Top 10 NFL rookies entering Week 8
Week 7 was the most static yet for our top-10 list, as guys have seemingly settled into a certain level of play. Now comes the jockeying for position, as this marks the first week that we’ve had a different face earn the No. 1 spot in our rankings. When all is said and done, though, don’t count out Chargers DE Joey Bosa to make his way towards the top spot, as he’s climbed up the rankings each of the past three weeks.
1. Dak Prescott, QB, Cowboys
You don’t lose your job due to injury in the NFL, and you can’t move up in the rookie rankings when you’re on a bye week—but don’t tell that to Dak Prescott. Coming off a bye week puts him on equal footing with Carson Wentz, and helps to emphasize the fact that Prescott’s numbers trump the No. 2 overall pick’s after the Eagles’ QB had a rough outing against the Vikings. The Cowboys’ QB only has three turnover-worthy throws all season, second-fewest in the league.
2. Carson Wentz, QB, Eagles
Sunday’s game proved that Wentz is in fact a rookie, but he still fared no worse against the Vikings’ defense than any other top quarterback in the league. After a first half that saw him force multiple throws into tight coverage, Wentz settled down and led a crucial scoring drive to pull away in the third quarter. He’s still grading out as a top-five quarterback in the league.
There are bad decisions then there is throwing into quadruple coverage pic.twitter.com/KSPkdDTnZc
— Mike Renner (@PFF_Mike) October 23, 2016
3. Jack Conklin, RT, Titans
Another game, another Conklin outing without getting exposed. Conklin now has the ninth-best pass-blocking efficiency of any tackle—left or right—in the NFL. He’s allowed zero sacks, one hit, and 10 hurries in 250 pass-blocking snaps. The next best rookie tackle is Taylor Decker, at 30th.
4. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Cowboys
Status quo for the Cowboys’ running back, as he still sits atop the rushing crown even after a bye week. The only real flaw in his game at the moment is that his 11 broken tackles are only the 21st-most in the league; with his vision and decisiveness, however, that really isn’t an issue. In fact, Elliott’s 383 yards after contact are the second-most in the NFL.
5. Joey Bosa, DE, Chargers
The only thing keeping Bosa from breaking into the coveted top-four at the moment is playing time. He’s racking up pressures at a higher rate than Von Miller has this season; over the last three weeks, Bosa has been responsible for 20 total pressures, the second-most in the league over that span. Just imagine what he could have done with four more games under his belt.
6. Michael Thomas, WR, Saints
At different points in the season, we’ve had multiple other receivers make this top-10 list, but at the moment, Thomas is the unquestioned best rookie wideout of this class. Over the past two weeks, he has the fourth-highest receiving grade in the league, with 208 yards and a touchdown in those games. Gaining favor in a Drew Brees-led offense is usually a good thing, as his 18 targets the last two games indicate that Thomas is here to stay.
7. Hunter Henry, TE, Chargers
Only one catch for 16 yards this week for Henry, but he’s still grading as a top-five tight end so far. His receiving skills have obviously garnered him his notoriety, but what’s most encouraging to me is that Henry’s already a willing and capable blocker, with a slightly above average run-blocking grade. So many tight ends today come into the NFL with blocking as an afterthought, but that’s certainly not the case with Henry.
8. Keanu Neal, S, Falcons
The rookie safety continues to exceed our expectations, as he was once again not the problem for the Falcons’ defense against the Chargers. He was targeted eight times in the game and surrendered only two catches for 34 yards. If it wasn’t for one bad game against the Panthers, Neal would be in the top-five of our safety rankings.
9. Laremy Tunsil, G, Dolphins
It’s no coincidence that Jay Ajayi’s back-to-back 200 yard games have come with an uptick in play from Tunsil. The Dolphins’ left guard is sandwiched between two seasoned vets in Branden Albert and Mike Pouncey, and the rookie is outplaying them both. He’s the third-highest graded guard in the league over the past two weeks. The name of the game in the Dolphins’ outside-zone-heavy scheme is control, and Tunsil isn’t letting guys separate off his blocks.
10. Cody Whitehair, C, Bears
Whitehair was the victim of some rookie-on-rookie crime this week, as Packers nose tackle Kenny Clark had the best game of his short career against the Bears’ center last Thursday. Still, Whitehair has a body of work this season that can withstand a few bad blocks here and there. The area where he’s been most impressive—and excelled once again in Week 7—is screen blocking, where he owns the second-highest grade at the position.