is the definition of a boom or bust receiver. This was his profile when entering the NFL. He has proven it so far with the highs of Week One and the low of Weeks Four and Five of 22 yards. 

So far we have seen the ups and downs from Brown. This is largely down to his skillset and his QB Lamar Jackson. He is a deep threat who exploits the secondary with his speed. Which, despite improvements in his passing, Lamar still struggles to be consistent with the deep ball. 

Another aspect of Brown’s sporadic performances are his snap counts. Through 5 weeks he has had 14,51,62,56 & 27 snaps. Against lesser defences, Brown has easily exploited them. However, against upper tier defences he has struggled, which is likely to continue.

Many of the early struggles may be down to the injury Brown has been experiencing. He is currently out with an ankle injury ,which he has had for a couple of weeks according to reports. In these games Brown saw back to back 22 yards from scrimmage games against Pittsburgh and Cleveland.

When fit, the upside of Brown is incredibly attractive. However, he is a match-up dependant option. Keep hold of Brown in leagues unless they are shallow. As once he is back, he will have games like Week One. Although good luck guessing which games he will pop off.

Ready for more
Jakobi Meyers

Meyers was a deep sleeper candidate for many experts after popping off for the Patriots in the pre-season. As expected, his start to the regular season was slow with 11% of snaps Week One and being inactive in Week Two (due to the brief appearance of Antonio Brown). With the current state of the Patriots WR core, Meyers holds some intriguing long term upside.

Patriots are in no way short of options. Julian Edelman, Philip Dorsett, Josh Gordon and a returning N’Keal Harry are only a few of the names competing. However, Edelman can be described as injury-prone and Gordon is one wrong move away from being finished in the NFL. He is also currently injured. Meyers and Harry are the future for the Patriots franchise and producing early will work heavily in their favour. Especially for the Undrafted Free Agent Meyers.

Meyers has short term potential with Edelman and Gordon dealing with injuries and Harry on IR until Week Nine. Now is the time for Meyers to stake his claim for a regular berth. In Week Six, Meyers caught all four targets for 54 yards and has earned praise from Brady. Meyers is certainly a dart throw in Week Seven. However, he is one of the safer options in this offense.

He is a slot specialist. Meyers’ long term value is high. Especially with Edelman’s time coming to an end. His athletic stats don’t jump off the page. However, he has good hands and performs well under contested catches. As a former Quarterback, he has a good football brain. He also is still learning the wide receiver position.

Meyer is currently a low end WR3 in redraft leagues and is a wait and see stash. In dynasty, the long term value is high. Even with the impending retirement of Brady, he should be owned.

Defensive Rookies stating their claim for DROY
Devin Bush Jr

Many Steelers fans were surprised when they traded up to the #10 overall to take Devin Bush Jr out of Michigan. The Steelers are looking to rebuild the franchise on defence. They are looking to build a strong defensive unit, much like the Steel Curtain of the 70’s and the Troy Polamalu lead D of the 2000’s. They stamped this home with the Minkah Fitzpatrick trade for their 2020 1st round pick.

Bush started with a bang and amassed 11 combined tackles against the Patriots in Week One. Since then, he has already cemented his position as one of the top linebackers in the league after six games. He is ranked 9th amongst Linebackers in tackles in the NFL and has two interceptions to his name. Only Jamie Collins of the Patriots has more (Three). Bush leads all rookies in tackles (45) and also co-leads the league for fumble recoveries with three.

Week Six against the Chargers was an exceptional game for Bush. Bush managed seven tackles, one interception, one pass deflection and a fumble recovered for a TD. The Rookie did leave the game with a foot injury and is questionable for the Week Eight match-up against the Dolphins. Although he is now on a bye to help with his recovery.

With the Steelers fighting to keep hold of a season quickly running away from them, the pressure is on the defence to perform. Bush has shown he is not only up for the challenge, but is also thriving in it. He has quickly become a leader of the defence. Bush is by no means perfect and not yet a finished article. However he has shown what an impact player he has become. Without Bush, the case could be made that the Steelers would be 1-5 and out of the playoff hunt. And whilst, at 2-4, the playoffs are a long-shot, they are still alive. If they scrape into the dance, the performance of Bush in Week Six will be highlighted as a big part of the reason why they made it.

The Long and Short

It is good to see so many rookies making an impression this early, albeit some in unfortunate circumstances. Some have continued to perform and others have moved back down the depth chart.

Look out for next week’s rookies article for my early look at the Offensive Rookie of the Year candidate and another rookie fighting for DPOY.

-Ash Goddard (@Addicted2_FF)