Top 10 rookies in the NFL entering Week 17
All season long we’ve been ranking the top contenders to win rookie of the year, and this is our last edition until we announce our offense, defense and overall winners.
Here are the top 10 rookies in the NFL entering Week 17:
1. Leonard Williams, DE, Jets (PFF grade: 88.3)
That’s right: a new rookie has taken over the top spot on the leaderboard. After weeks of playing second fiddle, Williams delivered a monster effort last week against the Patriots with some superb work in the run game to go with five quarterback disruptions. Williams has now collected 50 combined sacks, hits and hurries on the year – a very healthy number for a rookie. The pleasant surprise surrounding Williams is that his pass rushing actually comes secondary to his borderline dominant work in the run game. His 19.8 grade ranks third among all 3-4 defensive ends.
2. Ronald Darby, CB, Bills (87.1)
Darby lost his top spot but he’s still within striking distance to make a comeback, especially in a game against Williams and the Jets. Darby has certainly been more up and down in the second half of the year, posting four negative coverage grades, but that first half was one of the best we’ve ever seen by a rookie corner and speaks volumes for his tremendous potential.
3. Jameis Winston, QB, Buccaneers (74.3)
What a rookie year from Winston, who has already proven that he belongs in the NFL. His play in the second half of the year would arguably have put him atop the race, but we just can’t discount the uneven start to his pro career. Need further proof of his rapid ascension? In the second half of the year, Winston has the seventh-highest quarterback grade. Watch out for 2016.
4. Todd Gurley, RB, Rams (79.1)
We sort of understand why Michael Bennett stirred the pot by calling Gurley “average.” The Rams rookie still managed 85 yards against the Seahawks’ defensive line, but caught a -2.0 grade from PFF. Regardless, Gurley’s poor days at the office have been outweighed by the good, and when we say good, he can indeed be spectacular. Overall, more consistency is needed from Gurley and it’s for that reason that he’s not higher up.
5. Amari Cooper, WR, Raiders (75.6)
Eye-popping box-score numbers don’t always equal jaw-dropping performances. And then sometimes they do. That pretty much sums up Cooper, the rookie receiving leader who has had his share of memorable moments. There is a slight problem, though. If you sort by dropped passes, he has more than any other wide receiver. If Cooper truly wants to be one of the league’s premier receivers, he has to eradicate those drops and morph his hands into a strength instead. With that being said, Cooper can take solace in knowing he added a dimension to that Raiders offense that had been missing for years.
6. T.J. Yeldon, RB, Jaguars (83.2)
A more dependable, all-around running back, Yeldon can be content with his rookie year even if he hasn’t had quite the same explosive start to his career as Gurley. Yeldon’s already shown that he can be the Jaguars bell cow back for the foreseeable future – as long as he can stay off the injury table.
7. Adrian Amos, S, Bears (79.7)
Far from flashy, Amos has come into the Bears shambolic secondary and added the kind of stability you’d expect from a grizzled veteran instead of a rookie fifth-round pick. Would you like to see him creating more turnovers and causing more havoc? Certainly. But at least you aren’t watching Amos show up on the highlight reels for opposing offensive players.
8. Tyler Lockett, WR, Seahawks (80.2)
Initially making a significant impact as a returner, Lockett has surpassed expectations with his contributions on offense, likely even surprising the optimistic Seahawks coaching staff. A truly dynamic player with a nose for big plays, Lockett could be much higher on this list had he been a little more involved earlier in the year.
9. Stefon Diggs, WR, Vikings (82.9)
An unheralded fifth-round pick who fit in seamlessly with the Vikings offense, Diggs quickly became the go-to receiver for Teddy Bridgewater with his ability to make things happen after the catch. He will need to adapt to the extra attention NFL defenses are giving him, but few could’ve predicted Diggs would’ve made this list in September.
10. Mitch Morse, C, Chiefs (77.5)
It’s not quite been the Corey Linsley rookie season we saw a year ago for the Packers, but Morse has been impressive nonetheless. The Chiefs have performed much better on the line than anyone really expected and Morse, with his solid run blocking, has been a big part of that.
Byron Jones, DB, Cowboys: Makes room for Diggs after his lowest-graded game of the year.
Five to Watch
Rob Havenstein, RT, Rams: He’s outperformed all other rookie tackles.
David Johnson, RB, Cardinals: He’s been excellent when benefiting from more touches, but it’s too late in the race.
Vic Beasley, DE, Falcons: The revelation that he has played hurt makes his productive pass-rushing rookie season all the more impressive.
Quandre Diggs, CB, Lions: He looks like a natural in the slot for now and many years to come.
Marcus Peters, CB, Chiefs: He was excellent against the Browns last week and has made his share of big plays this year, but he’s also allowed a few too many big ones to be in serious consideration.