Top 10 NFL rookies entering Week 13
We are two games into the Jared Goff era in Los Angeles, and if things don’t turn around ASAP, the No. 1 overall pick will be a no-show on this list all season long. His first two starts were night and day from those of Dak Prescott and Carson Wentz. Granted, one of his games was in the rain, but Goff’s 65.5 adjusted completion percentage would put him dead last among starting quarterbacks in the NFL.
Now, let’s get to those deserving of recognition:
1. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Cowboys
Ezekiel Elliott is still PFF’s highest-graded running back entering Week 13, and it seems unlikely anyone overtakes him at this pace. It’s comedic at this point how he’s racking up yards compared to the rest of the league. Elliott has 146 more rushing yards than DeMarco Murray in second place, but maybe even more impressive, the rookie has 118 more yards after contact than second place LeGarrette Blount. Only 18 other backs have even half as many rushing yards as Elliott’s 1,196.
2. Dak Prescott, QB, Cowboys
Thanksgiving must have felt like Christmas for Cowboys fans, as Dallas’ rookies have been the gift that keeps on giving. It was a nearly flawless performance from Dak Prescott, as Dallas established its dominance in the NFC East. I say it almost every week, but Prescott simply doesn’t make mistakes with the football. He has only nine turnover-worthy throws on the year, the second-fewest of any starter.
3. Jack Conklin, RT, Titans
Another week, another lights out performance from Jack Conklin. This time, the Bears—and outside linebacker Pernell McPhee—were shut down by the Titans right tackle. He didn’t allow a single pressure for the fourth time this season, and did solid work in run blocking as well. We can see why Jon Robinson was so enthralled with the rookie out of Michigan State that he traded up in the first round to nab him.
4. Joey Bosa, DE, Chargers
After a down few weeks by Joey Bosa’s standards, the former Buckeye put together your everyday eight-pressure, four-stop beat down on the Texans’ offensive line. His emergence gives this rookie class four players legitimately deserving of Pro Bowl bids at this point, and the only thing keeping Bosa out of Defensive Player of the Year conversation is playing time. His 327 snaps to start his career are as good as we’ve ever seen from a defensive lineman.
5. Chris Jones, DT, Chiefs
Even though he’s played only 60 percent of the Chiefs’ defensive snaps the past five weeks, Jones has 20 pressures over that span. Among all interior defenders, only Los Angeles DT Aaron Donald has more. That’s ridiculously impressive production for a second-rounder who barely saw any snaps early in the season. And it’s not coming at the detriment of his run defense, where Jones has been above-average, as well.
6. Michael Thomas, WR, Saints
After 108 yards and two touchdowns, it’s perfectly reasonable to wonder if Michael Thomas has surpassed Brandin Cooks as Drew Brees’ favorite target in New Orleans. Thomas now leads the team in receiving yards (789), touchdowns (seven), and broken tackles (14). That last figure is also the fourth-best of any receiver in the NFL, as Thomas’ work after the catch (besides the fumbles) has really set him apart.
7. Carson Wentz, QB, Eagles
Wentz’s free-fall down the list continues. After six weeks, finishing anywhere outside the top-three seemed unthinkable for the Eagles quarterback. One can excuse his performance in Week 11 against the perennially-dominant Seattle defense, but to throw out a clunker against a reeling Green Bay defense is beyond explanation. His mistakes over the middle of the field have been the most worrying aspect as he continues to either miss high—like his pick against the Packers in Week 12—or simply force throws into non-existent windows.
8. Jordan Howard, RB, Bears
All the rookie RB is missing is the workload at this point, as he’s been one of the most effective running backs in the NFL when he’s fed the rock. Jordan Howard’s last three games exemplify what makes him so special. He has long runs of 15, 22, and 27 yards in those three outings, yet is averaging 5.2 yards per carry. That means the rookie is grinding out yards without perfect blocking again and again, as much of that time, Chicago has been without guards Josh Sitton and Kyle Long. I think the Bears have found their long-term starter at running back.
9. Keanu Neal, S, Falcons
Even though Keanu Neal generally plays the box-safety role for the Falcons, his run defense isn’t the reason he’s consistently made this list. No, Neal’s coverage prowess has actually been far more impressive as he almost never allows yards after the catch on checkdowns underneath. He has 57 tackles on the season, compared with only three misses.
10. Tyreek Hill, WR, Chiefs
Tyreek Hill has played fewer than half the snaps of Michael Thomas, but when he is on the field, few players have been as impactful at the position this year. Many of the plays he’s on the field for are designed touches for the rookie, but Hill is still third among all receivers in yards per route run (2.52). What really sets him apart, though, are his return skills, making him easily the highest-ranked returner in the NFL.