The NFL Rookie Rankings recognize the top players in their first seasons in the league. This crop of rookies has been nothing short of magnificent. Each week, it becomes more challenging to navigate the bottom half of the top 10. There are so many deserving candidates who have played outstanding football this season.
Week 14 NFL Rookie Rankings | 1-5
The top five consists of players that are already among the best in the league.
1) Micah Parsons, LB, Dallas Cowboys
Micah Parsons showed us a different side of himself on Thursday Night Football against the New Orleans Saints and mobile quarterback Taysom Hill. He played 34 coverage snaps, marking the first time he’s played more than 30 in one game. He performed well and made one massive play in the red zone recovering against Kenny Stills, leading to a Jayron Kearse interception.
Oh yeah, Parsons also did that thing where he runs after the quarterback. He didn’t rush often, but he pressured Hill on 40% of his rushes, finishing with a sack. At some point, teams will stop running bootlegs to his side. Quarterbacks attempting to keep their eyes downfield are somehow still shocked when Parsons disappears from thin air 12 yards away from them, only to reappear a blink later as he wraps them up.
How were we to know he was training with Goku in the Hyperbolic Time Chamber during that year he wasn’t playing at Penn State?
2) Creed Humphrey, C, Kansas City Chiefs
Creed Humphrey is still playing practically perfect football at the center position. As left tackle Rashawn Slater gets all the hype among rookie linemen because of his position, nobody avoids mistakes like Humphrey. If Parsons weren’t an unprecedented talent, I wouldn’t argue against Humphrey being the best in the class.
He’s only allowed 2 pressures in the past four weeks, and he’s committed just 4 penalties all season. The hope is that teams will see what he’s accomplished as a rookie and refuse to make the same mistake with Tyler Linderbaum in 2022. Humphrey deserved to be embraced with wide-open arms in Round 1 of the 2021 NFL Draft.
3) Rashawn Slater, OT, Los Angeles Chargers
This week, Slater did a nice job dealing with one of the more surprisingly good pass rushers in the NFL. Trey Hendrickson has made the Bengals’ front office look like geniuses. He’d never played as a feature piece on a defensive front, but they believed he could replicate his production on more snaps.
Slater held firm but still ended up surrendering a sack to Hendrickson, who made the first-year tackle overset inside on a jab step. As Slater shot his outside hand to strike, Hendrickson caught his wrist and chopped. He attempted to swim overtop the rookie, but Slater did a good job countering and trying to take the fight to him.
He was able to shove Hendrickson upfield slightly, but because of how he set up the rush, he was still under 10 yards of depth. Still, Justin Herbert loaded up as if to attempt a pass to Jared Cook crossing in front of him but pulled back and took the sack instead.
Slater held up well aside from that play and still looks like one of the brightest stars in the NFL Rookie Rankings.
4) Greg Newsome II, CB, Cleveland Browns
Greg Newsome II didn’t play this week, but the Browns face Baltimore again next week. Lamar Jackson and Co. didn’t bother to attack Newsome in the first game. They targeted him 3 times for a grand total of 10 yards.
There are only so many ways to describe a man’s ability to move without beginning to sound a bit lovestruck, so we’ll keep this short and get back to being mesmerized by Newsome’s ability to mirror receivers next week.
5) Mac Jones, QB, New England Patriots
Monday Night Football wasn’t real. The only reason Bill Belichick threw the ball 3 times the entire game is so he wouldn’t miss out on Mark Schofield’s “Three Throws” series on Twitter.
Mac Jones has been outstanding in 2021. Twenty years later, this team is reminiscent of those 2001 New England Patriots. He’s not asked to carry the team, but nobody understands the assignment quite the way Jones does.
Week 14 NFL Rookie Rankings | 6-10
This list continues to change, and it’s because the names in the 11-15 range have been playing some great football all season.
6) Patrick Surtain II, CB, Denver Broncos
Patrick Surtain II’s interception against Kansas City was a bit of a gift, but teams are beginning to understand that they can’t test this rookie the same way they can most.
On the season, he’s allowing just a 52.3% completion rate. Not unlike Newsome, Surtain is tasked with a ton of one-on-one man situations, which he takes in stride. We’ve all raved about his technical proficiency. That alone would make Surtain a good NFL cornerback. We rarely address that he also possesses Madden Create-a-Player size and enough athleticism to carry most NFL receivers downfield.
7) Jevon Holland, S, Miami Dolphins
I’m still amazed at how cerebral Jevon Holland is as a rookie. Not only is he a first-year player, but he’s also playing a different position entirely and doing so in a decently complex Brian Flores defense.
Holland doesn’t necessarily fill up the stat sheet, but that is sometimes a good thing for a defensive back because it means teams aren’t even trying. People like to stat check safeties for things like tackles. But if your single-high free safety has to make tackles, it’s either because he allowed a completion or because your defense’s gap integrity against the run is dog water.
8) Jaylen Waddle, WR, Miami Dolphins
I joked the other day that Jaylen Waddle might catch 200 passes in 2022 for 1,500 yards. But if he stays healthy and the Dolphins’ offense somehow retains a similar style, that might actually happen.
Waddle was my highest-graded receiver in the three years I’ve had a numeric grading scale because his ceiling as a route runner and his ability with the ball in his hands was unmatched.
If the Dolphins can somehow figure out to attack the third level of the defense, it’ll become nearly impossible for one player to suffice in coverage against Waddle. If he continues to be such a large chunk of Miami’s passing attack, he stands a good chance of rising in the NFL Rookie Rankings.
9) Ja’Marr Chase, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
Ja’Marr Chase has still probably had the strongest rookie season, but he’s been markedly less effective since he blew the doors off the Ravens. In fact, he somehow turned a massive deep completion into an interception this week, and the drops are beginning to pile up.
Now, I don’t give much of a rip about drops. Some of the best receivers in football have their own struggles there. In the grand scheme, they aren’t massive losses. But when they somehow result in turnovers, they’re hard to ignore.
Chase hasn’t caught a pass for more than 21 yards since that Week 7 game in Baltimore. That’s not ideal, given his biggest calling card as a rookie has been his ability to create massive splash plays.
10) Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Cleveland Browns
Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah has been the best linebacker among all the rookies. Now, before we get all huffy puffy, let’s think about this for a second. Obviously, Parsons has been the better overall player. He’s also probably been the better run defender. However, JOK’s ability as a coverage defender is magnificent.
Not having him on the list last week was a bit of an oversight. His game against Baltimore neared on unbelievable. He finished with a sack, 9 stops, and 3 total pressures against Jackson. He’ll go down as one of the biggest steals from the past draft.
NFL Rookie Rankings Week 14 | 11-15
I wanted to put Jaelan Phillips in the top 10. Believe me — I would love to gas up my EDGE1 from the 2021 NFL Draft. Unfortunately, only 1 of his 5 sacks over the past two games was what we could call “high quality.” He is already a good player, and he can be great, but we can’t simply be slaves to stats — the tape matters.
11) Trey Smith, OG, Kansas City Chiefs
12) Jaelan Phillips, OLB, Miami Dolphins
13) Christian Barmore, DT, New England Patriots
14) Nate Hobbs, CB, Las Vegas Raiders
15) Kwity Paye, DE, Indianapolis Colts
NFL Rookie Rankings Week 14 | 16-25
16) Kyle Pitts, TE, Atlanta Falcons
17) Odafe Oweh, OLB, Baltimore Ravens
18) DeVonta Smith, WR, Philadelphia Eagles
19) Penei Sewell, OT, Detroit Lions
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