Rookie of the Year watch: Mariota, Abdullah stand out


Outside of AFC Offensive Player of the Week Marcus Mariota, the opening week of the season came and went without major contributions from marquee rookies.

As the season goes along, we can expect to see breakout performances from the likes of Amari Cooper, Todd Gurley, Melvin Gordon, Phillip Dorsett, DeVante Parker and Jameis Winston.

After one week, though, our Rookie of the Year watch is slanted toward the defensive standouts. On to the list:

1. Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans quarterback: Mariota is going to have rough moments against better defenses, but the Titans have to be thrilled with what they've seen since the start of offseason practices. After wowing teammates and coaches with his leadership, poise and aptitude in an "essentially flawless" August, Mariota was even more impressive in the opener, displaying beautiful footwork, a lightning-quick release, pinpoint accuracy and a willingness to stay in the pocket and cycle through his progressions. It's not too early to recognize the Titans have a quarterback with special traits.

2. Marcus Peters, Kansas City Chiefs cornerback: Through two games, Peters has come through with seven pass deflections and two interceptions. He also scored the Chiefs' first touchdown in their Week 1 victory over the Texans. The first-round pick has the look of a future lockdown corner.

3. Ameer Abdullah, Detroit Lions running back: Speaking of special traits, Abdullah's ability to cut at full speed left Pro Bowl safety Eric Weddle high 'n' dry on a 21-yard touchdown last week. Shortly thereafter, he turned a bad snap into a 36-yard gain by picking up speed as he scooted through a tight window. For good measure, he also averaged 35 yards on a trio of kickoff returns. The Lions are going to have to feature his playmaking ability more on offense going forward.

4. Tyler Lockett, Seattle Seahawks wide receiver: The mythical preseason MVP is already getting the Devin Hester treatment after burning the Rams' special teams for a 57-yard touchdown on his first punt return.

5. Henry Anderson, Indianapolis Colts defensive end: The Colts' beleaguered run defense couldn't stop LeSean McCoy on a key third-down run in the fourth quarter, but they did unearth a potential star in Anderson. The third-round pick led the team with eight tackles, including three for a loss.

6. Kyle Emanuel, San Diego Chargers linebacker: A sneaky Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate, Emanuel recorded a sack and an interception versus the Lions after generating two sacks in three preseason games. The fifth-round pick is a favorite of NFL Media's Daniel Jeremiah, who labeled the former North Dakota State star a preseason gem in mid-August. "He looks like a first-round pick to us," safety Eric Weddle said last month. "When you look at him and you look at other first rounders, our second rounders, it's no different."

7. Jaquiski Tartt, San Francisco 49ers safety: Tartt and Anthoine Bethea each came up with sacks on safety blitzes dialed up by Eric Mangini, leaving Vikings QB Teddy Bridgewater confused on third downs. Tartt lined up all over the field, even playing some nickel linebacker.

8. Stephone Anthony, New Orleans Saints linebacker: Anthony and second-round outside linebacker Hau'oli Kikaha both made an impact in the opener. Anthony was all over the field, even covering Cardinals speedster John Brown on a deep route. He'd be higher on this list if he hadn't fallen for Brown's jet-sweep fake on David Johnson's game-sealing 55-yard touchdown.

9. Tevin Coleman, Atlanta Falcons running back: The third-round pick out of Indiana is the rookie rushing leader after one week. We'd like to see him display a little bit of physicality between the tackles rather than bouncing the majority of his runs outside.

10. Vic Beasley, Atlanta Falcons defensive end: New coach Dan Quinn has an impact rookie on both sides of the ball, as Beasley got the better of All-Pro tackle Jason Peters a couple of times in his debut.