NFL Rookie Rankings Week 9: A new (yet old) name is crowned as rookie king through eight weeks

The NFL Rookie Rankings for Week 9 showcase the top rookies throughout the course of the season. Who is No. 1 after eight weeks?

The NFL Rookie Rankings are becoming increasingly difficult by the week. The top half of the top 10 NFL rookies are all playing at a near All-Pro pace. Surprisingly enough, three of those top five didn’t even play football in 2020 — they opted out of college football at the height of the global pandemic. Now, they’re outplaying the rest of their draft class and most of the NFL to boot.

They’re tough to rank, but they’re a blast to write about.

NFL Rookie Rankings Week 9 | 1-5

The top five players in Pro Football Network’s Rookie Rankings are some of the best players in the NFL, and not a single one is older than 22. It’s truly a beautiful sight.

1) Creed Humphrey, C, Kansas City Chiefs

The top three were incredibly difficult to navigate this week. Ja’Marr Chase had his first letdown game as a pro, while Micah Parsons was PFN’s Defensive Player of the Week. But when we look at this from a full-season perspective, nobody has been as consistently great as Creed Humphrey.

Through seven weeks, he’s allowed just 5 total pressures and 1 sack on the quarterback. He’s been outstanding all season, and he’s had to be because Kansas City’s offense has been down in a lot of games, allowing defenses to pin their ears back.

But Humphrey hasn’t just been elite as a pass protector. He possesses the athleticism and strength not just to gain and maintain positional leverage but dominate the point of attack and drive defenders from the hole. Humphrey is the entire package for the Chiefs.

I’d vote him for Offensive Rookie of the Year in a heartbeat.

2) Ja’Marr Chase, WR, Cincinnati Bengals

Chase struggled on Sunday against the Jets, but it was his first actual letdown game of the season. His production has been more consistent overall than Parsons, who hasn’t flashed quite as much since playing more off-ball linebacker snaps.

Chase dropped a few passes we expect him to catch, and his efficiency finally fell off a bit. He caught just 3 of 9 targets for 32 yards, and he dropped what should have been a touchdown pass at the front pylon.

The Bengals play the Browns next week, so we’ll get to see some rookie-on-rookie crime between him and Greg Newsome. As Bart Scott once famously proclaimed, “Can’t wait!”

3) Micah Parsons, LB, Dallas Cowboys

This was Parsons’ most impressive game as a pro. In Randy Gregory’s absence, he dominated Storm Norton playing as a pass rusher (although Norton is nothing to write home about as a pass protector).

Sunday night saw Parsons teleporting around the field at 245 pounds making plays nobody his size should make. He ended the evening with 4 tackles for loss, and he nearly secured interceptions on back-to-back Kirk Cousins throws to running backs late in the game.

Parsons produced 8 stops against the Vikings, and although he was targeted quite a few times in coverage, he allowed minimal yardage. He also produced a few pressures on his few pass-rush snaps on the night.

I still wish they’d rush him more often, but there was no denying his impact as a linebacker in Week 8.

4) Rashawn Slater, OT, Los Angeles Chargers

It was another dull day at the office for Rashawn Slater. Once again, he didn’t allow a sack, meaning only the alien Myles Garrett has managed a sack against him all season. Slater allowed only 2 pressures throughout the game, and once again, the Chargers had massive success running the ball to his side.

His technical precision allows him to flourish despite possessing only adequate arm length for an offensive tackle. Slater’s hands don’t miss, his athleticism allows him to counter, and his lower half is strong enough to anchor against power. He’s going to garner consideration as one of the best left tackles in the NFL heading into Year 2.

5) Greg Newsome, CB, Cleveland Browns

It’s a lot of fun to watch Newsome move. His fluidity and explosion are outrageous. Newsome’s ability to mirror and match is so natural. If he remains healthy, he can be one of the top cornerbacks in the league.

After several weeks with few targets, Newsome is now being tested. The 50-yard reception “he allowed” against the Steelers came off a slant/flat pick play that opened the middle up for Diontae Johnson.

Newsome will face a massive test against the trio of Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd next week.

Week 9 Rookie Rankings | 6-10

These five players are having productive seasons, but they aren’t playing at the same level as their top-five peers. There is a sharp and bold tier between them.

6) Azeez Ojulari, OLB, New York Giants

Azeez Ojulari has been the most productive pass rusher among the rookie group. He’s still very much a work in progress against the run, and his lack of pop can get him locked up as a rusher at times. But he has the best singular pass-rush move of the group with his hanging rip.

He’s flexible and explosive, and against the Kansas City Chiefs, Ojulari has a great chance to beat Orlando Brown a few times with pure athletic ability.

7) Odafe Oweh, OLB, Baltimore Ravens

Odafe Oweh didn’t play in Week 8, so he hangs out in the top 10 of PFN’s NFL Rookie Rankings as he puts his feet up during his first bye week as an NFL player. Oweh is still primarily winning because he’s a better athlete than anybody on the field. But he also plays incredibly hard, which, combined with his athleticism, is why he wins.

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He’s a better run defender than Ojulari, but at the end of the day, these guys get drafted and paid to rush the passer — and Oweh still has a long way to go in that regard. Next week, he faces Christian Darrisaw and the Minnesota Vikings. We saw Gregory have success against the young left tackle. Now, it’s Oweh’s turn to hit the jets around the arc.

8) Patrick Surtain II, CB, Denver Broncos

There may not be a more technically sound cornerback in the NFL than Patrick Surtain II. It’s understandable, given his father’s résumé and his own résumé, including being mentored by the best defensive backs coach in the history of college football, Nick Saban.

He’s been unbelievable since the Broncos’ Week 4 debacle against the Baltimore Ravens. On the season, quarterbacks have a 76.1 rating when targeting Surtain, which is incredible efficiency.

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Surtain’s fluidity, technical ability, and length make him a weapon on the outside. He could be tasked with traveling with the opposing team’s best receiver, and nobody would blink.

Surtain has an excellent chance of continuing his rise in the NFL Rookie Rankings.

9) Kyle Pitts, TE, Atlanta Falcons

There is no excuse for not getting Kyle Pitts 10+ targets a game. I don’t particularly care if he only catches 4 of them — he’ll make massive plays on each. Even when he does not appear open, his wingspan and athletic ability make him open. Matt Ryan and Atlanta’s passing attack need to trust him to go up and get it.

With what could be an extended absence for Calvin Ridley, things will be more difficult for Pitts, as he becomes the no-doubt top target for Atlanta. They’ll ask a lot of him during this time, but he can deliver.

10) Osa Odighizuwa, DT, Dallas Cowboys

There wasn’t much to talk about in Osa Odighizuwa’s stat column, but his impact was felt as the Cowboys’ defensive line dominated the line of scrimmage against the Vikings. Parsons was the beneficiary of good DL play, and part of that was from Odighizuwa.

He affected Cousins on multiple occasions Sunday night, moving him off his spot. But for an undersized interior defender, it’s impressive how stout Odighizuwa has been defending the run.

However, he needs a big week against Denver if he’s going to remain a top-10 name because it’s become impossible to ignore Nate Hobbs’ impact on the Raiders’ defense.

NFL Rookie Rankings Week 9 | 11-15

11) Nate Hobbs, CB, Las Vegas Raiders
12) Josh Myers, C, Green Bay Packers
13) Gregory Rousseau, DE, Buffalo Bills
14) Asante Samuel Jr., CB, Los Angeles Chargers
15) Samuel Cosmi, OT, Washington Football Team

NFL Rookie Rankings Week 9 | 16-25

16) Pete Werner, LB, New Orleans Saints
17) Kadarius Toney, WR, New York Giants
18) Pat Freiermuth, TE, Pittsburgh Steelers
19) Penei Sewell, OT, Detroit Lions
20) DeVonta Smith, WR, Philadelphia Eagles
21) Khalil Herbert, RB, Chicago Bears
22) Trey Smith, G, Kansas City Chiefs
23) Alijah Vera-Tucker, G, New York Jets
24) Trevon Moehrig, S, Las Vegas Raiders
25) Mac Jones, QB, New England Patriots

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