T.J. Ward—S—Cleveland Browns
It hasn’t taken long for Ward to make a name for himself. In what is proving to be a great class of rookie safeties (and Eric Berry hasn’t even got going yet), the 2nd round pick from Oregon, for better or worse, has earned the “Enforcer” label already. This week versus Atlanta, Ward again stood out with 7 tackles and a big blocked field goal. In five games Ward has already compiled 43 tackles, and along with fellow rookie Joe Haden, is forming the beginning of a great young secondary for Cleveland.
Max Hall—QB—Arizona Cardinals
I would bet big money that nobody predicted after the draft that Max Hall would start a game as a rookie this year. But when you’re in the Arizona Cardinals quarterback merry-go-round post-Kurt Warner, anything can happen. And what happened was NFL history. Hall became the first undrafted rookie free agent quarterback to start as early as week 5 in league history. And all the Mesa, AZ native and BYU product did was beat the defending champion New Orleans Saints. Hall’s numbers weren’t spectacular, 17-27 for 168 yards and an interception, but big props to the rookie for not folding, a la Jimmy Clausen, and managing his team to victory.
Cody Grimm—FS—Tampa Bay Buccaneers
At 3-1, Tampa Bay is off to a great start this season and so is their rookie class. The latest is free safety Cody Grimm, a 7th round selection out of Virginia Tech. Versus the Cincinnati Bengals, Grimm led the team with a career high 11 tackles as well as an interception returned for touchdown. Grimm is a converted linebacker playing safety, so he should only improve as the season wears on. It should be noted that Grimm is also the son of former NFL player Russ Grimm.
Mike Williams—WR—Tampa Bay Buccaneers
If somehow Sam Bradford falls on his face and is not deserving of Offensive Rookie of the Year, the next in line just might be Mike Williams out of Syracuse. On the back of a pretty dramatic draft day slide into the 4th round, Williams is bucking the trend of the rookie receiver who can’t contribute immediately. Another big day versus the Cincinnati Bengals saw Williams catch a career high 7 passes for 99 yards and a touchdown. On the season, Williams has caught 19 passes for 238 yards and 3 touchdowns as Tampa Bay’s primary target. With Josh Freeman having a very solid 2nd year, he and Williams form a pretty intriguing young offensive duo for Tampa Bay.
Alterraun Verner—CB—Tennessee Titans
Verner made our list last week after a very solid day in his first career start, and he backed it up with another strong performance this week versus the Dallas Cowboys. The 4th round pick from UCLA compiled 9 tackles and also his first career interception against Tony Romo. Jeff Fisher has to be happy with Verner, who is proving to be a steal thus far this season.
Brandom Graham—DE—Philadelphia Eagles
Although Graham has struggled some this season, particularly getting off blocks and making plays in the running game, he has still had success getting to the quarterback. This week versus San Francisco, the 1st round pick from Michigan tallied his 2nd sack of the season to go along with his first career forced fumble. Graham has been replaced in the starting lineup by Andy Reid, but with more solid performances like this he should be able to find his way back in.
Shout-Outs To: Alex Carrington, DE, Buffalo Bills (1st career tackle), Roddrick Muckelroy, LB, Cincinnati Bengals (1st career forced fumble), Michael Palmer, TE, Atlanta Falcons (1st career catch), Mike Neal, DE, Green Bay Packers (1st career sack), Damian Williams, WR, Tennessee Titans (1st 2 career catches), Jordan Pugh, S, Carolina Panthers (1st career interception), Sean Lee, LB, Dallas Cowboys (1st 3 career tackles), Taylor Mays, S, San Francisco 49ers (1st career forced fumble), Ndamukong Suh, DT, Detroit Lions (1st career interception), Corey Wootton, DE, Chicago Bears (1st career tackle), Andre Roberts, WR, Arizona Cardinals (1st 2 career catches), Greg Hardy, DE, Carolina Panthers (1st career sack), Cam Thomas, DT, San Diego Chargers (1st 3 career tackles), Andrew Quarless, TE, Green Bay Packers (1st 4 career catches), Deji Karim, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars (first 15 career carries), Brandon Ghee, CB, Cincinnati Bengals (1st career tackle), Keiland Williams, RB, Washington Redskins (1st career carry), Trevard Lindley, DB, Philadelphia Eagles (1st 4 career tackles and 1st career interception), Kareem Jackson, CB, Houston Texans (1st career interception), Sherrick McMannis, DB, Houston Texans (1st career interception).