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NFL Rookie Rankings: Best first-year performers ahead of Week 7

NFL Rookie Rankings: Best first-year performers ahead of Week 7
TAMPA, FLORIDA - OCTOBER 04: Tristan Wirfs #78 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers celebrates after a game against the Los Angeles Chargers at Raymond James Stadium on October 04, 2020 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)

Another week, another dominant performance by multiple top rookies in the NFL. The receivers, in particular, showed out this week, though that has been arguably the top position throughout the first six weeks as well. We also have some shakeup in the top three for back to back weeks. Who enters the elite tier of rookies, and who takes a step down the Rookie Rankings in Week 7? If you agree or disagree, make sure to let me know on Twitter at @MVScouting.

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NFL Rookie Rankings Week 7

1. Chase Young, EDGE, Washington Football Team

Chase Young didn’t fill up the box score against the Giants, but anyone who watched him play recognized he was commonly one of the two or three best players on the field at all times. He forced Daniel Jones into a red zone interception and was constantly effecting the run game. Young has been every bit the player Washington was hoping for when they selected him, and the pairing of him and Montez Sweat are quickly becoming the best young pass-rushing duo in the NFL.

Pre-draft ranking: Top player, EDGE1

2. Tristan Wirfs, OT, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

This season, Tristan Wirfs has been the best right tackle in the NFL. Against an elite duo of edge rushers in Green Bay’s Preston Smith and Za’Darius Smith, Wirfs gave up zero sacks, zero pressures, and had zero penalties. Wirfs was the most athletic tackle in the 2020 NFL Draft class and was widely considered a player with massive upside. He’s managed to reach some of that upside six games into his NFL career with no signs of slowing down. Tampa Bay will have an elite offensive tackle on a rookie deal for the next three and a half years, as well as a fifth-year option.

Pre-draft ranking: Fifth overall, OT1

3. CeeDee Lamb, WR, Dallas Cowboys

I was very concerned that losing Dak Prescott would result in a massive drop off of production for CeeDee Lamb this season, but it looks like I may have been wrong. In Andy Dalton’s first start at quarterback, he targeted Lamb 10 times, tied for second-most on the team behind running back Ezekiel Elliott. Lamb caught seven of those targets for 64 yards, bringing his season total to 433 yards. Lamb has produced 59 or more receiving yards in every game of his young career.

Pre-draft ranking: Fourth overall, WR1

4. Justin Jefferson, WR, Minnesota Vikings

Justin Jefferson is the most volatile receiver in the NFL right now. He has games of 103, 166, and 175 yards, while also having games of 23, 26, and 44. His highs are phenomenal, and he looks like an elite receiver. However, in the games, he feels like a non-factor — he’s uninspiring. His performance this past week was good enough to bring him all the way into the top five, but until he can show the ability to string together consistent performances like this, he won’t be passing Lamb as the top rookie receiver.

Pre-draft ranking: Top 50, WR5

5. Antoine Winfield Jr., S, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Antoine Winfield didn’t have a superbly productive day against the Packers, but he was a consistent and effective member of a Tampa Bay defense that held one of the top offenses in football to a measly 10 points. Winfield hasn’t played at the level he was when the season started, but he’s still been a well above average safety and has shown to be a steal for the Bucs on day two. Tampa Bay is the only team with multiple rookies in the top five and the top 10 of these Rookie Rankings for Week 7.

Pre-draft ranking: Top 50, S4

6. Joe Burrow, QB, Cincinnati Bengals

After a rough performance against Baltimore last week, Joe Burrow had a decent bounce-back game in Week 6. He threw for over 300 yards for the fourth time in six games this season and registered a rushing touchdown. The Bengals have failed to surround Burrow with a roster that can consistently win games, but he continues to give them a chance to compete in almost every match-up.

Pre-draft ranking: Top 10, QB1

7. Justin Herbert, QB, Los Angeles Chargers

Justin Herbert had a bye this week, which means he was unable to continue making his case for the top rookie quarterback. A match-up against a bad Jaguars defense could be perfectly timed for Herbert’s rise to rookie QB1 this season. Will he come out strong after a week off, or will the lack of a game cause him to come out flat?

Pre-draft ranking: Top 15, QB3

8. Chase Claypool, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers are the best team in the NFL when it comes to developing wide receivers. Chase Claypool was a raw, physical specimen who felt like a bit of a tweener between tight-end and wide receiver. He was the 11th receiver drafted, yet has been a top-three performing rookie. Earlier in the year, he was making plays with limited opportunities, and those plays led to a more consistent role in the offense. He’s quickly becoming one of the best deep threats in the NFL.

Pre-draft ranking: Top 125, WR15

9. Jedrick Wills, OT, Cleveland Browns

Jedrick Wills has had a very good season to date, and I expect him to be an elite offensive tackle throughout his career. However, he had easily the worst game of his young career this past week when he faced the lethal Pittsburgh pass rush. Bud Dupree had his way with Wills the entire game and the whole Cleveland offense failed to perform. I expect Wills to bounce back, but Week 6 created a gap between rookies Wirfs and Wills in the rookie rankings for Week 7.

Pre-draft ranking: Top 10, OT2

10. Mekhi Becton, OT, New York Jets

Mekhi Becton hasn’t played since the Jets brutally mishandled his injury situation and it’s caused a bit of a drop in his ranking. However, he was so dominant when he was on the field that it’s difficult for me to warrant dropping him out of the top ten. Hopefully, the Jets don’t waste his career, as he could be a special talent in the NFL.

Pre-draft ranking: Top 25, OT4

11. Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB, Kansas City Chiefs

Clyde Edwards-Helaire had his best game of the season when he rushed for 161 yards against a stout Buffalo defense. He averaged over six yards per carry, finally having a breakout rushing game we’ve been waiting for since Week 1 against the Texans. Le’Veon Bell will take some touches from the rookie, but expect the Chiefs’ rushing offense to still run through Edwards-Helaire.

Pre-draft ranking: Top 50, RB5

12. Jaylon Johnson, CB, Chicago Bears

Third in the NFL in pass deflections, Jaylon Johnson has been one of the top steals from the 2020 NFL Draft. He was a Week 1 starter for the Bears and has joined Kyle Fuller to form one of the top cornerback duos in the NFL. He’s already been called for three pass interferences this season, so he must learn to play more disciplined despite the calls being questionable. Johnson has been one of the top surprises from the 2020 NFL Draft class. Johnson is right in the middle of the rookie rankings heading into Week 7. 

Pre-draft ranking: Top 75, CB12

13. Patrick Queen, LB, Baltimore Ravens

The hype for Patrick Queen got a bit out of hand after his performance against the Cincinnati Bengals. While it was a dominant performance and deserved recognition, it wasn’t enough to skyrocket him to the top of the Defensive Rookie of the Year race. He still has struggles with consistency and isn’t proficient in pass coverage yet. Queen has been a fun and productive player for Baltimore, but outside of his two-game stretch of Washington and Cincinnati, he hasn’t been the dominant force some of the top rookie defenders have.

Pre-draft ranking: Top 125, WR15

14. Jonah Jackson, iOL, Detroit Lions 

The Lions were rotating their offensive line this past week, due to apparent dehydration issues. However, whenever he was on the field, it was apparent Jonah Jackson was the best option the Lions had at guard. He was constantly getting push at the line of scrimmage and was a wall in pass protection. Jackson has been an absolute delight this season. 

Pre-draft ranking: Top 50, iOL5

15. Michael Onwenu, iOL/OT/TE, New England Patriots

The Patriots have played Michael Onwenu at multiple positions on the line, and on the offense in general. He’s been good at all of them. There’s a very real argument that he’s been the best player on that talented unit. He’s been indisputably the best value selection from the 2020 NFL Draft class. 

Pre-draft ranking: Top 200, iOL20

16. Jeremy Chinn, LB/S, Carolina Panthers

Jeremy Chinn had his best game of the year in coverage this past week, as he was constantly affecting the Chicago Bears’ attempts into his coverage. He recorded two pass deflections and his first career interception. Despite not producing the jaw-dropping tackle stats most are used, Chinn had arguably the best game of his young career.

Pre-draft ranking: Top 100, S5

17. Jerry Jeudy, WR, Denver Broncos

Jerry Jeudy wasn’t overly productive in the Broncos win over New England, but neither was the majority of Denver’s offense. Jeudy has still managed to create consistent separation and create yards after the catch, but his quarterback play has held him back this season. Hopefully, with Drew Lock returning to health, we’ll see a productive second half of Jeudy’s rookie season.

Pre-draft ranking: Top 15, WR2

18. Henry Ruggs III, WR, Las Vegas Raiders

After Henry Ruggs’ dominant coming out party against the Chiefs last week, he had a bye this week. He drops a few spots due to the great performances from other fellow rookies, but if Ruggs’ performs at even 80% of the level he was at before the bye, he’ll quickly rise these rookie rankings following Week 7. 

Pre-draft ranking: Top 25, WR3

19. Laviska Shenault, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars

Laviska Shenault had his least productive game of the season, registering only 11 total yards on four touches. Despite being targeted seven times, he only managed three receptions. Hopefully he can bounce back with a big performance against the Chargers. After having seven rush attempts in the first two weeks, he had only three in the last four weeks. Will Jacksonville go back to their creativity with him?

Pre-draft ranking: Top 75, WR11

20. C.J. Henderson, CB, Jacksonville Jaguars

C.J. Henderson had a very nice bounce-back game this week against the Lions. He was struggling a bit after a very strong start to his career, and in his match-up against Detroit, he displayed the traits that project him as a future CB1. Henderson will be a building block for the Jaguars defense for many years. 

Pre-draft ranking: Top 15, CB2

21. Michael Ojemudia, CB, Denver Broncos

I was very critical of the Broncos selecting Michael Ojemudia. I was wrong. So far this season, my personal evaluation of Ojemudia was off. I thought he was raw and a few years away from being a capable starter, but he’s blown me away this year. He’s been the best cornerback for the Broncos and will be the piece they build the defensive backfield around. 

Pre-draft ranking: Top 150, CB16

22. Kenneth Murray, LB, Los Angeles Chargers

Kenneth Murray has been a steady force in the middle of the Chargers’ defense and he finally makes his debut on this list. In his last game, he played 100% of the defensive snaps for the first time all season. He should be all over the field against the Jaguars run game this upcoming week, and a productive day could see Murray rise up these rookie rankings next week.

Pre-draft ranking: Top 30, LB2

23. Solomon Kindley, iOL, Miami Dolphins

Solomon Kindley and teammate Ereck Flowers have combined to be one of the top guard duos in the NFL. Despite the false narrative spread by the national media, the Dolphins’ line has been much improved this season. Kindley is a major reason why. Despite being a day three pick, he’s been a productive and efficient guard for a Miami team that is quietly in the playoff picture. 

Pre-draft ranking: Top 200, iOL18

24. Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson

Tee Higgins has developed into Burrow’s go-to target, and that relationship will continue to grow throughout their career. Higgins posted 125 yards this past week, the first time he’s crossed the century line. Higgins wins at the catch point but also makes strong plays after the catch, consistently gaining yards down the field. Expect him to continue producing as Burrow develops more and more trust in him. 

Pre-draft ranking: Top 50, WR7

25. Jeff Okudah, CB, Detroit Lions

Jeff Okudah displays flashes every game, but he’s still struggling to find consistency on a down by down basis. Against the Jaguars, Okudah was hot and cold, struggling against WR Keenan Cole but making plays in the run game. He was effective as a tackler in the game, registering eight total tackles, but was unable to prevent passes coming into his coverage. That places Okudah in last place in the Rookie Rankings for Week 7.

Pre-draft ranking: Second overall, CB1

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