Top 10 Rookies NFL 2021 thru 11 weeks
To call this list “definitive” would be disingenuous. My Top 10 Rookies NFL 2021 to date is a fluid, ever-evolving group of talented youngsters that have impressed this season. Limiting this list to just 10 players was difficult. There are deserving rookies who won’t make the cut but could very well cement their spot by year’s end.
Ranking the Top 10 Rookies thru week 11 begins… 10… 9… 8…
10. Cleveland Browns LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah
Injuries and head-scratching usage at times aside, JOK flashes weekly. Throw the boxscore out. Owusu-Koramoah’s combination of quickness and instincts make him invaluable in a pass first league. However, his willigness to take on offensive linemen and affect the the run game is under-appreciated. To date, JOK has played more than 52% of the snaps in only two games. The Cleveland Browns had better increase his playing time if they hope to meet their lofty expectations entering the season.
9. New England Patriots DT Christian Barmore
The only interior defensive lineman that I gave a first round grade to in the 2021 NFL Draft. Barmore has seen his playing time spike over the last month and for good reason. His disruptiveness has been one of the driving forces in the Patriots resurrgent defense as of late. Most importantly Barmore is providing the elusive interior pass rush so few teams possess. He currently ranks 3rd among all rookies in QB pressures (31) according to PFF.
8. Kwity Paye EDGE Indianapolis Colts
My top rated EDGE prospect in the 2021 NFL Draft Class. Paye is as advertised against the run. He consistently sets a physical edge and run stops come in droves. I’ve been encouraged by his steady development as a pass rusher as well. According to PFF, in Weeks 1-8 Paye only had 8 pressures, he tripled that number in Weeks 9-10 per. Furthermore, Paye ranks 2nd only to Micah Parsons in adjsuted pass-rush win rate among 2021 first round selections.
7. Philadelphia Eagles WR DeVonta Smith
Despite the Philadelphia Eagles offensive struggles DeVonta Smith is the highest graded rookie wide receiver to date (PFF). For those of you leery of Pro Football Focus grades, trust that the film doesn’t lie. He draws the opposition’s top corner each week; yet the amount of separation he creates, he’s open on virtually every snap by any standard. Coaching and inconsistent quarterback play have tempered expectations of casual fans but the Eagles’ passing game is coming into focus and the DeVonta Smith explosion is in the crosshairs.
6. Las Vegas Raiders CB Nate Hobbs
The fifth round selection out of Illinois has been outstanding. Whether it be in coverage or in run support, Hobbs has been the best rookie cornerback in an exceptionally talented class. One cannot overestimate his coverage out of the slot nor his ability as an open field tackler. According to PFF, Hobbs has allowed a paltry 243 yards on 354 coverage snaps.
5. New England Patriots QB Mac Jones
Leading off the top half of the Top 10 Rookies NFL 2021 is Mac Jones. The former Bama star has faired the best among the rookie signal-callers and it hasn’t been close. Let’s face it. We were enthralled with the physical gifts of the other four first round quarterbacks. But Jones’ is peerless in terms of pocket presence, processing and ball placement. Even with an uninspiring cast of receivers Mac Jones has done an excellent job of keeping the offense on schedule, protecting the football and giving his team a chance to win each week.
4. Cincinnati Bengals WR Ja’Marr Chase
Chase quickly put his preseason struggles with drops behind him and got off to a blistering start. Stacking defensive backs at record pace. His chemistry with Joe Burrow on full display. He’s cooled off as of late but his eight touchdowns are twice as many as the next rookie wideout. Chase’s redzone prowess and run-after-catch ability are as advertised. The rate at which he’s creating separation has been a pleasant surprise. The only thing keeping him from the top is his lack of success in contested catch situations; an area I did not expect him to struggle in.
3. Kansas City Chiefs C Creed Humphrey
I realize that Najee Harris was long rumored, ear-marked to the Pittsburgh Steelers with the 24th overall pick. I had hoped they would select Creed Humphrey to replace Maurkice Pouncy. Well, the Kansas City Chiefs got an absolute steal on Day 2 of the 2021 NFL Draft. According to PFF, Humphrey is not only the highest graded offensive rookie thru 11 weeks; he’s the highest graded center overall to date. Only four rookies have finished as the highest graded player at their respective position during the PFF era. There names are Patrick Willis, Adrian Peterson, Aldon Smith and Alvin Kamara.
2. Los Angeles Chargers OT Rashawn Slater
It’s a tall order protecting the franchise quarterback’s blindside. Piece of cake for Slater. He’s been dominant during his rookie campaign. His technique superb. He has all the answers to the test. It’s almost as if he’s been here before. I expect him to make All-Pro this season and the next five or so after that.
1. Dallas Cowboys LB Micah Parsons
I knew he was a talented. It was clear he was a gifted athlete. I was convinced he was everything Cowboys fans THOUGHT Jaylon Smith would be. And I still under-sold him. I did NOT recognize how special a football player Micah Parsons is. Number 11 in blue is a STAR. The way he gets after it lining up all over the formation is must see television. At times you see a delay in processing when he’s aligned off-ball but he’s improving.
THAT PASS RUSH THO…
What jumps off the page is his pass rushing ability. According to PFF, Parsons rivals Myles Garrett and Maxx Crosby in terms of pass rush grade. That’s impressive company for the rookie defender. Parsons appears to be a shoe-in for Defensive Rookie of the Year; and if he keeps up his impressive play, he may be the first rookie to win Defensive Player of the Year since Lawrence Taylor did in 1981.
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