We’ve about reached the midpoint of the NFL season. With nearly half the year in the books, we’re getting a clear picture of who the top rookies are and how they stack up against each other. In this edition of the Rookie Rankings: Week 8, we have a shake-up at the top of the list, and a running back makes his appearance for the first time after leading the NFL in rushing for Week 7. Who are the NFL’s elite freshmen, and where do they place on our rookie rankings?
NFL Rookie Rankings Week 8 | #1-10
1. Tristan Wirfs, OT, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
After much deliberation, it’s officially time to dub Tristan Wirfs the NFL’s top rookie. He’s been the best right tackle in the NFL and could receive All-Pro honors in his first season. He’s displayed an elite blend of athletic ability and natural power. He’s been a wall in pass protection and has moved bodies in the run game; Wirfs is the league’s premier young tackle.
Pre-draft ranking: Fifth overall, OT1
2. 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 affecting 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
3. Justin Herbert, QB, Los Angeles Chargers
Some more change-up in the top three, Chargers QB Justin Herbert finally overtakes Bengals QB Joe Burrow for rookie QB1. Herbert has been playing lights out and is shattering records each and every game. He currently ranks fourth in the NFL in passing yards per game, and he’s accumulated 14 total touchdowns in five games. While I believe Wirfs is the most deserving player for Offensive Rookie of the Year, I also believe Herbert is currently the most likely to win.
Pre-draft ranking: Top 15, QB3
4. Joe Burrow, QB, Cincinnati Bengals
Burrow played an outstanding game against the Cleveland Browns, but once again, his team was unable to provide much of any support. He threw for over 400 yards and three touchdowns on just under 75% completion percentage. Burrow looks like he’s well on his way to being one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL, but the Bengals must provide a competitive roster around him, or they’ll risk wasting his talents.
Pre-draft ranking: Top 10, QB1
5. Jedrick Wills, OT, Cleveland Browns
Baker Mayfield was able to shred the Bengals for 300 yards and five touchdowns, and much of the praise should go to the offensive line. Cincinnati’s pass rush was completely nullified and non-existent for the majority of the game. Cleveland gave up zero sacks on the day, and Jedrick Wills continued to reward the Browns for selecting him tenth overall, as he is playing like the franchise left tackle they’ve been searching for.
Pre-draft ranking: Top 10, OT2
6. Mekhi Becton, OT, New York Jets
Mekhi Becton made his return to the field last week and picked up right where he left off. His play strength is mesmerizing, as he just blows people off the line of scrimmage consistently. It doesn’t matter if their edge rushers or interior defenders; they’re losing that battle of strength. Becton is currently the most important player on the New York Jets; hopefully, they don’t waste his talents.
Pre-draft ranking: Top 25, OT4
7. CeeDee Lamb, WR, Dallas Cowboys
CeeDee Lamb had the worst game of his career this week against Washington. A couple of drops and some tight coverage led to his first catch-less performance. He also had one rush attempt that went for a single, the only yard he registered from scrimmage. There is some concern that Lamb will see a serious production dip with Andy Dalton at quarterback, even more so if UDFA Ben DiNucci has to play.
Pre-draft ranking: Fourth overall, WR1
8. Justin Jefferson, WR, Minnesota Vikings
Justin Jefferson’s bye week came at an unfortunate time, as this was the week to overtake Lamb for the rookie WR1 placement. Jefferson has been one of the most productive wideouts in the NFL, and he’s displayed all the traits that made him a first-round selection. Minnesota decided to go the younger and cheaper route when they traded Stefon Diggs and used the selection from the trade to take Jefferson, and so far, it’s worked out.
Pre-draft ranking: Top 50, WR5
9. Antoine Winfield Jr., S, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Antoine Winfield had another very quiet week but was by no means played poorly. His slide is due to the elite performance of other rookies more than it is a direct correlation of his own play. With that being said, Winfield did record his first career interception against Las Vegas; expect many more to come from the Tampa Bay star.
Pre-draft ranking: Top 50, S4
10. Chase Claypool, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
The biggest issue with Pittsburgh’s ridiculously talented receiving corps, aside from the drops, is the fact that they have too many mouths to feed. They have four receivers that are talented enough to be the go-to guy on any given day. This past weekend just wasn’t Chase Claypool’s day to shine. He registered one reception that went for -2 yards. I expect him to have a bounce-back game this coming week.
Pre-draft ranking: Top 125, WR15
NFL Rookie Rankings Week 8 | #11-19
11. Jaylon Johnson, CB, Chicago Bears
Jaylon Johnson is not getting nearly enough recognition among NFL fans. He’s been the best performing rookie cornerback this season, and it’s not particularly close. Johnson had a key pass break-up that prevented a touchdown early in his game against the Rams and was strong the whole night. Johnson was a steal for Chicago who has built one of the top secondaries in the NFL and is riding that dominant defense into a potential playoff spot.
Pre-draft ranking: Top 75, CB12
12. Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB, Kansas City Chiefs
Clyde Edwards-Helaire returned to normalcy after his dominant performance against the Bills. In Andy Reid’s offense, it’s unlikely we’ll ever see a string of games where Edwards-Helaire is the main focus on offense. However, he still managed to be productive, rushing for 46 yards and a touchdown on eight carries. He’s currently second in the NFL in rushing yards with a game against the horrendous New York Jets coming up. Edwards-Helaire lands right in the middle of the Rookie Rankings: Week 8.
Pre-draft ranking: Top 50, RB5
13. Jonah Jackson, iOL, Detroit Lions
As I mention every week and will continue mentioning for the next eight weeks, Jonah Jackson has been dominant this season, and it’s been wonderful for my brand. He was one of my favorite film studies during last year’s draft process, and I envisioned immediate success for him. I praised the Lions for stealing him where they did, and he’s been nothing short of excellent for them. He’ll have a long career in Detroit.
Pre-draft ranking: Top 50, iOL5
14. Michael Onwenu, iOL/OT/TE, New England Patriots
Michael Onwenu started the season as a jumbo set tight-end. Since then, he’s played both guard and tackle and has shined wherever they’ve asked him to play. This week he started the game at RT but was forced to move inside to guard when Joe Thuney was injured, but then when replacement RT Justin Herron got hurt, Onwenu moved back out. He’s been a chess piece for New England who has played him everywhere they’ve needed him.
Pre-draft ranking: Top 200, iOL20
15. Julian Blackmon, S, Indianapolis Colts
Admittedly, Julian Blackmon should have been on this list last week, if not before. However, I won’t make the same mistake again. After the loss of Malik Hooker, Blackmon stepped in and has played great football. He’s registered two interceptions and six pass deflections in five games. That’s after suffering a torn ACL last December and missing most of an already shortened off-season.
Pre-draft ranking: Top 175, S13
16. Michael Ojemudia, CB, Denver Broncos
Comfortably my biggest draft miss to this point in the season, and I can not understate how much better Michael Ojemudia has been than I expected. My biggest criticism from this past week isn’t with him, but with Denver. Veteran AJ Bouye returned to the line-up this week, and that meant a drop in snaps for Ojemudia. Denver must adjust this, as there is no question that Ojemudia has been Mile High’s best cornerback.
Pre-draft ranking: Top 150, CB16
17. Patrick Queen, LB, Baltimore Ravens
Patrick Queen had a bye this week after failing to produce against Philadelphia. A massive divisional match-up against the undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers looms, and Queen must be on his A-game. The winner of this game will hold a demanding tiebreaker in the AFC North race. Will we see the Queen we saw against Kansas City, for the player we saw against Philadelphia.
Pre-draft ranking: Top 125, WR15
18. Jeremy Chinn, LB/S, Carolina Panthers
Jeremy Chinn continues to be a tackling machine, recording eight total tackles against the Saints this week. He’s one of the leagues leading tacklers on the season and is improving every week in coverage. Panthers fans believe he’s the runaway favorite for Defensive Rookie of the Year, and while that’s still a stretch, he has been the most productive rookie this season.
Pre-draft ranking: Top 100, S5
19. James Robinson, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars
James Robinson fell off the list briefly last week, but he had a very strong bounce back this week to the tune of 119 rushing yards and both rushing and receiving touchdowns. Robinson has proven that you don’t have to be a first-round selection or even selected at all to be a productive rookie in the NFL. Expect the Jaguars to continue riding Robinson until he gives them a reason not to.
Pre-draft ranking: Unranked
The five rookies trying to break into the top 20
20. Antonio Gibson, RB, Washington Football Team
Antonio Gibson has been just on the edge of this list for a few weeks now, and it’s finally time he gets the credit he deserves. He led the entire NFL in rushing yards this week and also recorded a rushing touchdown. Gibson has been dominant after contact, as he creates yards for himself. The most ridiculous part about all this is that one year ago he was playing wide receiver at the University of Memphis. Gibson is still learning the position, and right now, he’s rushing off pure physical talent. Imagine how good he’ll be when he gets down the nuance of the position.
Pre-draft ranking: RB10, Top 100
21. Tee Higgins, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
Tee Higgins is steadily climbing the rankings after making his debut at 24 last week. He’s been Burrow’s favorite target the past few weeks, and he leads the Bengals in receiving touchdowns with three. Cincinnati drafted Higgins with the first selection in the second round with the intent that he and Burrow would become what Dalton and AJ Green were for years, before that Carson Palmer and Chad Johnson/Ochocinco.
Pre-draft ranking: Top 50, WR7
22. Kenneth Murray, LB, Los Angeles Chargers
Kenneth Murray had a solidly productive day against the Jaguars, registering five total tackles and a pass deflection. He played 100% of the Chargers defensive snaps for the second week in a row, taking over as the team’s primary linebacker. A thumper in the run game, he’s never going to be an elite coverage linebacker, but the Chargers will sacrifice that for the impact he brings around the line of scrimmage.
Pre-draft ranking: Top 30, LB2
23. D’Andre Swift, RB, Detroit Lions
Nothing has infuriated me more this season than the fact that Adrian Peterson has more than double the carries of D’Andre Swift. Despite Swift averaging 1.4 more yards per carry, with double the touchdowns. The Lions have finally started to lean on Swift a bit more, and it’s paid off. He was my top-rated running back in the 2020 NFL Draft, and I believe he has the talent to be the top running back in the NFL one day.
Pre-draft ranking: RB1, Top 25
24. Solomon Kindley, iOL, Miami Dolphins
Solomon Kindley continues to be a consistent performer for Miami and is looking like one of the best day three steals from the 2020 NFL Draft. He’s been a consistent member of the Rookie Rankings and is still a mainstay on this Week 8 edition. He projects to be an above-average guard for the rest of his career; the Dolphins found a good one to protect their franchise QB.
Pre-draft ranking: Top 200, iOL18
25. Darnell Mooney, WR, Chicago Bears
Darnell Mooney has been targeted at least three times in every game this season and has carved a prominent role out in the Bears’ offense. If the Bears offensive line was even marginally better, he would have toasted Jalen Ramsey for a 96-yard touchdown. He’s been a great surprise for the Bears this season and will likely be a major focus on the offense next year if Allen Robinson departs via free agency. Mooney rounds out the Rookie Rankings: Week 8.
Pre-draft ranking: Unranked
If you agree or disagree, make sure to let me know on Twitter at @MVScouting.