Rookie Report Card: Week Four

Dan Meylor


I’ve decided to put my own spin on the concept of a rookie report card. Going forward, the Rookie Report Card will be exactly what it sounds like, a report card.

Not only will I cover my expectations for the player coming into the league and how he’s performed at the NFL level to this point, I’ll actually give him a grade in three categories. Those categories are performance to date, 2014 potential and long term upside. Each week I’ll cover at least two rookies and try to always include the biggest performers from that particular week.

The series continues with a closer look at Teddy Bridgewater and Kelvin Benjamin.

Teddy Bridgewater, QB MIN
Week Four Stats: 19 completions, 317 passing yards, five carries, 27 rushing yards, one touchdown

During his time on campus at Louisville, the hype surrounding Bridgewater swelled with each year that passed. In his third and final season though, it built to the point that most analysts considered him to be the top quarterback prospect in the 2014 NFL Draft class and many thought he was a candidate to be chosen first overall. If you saw him play at all in 2013, you knew why so many were on that bandwagon.

Throughout his time in college, Bridgewater looked good whether he was in the pocket or on the move. It’s easy to see when watching him play that his biggest asset is his feet. When pressured, he slides in the pocket in order to buy time and deliver an accurate pass and always keeps his eyes downfield when scrambling outside the tackles. One thing that jumps off the screen when watching Bridgewater is his accuracy when on the move. He always makes good decisions with the football when scrambling and rarely throws off his back foot or across his body.

When he’s asked to throw from the confines of the pocket, Bridgewater is cool in the face of the blitz and displays excellent accuracy and very good anticipation on his passes. He goes through his progressions smoothly and routinely throws receivers open on slants and deep crossing routes with pinpoint accuracy.
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The Vikings traded up to select Bridgewater at #32 overall and make him the future face of the franchise. Many thought he was the most pro-ready passer in the draft and the most likely to make an immediate impact but that was put on hold though when Matt Cassel beat him out for the starting gig out of training camp.

During the preseason, Bridgewater displayed all the things that had people so excited for his prospects on Sundays. He was sharp and efficient, completing 30 of 49 passes (61%) for 283 yards and five touchdowns while not throwing an interception. Although he wasn’t asked to push the ball down the field as evidenced by his 5.77 yards per attempt, he looked ready to take over the Vikings’ offense if Cassel stumbled or got hurt.

When that happened in week three against the Saints, Bridgewater came off the bench and gave the Vikings a spark. He extended plays with his feet, scrambling for 27 yards on six carries, and displayed excellent accuracy, completing 12 of 20 passes (60%) for 150 yards (7.5 YPA.) Once again, he wasn’t asked to pick up big chunks of yardage through the air, instead making quick reads and getting the ball out of his hands fast.

In his first start on Sunday against the Falcons, things started out the same way, but the offense opened up as the game progressed. On his first drive, the Vikings did everything they could to get Teddy into a rhythm. His first four throws were screen passes and he didn’t target a receiver more than ten yards downfield until his tenth pass of the game which was late in the second quarter.

When Bridgewater and the Vikings got the ball in the fourth quarter down 28-27, everything changed. His first two passes went for 29 yards to his right to Greg Jennings and 22 yards down the middle to Cordarrelle Patterson, which set Minnesota up to score and take the lead. He also took a shot to the end zone to Jennings on the drive that went incomplete but was a good sign that he was getting more comfortable in the system and points to the Vikings’ coaching staff trusting the rookie passer to put the game in his hands when it’s on the line.

Overall, Bridgewater has been impressive so far in limited playing time as a rookie. He’s completed 62% of his passes through two games, hasn’t turned the ball over and already has a 300-yard game under his belt. As long as he’s healthy (he sprained his ankle in the fourth quarter Sunday which forced him to leave the game), he should be under center in Minnesota for the rest of the season which is great news for dynasty owners trying to get a good look at him as their future QB1.

When he was drafted, I thought Bridgewater could take the same career path for the first couple seasons as Russell Wilson’s in Seattle and I still think that’s on point. Like Wilson, he’ll make good decisions, limit his turnovers, rely on the team’s running game and use his athleticism to get him out of jams when needed. Wilson finished his rookie year completing 64% of his passes and throwing for 3,118 yards, 26 touchdowns and just ten interceptions while adding 489 rushing yards and four more scores. Bridgewater may not quite reach those numbers due to missing two-and-a-half games (and possibly more due to the injury) and not playing with the same offensive line and defense that Wilson did, but he could get close. After that, the sky is the limit.

Dynasty owners should expect Bridgewater to be good but inconsistent as a rookie. He probably won’t put up numbers better than those of a QB2 this season but it wouldn’t be surprising to see him enter 2015 as a low-end QB1 considering the weapons on the Vikings’ offense and his overall skillset.

Rookie Report Card
Player: Teddy Bridgewater
Performance To Date 2014 Potential Long Term Upside
C+ B A


Kelvin Benjamin, WR CAR
Week Four Stats: five receptions, 76 yards, one touchdown

A couple weeks into the college football season last fall when I first read about Benjamin and his impressive measurements (6’5”, 240 pounds), I couldn’t wait to see him play. People boasted about the tall, athletic, freak receiver from Florida State so I had to see for myself what all the buildup was about. When I got the chance to watch him, the expectations were high because of the lip service given to his size and ability. I expected to see Randy Moss or Calvin Johnson. Instead though, I felt like I was looking at a player more like a thicker version of former Ohio State Buckeye Michael Jenkins than the two all-pro wide outs.

Again, that was early last fall. I spent about a half hour watching film and due to that relatively quick glance at Benjamin, I carried a negative impression of the thick receiver through a majority of the 2013 college football season.

After I watched him dominate Florida for 212 yards and three touchdowns on nice receptions (although it didn’t look difficult due to the blown coverages) in late November and catch the game winner in the National Championship Game a month later, I decided I needed to revisit my feelings on his professional prospects so I went back and watched some more recent tape. Again though, I came away feeling the same way. He showed average route running skills as well as speed and didn’t always display the killer instinct to go get the ball when contested. He also regularly dropped catchable passes which was maddening for those hoping he’d take his game to the next level and show consistent playmaking abilities. At that point, Benjamin looked to me like a college star that didn’t possess game changing abilities that would translate well enough at the next level to make him a true playmaker.

Fast forward to February at the scouting combine where Benjamin posted a very pedestrian 4.61 second 40-yard dash time and ugly 32.5 inch vertical and I felt pretty good about my opinion of him.

Then the preseason came and Benjamin hauled in 12 passes for 173 yards and an impressive touchdown. He was better than I remembered from the college tape I watched, running better routes and regularly playing closer to his size than he did at Florida State. Finally looking like he wanted to learn how to use his size to his advantage to create space, he also started shielding defenders from the catch point with his big frame on a more consistent basis which is what he sorely lacked in college.

When the regular season kicked off, he continued to look like a different receiver than he did for the Seminoles. Over his first four games, he caught 21 passes for 329 yards and three touchdowns and led the team in targets with 36. Considering the lack of depth at receiver for the Panthers, it’s hard to see those opportunities declining going forward.

If there’s been a blemish on Benjamin’s first month as a pro, it’s been his drops. He’s been charged with a team high three dropped passes to this point in the season, one of which would have been a huge play on third down in week two against the Lions. The latest news out of Carolina is that the Panthers’ coaching staff believes Benjamin’s reliability has improved and will continue to do so but it’s noteworthy nonetheless.

So what has made Benjamin take the next step so quickly?

I’ve heard some credit wide receivers coach Ricky Proehl for helping him grow up both on and off the field. I’ve also heard that Benjamin didn’t take the scrutiny he received very well during the draft process and has committed himself to proving the naysayers wrong. No matter what the reason, it seems like Benjamin has a chance to be a true number one NFL receiver and in turn, be a regular playmaker for fantasy owners.

As you can see from everything above, my feelings about Benjamin’s dynasty upside has been a bit of a rollercoaster ride since he was introduced to me just over a year ago. I was convinced just a few short months ago that there was far too much risk of him becoming a bust on Sundays to consider very highly in rookie drafts. Now, I see what so many of his supporters were talking about during his time in Tallahassee and am ready to admit I may have been wrong on him. In fact, I wish I had some shares of him.

At this point, Benjamin is a very solid WR3 and looks like he has legitimate upside as a low-end WR1 or high end WR2. He’s the best receiver on Carolina’s roster and should continue to develop his ball skills, especially in the red zone. I still think there’s a chance he could regress to the player that frustrated so many far too often while in college – but at this point it’s far more unlikely than it was before training camp.

  Rookie Report Card
Player: Kelvin Benjamin
Performance To Date 2014 Potential Long Term Upside
B B+ A-


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dan meylor