Previously we broke down both teams offense and defense for this week’s upcoming game between the Dallas Cowboys and New England Patriots. Now we dive back into the position battleground, this time looking at how each team’s rookie class stacks up against each other.
NT Mazi Smith (First Round)
This might sound a repeat of last week’s assessment, but this is going to happen a lot with Smith and the position he plays. He’s not going to be a major factor when showing up on the stat sheet, and at the moment he is on limited snaps on the defense. Smith shows good signs of doing exactly what’s needed of him, the coaches just need to keep things simple and not get too cute. This week Smith might play an important factor in stopping Ezekiel Elliott, who looks to hit the holes presented to him in the middle.
TE Luke Schoonmaker (Second Round)
Last week was quiet for Schoonmaker. He failed to get a reception and was used mostly as a run blocker. With talk about the redzone issues the Cowboys have, one player who might actually help is Schoonmaker. Just ask John Harbaugh, who’s Michigan Wolverines went through a bad patch of scoring touchdowns in the redzone, until they started to target Schoonmaker. Against Indiana, he caught two touchdowns in the game, both inside the redzone. His first NFL touchdown came in the redzone against the New York Jets.
RB Deuce Vaughn (Sixth Round)
Of all the rookies on this list, Vaughn was the only one that played zero snaps last week. Continuing with the redzone theme, maybe the coaches could look at Vaughn as a viable option. The Patriots linebackers are powerful and good tacklers against the run, but they’re also slow and not very agile. A guy like Vaughn could be extremely helpful this week in exploiting that weakness.
K Brandon Aubrey (UDFA)
Three weeks without missing a field goal has put Aubrey on the map. Has the Cowboys front office gone and done it again and found a bargain at kicker? It certainly looks like it so far, and if Aubrey can go out and stay perfect again, then confidence will reach an all time high. Not bad for a guy who once played defender in soccer for Notre Dame.
FB Hunter Luepke (UDFA)
Luepke had an interesting game last week. It was maybe the first time we saw him used with the full range of his skills. He broke a nine-yard run early in the game and was pivotal on a few run plays helping to clear a path. Over the last two weeks, the Cowboys have put Luepke more and more on the field with positive results and he now looks fully locked to be the team’s fullback. How much work he gets this week against the Patriots will depend on the game flow and how the coaches want to attack the linebackers in the run game.
New England Patriots
CB Christian Gonzalez (First Round)
The Patriots landed what some could argue as the best cornerback in this year’s draft. Gonzalez led the way last year in the FBS at cornerback, and he looks to be making his way up in the NFL. He needs work on his anticipation and instincts, mostly because he dominated so frequently in college due to his athletic traits. A wide receiver like Brandin Cooks will be a good match for Gonzalez, but Cooks has the upper hand with his years of experience to work Gonzalez. This will be one of the more interesting matchups on the field to pay attention to.
Keion White (Second round)
The Georgia Tech pass rusher has been put straight into rotation for the Patriots and has managed to get multiple pressures on the quarterback in two games so far. During his final year for the Yellow Jackets, he led the team with 14 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks as well as getting 54 total tackles. It really was a standout season for him which helped him get drafted early. He can generate a lot of torque to bend around the edge, but his pass rush moves are very repeatable and predictable. He’s still developing as a rusher, but when he gets consistent, he could be a major name to know in the future.
DB Marte Mapu (Third round)
Mapu has rotated at the safety position for New England. He’s allowed a 100% completion rate so far from his limited play time. He’s very versatile as a defender but he lacks short-area quickness and top end speed. If he’s on the field and Dak’s paying attention, that would be the time to target his tight ends.
K Chad Ryland (Fourth round)
Ryland missed two kicks last week against the Jets. He will want to prove to Bill Belichick that those mistakes won’t happen again. During his final year at Maryland he kicked 19 of 23 field goal attempts and 39 of 40 extra points. Most had him ranked as a UDFA prospect that needed work on his accuracy. But on-field experience is the best way to improve.
OG Antonio Mafi (Fifth round)
Mafi has had to come in and taken snaps when Cole Strange has had to miss time. He’s struggled so far and allowed two sacks with a total of nine pressures. Keep watch on Cole Strange this week on the final practice report. If he’s out then Mafi will step in and the inside pass rush for Dallas will become more effective.
WR Demario Douglas (Sixth round)
Douglas had 76 receptions for 996 receiving yards and six touchdowns last year for Liberty. This year for the Patriots he’s had seven receptions for 76 yards, but over half of those yards came in Week 1. Douglas is a pure slot receiver but the skills of Jourdan Lewis should be able to matchup against him effectively. He can be inconsistent with his route running and the Patriots have used him as a returner on special teams, despite the fact he muffed a few punts in college.
Which team has the rookie class?
This poll is closed
New England Patriots