Ranking NFL’s top 10 rookies

Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota shined in his debut, but don't discount these nine other rookies just yet.

| 1 year ago
(AP Photo/Ed Zurga)

(AP Photo/Ed Zurga)

Ranking NFL’s top 10 rookies

2014 saw one of the deepest competitions for Rookie of the Year since the inception of PFF. Aaron Donald, Joel Bitonio and Khalil Mack put forward plenty of evidence as to why they should get our endorsement, only for Odell Beckham Jr. to trump them.

But we’re not here to reflect back on that. No, we’re here to kick-start the race for the 2015 Rookie of the Year. In a battle expected to be between two quarterbacks selected first and second overall, are there any surprise challengers who could claim victory? Let’s see how things have started.


1. Marcus Mariota, QB, Titans (+2.3)

The numbers do flatter a little, but it was the assured performance which stood out for Mariota. If his career is to be compared to Jameis Winston, then round one certainly went to the former Oregon QB.


2. Mitch Morse, C, Chiefs (+2.9)

Morse didn’t stand out in our grading last year at tackle for Missouri, but the Chiefs decision to select him high in the draft and move him to center has started off well. Only the Giants’ Weston Richburg earned a higher grade at center this week after an impressive debut from Morse.


3. Carl Davis, DL, Ravens (+3.2)

If there’s a big knock on Davis, its his consistency—his top-end talent means he should have been drafted higher than the 90th. So, it’s important for him to build on a debut in which he caused problems for the Broncos interior line, particularly as a pass rusher.


4. Randy Gregory, DE, Cowboys (+2.8)

A high-ankle sprain means we may not see Gregory on this list again for awhile, which is a crying shame after he gave the Giants’ Ereck Flowers a tough NFL debut. His 21 snaps included a hit and three more hurries.


5. Jeremiah Poutasi, RT, Titans (+2.0)

After looking out of his element through most of preseason, the tackle out of Utah looked like a confident veteran in his first week. You might point to who he was up against, but this is the NFL, and there are no easy assignments. He showed strong work in the run game as well.


6. Bradley Pinion, P, 49ers (+2.9)

A reflection on how good Pinion was? Or was there a lack of standout rookie efforts this week? You decide. Pinion had the eighth highest grade of all punters and did a decent job on kickoffs.


7. Tyler Lockett, WR, Seahawks (+1.1)

Lockett is another guy in here for his work on special teams. The wide receiver will need to do more on offense (where he saw a surprisingly high 58 snaps) to stay on this list, but his dynamic returning ability is already something to keep an eye on.


8. T.J. Clemmings, RT, Vikings (+0.3)

If I was going to guess how the debut of Clemmings would go, his tape at Pitt told me to expect a positive run blocking grade and a negative pass blocking grade. Both proved true for the fourth-rounder who has seen action earlier than expected.


9. T.J. Yeldon, HB, Jaguars (+1.3)

Yeldon did a nice job with limited touches in a week where none of the rookie running backs stood out.


10. Adrian Amos, S, Bears (+0.9)

It’s not easy making your NFL bow against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, so Amos can hold his head up high that he comes out of the game with a positive grade.


Five to watch

Jameis Winston, QB, Buccaneers: Going forward, he can’t be as bad as he was against the Titans—right?

Stephone Anthony, LB, Saints: A mixed bag of a debut, but plenty to get excited about.

Vic Beasley, DE, Falcons: Tough task to dominate Philadelphia’s Jason Peters on opening night, but there were flashes to say inferior tackles might get worked over.

Ali Marpet, OG, Buccaneers: Encouraging debut with some good work in the run game.

Deiontrez Mount, OLB, Titans: Looked good, but playing time (just 29 snaps) may hold him back.

  • Drew Davis

    You are aware that Pinion is a 49er?

    • Drew Davis

      We let go of Andy Lee for this kid. He was the only punter drafted this year…

  • Thaiwatchdog

    Where’s Kyle Emmanuel? One interception one sack less than one full game.

  • terry welsh

    Abdullah wasn’t on your list? TD on his first ever touch in the NFL. I think was for like 29 yards. Kid had 11 touch for 93 yards also. I see how you guys work, and it’s wrong.

  • Tyler Steinhaus

    Everyone that’s complaining another rookie wasn’t on this list doesn’t understand that it’s not based on a couple plays. It’s based on their entire game. Kyle Emmanuel mave have had an interception and a sack but how did he fair during the other parts of the game? Same with Abdullah. There was probably plenty of other reasons that they weren’t on the list.

  • shawnthesheep

    Kyle Emanuel–Int, sack, two tackles for loss. Didn’t make the list?

  • Kevin

    I’ll be keeping a close eye on GB’s rookie CB, Damarious Randall. From what I saw, he was targeted 5 times and didn’t allow a catch. I see that PFF credited him with 1 reception allowed on 6 passes but I believe that was a mistake(not 100% positive though). Either way, as a rookie going against Martellus Bennett(1 for 1), Alshon Jeffrey(0 for 3), Matt Forte(0 for 1), and even Eddie Royal(0 for 1) and having that much success he deserves credit and was at least close to being on the 5 to watch I’m sure. If he is able to repeat what he did against some of the best in the NFL at their positions he will be on this list in the coming weeks.

    • Kevin

      For a rookie making a transition from College safety to NFL CB, I’m
      very impressed. He has all the tools in the world. Size, speed,
      intelligence, athleticism etc. With more time to develop as an outside
      CB, I truly believe he can be elite. GB lost House and Williams and
      somehow ended up with 3 rookie CB’s making the roster and more importantly all were VERY impressive throughout training camp. 1st rd pick
      Randall who I already said plenty about.

      2nd rd pick Rollins(4 year basketball starter with 1 year as a
      College CB and somehow has amazing instincts).

      UDFA Ladarius Gunter who may have been the most impressive rookie CB in the preseason among all 32 teams. In preseason he had 4 PD’s 1 int, 15 targets, 8 receptions, and 40 passer rating allowed. If he had a 4.4 40 time he would of been a mid rd pick at least. Instead he was in the 4.6’s I believe it was and dropped out of draft contention. Every team is kicking themselves after watching his performance while GB is once again laughing at teams for passing on a good player over a 40 yard dash. He may not be fast on a straight line but plays much faster than he times and has great size at 6’2 and 200 lbs.

      This is probably too long and no1 will read but GB truly does have 3 players they should be excited about. I’ll be surprised if all 3 don’t become good players in this league.

      • Blyake Price

        I read it. Randall isn’t big but I do agree that he has the tools to be good. Rollins really does have crazy instincts for someone who is new to the sport. Gunter should probably play safety but he’s done fine at corner so far.

  • Jaguars28

    We should give Yeldon more carries.

  • Mark Erickson

    Better get Marcus Peters on this list after tonight!

    • Blyake Price

      Marcus Peters as a cb doesn’t get a lot of chances to shine but with a pick in both of the games He has played in, he is starting to open some eyes. Kyle Fuller did the same thing last year.

      • Mark Erickson

        I’m more impressed with the overall coverage, granted the pass-rush was doing its job with Justin Houston helping him out alot, but only allowing 55 yards and less than a 43% completion rate in his direction while being assigned to the likes of Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders as a rookie is very impressive in my book. If Peters stays relatively consistent, with a healthy Dontarie Poe and Eric Berry along with the return of Sean Smith, Kansas’ defense is in the top 5 discussion (if it isn’t already).

        • Blyake Price

          Add that to the fact that Derrick Johnson seems like he hasn’t missed a beat since being injured.

          • Mark Erickson

            I almost threw his name out there but I felt I conveyed my point 😉

          • Blyake Price

            I agreed with you lol. 😛

          • Mark Erickson

            I picked up on that don’t worry! Now if Kansas would give Chase Daniels a long hard look they may be in business! Although Alex Smith isn’t as bad as some people think.

          • Blyake Price

            Alex Smith is above average

  • Matt Dickson

    How is Marcus Peters not on this list??? Afraid to have TWO Chiefs on the a top 10 list? LOL…

  • Ieyasu

    Hard to believe Amari Cooper isn’t on this list

  • Kash

    Youd think the rookies with the most sacks…most int’s…receiving yardage…rushing yardage would all make the list. Not just the guys you pimped before the draft.

    Randy Gregory is a situational player at 6.4…220lb or whatever he weighs. And now he’s hurt.