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Grading defensive rookie first-rounders: DBs lead top standouts

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With three quarters of the 2015 regular season in the books, I'm taking a look at how this year's rookie first-round picks have fared to this point. I assign a grade for each defensive player here, after unveiling my marks for the offensive first-round rookies earlier this week.

Pepsi Rookie of the Week nominees:

Heads of the class

Chiefs CB Marcus Peters

Grade: A+
Pick: No. 18 overall
The skinny: Peters has made a strong case to be the rookie of the year. He's very physical, fluid and productive.

Cowboys DB Byron Jones

Grade: A
Pick: No. 27 overall
The skinny: Jones has started games at both cornerback and safety. He has a unique skill set and provides the Cowboys with a valuable chess piece to match up with opponents.

Packers S Damarious Randall

Grade: A
Pick: No. 30 overall
The skinny: Randall has been a key contributor at cornerback for the Packers' defense. He has excellent ball skills and he's a physical defender in the run game.

Saints ILB Stephone Anthony

Grade: A
Pick: No. 31 overall
The skinny: Anthony has been one of the few bright spots for the Saints' defense. He is very explosive and he's produced several splash plays this season.

Jets DE Leonard Williams

Grade: A-
Pick: No. 6 overall
The skinny: Williams uses his size, length and strength to consistently hold the point of attack in the run game. He's still developing as a pass rusher, but he's generated a lot of pressure.

College Football 24/7 Hot Topics:

Texans CB Kevin Johnson

Grade: A-
Pick: No. 16 overall
The skinny: Johnson gave up some plays last week against the Bills, but overall, he's been excellent. He can play inside or outside and his mirror ability is very impressive.

Knocking on the door

Patriots DT Malcom Brown

Grade: B+
Pick: No. 32 overall
The skinny: Brown has started eight games for the Patriots and he's been very steady. He's used his quickness to disrupt against the run and pass.

Steelers OLB Bud Dupree

Grade: B+
Pick: No. 22 overall
The skinny: Dupree is still a work in progress, but he flashes on tape when you study the Steelers. He should be a double-digit sack artist next season.

Broncos DE Shane Ray

Grade: B
Pick: No. 23 overall
The skinny: Ray hasn't stuffed the stat sheet, but he's made a couple big plays this season. I love his effort/upside and I believe the stats will soon follow.

Panthers OLB Shaq Thompson

Grade: B
Pick: No. 25 overall
The skinny: Thompson has started a handful of games and he made a few splash plays because of his play speed and effort. He's never going to be a great take-on player, but he can cause havoc as a run/chase linebacker.

Mixed results

Falcons OLB Vic Beasley

Grade: C
Pick: No. 8 overall
The skinny: Beasley has impressive quickness off the edge, but he's still in need of a second move. He stalls when he tries to convert speed to power and he needs to do a better job of finishing ... aka convert pressures into sacks.

Browns NT Danny Shelton

Grade: C
Pick: No. 12 overall
The skinny: Shelton has started every game at nose tackle for the Browns. He has shown the ability to lock out blockers and hold the point of attack, but he needs to be more active vs. both the run and pass.


» Sizing up contenders for 2016 draft's No. 1 overall pick


49ers DT Arik Armstead

Grade: C
Pick: No. 17 overall
The skinny: Armstead has yet to start a game, but I like some of the things he's done when he's seen game action. He uses his length to stack blockers and I see flashes of pass-rush potential.

Vikings CB Trae Waynes

Grade: C-
Pick: No. 11 overall
The skinny: Waynes struggled in the preseason and hasn't started a game this fall. He's very raw but his speed is easy to notice when he's on the field.

TBD at a later date

Jaguars OLB Dante Fowler, Jr.

Grade: Incomplete
Pick: No. 3 overall
The skinny: Fowler suffered a season-ending knee injury during minicamp. Good news for the Jaguars -- next year they will essentially have two first-round picks joining their team.

Follow Daniel Jeremiah on Twitter at @MoveTheSticks.

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