Each week, the NFL rookie rankings acknowledge the top rookies from the 2021 NFL Draft class throughout the course of the season. The top five remain the same after Week 10 in the NFL, but two first-timers and an old friend land in the top 10 this week.
Week 11 NFL Rookie Rankings | 1-5
Even as NFL rookies, these players are playing at a ridiculously high level. Three of the top five opted out of the 2020 college season, and another only played in 17 college games due to a litany of minor injuries. It’s been amazing to witness their transitions.
1) Micah Parsons, LB, Dallas Cowboys
After an injury to Randy Gregory took him off the field for multiple weeks, we all suspected Micah Parsons might transition back into a more full-time pass-rushing role. However, Cordarrelle Patterson’s appearance on the Falcons’ roster muddied the waters, given his game would be a mismatch for every other Cowboys linebacker.
So, Parsons remained at the second level, and he gave us another absolute treat. His sack was the highlight of the night. He gave the tackle a jab step, forcing him to overset for the outside rush. When he did that, Parsons planted back inside off the mesh between Matt Ryan and the runner. That sack gave him the league lead for rookies, even though he has over 100 fewer rushes than other top rookie pass rushers.
Parsons is a unicorn for the position. It’ll be fascinating to see how he progresses in coverage and how his role progresses.
2) Creed Humphrey, C, Kansas City Chiefs
Creed Humphrey had an off day at the office this week. He had the unmitigated gall to allow a pressure on Patrick Mahomes. Luckily, he made up for it with an outstanding tweet after the game making fun of himself after being knocked over on an encroachment penalty.
— Creed Humphrey (@creed_humphrey) November 15, 2021
He’s been nearly perfect now through 10 weeks of play. It’s challenging to envision there are many centers in the league who have his combination of intellect, athleticism, and brute force.
Humphrey’s a special player. And the fact he landed in the back end of Round 2 to a team approaching dynastic levels is an oversight by the league punishable by watching this Chiefs offense score 30 every week (after their bad stretch ended).
3) Rashawn Slater, OT, Los Angeles Chargers
Rashawn Slater has been incredibly consistent throughout the season. He’s allowed 2 sacks in just one game, and those came against the eventual Defensive Player of the Year, Myles Garrett.
Slater’s allowed just 3 pressures in his past four contests and has only allowed 2 QB hits all season. His dominance isn’t as pronounced as we saw with Tristan Wirfs in Tampa Bay, but that’s probably because Slater isn’t the freak athlete on the eventual Super Bowl winner.
Nevertheless, Everson Griffen had his least productive game of the year opposite Slater, which is a testament to how good the rookie has been. Slater’s reign near the top of the NFL rookie rankings continues.
4) Greg Newsome II, CB, Cleveland Browns
On a day where nothing went right for Cleveland, the Browns’ rookie cornerback still had himself a pretty good day. Nelson Agholor blind-spotted him and drove back on a comeback route early in the game. Additionally, Jakobi Meyers won an isolated slot fade that Newsome recovered nicely on after being beat by the initial release. Still, he couldn’t contest the pass.
That’s what is so impressive about Newsome. He never panics, and his recovery speed is outrageous. It took a perfect throw and catch for him to allow that reception to Meyers. The Lions’ passing attack shouldn’t bother the rookie cornerback at all. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him secure his first INT of his career next week.
5) Ja’Marr Chase, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
After two down weeks and a bye, Ja’Marr Chase must be itching to get back on the field and reset. There is no reprieve with the Cincinnatti schedule, as they’ll face three AFC playoff hopefuls in a row coming up.
At the halfway mark of his rookie season, Chase is on pace to out-produce his former college teammate, Justin Jefferson. Jefferson averaged 87.5 yards per game, and Chase is currently averaging 92.8. And that’s with two stinkers in a row on his ledger.
It will almost certainly be a historic campaign for the young pass catcher, given he’ll play one more game than Jefferson. However, outdoing him on a per-game basis is still very much in play and would be even more impressive.
Week 11 NFL Rookie Rankings | 6-10
Which rookies fill out the top 10? Hint: Newsome isn’t the only impressive first-year corner in 2021.
6) Patrick Surtain II, CB, Denver Broncos
Patrick Surtain II got banged up against the Dallas Cowboys. Nevertheless, he somehow managed to play in Week 10 against the Philadelphia Eagles. Despite allowing a touchdown against DeVonta Smith on an out-and-up, he did absolutely everything right except actually contact the ball, as he shot his right arm through the catch point. The ball simply found a spot to rest in Smith’s chest.
Surtain was fine aside from that. He’s a technical wizard with outstanding reach and understated athleticism. His natural ball skills aren’t exceptional, but they’re not a detriment, either. It was just a day for Denver where nothing went right. The flukey touchdown against his college teammate was one of those examples.
7) Kyle Pitts, TE, Atlanta Falcons
Just about every bit of duty in a Falcons uniform was garbage duty on Sunday against Dallas. The Cowboys got up to an ominous 28-3 lead early, which the Falcons showed great self-awareness on.
Yeah, yeah. We know.
— Atlanta Falcons (@AtlantaFalcons) November 14, 2021
Kyle Pitts has seen inconsistent production over the past few weeks. He’s caught only 9 of 20 targets in the past three games. Things have become far more complex in Calvin Ridley’s absence. Hopefully, Pitts and Matt Ryan can get back on the same page because football is more fun when elite athletes at TE have the ball.
8) Trey Smith, G, Kansas City Chiefs
This man was a sixth-round pick despite having first-round talent. I assume Trey Smith’s heart scare in the past terrified teams enough to allow him to fall in the laps of the Chiefs with no risk involved, aside from his health. Smith belongs in the top 10 of the NFL rookie rankings.
It was a boom-or-bust selection, and that’s about as good as one could ask for from a late Day 3 pick. Smith is a mauler, but he’s been strong as a pass protector aside from a three-game stretch of monster defensive interiors.
The young man faced Washington, the Titans, and the Giants from Weeks 6-8, yet he somehow survived. It will be fun to see how the Chiefs’ interior deals with Parsons blitzing and Osa Odighizuwa rushing from the A and B gaps.
9) Jevon Holland, S, Miami Dolphins
It isn’t easy to do deep dives on enough rookies to get an excellent feel for their play. You can look at every metric in the world to try and paint a picture, but unless you have time, it’s tough to know just how good players are performing. Tape study takes time.
So, I’d like to formally apologize for not recognizing just how impressive Jevon Holland has been throughout the season. His projection was tricky. He played in the slot most of the time at Oregon, so it was difficult to know how he’d fare as a single-high player.
Luckily, the Dolphins are playing him in multiple roles, and he’s flourishing. Against Baltimore, he rushed the passer an incredible 22 times, pressuring Lamar Jackson on 6 of those and sacking him once.
But he’s been outstanding as a coverage player too. With a lackluster group of quarterbacks upcoming on the schedule, I doubt we see much aside from positive results for Holland going forward.
10) Odafe Oweh, OLB, Baltimore Ravens
Odafe Oweh still doesn’t really have an excellent grasp for what he’s doing as a pass rusher, but he plays so dang hard. Oweh’s such a better athlete than literally everyone he lines up against that it doesn’t matter much. He’s been terrific when able to play lesser competition this year. He’s beaten up on bad tackles, and that’s perfectly fine for a raw rookie rusher.
Oweh will have an opportunity to say hello to a 97-year-old Jason Peters in Week 11. He’ll get at least a few chances against Larry Borom as well. It should be another productive week for affecting the QB for Oweh.
NFL Rookie Rankings Week 11 | 11-15
11) Pete Werner, LB, New Orleans Saints
12) Nate Hobbs, CB, Las Vegas Raiders
13) Osa Odighizuwa, DT, Dallas Cowboys
14) Azeez Ojulari, OLB, New York Giants
15) Mac Jones, QB, New England Patriots
NFL Rookie Rankings Week 11 | 16-25
16) Penei Sewell, OT, Detroit Lions
17) Eric Stokes, CB, Green Bay Packers
18) DeVonta Smith, WR, Philadelphia Eagles
19) Elijah Mitchell, RB, San Francisco 49ers
20) Najee Harris, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers
21) Christian Barmore, DT, New England Patriots
22) Jaylen Waddle, WR, Miami Dolphins
23) Javonte Williams, RB, Denver Broncos
24) Pat Freiermuth, TE, Pittsburgh Steelers
25) Trevon Moehrig, S, Las Vegas Raiders