NFL Rookie Rankings Week 4: Jaycee Horn injury hurts promising defensive class

The NFL rookie rankings aim to honor the top performances from rookies throughout the season. Does anybody from your favorite team show up?

Unfortunately, we’ll lose a consistent contributor to the NFL rookie rankings after this week. Because this is a cumulative award, the time Jaycee Horn misses with his injury will force him off the list of the top NFL rookies. Before that, however, we shall write a love letter to one of the most aggressive cornerbacks to come out of college in quite some time. Horn’s mentality was evident on the field as a rookie. But who else continues to impress from the 2021 rookie class?

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NFL rookie rankings Week 4 | 1-10

The top 10 rookie rankings are filled with pass-rushing linebackers, cornerbacks, and offensive linemen. The quarterbacks got booted off the list entirely this week, and only Ja’Marr Chase has consistently impressed as an offensive skill player.

1) Greg Newsome, CB, Cleveland Browns

Newsome had to leave the Browns game early against the Bears. Therein lies the one and only downside Newsome brings as a player. Availability is key, and he was only available for 17 games over three college seasons due to a multitude of injuries.

For my money, Newsome has been the most consistently impressive player in the rookie class at arguably the most difficult position to play aside from QB. He actually had a bit of a down week against the Bears. He allowed a whole 18 yards on 3 targets.

What makes him so impressive is that teams aren’t even trying him. Newsome plays on a defensive backfield with Denzel Ward, Troy Hill, John Johnson III, and Ronnie Harrison. Teams are looking at that group and saying, “No, we don’t even want to test the rookie.”

Hopefully, Newsome isn’t out for long because he belongs at the top of the NFL rookie rankings.

2) Micah Parsons, LB/DE, Dallas Cowboys

Parsons hasn’t played yet in Week 3, but it’s hard to imagine he’s anything other than dominant against the Philadelphia Eagles. He has 11 total pressures on just 40 pass rushes, and he’s been outstanding playing off the ball as well — despite that work coming against the defending Super Bowl champions.

However, he’ll face a much more difficult task on Monday night. Of course, that task became easier when Jordan Mailata was ruled out at left tackle, but even Andre Dillard isn’t as easy a matchup as Storm Norton was in Week 2. With injuries to many Cowboys pass rushers, Parson’s role is due more to necessity than desire. Either way, he’s a gamer.

3) Rashawn Slater, OT, Los Angeles Chargers

Slater has only allowed 1 QB hit and 5 total pressures as LA’s left tackle. He stepped into the NFL and immediately faced Chase Young and Montez Sweat. The past two weeks have been gravy, aside from two Bradlee Anae pass rushes.

The Chargers needed a miracle in the draft to find a tackle with the 11th pick that could protect their greatest asset. They can probably thank Slater’s adequate but not outstanding arm length and 2020 opt-out for his fall. He was good enough to go higher than he did.

4) Penei Sewell, OT, Detroit Lions

Sewell hasn’t been quite as clean as Slater, but he’s been very good as a rookie. He’s also had to deal with names like Nick Bosa, Preston Smith, and fellow rookie stud Odafe Oweh in his first three weeks.

Despite that competition, Sewell has yet to allow a sack since 2018. If you don’t think that’s impressive, I’m sorry — but I have some bad news. You’ve been in a coma for three years, and it’s now 2021. Sewell has not allowed a sack since Amari Cooper was a Raider.

5) Ja’Marr Chase, WR, Cincinnati Bengals

I know that the media needs things to write about. I know we’re supposed to have an opinion about everything. Burying a rookie before he’s started a game gives you a dopamine hit equivalent to skydiving — I get it. But now you look like a dunce.

Listen, I was lower on Chase as a prospect because I thought he was more QB-dependant than Jaylen Waddle or DeVonta Smith. We’ll never know if that’s true because he teamed up with his former college quarterback in the NFL, and now he’s scored 4 touchdowns in three games. He’s also averaging 20 yards per reception.

Some things may change, but the rapport between QB and WR is forever.

6) Jaycee Horn, CB, Carolina Panthers

Let’s all take a moment of silence and pour one out for one of my favorite on-field personalities in football. No rookie cornerback has been targeted less on a per-snap basis than Horn. He’s also doubled Newsome’s output in snaps per reception allowed. There’s an argument that he could be at the top of the NFL Rookie Rankings heading into Week 4.

The only reason Horn isn’t ranked higher is that he’s faced the Jets, Saints, and Texans. He hasn’t played against the level of passing attacks that Newsome has so far. Now, unfortunately, Horn won’t get to prove he can do it over a 17-game sample size.

7) Creed Humphrey, C, Kansas City Chiefs

Humphrey has been about as good as any offensive lineman in the NFL. That’s indicative of just how insanely impressive some of these rookies have been. They haven’t just been good as rookies — they’ve been some of the better players in the league, even early in their careers.

Humphrey hasn’t allowed a sack. Ho-hum. No, Humphrey hasn’t even allowed a single pressure in pass protection. It’s almost like the center with great tape and the best athleticism ever at the position should have been a first-round pick.

8) Odafe Oweh, OLB, Baltimore Ravens

Oweh’s 9 total pressures through three weeks are the most of any rookie pass rusher (unless we’re counting Parsons). He’s also tied with 3 QB hits. Azeez Ojulari has 3 sacks, leading all rookies. However, his play hasn’t been as consistent as Oweh, who has looked very similar to his former Penn State teammate in Parsons. This puts him firmly in the top 10 of the NFL Rookie Rankings for Week 4.

Oweh plays his tail off. He still has a long way to go before he is a technically proficient rusher, but his athleticism is unrivaled. And his desire is up there with the best of them.

9) Josh Myers, C, Green Bay Packers

Man, it’s impressive how good Myers has been so far. Even without Elgton Jenkins and David Bakhtiari, Green Bay’s offensive line survived against the 49ers. Myers had one snap that left a little earlier than Aaron Rodgers wanted it, and it almost went off a motioning receiver’s jersey.

Rodgers reamed him out for it, and then everything was back to normal. The only reason he’s not the first center on the list is that Humphrey has been just about perfect (aside from a few penalties). Myers has been one of the top NFL rookies through three weeks.

10) Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Cleveland Browns

I put JOK in the top 10 of the NFL Rookie Rankings for Week 4 as a call to action for the Cleveland Browns.

Owusu-Koramoah has been a heat-seeking missile when he’s on the field. His game that was so easily identifiable at the college level seems to have seamlessly translated to the NFL.

On just 12 coverage snaps in Week 3, the rookie linebacker defended 3 passes. He only had 3 pass-rush snaps, but he sacked Justin Fields with a well-timed blitz on one of them. There’s no need to overthink this, Cleveland — play the rookie.

NFL rookie rankings Week 4 | 11-25

11) Eric Stokes, CB, Green Bay Packers
12) Asante Samuel Jr., CB, Los Angeles Chargers
13) Patrick Surtain II, CB, Denver Broncos
14) Gregory Rousseau, DE, Buffalo Bills
15) Pat Freiermuth, TE, Pittsburgh Steelers

16) Rondale Moore, WR, Arizona Cardinals
17) Samuel Cosmi, OT, Washington Football Team
18) Trey Smith, OG, Kansas City Chiefs
19) Osa Odighizuwa, DT, Dallas Cowboys
20) Kendrick Green, C, Pittsburgh Steelers

21) Azeez Ojulari, OLB, New York Giants
22) Joe Tryon-Shoyinka, OLB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
23) Nate Hobbs, CB, Las Vegas Raiders
24) Trevon Moehrig, S, Las Vegas Raiders
25) Deommodore Lenoir, CB, San Francisco 49ers

Dalton Miller is the Lead NFL Analyst at Pro Football Network. You can read more of his work here and follow him @daltonbmiller on Twitter and Twitch.

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