I've always kept a close eye on NFL rookies. Not only are these the players I've been studying and grading over the previous few years as they became NFL prospects, but I'm also just really interested to see how teams are using them.
I'm asking questions: Are the skills I thought I was seeing at the college level utilized the way I thought they would be? Do players "fit" schemes the way I thought they might? Do I need to light my draft grades on fire yet?
I learn things, too: Different systems and different types of players lead to new ideas of what a prospect looks like. Russell Wilson's success can shift my thinking. But so can Casey Hayward's or J.J. Watt's. This year, Insider has me ranking the rookies. So I'll take a stab, but here are a few things to remember:
" For Week 1, the sample size is extremely small, so I'm matchup context matters.
" Positional value matters, but overall performance and impact matter more.
" Total snap count matters. If a guy is used all the time, he wasn't just used for good matchups.
So like always, I went play-by-play through every game. Here's a start, and in two weeks I'll be back to line them up again. By then, I'm sure things will look different.
1. Eric Reid, S, San Francisco 49ers
There are easier ways to find your way in the NFL than to line up at free safety on a day when Aaron Rodgers is the opposing quarterback, constantly using his eyes to try to get you not just on the wrong foot, but into the wrong zip code. But Reid held up extremely well to start his career. Only three passes were completed near him, he picked off one and had another called back on a penalty. He showed great closing speed when catches were made in front of him, and he finished with five tackles. He also looked good on special teams, an area I'm always looking at for rookies. If you didn't think Reid was the best this week, just remember the context -- first game, replacing a veteran in Dashon Goldson, and facing Rodgers. Reid stepped in and rose to the occasion in a game that had far more intensity than your typical Week 1 matchup. Remember, this is a guy the 49ers actually traded up for. So far, so good.