NFL Week 11 Rookie Rankings: C.J. Stroud and Tank Dell Bringing Backyard Football Back

C.J. Stroud and Tank Dell lead off our top NFL rookies list from Week 11 with their backyard football style, but Tommy DeVito also deserves his flowers.

Who were the top NFL rookies in Week 11 of the regular season? Our updated NFL rookie rankings explore this question and parse through some of the week’s best performances from up-and-coming stars.

NFL Week 11 Rookie Rankings

As a disclaimer, these rankings prioritize the most recent body of work from the latest week of action. It’s not a composite ranking of rookies over the course of the season but, instead, a list meant to highlight some of the latest standout performances.

1) C.J. Stroud, QB, Houston Texans

The interception luck turned in the other direction for C.J. Stroud this week, but the rookie was still able to lead his team to a victory against a gritty Arizona Cardinals team.

Stroud threw for 336 yards, making it the fifth game in which he’s passed for 300 or more yards in his inaugural season. That ties him with Joe Burrow and Kyler Murray and places him within reach of Andrew Luck and Justin Herbert.

Stroud is legitimately playing like a fringe MVP candidate to start his NFL career, and he has the Texans in the thick of the AFC playoff race, with 2,962 yards, 17 touchdowns, and five picks through 10 games.

2) Tank Dell, WR, Houston Texans

Stroud has been incredible in 2023, but his hot start wouldn’t be the same without the support and weaponry he has in Houston. In particular, fellow rookie Tank Dell has been a revelation. On Sunday, he had eight catches for 149 yards and a 40-yard score.

Ahead of Dell’s touchdown, the NFL caught him saying, “I’m going deep” on the microphone to Stroud. Dell used his speed to get behind the defense, Stroud gave him the chance, and Dell converted with awe-inspiring hands and body control.

The moment evoked memories of childhood backyard football games. Stroud and Dell are simply trusting each other, and it’s paying off. But Dell also needed to earn Stroud’s trust, and he’s done that with his lightning-like quickness and rare instincts.

3) Will Anderson Jr., EDGE, Houston Texans

It takes two to tango — in this case, two sides of complete football play to tango in the AFC playoff race. Sure, the Texans’ offense has been an incredible spectacle — but the defense has also been solid, with a few talented young players at the center of it all.

MORE: Week 11 NFL Injuries Recap

Will Anderson Jr., the team’s third overall pick in April, has been a force of chaos all year, and we saw it in action on Sunday. He notched a sack on Kyler Murray after effortlessly absorbing an RB chip and also notched two tackles for loss with his searing closing speed.

4) Tommy DeVito, QB, New York Giants

What if I told you undrafted rookie Tommy DeVito would be the New York Giants’ best quarterback in 2023?

The statement would’ve sounded alien after Daniel Jones’ massive offseason extension, but ten games in, the best QB performance of the year for the Giants belongs to DeVito, who carved up the Commanders to the tune of 246 yards, three touchdowns, and no picks.

The Shrine Bowl QB’s most impressive TD throw was a teardrop to running back Saquon Barkley on a wheel route — a throw that featured eye manipulation, anticipation, and precise placement.

The Giants have something in DeVito, and for a team that was scraping the bottom of the barrel for any kind of QB continuity, that’s a win. He’s likely not the long-term answer, but he’s proving himself to be a quality safety blanket already.

5) Carrington Valentine, CB, Green Bay Packers

Keenan Allen may have had 10 catches for 116 yards and a score against the Green Bay Packers, but when he lined up against Carrington Valentine, he got nothing done.

Injuries at CB and the trade of Rasul Douglas have forced Valentine into the spotlight, and he hasn’t flinched. When he lined up against Allen in Week 11, he allowed just one completion for six yards on four targets, and he notched three pass breakups on the day.

Valentine was a Top 75 prospect on my 2023 NFL Draft board by virtue of his athletic gifts and feisty play style — but he somehow fell to Round 7. It looks like Green Bay might’ve gotten a starter late on Day 3.

6) Puka Nacua, WR, Los Angeles Rams

Puka Nacua found the end zone for the first time since early October in Week 11 and also caught five of his seven targets for 70 yards. Cooper Kupp suffered an ankle injury, and Nacua was able to provide stability in his stead.

On the year, Nacua has 69 catches for 897 yards and three touchdowns. He’s cooled off a bit since his historic start, but he’s still on pace for over 100 catches and over 1,500 yards. That kind of dependability is hard to find in rookies.

7) Ji’Ayir Brown, S, San Francisco 49ers

The San Francisco 49ers unfortunately lost Talanoa Hufanga to a season-ending injury in Week 11, but that injury did open an opportunity for third-round rookie Ji’Ayir Brown to hit the field.

Versus Tampa Bay, Brown saw his most action yet, and he thrived — in a continuation of his high-level playmaking days at Penn State. Brown deflected three passes in San Francisco’s win and also scored his first career interception.

8) Jahmyr Gibbs, RB, Detroit Lions

Now that Jahmyr Gibbs has had time to gear up for the Detroit Lions, he’s on a hot streak that simply can’t be stopped. He nearly broke 100 yards from scrimmage again in Week 11 against the Bears and found the end zone for the fourth straight contest.

Gibbs’ usage versatility continues to be an excellent complement to David Montgomery’s volume utility — but Gibbs also has the electric speed, burst, and twitch to create behind Detroit’s dominating offensive line.

9) Devon Witherspoon, CB, Seattle Seahawks

Every time we end up writing about Devon Witherspoon, it feels like we’re writing the same things. Each week, Witherspoon proves himself as a formidable defensive threat, both in run support and in coverage.

MORE: Week 12 NFL Power Rankings

In Week 11 against the Rams, Witherspoon deflected a pass, logged a sack, a tackle for loss, and eight total takedowns. He’s one of the most active defenders in the NFL, period — and he’s quickly living up to his top-five draft billing.

10) YaYa Diaby, EDGE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

At 6’4″, 270 pounds, with 4.51 speed, YaYa Diaby has the physical tools to be a game-wrecker on the Buccaneers’ defense. And it looks like he’s starting to track toward that ceiling.

Week 11 wasn’t a great outing for Tampa Bay as a whole, but it was Diaby’s best showing yet in his young career. He scored three tackles for loss and two sacks, terrorizing Brock Purdy.

Diaby’s first sack was an unblocked opportunity that showcased his speed. His second was a more impressive display — an initial bull-rush that flowed into a crisp rip move through the B-gap.

11) Jayden Reed, WR, Green Bay Packers

Jayden Reed is a second-round rookie, and there’s an argument to make that he’s already the Packers’ best receiver — as well as one of their most dynamic offensive weapons.

In Week 11, Reed caught four passes for 46 yards and also was schemed three carries — including a 32-yard touchdown run. On that run, he hit 21.52 miles per hour — one of the fastest speeds by any player so far this season.

Reed’s speed has already allowed him to be implemented in Matt LaFleur’s scheme in a variety of ways — and as he grows, his usage versatility should only blossom.

12) K.J. Henry, EDGE, Washington Commanders

The Washington Commanders’ EDGE room most certainly took a hit when the team traded both Chase Young and Montez Sweat ahead of the trade deadline. But on Sunday, fifth-round K.J. Henry provided some optimism for the team’s future at the position.

Henry logged 1.5 sacks against the New York Giants and also added two pass deflections to his total. Without elite athleticism, he’s still learning how to compensate against NFL blockers, but his power and motor are two undeniable facets of his game.

From the current NFL standings to team depth charts to coverage of every game in the 18-week NFL schedule, we have all the news from around the league to keep you up to speed!

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