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2014 ROOKIE REPORT

Week VII

Buffalo made one of the biggest splashes at the 2014 draft when the Bills moved up from the 9th overall pick to the 4th in a deal with Cleveland in order to select former Clemson WR Sammy Watkins. The move didn’t come cheaply for the Bills as the Bills sent their 1st and 4th round picks in 2015 to the Browns for the opportunity to select arguably the 2014 draft‘s most dynamic offensive playmaker. Despite being limited through the much of the pre-season by a painful rib injury, Watkins got off to a decent start this season as he led the Bills with 26 catches for over 300 yards through the first 6 weeks of the season, although the offensively-challenged Bills likely were hoping for even more. However, the Bills may have finally gotten the first big return on their investment this past weekend when Watkins had a career-high with nine catches for 122 yards and two scores, including the game winner with no time on the clock, to help Buffalo steal a dramatic last-second 17-16 win over Minnesota that pushed the Bills, who more than one analyst had projected could end up with a top 5 pick at the 2015 draft, to a 4-3 record and kept them within a game of AFC leading New England. For the record, Watkins also had a 26-yard catch earlier in the game as he became the first Bills’ rookie to have a two-TD game in over a decade. For good measure, Watkins also came up with an 18-yard reception on a third-and-12 that kept the Bills final game-winning drive alive. For his efforts, Watkins was a runaway winner of this week’s GBN ‘Rookie of the Week’ Award.

If there was any consolation for Minnesota in the painful last-play loss in Buffalo it was several highlights turned in by members of the Vikings’ rookie class. QB Teddy Bridgewater, whom the Vikings traded up to take with the final pick in this year’s opening round, threw his first TD pass as a pro, although his overall numbers weren’t much more than pedestrian as he completed  15 of 26 pass attempts for just 157 yards, while he also threw a couple of picks in his third career start and first on the road. Meanwhile, RB Jerick McKinnon, a late 3rd round pick ran for 103 yards on just 16 carries, while OLB Anthony Barr, whom the Vikings selected with the 9th pick, Buffalo’s original position, had 10 tackles and recovered 2 fumbles.

Elsewhere, Jacksonville QB Blake Bortles, the 3rd player selected this year, also had some rather pedestrian numbers, but still got his first pro ‘W’ as the Jaguars got off the schneid with a 24-6 win over Cleveland. For the record, Bortles completed 17 of 31 passes for 159 yards and a TD - to 2nd round WR Allen Robinson - but had three interceptions. Indeed, the Jaguars best rookie on the day may have been OLB Telvin Smith, the former Florida Stater whom Jacksonville took in the 5th round, who had both an interception and a sack to help the Jags’ defense shut down the Browns’ offense ... There was something of a similar story in Oakland, where the Raiders had just 13 first downs in a 24-13 loss to Arizona in which rookie QB Derek Carr completed 16 of 28 passes for only 173 yards, but no scores. At the same time, though, OLB Khalil Mack, whom the Raiders selected with the 5th pick this year, led all rookie tacklers this week with 11 total stops … St. Louis registered the upset of the week when the Rams stunned defending Super Bowl champion 28-26 with a little from its 2014 rookie class. RB Tre Mason, a 3rd round pick this past May, ran for 85 yards on 18 carries including a TB, but his last minute fumble gave the Rams a collective heart attack. At the same, DT Aaron Donald, the 13th player taken this year, had his first career sack … Seattle’s NFL West rival San Francisco also got sacks from rookie LBs Chris Borland and Aaron Lynch, but they were the only highlights for the 49ers defense which otherwise got steamrolled on Peyton Manning’s record setting night in Denver … Undrafted Indianapolis rookie DT Zach Kerr also had a sack in the Colts’ 27-0 whitewash over Cincinnati … And Pittsburgh 4th round WR Martavis Bryant only had 2 catches in the Steelers’ comeback win over Houston - his first two of the season - but one was a highlight reel 35-yard TD catch late in the first-half that really jump-started the Pittsburgh rally.

Previous Weekly Winners:


Week I:   Denver CB Bradley Roby
Week II: Chicago CB Kyle Fuller
Week III: Carolina WR Kelvin Benjamin
Week IV: Minnesota QB Teddy Bridgewater
Week V: San Diego RB Branden Oliver
Week VI: Dallas OG Zach Martin
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