ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper spent all spring breaking down countless prospects, from players expected to be selected at the top of the draft to mid-round picks, late-round steals and key priority free agents. Now that this year's rookies have gotten two weeks of game experience under their belts, Kiper has gone back through to analyze who the top performers are.
Kiper recently released a top 20 list for the best rookies thus far, a list which included three Buccaneer players. Kiper has quarterback Jameis Winston listed at No. 4, linebacker Kwon Alexander at No. 6 and guard Ali Marpet at No. 13.
"Sure, he gets a little bump on positional value," Kiper wrote of Winston, "but after a really bad start, Winston has been pretty good in six of eight NFL quarters so far. His play on Sunday in the Superdome was really impressive. He'll have his ups and downs, especially as the Bucs get their O-line worked out, but the talent is there, and more consistent results will follow."
Of the five players listed ahead of Alexander, none were selected as late in the draft; the middle linebacker was selected in the fourth round. With 13 tackles, Alexander is tied with Lavonte David for the team-lead. Alexander also led the Buccaneers in tackles during the preseason.
"No, he's not Lavonte David," Kiper wrote, "but Alexander fits the profile in some ways as the athletic linebacker who plays lighter than most but makes up for it with instincts and the ability to find the ball. Good start for the fourth-rounder."
Kiper added that the transition from a small school to the NFL has been smooth for Marpet.
"Amazing he was blocking at the Division III level at this time a year ago," he wrote.