Top 10 NFL rookies entering Week 15
As the season goes on, the two rookie quarterbacks who were seemingly too good to be true are in fact proving to be just that. While Philadelphia’s Carson Wentz fell out of the top 10 altogether a week ago, Dallas’ Dak Prescott takes a tumble out of the No. 2 spot this week.
At this point, Rookie of the Year is really one man’s award to lose.
1. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys may have fallen at the hands of the Giants once again over the weekend, but it wasn’t because New York was able to bottle up Elliott. The rookie had yet another 100-yard game, with almost two-thirds of his yards coming after contact. He now has 142 more yards after contact than the next closest running back (Miami’s Jay Ajayi), and is PFF’s top NFC RB pick for the 2017 Pro Bowl roster.
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) December 13, 2016
2. Jack Conklin, RT, Tennessee Titans
Facing easily his toughest test of the season in the form of the Broncos’ defensive line, Conklin passed with flying colors. He gave up a myriad of bull-rush pressure to Von Miller, but as has been his MO all season, Conklin didn’t allow a single sack or hit. Against one of the league’s top pass-rushers, I’d chalk that up as a win. Conklin has only surrendered four sacks or hits on the season, and only seven total pressures in his last four games. Impressive stuff from the rookie.
3. Dak Prescott, QB, Dallas Cowboys
Sunday night was an unmitigated disaster for Prescott. There is no rationalizing it. Even with a completely clean pocket, Dallas’ rookie quarterback went 7-for-21 for 91 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. A ridiculous 20 percent of his targeted passes were off target—meaning the receiver had some separation, but the throw never gave him a chance of making the catch. Those are worrisome numbers that can’t reoccur for the Cowboys come playoff time.
4. Joey Bosa, DE, San Diego Chargers
Bosa managed only 23 snaps in Week 14 prior to being knocked out of the game with a concussion, but on those appearances, he still managed to record a sack and two QB hurries. He remains on his rookie record-setting pace, with 45 QB pressures through his first nine games. The only thing keeping him from cracking the top three at this point is playing time.
5. Chris Jones, DT, Kansas City Chiefs
I don’t think it’s too early to say that the Chiefs have something special with their rookie defensive tackle. The scary part is that, at 22 years old, Jones is already winning with pure physicality. Last Thursday against the Raiders, Jones had multiple matchups in the run game versus fellow rookie Vadal Alexander. Early in the game, Jones was playing gap-sound defense, standing Alexander up before eventually shedding. As the game wore on, however, he realized Alexander couldn’t physically match up; Jones just started swimming him immediately at the snap.
6. Jordan Howard, RB, Chicago Bears
At the moment, it’s difficult to see much of a difference as a runner between Jordan Howard and Ezekiel Elliott—other than attempts and the team surrounding them. In terms of rate stats, Howard is actually better in yards per carry (5.0 vs. 4.9), yards after contact (3.1 vs. 2.8), and elusive rating (56.1 vs. 35.3). For Chicago to get him in the fifth round has to go down as one of the biggest steals of the draft.
7. Michael Thomas, WR, New Orleans Saints
It’s encouraging that even Thomas’ down games are still four-catch, 42-yard outputs at this point. When targeted this season, only two receivers have a higher quarterback rating than Thomas’ 118.9, and both of those guys operate out of the slot. The former Buckeye still has only two dropped passes on 71 catchable targets for the eighth-best drop rate in the league. There is nothing not to like about the rookie right now.
8. Tyreek Hill, WR, Kansas City Chiefs
Somewhat fortuitously, I wrote last Thursday morning about how the biggest difference for this Chiefs’ roster compared to those of years’ past is the amount of playmakers on offense. Specifically, Tyreek Hill. Against the Raiders on Thursday night, Hill hauled in a huge 36-yard post for Kansas City’s first touchdown, then added a punt-return touchdown to improve his league-high kick-return grade.
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) December 12, 2016
9. Cody Whitehair, C, Chicago Bears
After an up-and-down early season, it looks like Cody Whitehair has finally settled in at center. Against the fairly weak defensive lines of the 49ers and Lions over the past two games, Whitehair manhandled all challengers. Over that span, he didn’t allow a single QB pressure, and earned top-three run-blocking grades at the position each week. Whitehair is now the seventh-highest-graded center in the NFL.
10. Tavon Young, CB, Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens’ fourth-rounder owns the unlikely honor of being the best rookie cornerback in the NFL this season. Even this week, as Tom Brady racked up over 400 yards through the air against the Baltimore defense, Young was responsible for only 16 of them. His 0.93 yards per coverage snap are tied with Washington’s Josh Norman for 18th-best at the position this season.