Previously we broke down both team’s offense and defense for the upcoming game between the Dallas Cowboys and Carolina Panthers. Now we dive back into the position battleground, this time looking at how each team’s rookie class stacks up against each other. The grades given are based on performance, role and expectation.
NT Mazi Smith (First Round)
Last week against the New York Giants, Smith played a solid game. He led the defensive linemen in tackles and defensive stops, and we saw him using his power with good technique to get to Saquon Barkley numerous times at the line of scrimmage. This week he faces a less-than-stellar run-blocking offensive line, and both Chubba Hubbard and Miles Sanders rank outside the top-32 running backs in rush yards, and have failed to score a touchdown in the last three games. Johnathan Hankins was out-snapped by Smith last week, but until we see the coaches lean on Smith more against tougher competition, we won’t know if the rookie tackle is beginning to breakout.
TE Luke Schoonmaker (Second Round)
We can keep this one short on the rookie tight end. Schoonmaker had one target last week and failed to bring it in, and right now looks to have to wait for a more trusted role as a receiver. As for blocking, he had a few wins and losses last week, that’s the best way to put it. With Peyton Hendershot looming in the background as he comes off injured reserve, we could be seeing the duo back in action for Thanksgiving, which puts Schoonmaker down the order as he continues to develop.
WR Jalen Brooks (Seventh Round)
Brooks was seen before the game warming up and there were comments made from media reporters asking the Cowboys staff who number 83 was as he impressed. During the game he made four receptions off all four targets and made a couple of important catches that helped continue drives. Brooks finished the game fourth among Cowboys receivers in yards, and had more targets than Michael Gallup and Luke Schoonmaker. Expect to see him getting some more playtime this weekend.
K Brandon Aubrey (UDFA)
Aubrey kicked all seven of his extra points last week and remains the cream of the crop for the Cowboys rookie class. The fact he didn’t come out last week for a field goal attempt is a good testament to the Cowboys efficiency on offense. We should hope (and expect) the same this week.
FB Hunter Luepke (UDFA)
Luepke came in and made a handful of plays on offense as an extra run blocker. His biggest role was on special teams and this will be his bread-and-butter going forward. He’s done everything that was projected and expected of him so far. There’s not much negative to say on what he’s done so far, based on the role he’s asked to play.
QB Bryce Young (First Round)
It’s been a tough start for the highly decorated Alabama signal-caller. He’s turned the ball over just as much as he scored this season, but his offensive line isn’t helping him. He’s been sacked 29 times, which is the fourth-most in the league, and he’s tried to get out and run for first downs, but that has resulted in him fumbling the ball. Facing this Cowboys defense this week that had a field day last week against the Giants offensive line will not be giving Young confidence this week. And the fact the Cowboys defense is second-best in passing yards allowed means Young is set to have another tough day.
LB DJ Johnson (Third Round)
Thanks to a string of injuries at the linebacker position, Johnson has seen his playtime increase dramatically since Week 4. He’s made 11 tackles in his last six games and it’s been very hit-or-miss with him with each play. He’s got the strength and power for the position, but the reason he’s been so hit-or-miss so far is his lack of experience and technique. Both cause him to be inconsistent play-by-play.
OG Chandler Zavala (Fourth Round)
The rookie guard from NC State went down in Week 5 with a scary neck injury. He was braced on the field and carted away after a collision with a Detroit Lions player, and has been sidelined ever since. It’s possible now though that he could be back to playing this week against the Cowboys. The Panthers have just released Calvin Throckmorton, who was filling in at left guard while Zavala prepared to return. In those first five games, Zavala allowed three sacks, 27 total pressures and was flagged twice. He rejoins an already struggling offensive line.
Which team has the better draft class?
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