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NFL rookie rankings – Our final top 10 for the 2021 season, including Micah Parsons at No. 1, two Dolphins and only one QB



Ultimately, the perfect of the perfect of the 2021 NFL rookie class was discovered largely on the primary two days of the draft. 4 of the highest 10 gamers in our remaining rookie rankings of the season — which factored in solely regular-season efficiency — had been chosen within the 2021 draft’s prime 10 picks. And each participant who made the highest 10 was chosen in both the primary or second spherical.

However even after the entire dialogue concerning the quarterbacks main as much as the draft and thru the preseason, few of the category’ signal-callers had been among the many league’s greatest first-year gamers. In truth, just one QB cracked our rankings. One of many prime defensive draft picks led the pack: Dallas Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons multitasked his strategy to a future remember-when sort of season.

So, for one final time this season, let’s run by the highest 10 rookies within the NFL. Per typical, we polled personnel executives across the league to get their ideas and labored our approach by recreation tape to make the record. We additionally embrace those that simply missed the record and some different names to maintain helpful within the coming years. Lastly, we regarded to ESPN Stats & Data’s Seth Walder to choose an under-the-radar rookie to keep watch over. We start in Dallas.

Leap to:
Top 10 | Just missed
Notes | Under the radar

Stats: 84 tackles, 13 sacks, 3 compelled fumbles
Drafted: No. 12 total

Parsons is enormously disruptive with constant effectivity within the go rush. He was certainly one of six gamers within the league with at the very least 13 sacks — 10.5 of which got here after Week 8 — and was simply 1.5 sacks from Jevon Kearse’s rookie report. Plus, Parsons was dependable in protection and a point-of-attack defender within the run recreation, with the vary to chase down ball carriers even when the play was designed to run away from him. Few, if any, defensive gamers within the NFL confirmed constant excellence throughout such an expansive job description, not to mention a rookie.

Stats: 3,801 passing yards, 22 TDs, 13 INTs
Drafted: No. 15 total

Jones found down the stretch what many rookies — particularly quarterbacks — finally do: Adjusting when opponents assault your weaknesses is solely part of NFL life. He had two of his three multi-interception video games over the past 4 weeks, and he accomplished simply 51.9% of his passes over a two-game dropping streak on the finish of December. However when it comes to diploma of problem, what was on his vocational plate and the expectation degree for the staff (each inside and outdoors the constructing), Jones handled greater than anybody else within the rookie class. And his staff made the postseason with 10 wins.

Stats: 16 begins, 90.4% go block win charge
Drafted: No. 13 total

Those that thought he was a guard ought to simply transfer apart and let the person work. No left sort out within the league performed extra pass-blocking snaps than Slater this season (471), and his work in Justin Herbert‘s 64-attempt season finale put an exclamation on Slater’s first professional marketing campaign. Slater missed one recreation (Week 15) after testing constructive for COVID-19, however he in any other case did not miss a single snap.

Stats: 17 begins, 97.7% go block win charge
Drafted: No. 63 total

Like the primary three gamers on this record, Humphrey wasn’t simply good for a rookie; he was taking part in at an All-Professional degree for a lot of the season. He was the largest worth decide amongst this yr’s prime 10 rookies after checking in because the second-to-last choice of the second spherical final April. Humphrey’s motion abilities, recognition and composure are evident all through the sport tape, and he’s precisely what a long-term resolution seems like on the place. His 97.7% go block win charge was No. 1 in the complete NFL, and his 98.2% go block win charge when dealing with double-teams was sixth.

Stats: 81 receptions, 1,455 receiving yards, 13 TDs
Drafted: No. 5 total

Chase was an issue for defenses early within the season (101 yards in Week 1), in the course of the season (201 yards in Week 7) and late within the season (266 yards in Week 17). Flowers and well-wishes to the AFC North defensive backs for, effectively, years to come back. As he and quarterback Joe Burrow proceed to construct on what they’ve already completed, extra days just like the rookie-record 266-yard effort in opposition to the Chiefs within the second-to-last recreation of the common season are attainable. His 1,455 receiving yards had been essentially the most for a rookie within the Tremendous Bowl period, and earlier than you level to the prolonged common season, he truly broke the report in Week 17.



Area Yates, Matthew Berry and Stephania Bell break down why Ja’Marr Chase’s large Week 17 efficiency is the perfect fantasy recreation of the season.

Stats: 68 receptions, 1,026 yards, 1 TD
Drafted: No. 4 total

Some will level to the lone landing, however speak to personnel executives across the league, and also you get lots of no-doubt assessments of his play. Many even have Pitts above Chase right here due to the upside and talent set. Pitts persistently wins in man protection, even when defensive coordinators put a cornerback throughout from him, and he can work from everywhere in the formation, each in tight and out extensive. He’s simply the second rookie tight finish in league historical past to prime 1,000 yards, as his 1,026 receiving yards sit proper behind Mike Ditka’s 60-year-old NFL-record 1,076 yards.

Stats: 58 tackles, 4 INTs, 14 passes defended, 1 TD
Drafted: No. 9 total

Surtain missed the Broncos’ season finale with a calf damage, however up till that time, he persistently performed with the composure of a “man who’s been in there for years,” Broncos security Justin Simmons mentioned. Denver coach Vic Fangio was keen to place Surtain throughout from the perfect of the perfect each week with out fear. The highest-10 decide wasn’t usually challenged by quarterbacks, who often selected to not decide on the rookie, however he tended to get his arms on the ball after they did.

Stats: 104 receptions, 1,015 yards, 6 TDs (plus one speeding TD)
Drafted: No. 6 total

For some, Waddle’s manufacturing will at all times be measured in opposition to the commerce the Dolphins made to pick him (the Dolphins moved up six spots, nevertheless it price them a further 2022 first-rounder). However Waddle persistently improved because the weeks glided by, with 5 video games with at the very least eight receptions throughout Miami’s six-game profitable streak within the second half of the season.

Stats: 76 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 2 compelled fumbles, 4 passes defended
Drafted: No. 52 total

Owusu-Koramoah missed three video games with an ankle damage, however after his return in Week 10, he had 4 video games with at the very least six tackles and performed at the very least 75% of the staff’s defensive snaps in 5 of the Browns’ eight remaining video games. His work in protection was superior, among the many greatest within the league on the place and much more constant than it was as a university participant. It could be intriguing sooner or later to see the Browns flip him free within the go rush excess of they did in 2021.

Stats: 69 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 2 INTs, 10 passes defended
Drafted: No. 36 total

Holland matches what is required on the security place in at present’s NFL. He’s bodily within the run recreation on the level of assault, comfy in protection and does not usually let any pre-snap enterprise by the offense pressure him right into a flawed step. Holland had 5 video games this season with a number of disrupted dropbacks, and he performed at the very least 96% of the defensive snaps in 11 of his video games.

Simply missed

Nate Hobbs, CB, Las Vegas Raiders: Hobbs’ subsequent step shall be to show the high-quality snaps he persistently confirmed as a slot nook (74 tackles) into extra ball manufacturing. He completed the season with one interception and three passes defended.

DeVonta Smith, WR, Philadelphia Eagles: Smith closed out the yr with 64 receptions, 916 receiving yards and 5 touchdowns in an offense that had the fewest go makes an attempt within the league (29.1 per recreation). And 67% of Smith’s receptions this season resulted in a primary down.

Javonte Williams, RB, Denver Broncos: He had greater than 17 carries in only one recreation this season and nonetheless completed with 903 speeding yards to go along with his 43 receptions. Williams was second amongst league rookies in speeding.

Christian Barmore, DT, New England Patriots: Barmore injured his proper knee within the regular-season finale in opposition to the Dolphins however was persistently explosive and disruptive on the within. His seven quarterback knockdowns had been second on the staff to Matthew Judon.

Najee Harris, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers: Harris completed a busy rookie season with 1,200 speeding yards (tops amongst rookies) and 74 receptions (second on the Steelers). His 381 touches as a runner and receiver led the league’s operating backs, and he was certainly one of simply two operating backs within the league to prime 300 carries for the yr.

Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR Detroit Lions: Speak about a high quality end. St. Brown completed with 90 or extra receiving yards in every of the ultimate 4 video games of the season — with 100-yard video games within the final two. He caught at the very least eight passes in every of the ultimate six video games of the yr.



Area Yates breaks down why he believes Amon-Ra St. Brown shall be proceed to be productive within the seasons to come back.

Penei Sewell, OT, Detroit Lions: Sewell missed the season finale however confirmed loads of resiliency after some early-season struggles when he moved to left sort out rather than the injured Taylor Decker.

Greg Newsome II, CB, Cleveland Browns: Newsome missed time with a concussion and an ankle damage, however he performed 95% and 100% of the defensive snaps, respectively, within the Browns’ remaining two video games. He had 9 passes defended in 12 video games. The one factor lacking on a top-tier rookie season? Zero interceptions.

Regulate: Sam Cosmi, OT, Washington; Nick Bolton, ILB, Chiefs; Odafe Oweh, OLB/DE, Ravens; Trevor Lawrence, QB, Jaguars; Asante Samuel Jr., CB, Chargers; Kwity Paye, DE, Colts; Baron Browning, ILB, Broncos; Azeez Ojulari, OLB, Giants; Elijah Mitchell, RB, 49ers; Jaelan Phillips, DE, Dolphins; Rondale Moore, WR, Cardinals; Trey Smith, G, Chiefs; Alim McNeill, DT, Lions; Pete Werner, ILB, Saints; Pat Freiermuth, TE, Steelers; Joe Tryon-Shoyinka, OLB, Buccaneers; Michael Carter, RB, Jets; Elijah Moore, WR, Jets; Tre’von Moehrig, S, Raiders; Alijah Vera-Tucker, G, Jets; Davis Mills, QB, Texans

Different rookie notes

  • The Texans’ Davis Mills was the eighth quarterback chosen within the draft (67th total). Many within the league preferred his potential, however Mills had performed simply 14 video games in his profession at Stanford, largely due to knee accidents. Even so, solely Mac Jones was as constant amongst rookie QBs as Mills was on the finish of the season. Mills had three 300-yard video games in his final six begins and threw eight landing passes over the past 4 video games.

  • Washington offensive sort out Sam Cosmi performed in 9 video games this season due to an ankle damage however flashed sufficient at proper sort out for Washington to hope he can preserve himself there much more in his second yr. He may to be an answer for that line over the lengthy haul.

  • It is onerous to argue a participant did extra with lower than Javonte Williams did for the Broncos. Backfield mate Melvin Gordon III mentioned, “Both of us would have been prime three [in rushing], however we actually cut up carries.” Each backs completed with 203 carries. Williams additionally turned 53 targets into 43 receptions within the passing recreation and created loads of damaged tackles.

Walder’s under-the-radar rookie

Trey Smith, G, Kansas City Chiefs

Smith was my under-the-radar rookie in October’s edition of the rookie rankings, however he is again once more. Maybe he hasn’t gotten fairly the popularity he deserves as a result of he has been overshadowed by fellow rookie Creed Humphrey — who’s my decide for Offensive Rookie of the Yr. However we shouldn’t be sleeping on Smith, who was stellar in his personal proper. Amongst guards, he ranked second in go block win charge and third in run block win charge. In different phrases: By our win charge metrics, Smith was one of many very, highest guards within the league this season regardless of being a rookie taken within the sixth spherical. The Chiefs knocked this select of the park.

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