Multiple rookies made their NFL debuts this past week. Some had spectacular performances while others did not produce the impact fans were hoping they would right out of the gate. Admittedly, it’s unreasonable to expect any rookie to dominate in their first game, even more so in a 2020 season that took away rookie minicamp and cut training camp short while simultaneously revoking all preseason games. However, that didn’t stop some NFL rookies from showing out in their first game.
For these NFL rookie power rankings, a player’s ranking will be a combination of their pre-draft grade and their performance in the NFL, split 50/50. I’ll be giving the top 10 rookies for the week, the biggest surprise of the week, along with the best performance each week. So how do the rookies stack up following Week 1?
Disclaimer: Prospects like Jeffrey Okudah and Tua Tagovailoa who have not played yet are not included.
Week 1: NFL rookie power rankings
1. Chase Young, EDGE, Washington Football Team
The consensus top player in the class showed why analysts were so high on him. Against Philadelphia, Chase Young helped lead Washington’s defense to an eight sack performance and arguably the most shocking upset of the young season. Young was credited with two tackles 1.5 sacks, and one forced fumble. He was also a force against the run and had an overall dominant performance. The future is very bright for the second overall pick.
Pre-draft ranking: Top player, EDGE1
2. CJ Henderson, CB, Jacksonville Jaguars
Some were concerned with CJ Henderson’s tackling coming out of the University of Florida but his ability in coverage was never in question. Henderson was widely considered the second-best cornerback in the 2020 Draft class behind Ohio State star Jeffrey Okudah. Okudah would go onto be selected third overall followed by Henderson who was selected ninth overall. However, it was Henderson who dominated on opening weekend allowing just a 23.8 passer rating when targeted.
Pre-draft ranking: Top 15, CB2
3. Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB, Kansas City Chiefs
The leading NFL rusher by 22 yards after Week 1, Clyde Edwards-Helaire showed why the Chiefs took him with the last selection in the first round. An electric play-maker, Edwards-Helaire shredded the Houston defense for 138 yards and one touchdown on a ridiculous 5.5 yards per carry.
Some were down on him entering during the draft process because he was undersized and just an average athlete but his electric running style and impact as a pass-catcher were enough for the Chiefs to fall in love. Expect him to continue producing like one of the league’s top running backs.
Pre-draft ranking: Top 50, RB5
4. Patrick Queen, LB, Baltimore Ravens
I was lower on Patrick Queen than the consensus as I thought he was underdeveloped in pass coverage. While he was still hot and cold in coverage against Cleveland, he did have a very productive game against Cleveland’s rushing attack. Queen racked up eight tackles, one sack, one tackle for loss, and one forced fumble. Queen was everywhere on Sunday and made impact plays.
Pre-draft ranking: Top 100, LB6
5. Joe Burrow, QB, Cincinnati Bengals
Joe Burrow was the only rookie quarterback to appear in Week 1, and like most rookie passers he had ups and downs. His first career touchdown came on a QB draw that he took for 23 yards to the house. He put his team in a position to win the game twice but a soft offensive pass interference took away the go-ahead touchdown and a kick that was truly horrendous failed to tie the game. Burrow was widely considered the top quarterback in the class and is predicted to make numerous big plays for the Bengals in his career.
Pre-draft ranking: Top 10, QB1
6. CeeDee Lamb, WR, Dallas Cowboys
As my top-rated offensive player in the 2020 class, Dallas absolutely stole CeeDee Lamb at 17th overall. Through one week, Lamb leads all rookie wide receivers in receptions and yards posted five receptions for 59 yards, which is a big reason he’s the highest-rated receiver on these NFL rookie power rankings. Lamb did have one play where he failed to move the chains on a pivotal fourth down, but he was an overall great addition to the Dallas offense in Week 1.
Pre-draft ranking: Fourth overall, WR1
7. Tristan Wirfs, OT, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
My highest rated tackle in the 2020 Draft class also had the top Week 1 performance of the five first-round tackles. Wirfs drew an extremely difficult match-up in Week 1 facing All-Pro pass rusher Cameron Jordan. Wirfs did a great job neutralizing Jordan for the majority of the game. Jordan got the better of him once, but otherwise, Wirfs had a very impressive start to his career.
Pre-draft ranking: Fifth overall, OT1
8. Javon Kinlaw, IDL, San Francisco
The 49ers moved star defensive tackle DeForest Buckner to the Colts for their first-round selection, number thirteen overall, in the 2020 NFL Draft. After trading back one spot, they selected Javon Kinlaw to replace Buckner. Despite massive shoes to fill, Kinlaw had an excellent performance to start his career. He didn’t fill up the stat sheet, but he was constantly wreaking havoc in the backfield.
Pre-draft ranking: Top 10, IDL1
9. Antoine Winfield Jr., S, Tampa Bay
A productive afternoon for Antoine Winfield, where he played an astounding 100% of the Buccaneers’ defensive snaps. Outside of quarterbacks and offensive lineman, it’s uncommon to see a player play every snap, but Winfield came out and produced in his rookie debut. Six total tackles, one QB hit, and a pass deflection was good enough to place him ninth among rookies heading into week two.
Pre-draft ranking: Top 50, S4
10. Henry Ruggs III, WR, Las Vegas Raiders
After being the first receiver drafted in the 2020 Draft, Henry Ruggs’ career started with a boom with his first reception going for 45 yards halfway through the first quarter of his first game. Ruggs had another nice play where he took a pivot route for a first down, but sadly got injured before halftime. Ruggs likely would’ve been the rookie receiving leader had he played the full game. Watch for Ruggs to be a candidate to move up the NFL rookie power rankings.
Pre-draft ranking: Top 25, WR3
Honorable Mention: Mekhi Becton, OT, New York Jets
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Week 1: Rookie superlatives
Best performance: CJ Henderson, CB, Jacksonville Jaguars
Honorable Mention: Chase Young, EDGE, Washington Football Team
Biggest surprise: Krys Barnes, LB, Green Bay Packers
Honorable Mention: Jordan Fuller, S, Los Angeles Rams/James Robinson, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars
Play of the week: Chase Claypool’s 28-yard reception
Honorable Mention: Henderson’s game-sealing pass deflection/Chase Young’s strip-sack/Jordan Fuller’s fourth-down tackle