The NFL rookie rankings acknowledge the top rookies throughout the season. The award builds off performances week over week. The 2021 NFL Draft felt strong as it was rounding into form, but I never believed we’d see multiple players already vying for the top of their position.
Week 13 NFL Rookie Rankings | 1-5
The top five in the NFL rookie rankings aren’t just playing as great rookies, but as some of the absolute best players in the league at their position.
1) Micah Parsons, LB, Dallas Cowboys
I keep trying to qualify things with Micah Parsons, and it keeps biting me in the arse. “Yeah, he’s great on the edge, but can he hold up there for 95% of the defensive snaps at his size?”
Apparently, he can. Parsons played 77 defensive snaps, with 73 coming as an outside linebacker on the line of scrimmage. He finished with 10 pressures, 1 sack, and 4 QB hits.
“Sure, he looks elite on the edge, but he’s winning against underwhelming or unathletic tackles.”
Well, this week, he beat Kolton Miller a few times, proving no offensive tackle in the league is athletic enough to keep him from the quarterback consistently off athleticism alone. He’s the runaway Defensive Rookie of the Year, and anybody who argues otherwise is doing so in bad faith. You don’t need that kind of negativity in your life.
2) Creed Humphrey, C, Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs were on a bye in Week 12, so Creed Humphrey got the week off to do whatever centers do in their free time. In my experience, they’re a different breed of human than the rest of us. Centers, kickers, and punters are all weird. Humphrey is a living, breathing “this is where he would put his miss IF HE HAD ONE” meme.
He hasn’t allowed a sack since Week 4, and he hasn’t allowed a hit on Patrick Mahomes in seven weeks. I’ve still not found an answer to why Humphrey fell into Kansas City’s lap with the 63rd pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. I probably never will get one. But it’s one of the times where the amateurs got it right, and the professionals were very, very wrong.
3) Rashawn Slater, OT, Los Angeles Chargers
Rashawn Slater had an excellent day at the office for a left tackle against the Denver Broncos. However, for him, it marks two weeks in a row he’s allowed someone to touch Justin Herbert, so it was an off day relative to the success he’s had as a rookie.
That is the ridiculous mark the top three are playing at. Good days for others are their off days. The best of this class has been ridiculously good. Slater’s technical proficiency is his calling card, but he’s also a top-tier athlete, as we’re seeing from more and more of the top players in the league.
4) Greg Newsome II, CB, Cleveland Browns
Greg Newsome II is unique because he never panics, even when he does get out of position. Obviously, everybody is spreading the video of him defending a double-move from Hollywood Brown, but that is just one example of his greatness, and why he’s so high in the NFL rookie rankings.
The eyes, feet, and patience. 😮💨
— Hagler (@JonHaglerCR) November 29, 2021
To quickly break this down, the actual double-move from Brown is not very good. He never forces Newsome to drive on him or close the gap because Brown doesn’t sell himself coming back to the football.
But Newsome remains patient nonetheless. It’s what happens next that impresses me most. We know Brown can FLY! After the double-move, Brown tempers his feet quickly, which gets Newsome just slightly out of phase. But instead of panicking and grabbing, he’s able to recover back to the inside hip because he possesses outrageous recovery speed.
5) Mac Jones, QB, New England Patriots
Mac Jones is beginning to spread his wings a bit. The game plan against Tennessee did not require the number of screens we’re accustomed to seeing from New England, and Jones made a few more great intermediate and deep throws that impressed in Week 12. He played well enough to secure Player of the Week honors, too!
When we pair those big-boy throws with his already outstanding efficiency, we start to become more worried that the New England Patriots’ dynastic tendencies might not yet be broken. They’ll probably need to acquire a few more offensive playmakers, but the bones are there.
Week 13 NFL Rookie Rankings | 6-10
It took a while, but the second half of the top 10 is creeping closer toward the top. The rookie performances in 2021 have been outstanding.
6) Patrick Surtain II, CB, Denver Broncos
If I could put Patrick Surtain II higher on the list, I would. Unfortunately, between not playing a ton of reps early and the general volatility of the position, it isn’t easy to place him any higher. I understand that recency bias has folks clambering for Defensive Rookie of the Year votes, but I vehemently disagree.
Surtain is an outstanding cornerback, and he might end up as the best in the league at some point. But we shan’t look at interception totals to push a narrative. Newsome has been the superior cornerback as a rookie. With Jaycee Horn hopefully returning healthy and dominant, this could end up as one of the best classes in a long time.
7) Ja’Marr Chase, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
Ja’Marr Chase remains high in the NFL rookie rankings despite his recent dip in production. That’s because he has transitioned as a rookie from 200-yard games to 2+ defenders in his immediate area at all times. His mere presence helps the rest of the offense run efficiently. Cincinnati is nearly forced to manufacture touches for him around the line of scrimmage at this point because he garners so much attention elsewhere.
Eventually, Chase will return to getting his. Eventually, they’ll face the Baltimore Ravens again, and Wink Martindale will continue to put seven guys on the line and put his corners in press man. When Chase gets opportunities to explode again, he will. Until then, he’ll provide value as a decoy as the Bengals win elsewhere on offense.
8) Trey Smith, G, Kansas City Chiefs
Trey Smith is an imposing figure with his 6-foot-6, 330-pound frame. That imposing frame also moves incredibly well, and his reputation as a road grader precedes him. Additionally, he’s been a concrete barrier for Patrick Mahomes in pass protection since Week 7 when Jeffery Simmons came to town to pillage.
Again, this is an example of the rich getting richer. The Chiefs may not have addressed the tackle position as adequately as hoped when they cut ties with Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz, but they bolstered the interior to the point where the line overall is better. Smith’s physical dominance is a big part of that, and why he’s in the top 10 of the NFL rookie rankings.
9) Jevon Holland, S, Miami Dolphins
Jevon Holland was a tricky evaluation coming from Oregon. He played primarily in the slot for the Ducks, but it was assumed he would play a more traditional safety role in the NFL. However, projecting a player at a completely different position is almost impossible. Projecting someone at a position as cerebral as being the safety in a New England-spawned defense is impossible.
The Dolphins struck gold with their second-round pick. Holland is a stalwart on the back end, and although the Jets game got him in a spot of bother downfield, we see the best in the game beat occasionally.
Holland could get there. He’s adept mentally, and with more live bullets flying by him each week, he should continue to grow in the free safety role he hadn’t played since he was just a young lad in Eugene.
10) Jaylen Waddle, WR, Miami Dolphins
It’s generally agreed upon that Alabama is a bit of a hotbed for wide receiver talent heading to the NFL. Sure, it’s a hotbed for all talent, but they have an excellent case for being the modern WRU.
Jaylen Waddle just broke the Alabama reception record for a rookie in Week 12. His 77 receptions broke Amari Cooper’s rookie record. The offense in Miami is still very limited. The offensive line may as well not be there, so that downfield work won’t be Waddle’s forte yet.
Another reason he may be producing more is that Waddle has played fewer reps in the slot as the season’s progressed. It’s only a matter of time before he starts to look like the after-catch animal he was at Alabama.
NFL Rookie Rankings Week 13 | 11-15
11) Nate Hobbs, CB, Las Vegas Raiders
12) Kyle Pitts, TE, Atlanta Falcons
13) Odafe Oweh, OLB, Baltimore Ravens
14) Kwity Paye, DE, Indianapolis Colts
15) Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Cleveland Browns
NFL Rookie Rankings Week 13 | 16-25
16) Christian Barmore, DT, New England Patriots
17) DeVonta Smith, WR, Philadelphia Eagles
18) Penei Sewell, OT, Detroit Lions
19) Jaelan Phillips, OLB, Miami Dolphins
20) Pete Werner, LB, New Orleans Saints
21) Kadarius Toney, WR, New York Giants
22) Azeez Ojulari, OLB, New York Giants
23) Pat Freiermuth, TE, Pittsburgh Steelers
24) Eric Stokes, CB, Green Bay Packers
25) Alim McNeill, DT, Detroit Lions