The NFL rookie rankings check in on the top rookies each week, taking their entire body of work into account to place them in order. One, two, or even three bad weeks won’t automatically tank a player’s stock. There isn’t often mass movement, but one player I’d neglected needed his due this week.
Week 12 NFL Rookie Rankings | 1-5
Although there isn’t a ton of week-to-week movement in the top five, a new name finally emerged as one of the NFL’s top rookies. Mac Jones’ play continues to become stronger as the season progresses.
1) Micah Parsons, LB, Dallas Cowboys
Myles Garrett produces a sack on 4.49% of his pass rushes. Micah Parsons gets one on 4.97% of his, and he’s also playing linebacker at an elite level, at least while defending the run.
Despite splitting time between EDGE and LB, Parsons is still third in the league in stops, defined as a tackle that occurs in the “failure” zone for an offense. In other words, he’s been one of, if not the most prominent defensive difference-makers in the NFL. The only argument that one could make against him is his work-in-progress status as a coverage player.
Parsons should be in the Defensive Player of the Year discussion at this point. He’s the biggest reason that the Cowboys’ defense has thrived despite losing DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory.
2) Creed Humphrey, C, Kansas City Chiefs
Despite Parsons’ unbelievable play, both Creed Humphrey and Rashawn Slater have arguments for the top of the NFL rookie rankings. The offensive line is a position where perfection is almost necessary, lest you risk being tagged as bad. Even a 95% protection rate has a player in the “replaceable” category.
Humphrey almost never loses. He hasn’t allowed a sack since Week 4. He hasn’t allowed a hit on Patrick Mahomes since Week 6. He’s practically perfect. He’s just up against a once-in-a-generation defensive weapon.
3) Rashawn Slater, OT, Los Angeles Chargers
I’ve toyed with flipping Slater and Humphrey in the rankings, but personally, there’s really no separation between the two. Slater is stuck on an island at left tackle, so his overall efficiency won’t mimic Humprhey’s.
However, there aren’t many left tackles in the league that can blend pass protection and run blocking the way Slater does. He’s so technically refined. The Chargers run the ball better on average in his direction, and that’s no coincidence.
4) Greg Newsome II, CB, Cleveland Browns
Greg Newsome needed to handle his business against an inept Detroit Lions passing attack, and he did just that. The Lions didn’t throw the ball often, and when they did, they didn’t throw his way. In a game where the Browns offense also looked inept, Cleveland’s defense did its job.
Newsome has silly reactive quickness, and his technical proficiency allows him to mirror receivers with ease. His speed allows him to recover even on the off chance his technique fails him. He will remain one of the better man-coverage cornerbacks in the league for a long time.
5) Mac Jones, QB, New England Patriots
I’ve written quite a bit on Mac Jones this year doing the rookie QB rankings, but I’d remained hesitant to put him toward the top of the NFL rookie rankings because of his surroundings.
By that, I mean he’s not asked to do too much in the Patriots’ offense. However, he’s shown more with his feet this season than he ever had to at Alabama, and he’s starting to test intermediate windows a bit more often — and finding success when he does.
Jones deserves the top-five nod. It’ll be tough to rise much more unless he’s tasked with carrying the Patriots to victory a few times. There is no “QB multiplier” in these power rankings. The names above him are simply some of the best at their positions in the entire NFL.
Week 12 NFL Rookie Rankings | 6-10
A few weeks ago, it seemed the top five was set. Now, Jones has been elevated into the top five, but Ja’Marr Chase is far from dead in the water. If Trey Smith continues his dominance at right guard for Kansas City, he may be knocking, too.
6) Ja’Marr Chase, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
Chase hasn’t been outside of the top five in quite some time now, but he’s trended downward for three games. He and quarterback Joe Burrow haven’t found the same success they were locating earlier this season.
Chase has just 113 yards on 26 targets over his last three games. That would be a decent day on the ground for a running back, but it’s a horrendous average for a receiver. Honestly, this is more along the lines of what I expected from Chase in Year 1, but he’d found a way to top expectations early on.
However, the rookie wall is real, and we must remember Chase didn’t play in 2020. How he finishes the season won’t have any bearing on how we should feel about him in 2022 and beyond, but he could continue to fall in the NFL rookie rankings.
7) Trey Smith, G, Kansas City Chiefs
Smith has been one of the top NFL rookies all season, but one poor game held him out of the top 10. He hasn’t allowed a sack since Week 7, and although he’s not perfect as a pass protector, we know some of the pressures he’s allowed are due to Mahomes extending plays.
Smith is a dominant run blocker, and it still blows my mind that he fell to Round 6, even given the blood clots he suffered at Tennessee. He’d played two seasons without the issue affecting him, but there must be some long-term questions, or else he would have been a top-50 pick.
8) Patrick Surtain II, CB, Denver Broncos
Former Alabama teammate DeVonta Smith got the better of Patrick Surtain II on a fade route in the end zone in Philadelphia’s rout of Denver. Still, Surtain has played beautifully for weeks aside from that play.
Surtain is far more boring to watch than Newsome. He’s nearly the perfect technician, even as a rookie. At times, that makes him look slower than he actually is because receivers don’t test him consistently, especially when he’s playing in zone coverage.
9) Kyle Pitts, TE, Atlanta Falcons
Kyle Pitts has seen a dip in production during Calvin Ridley’s extended absence. It’s challenging to produce as a tight end, and it’s nearly impossible for a rookie. The position requires so much that it usually takes a while to produce at the rate we see from the top TEs.
The Falcons’ season is over. It’s time for Arthur Smith and the rest of the coaching staff to figure out how to scheme touches for Pitts as they continue to utilize Cordarrelle Patterson. Pitts proved he’ll be a star someday; it just takes time to get there sometimes.
10) Nate Hobbs, CB, Las Vegas Raiders
Nate Hobbs struggled in one game this year. That’s it. He’s been one of the top rookies in the NFL for the other nine weeks. And let’s be honest, struggling against Mahomes and the Chiefs is nothing to scoff at.
Hobbs plays the slot in Gus Bradley’s scheme, which means he will allow underneath receptions in zone coverage. In fact, his average depth of target (aDOT) allowed of 2.7 yards is less than half of the next-closest cornerback.
Hobbs feels a bit like the Mac Jones of cornerbacks. He has a task and completes it at a high level, even if it isn’t the most challenging assignment. It’s made him one of the top rookies in the NFL through 11 weeks.
NFL Rookie Rankings Week 12 | 11-15
11) Odafe Oweh, OLB, Baltimore Ravens
12) Jevon Holland, S, Miami Dolphins
13) Penei Sewell, OT, Detroit Lions
14) DeVonta Smith, WR, Philadelphia Eagles
15) Jaylen Waddle, WR, Miami Dolphins
NFL Rookie Rankings Week 12 | 16-25
16) Osa Odighizuwa, DT, Dallas Cowboys
17) Pete Werner, LB, New Orleans Saints
18) Kadarius Toney, WR, New York Giants
19) Azeez Ojulari, OLB, New York Giants
20) Eric Stokes, CB, Green Bay Packers
21) Najee Harris, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers
22) Javonte Williams, RB, Denver Broncos
23) Pat Freiermuth, TE, Pittsburgh Steelers
24) Trevon Moehrig, S, Las Vegas Raiders
25) Kwity Paye, DE, Indianapolis Colts