Which NFL rookies lead off our rankings following Week 13 action? As expected, the Houston Texans once again dominate the top of the list, but teams like the Rams, Packers, and Lions also had complete performances from their young players.
NFL Week 13 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) Will Anderson Jr., EDGE, Houston Texans
It’s not only possible but likely that the Houston Texans drafted two legitimate blue-chip players with their first-round picks in the 2023 NFL Draft. The entire season thus far has been C.J. Stroud’s masterpiece to share, but this week, it was Will Anderson Jr. who dominated.
Anderson was a constant force of disruption against the Denver Broncos. He logged two sacks, four quarterback hits, countless pressures, and even blocked a punt. Anderson’s elite power element and motor, in particular, make him a force to be reckoned with.
2) C.J. Stroud, QB, Houston Texans
Anderson was the star of the day for the Texans in Week 13, but Stroud also positioned the team to win with his rock-solid play on the offensive side. Even after losing Tank Dell to an injury, Stroud remained steady, throwing for 274 yards and a score.
Stroud has thrown for over 250 yards in eight of his 12 games played, and he’s currently the NFL passing yards leader. No rookie has finished as the league’s passing yardage leader in the Super Bowl era.
3) Sam LaPorta, TE, Detroit Lions
Right out of the gate, Sam LaPorta has been one of the top tight ends in the NFL, and he’s been a seamless fit in Ben Johnson’s offense. In Week 13, he caught nine passes for 130 yards and a score, using his smooth athleticism, zone IQ, and strong hands to produce.
According to Detroit Lions PR, LaPorta is one of just six players in NFL history to produce at least 60 catches, 675 receiving yards, and six scores in his first 12 games. The other five are all wide receivers, including Justin Jefferson, Odell Beckham Jr., and Michael Thomas.
4) De’Von Achane, RB, Miami Dolphins
Injuries have kept De’Von Achane off the field for much of the latter stretch of the 2023 campaign. But this past week, he was able to suit up against Washington, and he used his searing speed and sharp vision to tear apart the Commanders defense.
Achane crossed 100 total yards from scrimmage in this game, notching 73 yards and two scores on 17 carries and catching three passes for 30 yards. When he’s available, he remains a dynamic weapon and is extremely hard to defend in Mike McDaniel’s offense.
5) Puka Nacua, WR, Los Angeles Rams
Puka Nacua officially crossed the 1,000-yard mark in Week 13 against the Cleveland Browns. He caught four passes for 105 yards and a 70-yard touchdown, on which his vertical speed allowed him to outrun multiple defenders to paydirt.
Nacua had a scare with a shoulder injury, but he should be good for the season’s final five games. He’s already broken the Rams’ rookie receiving yardage record, and he needs just 444 yards to break the all-time rookie receiving record, held by Bill Groman since 1960.
6) Carrington Valentine, CB, Green Bay Packers
The Green Bay Packers might’ve gotten a starting cornerback in Round 7 with Carrington Valentine. Valentine notched his seventh pass breakup of the year in a win against Kansas City and didn’t give up an inch against larger receivers like Marquez Valdes-Scantling.
Valentine still gets a bit over-aggressive at times, but he clearly has the necessary athleticism and competitive toughness not only to survive but also to thrive on the boundary. It’s why he was a top-75 prospect on my board in the 2023 NFL Draft.
7) Kobie Turner, DT, Los Angeles Rams
The Los Angeles Rams have won their last three games, and over that span, third-round rookie Kobie Turner has started to come into his own as a legitimate disruptive force on the interior defensive line alongside Aaron Donald. In Week 13, he had 1.5 sacks.
On the year, Turner now has 5.5 quarterback takedowns and double-digit pressures. His quick maturation has been a very welcome development for a 6-6 Los Angeles team that’s ahead of schedule in its rebuild and right in the middle of the NFC playoff race.
8) Brian Branch, DB, Detroit Lions
The Detroit Lions’ 2023 NFL Draft class has been stellar, and not just on the offensive side of the ball. Second-round DB Brian Branch makes plays every week, it seems. In Week 13, he logged an impressive pick off a tipped pass, which helped the Lions build a 21-0 lead early.
Branch’s versatility has been an asset for the Lions, who lost Chauncey Gardner-Johnson early in the season with an injury. There have been lapses at times, but Branch has provided plenty of reason for optimism with his vision, physicality, and playmaking ability.
9) Lukas Van Ness, EDGE, Green Bay Packers
It’s been a slow burn for Lukas Van Ness in his rookie season. He notched a sack in his first game but went on a drought all the way until Week 13 against the Chiefs. Van Ness logged another sack on Sunday Night Football — one that was a more impressive technical display.
Van Ness has always had overwhelming power, but on Sunday night, he was able to acquire proper leverage, use his power to get his blocker off-balance, and then pry around the apex with a strong, well-timed rip move. It looks as though Van Ness is showing growth.
10) Zach Charbonnet, RB, Seattle Seahawks
Kenneth Walker sat out on Thursday Night Football with an injury. That injury allowed Zach Charbonnet to step in as the starter for Seattle, and he showed promise in prime time. He ran for 60 yards, his first career TD, and also caught a screen for 39 yards.
There are two things that always stand out on Charbonnet’s tape: His vertical explosiveness and his gnawing physicality downhill. Both of those traits were on display as he helped Seattle compete in a close game against the surging Dallas Cowboys.
11) Christian Izien, DB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will take every divisional victory they can get, and in Week 13, they got one against the Carolina Panthers. It was a complete team game, but the defense — and, in particular, slot defender Christian Izien — came to play.
Izien made a play in coverage with a pass deflection and also forced a fumble, showing off his playmaking ability in multiple phases. Despite going undrafted last April, Izien has carved out a role as a versatile and impactful defensive piece for Tampa Bay.
12) Xavier Gipson, WR, New York Jets
The Jets’ passing offense is borderline unwatchable with Tim Boyle at the helm, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t bright spots to build on. Take Xavier Gipson, for example — an undrafted rookie who caught five passes for 77 yards in Week 13 versus Atlanta.
Gipson is an explosive and high-energy separator at 5’9″, 189 pounds. He’s already proven his value as a return specialist. He had a touchdown earlier in the year and had a long of 17 yards on the punt team. But his upside as a receiver bears noting as well.
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