The NFL rookie rankings heading into Week 17 won’t see any changes to the top 10, but names were added and dropped from the list overall. There was also a bit of shuffling within the top 10. To properly acknowledge the entire list of contributing rookies, I’d need a list 50 names long.
Week 17 NFL Rookie Rankings | 1-5
The top five had a much more productive week this week. Greg Newsome II still isn’t playing and risks dropping off the list entirely if he doesn’t return soon, but he’s been so good that recognizing him felt necessary.
1) Micah Parsons, LB, Dallas Cowboys
Micah Parsons only played 33 snaps on Sunday Night Football because, well, gestures in the general direction of the score, but he made an impression as a pass rusher. He had 3 pressures on 15 pass-rushing snaps, including a sack, hit, and hurry. He also had 3 stops on the night and is fifth in the NFL in that category, which in simpler terms are tackles that result in a failure for the offense.
The night’s highlight was a DeMarcus Ware-esque fake spin move that led to his QB hit on Taylor Heinicke. It was a masterpiece because that is not an easy move to pull off, and I can’t remember him pulling that one out before last night. If he continues to progress as a pass rusher, he’ll force the Cowboys’ hand, and he’ll eventually play on the edge more often than he does off the ball, even when it’s not out of necessity.
2) Creed Humphrey, C, Kansas City Chiefs
It was another ho-hum day at the office for Creed Humphrey and the Chiefs’ offense. He once again posted a perfect pass protection record, his eighth of the season in which he allowed no sacks, hits, or hurries.
He’s played like an All-Pro this season and should receive honors at the end of the season for his efforts, despite being a Pro Bowl snub. The center position is not an easy transition from college to the pros.
3) Rashawn Slater, OT, Los Angeles Chargers
Rashawn Slater was outstanding aside from a false start penalty in the Texans game. It was a bizarre game to watch overall, but Slater was his usual self, playing like a top-five left tackle in the NFL as a rookie. That puts him firmly in our top five of NFL rookie rankings.
The team runs better when they run his direction, and against Houston, he didn’t give up any pressures. It won’t surprise me if the entire top three receives All-Pro nods at the end of the season, a testament to how ridiculous the 2021 NFL Draft class has been.
4) Greg Newsome II, CB, Cleveland Browns
Newsome hasn’t played since Week 12, but he was so good when he was on the field that it feels like a disservice to him and the Browns if he doesn’t remain on the list. However, he’s also proving why he fell in the draft in the first place.
If he cannot remain healthy, it’ll be challenging to live up to his draft slot, simply because the best ability is availability at the end of the day. At this point, he’s played nearly 300 fewer snaps than Patrick Surtain II. Yet, he’s still played better than Surtain when he is on the field, and that deserves recognition.
5) Patrick Surtain II, CB, Denver Broncos
It deserves recognition because there’s a chance PSII ends up being a top-five cornerback in the NFL at some point in his career. Quarterbacks targeting him have a QB rating of 69.2 against him, and he’s allowing receptions on just 57.1% of his targets. He’s also intercepted more passes than he’s allowed touchdowns. Aside from a few contested plays made against him, he has been great with the ball in the air.
Week 17 NFL Rookie Rankings | 6-10
As the season has progressed, this list of players creeps closer and closer to punching their ticket into the top 10. It’s truly astonishing how important some rookies have been to the league in 2021.
6) Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Cleveland Browns
If Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah were 10 pounds heavier, he’d be the perfect modern linebacker. He’s admittedly a bit light, and that shows up on tape at times. But he does such an excellent job of avoiding contact, getting skinny, and replacing blockers that he still makes a ton of plays.
Yet, it’s his work in coverage that makes him such a difference-maker. His time playing in the slot at Notre Dame made him incredibly comfortable playing in space, and his ability to communicate and pass off routes is unmatched in such a young linebacker.
7) Ja’Marr Chase, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
Ja’Marr Chase didn’t do it against Marlon Humphrey this time, but he still had a massive day against the Ravens. After only managing 3 yards against San Francisco, the rookie got back over the 100-yard mark with 125 yards on 7 catches.
There was nothing the Ravens could do to stop him. They simply didn’t have the talent to defend Chase, who is well over 1,000 yards with two games left to play. Despite the run of lackluster production during parts of the season, if he finishes strong, he could still climb up the NFL rookie rankings.
8) Jaylen Waddle, WR, Miami Dolphins
Jaylen Waddle is the offense for the Miami Dolphins. On Monday Night Football against an incredibly tough Saints defense, he caught 10 passes on 12 targets for 92 yards and a touchdown.
Waddle is one of, if not the single-most gifted movers in the game. Tyreek Hill certainly holds that throne, as he’s done it for many seasons now. But Waddle entered the league as a more complete receiver underneath than Hill. Trading up for a non-QB was undoubtedly questionable, but he might be the biggest reason the Dolphins are making this possible playoff run.
9) Jevon Holland, S, Miami Dolphins
Jevon Holland was such an excellent pick for the Dolphins in Round 2. When Miami announced his role, I admit I was a bit skeptical. He played most of his snaps in the slot for Oregon late in his career with the Ducks. I thought there’d be a transition period for him. He’s ended up on the NFL rookie rankings now for weeks.
I was wrong. He’s been outstanding as a free safety, and he can still do all the exciting things he did from the slot in college. He even got in on the sack party last night with the rest of his teammates.
10) Mac Jones, QB, New England Patriots
Mac Jones had his second straight challenging game. He’s finally going through some of the same adversity the rest of the rookies have gone through in 2021. For the second straight week, it was on Jones and the passing attack to will his team back into the game. For the second straight week, the offense failed.
He’s not the lone fault. His receiving corps is nothing to write home about. A few drops against Buffalo would have gotten them out of bad situations. But I have questioned all season if he could carry a team to victory on the strength of his arm. For two weeks straight, he’s failed that test.
NFL Rookie Rankings Week 17 | 11-15
11) Trey Smith, G, Kansas City Chiefs
12) Penei Sewell, OT, Detroit Lions
13) Christian Barmore, DT, New England Patriots
14) Kyle Pitts, TE, Atlanta Falcons
15) Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR, Detroit Lions
NFL Rookie Rankings Week 17 | 16-25
16) Kwity Paye, DE, Indianapolis Colts
17) Jaelan Phillips, OLB, Miami Dolphins
18) Eric Stokes, CB, Green Bay Packers
19) DeVonta Smith, WR, Philadelphia Eagles
20) Elijah Moore, WR, New York Jets
21) Nate Hobbs, CB, Las Vegas Raiders
22) Odafe Oweh, OLB, Baltimore Ravens
23) Trevon Moehrig, S, Las Vegas Raiders
24) Pat Freiermuth, TE, Pittsburgh Steelers
25) Javonte Williams, RB, Denver Broncos