This week was the week of the high-upside second-round pick around the NFL. Three players drafted on Day 2, two of whom were potential first-rounders who slipped into the top 10 picks of the second round, made big impacts for their teams in Week 13. Add in a third-round rookie running back who has an opportunity to run with the starting job on the league’s best offense, and you have an exciting group of rookie performers this week. Chris Tripodi breaks them all down.
David Johnson (RB-Ari)
A third-round pick out of Northern Iowa, David Johnson jumped from third-string to starter in the span of one week thanks to injuries to the backs ahead of him on the depth chart. With Chris Johnson placed on injured reserve with a broken leg and Andre Ellington struggling with turf toe, the younger Johnson rushed for 99 yards and 22 carries and caught two passes for 21 yards and a touchdown.
Johnson ran a 4.5 40-yard dash at 6-1, 224 pounds, and while his athleticism has been on display all season in a limited role, it had an extended chance to shine through in Sunday’s win over the Rams. On Johnson’s first carry, which went for six yards, he jumped over a fallen defender just past the line of scrimmage without losing momentum, falling forward for extra yardage at the end of the run.
In addition to his athleticism, Johnson also showed good patience in the backfield and burst through the hole. The rookie runner consistently kept his feet moving while waiting for his blocks to develop before showing explosiveness to build momentum on his way to the second level and powerfully finish runs. Johnson continuously laid his shoulder into defenders and fell forward for an additional yard or two, despite having a reputation for not running to his size.
He also showed the agility and short-area quickness to make defenders miss in small spaces. Johnson destroyed the pursuit angles of Rams defenders throughout the game, and not even in the open field, as he used well-timed juke moves to avoid tacklers at all levels. Whether he was breaking free from backfield penetration to get back to the line of scrimmage or making defenders whiff once they broke down, Johnson forced opponents to miss early and often
Not only did Johnson show off his agility, but he also proved he has the acceleration to string together multiple moves in one run. On a 17-yard scamper midway through the second quarter, Johnson burst through an opening on the right side before juking outside to avoid cornerback LaMarcus Joyner and set him up to be sealed out of the play by the down-blocking receiver. Once he hit the ground from his first move, Johnson quickly redirected back inside to leave Marcus Roberson flailing at his back before dragging the safety to finish the run.
Johnson’s long run of the game was a 23-yarder in the third quarter, where the rookie effortlessly busted through an ankle tackle at the line of scrimmage before juking outside to avoid incoming pursuit without losing speed. Johnson didn’t continue to dance and headed straight up the field and into the secondary before being pulled down after the long gain.
Later on the same drive, Johnson was popped by Mark Barron on a toss play causing a fumble, which the Rams recovered. Unfortunately for St. Louis, the recovery was ruled out of bounds, and two plays later Johnson scored a 10-yard receiving touchdown. Lined up in the left slot, Johnson floated a bit into his curl route but showed nice concentration to make the grab in between two defenders, as quarterback Carson Palmer fit the ball into a tight spot and Johnson walked into the endzone.
The touchdown was nice bounce-back for Johnson, who showed the short memory he needs to be successful as an NFL running back. With the veteran Johnson out until the Super Bowl and Ellington a constant injury risk, the young Johnson should have the feature-back role to himself for the rest of the season, and he’s a great fit as both a runner and receiver in the Cardinals’ high-octane offense.
Dorial Green-Beckham (WR-Ten)
Dorial Green-Beckham was a divisive prospect this year after being dismissed from the Missouri football team in 2014 due to off-the-field problems, including multiple arrests. Green-Beckham transferred to Oklahoma but never played a down for the Sooners, sitting out due to the transfer rules before declaring for the 2015 draft once he became eligible.
A first-round talent, Green-Beckham slipped to the eighth pick of the second round as a raw prospect with questions surrounding his character. After starting the season slow and getting targeted just 14 times in his first seven games, Green-Beckham has played a bigger role in the offense of late with 29 targets in his past five games.
Green-Beckham’s long-awaited breakout came in Sunday’s shootout win over the Jaguars, as the 6-5, 237-pound receiver caught five passes for 119 yards and his first touchdown since Week 3. Despite a reputation for rounding off routes, floating out of his breaks and not working hard, it’s obvious Green-Beckham has put in the time to clean up those issues leading up to Sunday’s performance against Jacksonville.
His first grab went for 26 yards, as Green-Beckham started on the left side of the formation and ran a 15-yard in route. Quarterback Marcus Mariota was flushed out of the pocket to the right and rather than giving up on the play, Green-Beckham flowed with Mariota and settled into open space, put his hand up and made himself a target before adjusting to a pass thrown slightly behind him to make the grab.
Green-Beckham’s next target went for nine yards, as DGB again flowed with Mariota on a rollout right. Two plays later, his worst play of the game was representative of his boom-or-bust nature, as the rookie sold a downfield route well before quickly spinning open on a curl route. Mariota hit him right in the hands, but Green-Beckham dropped the pass just above his head before it landed in the hands of cornerback Davon House for the interception.
Unfazed, Mariota targeted Green-Beckham on a big 3rd-and-10 on the following drive, and Green-Beckham rewarded his quarterback with a 20-yard grab on another deep in. The first-year receiver’s route break was sharp enough to allow him to use his big frame to maintain separation, and Green-Beckham caught the ball nicely away from his frame to secure the first down.
Later on the drive, Green-Beckham got himself open nicely between multiple defenders in the middle of the field. The Missouri and Oklahoma product stayed flat on another 15-yard in to keep the safety from jumping his route and made the grab in front of him after clearing the underneath corner. The only negative from this play was the amount of time it took Green-Beckham to break down at the stem of his route, but staying as flat as he did was the difference between a completion and a potential interception.
The Titans continued to use Green-Beckham on deep ins, and it paid off again on the first play of the fourth quarter. The rookie made his break after 20 yards this time, creating good separation before reaching out for the grab. Once he landed, he broke a weak tackle attempt from the safety and sprinted to the endzone for a 47-yard score that put his play-making skills on display.
Green-Beckham’s best game of the season was the product of hard work, something his doubters would be surprised to hear. As long as he continues to hone his fundamentals and eliminate negative plays, like his drop that turned a first down into a turnover, Green-Beckham’s physical upside and ball skills will make him a big-play threat on every down. If he develops into a more polished player, the sky is the limit with his elite size-speed combination.
Frank Clark (DE-Sea)
One week after recording his first sack of the season against the Steelers, Seahawks rookie defensive end Frank Clark tripled his season total in that category, racking up two sacks in Seattle’s blowout win over Minnesota. He wasn’t heard from after the first half, but his play in those 30 minutes was a big part of the Seahawks’ dominance before heading to the locker room.
A surprise second-round pick, Clark was an explosive playmaker at Michigan, but an arrest on a domestic violence charge was a huge red flag against his draft status. Seattle felt comfortable bringing Clark in despite his character questions and comments during the interview process, and he’s paid dividends for them in their last two wins.
Both of Clark’s sacks came in the first quarter, and his first ended the Vikings’ opening drive with a three-and-out. Lined up in the A gap, Clark engaged center Joe Berger with textbook extension while keeping his eyes on quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. While Clark didn’t beat Berger on the play, he caught Bridgewater scrambling up in the pocket away from pressure off the edge. Clark overpursued a bit on the play and missed his first chance, but he didn’t give up and ended up sacking Bridgewater from the ground.
His second takedown came on the following Minnesota possession, as Clark bull-rushed left guard Brandon Fusco right into Adrian Peterson, who was releasing out of the backfield. With his safety valve unable to get into his route, Bridgewater had nowhere to turn once Clark got around the edge as the rookie easily picked up his second sack of the afternoon.
Even without getting to the quarterback, Clark made an impact in the second quarter. Lined up in the B gap, he once again got extension early after engaging Berger with his eyes on Bridgewater, which allowed him to get his hands up as the pass was released to knock it down.
On the next drive, the Vikings wised up and doubled Clark, but he used leverage and a strong rip move to create movement against the double to push the pocket. When Bridgewater stepped up, Clark was there to dive at his legs and force a bad throw into the flat to Jerick McKinnon before Bridgewater hit the ground.
With a big second-half lead, Clark wasn’t needed much late in the game but had already put his stamp on this one early. While he isn’t built to play inside on every down at just 270 pounds, Clark showed the ability to create interior pressure from the A and B gaps with his explosiveness, leverage and bend. He’s also deceptively strong for his size, and Clark has shown the ability to be a true impact rusher in the future if he stays out of trouble.
Eddie Goldman (DT-Chi)
After Jeremiah Ratliff’s release in late October, second-round pick Eddie Goldman has seen an increased role on the inside of Chicago’s defense. While his contributions generally aren’t felt on the stat sheet as a 332-pound nose tackle, Goldman had three tackles including two sacks in Sunday’s loss to the 49ers.
In addition to his defensive plays, Goldman also blocked an early extra point to keep the game tied, 6-6. Lined up over the right guard, Goldman got good push into the backfield and stuck his hand up in the air to deflect the kick, showing good coordination to get his hand up despite being off balance.
While his next impact play won’t show up in the box score as anything more than a San Francisco touchdown, Goldman showed his strength by shedding a down block from left guard Alex Boone at the goal line. Unfortunately, Goldman couldn’t secure the tackle once be broke free, as Draughn already had a head of steam built up on his way to the end zone. If the play was run from the two-yard line, Goldman may have actually had a chance to stuff it.
On the 49ers’ next possession, Goldman blew up a second-down pass play by manhandling center Marcus Martin, pushing him five yards into the backfield right into quarterback Blaine Gabbert, who rushed an incompletion to the outside as the former Florida State star continued to show off his impressive power.
Along with power, Goldman showed off his pass-rush repertoire on his third-quarter sack of Gabbert. After his initial swim move kept Martin from engaging him at the point of attack, Goldman used his strength to rip under Martin with a clear path to Gabbert, who he brought down for a loss of eight yards.
On 3rd-and-14 on the next possession, Goldman used extension to get under Martin’s pads and walked him right back into Gabbert again before wrapping the quarterback up for his second sack of the game. Goldman was a powerful presence on the inside of Chicago’s defense, but he also showed off his great athleticism for a 330-pounder.
Goldman was rated as a first-round prospect on our board here at Draft Insider, and the early returns show that the Bears got a steal in the early second. Not only can Goldman eat up space, but he has the athleticism to be a playmaker whether he’s harassing quarterbacks, blocking kicks or just destroying blockers. His upside was on display in this one, and Goldman has all the skills necessarily to be a Pro Bowl-caliber player for years to come in Chicago.
Follow Chris Tripodi on Twitter @christripodi to talk football and the NFL Draft.