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Rookie Watch: Carlos Hyde is here to stay

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Say hello to Around The NFL's "Rookie Watch" series, a week-by-week journey ranking this year's promising collection of first-year players.

Rookies bring hope to all 32 teams. In recent years, we've seen Russell Wilson and Andrew Luck immediately shake up the landscape on offense, while draft picks spent on J.J. Watt and Robert Quinn turned vanilla defenses into horror shows for opponents.

Between now and the end of the regular season, we'll chart this year's rookie class in an effort to predict which first-year players have the best chance at long careers in our nation's finest sport.

Here's where we stand after Week 1:

1. Brandin Cooks, Saints wide receiver: Perhaps the draft's most versatile offensive weapon, Cooks was used all over the field as a wideout against the Falcons. He also lined up beside Pierre Thomas in two-back Pistol sets that unleashed both players as options in the screen game. Cooks returned punts, took a reverse 18 yards and won one-on-one battles with Falcons cover men. His 4.33 speed and route running are exceptional. After Sean Payton and Drew Brees raved about the rookie's ability to absorb the offense, their trust in Cooks was evident in Week 1.

2. Kelvin Benjamin, Panthers wide receiver: The physical differences between Cooks and Benjamin show how varied the receiver position has become in today's NFL. Projected by some as a boom-or-bust experiment, the rookie's 6-foot-5 stature makes him game-ready. Benjamin's fourth-quarter touchdown grab put his raw physical gifts on display as he went over the back of Mike Jenkins to haul in this rope from Derek Anderson:

3. Allen Hurns, Jaguars wide receiver: His big preseason was no fluke. The undrafted wideout from Miami made an immediate impact for the Jaguars, hauling in four passes for 110 yards and two scores. Seeing snaps in Jacksonville's injury-riddled receiving corps, Hurns helped Chad Henne get off to a fast start before the attack went cold.

4. Terrance West, Browns running back: Replacing an injured Ben Tate, the third-rounder was fourth among all runners with 66 yards after contact during his 16-carry, 100-yard outing in Week 1. Leading all rookie backs in attempts and yardage, West's burst and tackle-breaking ability helped him earn an outrageous Elusive Rating of 154.7 from Pro Football Focus, second only to Le'Veon Bell.

5. Carlos Hyde, 49ers running back: Hyde is surprisingly light on his feet considering his 235-pound frame. Excellent lateral movement and a physical running style make him the ideal foil to Frank Gore. Hyde's seven carries to Gore's 16 against the Cowboys felt like a blueprint for how 49ers tilts will unfold on the ground this season.

6. Anthony Barr, Vikings linebacker: Barr's 62 snaps on Sunday ranked sixth among all 4-3 outside linebackers. Emerging as one of Minnesota's surest tacklers against St. Louis, the rookie has won the trust of Mike Zimmer. Look for the Vikings to increasingly unleash Barr as a pass rusher.

7. Ryan Shazier, Steelers linebacker: As the first defensive rookie to start an opener for the Steelers since Kendrell Bell, Shazier's ceiling plays hint at a long career. His closing speed and dynamic ability in coverage allow coordinator Dick LeBeau to use him more like a hybrid safety than a traditional inside linebacker. West won't forget his name:

8. Jason Verrett, Chargers cornerback: The rookie allowed just three grabs for 25 yards against Arizona's deep cast of wideouts. Cardinals receivers also managed just two yards after the catch against Verrett, who exited Week 1 as the NFL's second-best corner, per Pro Football Focus.

9. Derek Carr, Raiders quarterback: Carr was no fireball against the Jets. Throwing mostly dumpoffs and screens, only three of his 20 completions traveled beyond 10 yards, while two of his attempts should have been picked. I'm putting Carr here, though, based on his August body of work. His strong arm gives this wandering organization hope at the game's most important position.

10. John Brown, Cardinals receiver: Our offseason darling capped Arizona's win over the Chargers with a 13-yard touchdown dart from Carson Palmer. Seeing the second most targets on the night, Brown is set for a major role. I'd argue he's shiftier than T.Y. Hilton.

Unsung play of the week: Rams rookie defensive lineman Aaron Donald drops a megaton bomb on Adrian Peterson. This is madness:

On the cusp: Bradley Roby, Jeremiah Attaochu, Isaiah Crowell, Marqise Lee, Sammy Watkins, Joel Bitonio, Mike Evans

Roby dialed up seven tackles and three passes defensed in Denver's 31-24 win over the Colts. ... Attaochu was a force against the Cardinals with a sack, forced fumble and blocked punt. ... With two touchdowns against Pittsburgh, Crowell's tape reveals an urgent, one-cut runner who might have more raw talent than Tate or West. ... Facing Philly, Lee chalked up 62 yards off six grabs as Jacksonville's No. 2 threat. ... Watkins might be top-three on this list if Drew Brees was throwing to him. ... Bitonio's been a steady starting presence since May. ... Evans is a monster with breakout potential.

Keep an eye on: Devonta Freeman, Calvin Pryor, Chris McCain, Bishop Sankey, Khalil Mack, Jeremy Hill, Christian Kirksey

Part of Atlanta's committee backfield, Freeman's energy on the ground should earn him a bigger role in time. ... Rex Ryan loves Pryor, an immediate plug-and-play starter at the safety slot. ... ... Miami's McCain recorded a sack and blocked a punt against the Patriots. ... Sankey showed burst against the Chiefs, but still looks like just a guy to me. ... Mack picked up two hurries and a quarterback hit, but disappeared for stretches. ... We barely saw Hill on Sunday, but his stock could rise as Hue Jackson ups his carries. ... Kirksey is a poor-man's Shazier with speed to burn and strong pass-coverage skills.

Slow starters: Justin Gilbert, Eric Ebron, Jace Amaro, Greg Robinson

Riding the pine: Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater, Blake Bortles

The latest "Around The NFL Podcast" covers the Falcons' impressive offense, RGIII's struggles and recaps all Sunday's Week 1 action.

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