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Grading rookie first-rounders on defense: Bosa, Neal earn A+

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With all but two weeks of the 2016 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 assigned a grade for each offensive player here, and I'm unveiling my marks for the defensive first-round rookies today.

Heads of the class

Chargers DE Joey Bosa

Grade: A+
Pick: No. 3 overall
The skinny: Bosa has been a dominant presence on the Chargers' defensive line. He missed the start of the season, but he still should be a strong candidate for Defensive Rookie of the Year. He leads all rookies with 7.5 sacks.

Falcons S Keanu Neal

Grade: A+
Pick: No. 17 overall
The skinny: Neal has started 12 games for the Falcons and he's played at a Pro Bowl level. He flies around the field and produces big-time hits in just about every game. He's forced 4 fumbles this fall and he leads all rookies with 98 tackles.

Jaguars CB Jalen Ramsey

Grade: A
Pick: No. 5 overall
The skinny: Ramsey has shown all of the tools to be a star cornerback in the NFL. His combination of size, explosiveness and instincts is very impressive.

49ers DE DeForest Buckner

Grade: A
Pick: No. 7 overall
The skinny: It's been a rough year for the 49ers, but Buckner has been a bright spot. The enormous DE has started 13 games and collected 5 sacks. He has Pro Bowl potential and should be a building block for the organization.

Bears OLB Leonard Floyd

Grade: A
Pick: No. 9 overall
The skinny: Floyd has started 11 games for the Bears and he's second among rookies with 7 sacks. He's a dynamic athlete and looks like a potential 14-15 sack type of edge rusher.

Buccaneers CB Vernon Hargreaves

Grade: A
Pick: No. 11 overall
The skinny: Hargreaves is a smooth, fluid athlete and he's been very reliable in his rookie campaign. He's started all 14 games for the Bucs and he's already one of the best tacklers among cornerbacks in the league.

Steelers CB Artie Burns

Grade: A
Pick: No. 25 overall
The skinny: Burns has started 7 games this season and he's collected 3 interceptions. He has ideal size and length and he's shown tremendous ball skills. He's given up a few plays, but overall, he's been very reliable.

Knocking on the door

Giants CB Eli Apple

Grade: B
Pick: No. 10 overall
The skinny: Apple has started 9 games at cornerback for the Giants and he's improving each week. He's broken up 7 passes and he's also recorded an interception. He has the size to match up with the big/physical wide receivers and enough agility to mirror the quick/undersized opponents.

Raiders S Karl Joseph

Grade: B
Pick: No. 14 overall
The skinny: Joseph has started 9 games at safety for the Raiders and he's provided a physical presence in the middle of the field. He doesn't have a lot of ball production, but I love his aggressiveness and energy. He has Pro Bowl potential.

Saints DT Sheldon Rankins

Grade: B-
Pick: No. 12 overall
The skinny: Rankins has flashed his pass-rush potential, but he hasn't had a huge impact in his rookie campaign. He missed the start of the season after suffering a broken fibula in training camp and has yet to start a game for the Saints. I expect him to have a breakout season in 2017.

Bills DE Shaq Lawson

Grade: B-
Pick: No. 17 overall
The skinny: Lawson missed the beginning of the season due to injury and he's been a rotational player for the last 8 games. He hasn't had much of an impact (12 tackles, 2 sacks) but he's shown flashes of potential as a pass rusher. He'll benefit from a full offseason and increased playing time next fall.

Jets OLB Darron Lee

Grade: B-
Pick: No. 20 overall
The skinny: Lee has started 7 games at linebacker for the Jets and he's racked up 59 tackles and 1 sack. He has the athleticism to play on all three downs, but his lack of instincts has been an issue at times this fall.

Mixed results

Packers DT Kenny Clark

Grade: C+
Pick: No. 27 overall
The skinny: Clark has started 2 games this fall but he hasn't had much of an impact. He's strong at the point of attack, but he hasn't been very productive (19 tackles, 0 sacks).

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Panthers DT Vernon Butler

Grade: C
Pick: No. 30 overall
The skinny: Butler has been a part-time contributor for the Panthers this fall. He suffered an ankle injury early in the season and that affected him for several weeks. He has flashed some explosive pass-rush potential, but overall, this was a disappointing rookie campaign.

Major disappointment

Cardinals DT Robert Nkemdiche

Grade: D-
Pick: No. 29 overall
The skinny: Nkemdiche was an enigma in college. He has all of the physical ability, but he rarely put it all together. He's been a massive disappointment in his rookie year. He's played in only 4 games this fall and he's produced 1 tackle.

TBD at a later date

Bengals CB William Jackson III

Grade: Incomplete
Pick: No. 24 overall
The skinny: Jackson suffered an injury and didn't play this fall. He has tremendous upside and I'm excited to see him in the lineup next season.

Follow Daniel Jeremiah on Twitter at @MoveTheSticks.

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