Top 10 rookies in the NFL entering Week 17

Jets D-lineman Leonard Williams takes over the top spot in our race for the rookie of the year.

| 10 months ago
(AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

(AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

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.

Dropping out

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.

  • AdamT

    Not suggesting he should win ROY but I think Preston Smith should at least be in the conversation. His seven sacks leads all rookies and he’s also been productive in tackles and forced fumbles in limited playing time.

  • sandbun

    No love for Danielle Hunter who leads all rookies in sacks and who is making the most of his limited playing time and has steadily been playing more and more? I thought he might at least make the Five to Watch.

    • Joseph Daniel von Hoffman

      Hunter does not lead rookies in sacks. That would be Washington OLB Preston Smith, who has 7 to Hunter’s 6.

      Not shabby by either of them, though.

      • sandbun

        Oops, you’re right. Hunter had the lead for a while, but Smith’s 3 last week overtook him.

    • Scott Kohler

      What team is he on? I’ve surprisingly never heard of him.

      • sandbun


    • James Winslow

      shut up luffy, you’re stupid as shit in yo show.

  • 24AHAD

    I bet 0 out of 32 nfl gms would take Ronald Darby over Marcus Peters. He is very good though, just not what Peters is about to be. I do understand how pff grades and get his higher rating though. I’m just saying.

    • Scott Kohler

      I think about 30 out of 32 would take Darby over Peters

      • 24AHAD


        • Richard Nixon


      • TJ Smith

        Even PFF staff still said they would take Marcus Peters for the long term. A bunch of his TDs allowed were early in the year and many on pick plays. If he cleans up the little mistakes he makes he has dominate potential.

        Peters is going to win DROY and my bet most GMs would take Peters long term.

    • Matt Bob

      Peters has allowed 7 TDs and over 900yds receiving but you’re right those are lockdown numbers

  • gooeymarshmallows

    PFF is very inconsistent in their grading methodology. Anybody with a pair of eyes can see that Marcus Peters is a phenom. Instead, they choose to penalize Peters for giving up big plays in the beginning of the year while failing to consider the context of those plays!

    Really, this service is laughable at times. PFF also said that Eddie Lacy is a better RB than Jamaal Charles. What a joke! Lacy isn’t even the best on his own team!

    • Cant FixStupid

      It’s been a down year for Lacy, but the previous 2 years he was among the best RBs in the NFL. He started the year strong vs Chicago, and then sprained his ankle week 2 and dealt with that for week, then a rib injury. Starks isn’t half the RB Lacy is when both are 100%.

  • aaronaperson

    Not saying he’s top ten here, but I expected Malcolm Brown’s name to pop-up in the honorable mentions… He’s not there yet, but his rookie year resembles Wilfork’s, complete with the late surge. If I remember correctly, PFF’s own redraft a few weeks back had him going in the top 15. .

  • Jeff

    PFF always surprises us with who they pick, unless it’s someone that completely dominates the competition like Aaron Donald did last year. I wouldn’t be surprised if Marcus Peters or Darby win it. Just based on how tough it is to play cornerback. Remember in 2013 when Sheldon Richardson was the front runner the whole season and lost to Trufant?

    • Tyler Ferree

      What are you talking about, Richardson won DROY that year, the runner up was Alonso. DBs NEVER win DROY, i thinks its like 4 since the award was established and its been a decade or so since the last one.

  • erformc

    I’m guessing Jordan Hicks would’ve been in here had he stayed healthy.

  • Richard Nixon

    4 Maryland natives in the top 9.

  • David J. Kubik

    Just Curious. Where does Eddie Goldman rank? He has the most sacks of any rookie..

    • Richard Nixon

      Lol wtf no he doesn’t.

      • David J. Kubik

        He did going into week 16…

  • TJ Smith

    Would have been interesting where Henry Anderson would have finished. Two of the best young defensive players I have seen this year are Preston Smith and Frank Clark. They didn’t get the snaps like some other rookies. Both of them look like future pro bowlers.

    Also to note I think Tyler Lockett was just as good early in the year. Russell Wilson pretty much made it a game ritual to miss Tyler for a bomb every game to start the year. Wilson playing better in the pocket is why he has taken off. If Lockett was drafted by a more consistent pocket passer he would have been offensive rookie of the year.