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Every NFL team’s highest-graded rookie since 2006

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C.J. Stroud is the Texans’ highest-graded rookie: Stroud struggled early in the 2023 season but was the seventh-ranked quarterback in the league from Weeks 9-18.

Micah Parsons has been dominant since Day 1: Back in 2021, Parsons’ 92.9 pass-rush grade led the league, while his 21.3% pass-rush win rate ranked third.

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Estimated Reading Time: 13 minutes

Now that the dust from the 2024 NFL Draft has settled, it’s time to look ahead to the regular season, which is now less than four months away.

Every season, we see rookies come in and play at a high level from Day 1. Whether it’s the highly touted early-round prospects or the late-round gems, NFL teams’ successes often come down to the contributions of their rookie class.

 With this in mind, let’s look at every team’s highest-graded rookie in the PFF era dating back to 2006.

JUMP TO A TEAM:

ARZ | ATL | BLT | BUF | CAR | CIN | CHI | CLE | DEN | DAL | DET | GB | HOU | IND | JAX | KC | LVR | LAC | LAR | MIA | MIN | NE | NO | NYG | NYJ | PHI | PIT | SF | SEA | TB | TEN | WSH

Arizona Cardinals: LB Daryl Washington, 2010 (86.9)

After being selected out of TCU in the second round of the 2010 draft, Washington was the Cardinals’ highest-graded defender as a rookie. His 40 defensive stops ranked fourth among his teammates, even though he played just 518 snaps for the year. He earned high grades across the board, particularly in run defense and coverage.

Grades, advanced statistics and more: Available in PFF Premium Stats


Atlanta Falcons: WR Drake London, 2022 (83.2)

The Falcons selected London eighth overall in the 2022 draft, and he made an immediate impact in the NFL. London’s 83.2 overall grade ranked 11th out of 113 qualifying wide receivers in 2022. He led the team in receptions (72), yards (866) and touchdowns (4) and dropped just two passes all season long.

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Baltimore Ravens: S Dawan Landry, 2006 (89.9)

Landry was a Day 1 starter on the best defense in football as a fifth-round pick out of Georgia Tech. He was elite defending the run and in coverage, where he intercepted five passes, broke up four others and did not allow a touchdown all season.

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Buffalo Bills: CB Tre’Davious White, 2017 (89.4)

White’s 89.4 overall grade as a rookie was good for fifth among 120 qualifying cornerbacks that year. He allowed just 48.1% of passes thrown his way to be caught and was among the league leaders with 17 combined interceptions and pass breakups. Most impressively, White completely shut down his opposition three times, allowing zero catches in each of those three games.

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Grades, advanced statistics and more: Available in PFF Premium Stats


Carolina Panthers: CB Richard Marshall, 2006 (88.1)

Marshall allowed just one touchdown in coverage in his rookie campaign, intercepting three passes and breaking up seven others. His 57.9 passer rating when targeted ranked top-10 among all cornerbacks in 2006.

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Chicago Bears: C Cody Whitehair, 2016 (87.5)

Despite finishing the year 3-13, the 2016 Bears fielded one of the best offensive lines in the league, ranking top-10 in team pass-blocking grade (84.4) and run-blocking (78.6).

Second-round pick Cody Whitehair started every game at center as a rookie, and his 87.5 overall grade ranked third among 38 qualifying centers for the season.

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Cincinnati Bengals: WR Ja’Marr Chase, 2021 (85.3)

Chase was widely regarded as one of the best wide receiver prospects in recent memory coming into the 2021 NFL Draft and immediately cemented himself as one of the game’s best early on. Including the playoffs, Chase ranked second among all wide receivers with 49 explosive plays (15-plus yards) and third in yards per reception (17.5).

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Grades, advanced statistics and more: Available in PFF Premium Stats


Cleveland Browns: T Joe Thomas, 2007 (84.9)

Thomas was one of the best offensive tackles ever to play in the NFL, and that was apparent from Day 1. He did not allow a sack over 607 pass-blocking snaps as a rookie and allowed no more than one pressure in 10 of his 16 games that season.

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Dallas Cowboys: ED Micah Parsons, 2021 (89.7)

Back in 2021, Parsons’ 92.9 pass-rush grade led the league, while his 21.3% pass-rush win rate ranked third. He also ranked among the league leaders with 58 defensive stops and helped transform a Dallas defense that ranked near the bottom of the league just a year prior.

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Denver Broncos: EDGE Von Miller, 2011 (90.0)

The Broncos finished the 2010 season 4-12, their worst season since their 2-7 strike-shortened season of 1982. They were immediately back in the playoffs the following year thanks in large part to Von Miller, whom they selected second overall in the 2011 NFL Draft.

Miller’s 90.0 overall grade ranked third among 93 qualifying edge defenders, and he helped change the culture in Denver as an elite difference-maker as a rookie.

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Detroit Lions: G Larry Warford, 2013 (85.1)

Warford started every game at right guard as a rookie for the Lions in 2013. Over 694 pass-blocking snaps, he allowed just 15 pressures (and no sacks) for the year. In an offense headlined by star wide receiver Calvin Johnson and quarterback Matthew Stafford, Warford was an unsung hero in the trenches for Detroit.

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Green Bay Packers: CB Casey Hayward Jr., 2012 (91.5)

Hayward was a lockdown cornerback as a rookie in 2012, as he gave up just a 29.3 passer rating when targeted, the lowest for any cornerback in the league that season. He did not allow a single touchdown in coverage and picked off six passes while breaking up 12 others. Hayward’s 2012 season was arguably the most dominant we’ve seen by a rookie cornerback dating back to 2006.

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Grades, advanced statistics and more: Available in PFF Premium Stats


Houston Texans: QB C.J. Stroud, 2023 (83.1)

Houston selected both the Offensive Rookie of the Year (Stroud) and Defensive Rookie of the Year (Will Anderson Jr.) in 2023, helping the Texans go from worst to first in the AFC South in just one season. Stroud struggled early in the season but was the seventh-ranked quarterback in the league from Weeks 9-18.

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Indianapolis Colts: TE Dwayne Allen, 2012 (85.9)

The Colts drafted quarterback Andrew Luck first overall in the 2012 NFL Draft and then doubled up on tight ends in Rounds 2 (Coby Fleener) and 3 (Allen). Allen was the more productive player as a rookie, finishing fourth on the team in targets (70), receptions (49), yards (572) and third in touchdowns (3). His 84.4 run-blocking grade ranked among the top 10 tight ends for the season, as well.

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Jacksonville Jaguars: G Brandon Linder, 2014 (79.8)

The 2014 Jaguars ranked last in run-blocking grade and 27th in pass-blocking grade as a team, on their way to a dreadful 3-13 season. Rookie right guard Brandon Linder was the lone offensive player with an overall grade above 70.0. He allowed 15 pressures over 597 pass-blocking snaps and committed just two penalties for the year.

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Kansas City Chiefs: C Creed Humphrey, 2021 (91.8)

Humphrey joined a Kansas City offense filled with talent, including future Hall of Famers Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce. He immediately established himself as an elite player, earning a league-best 91.8 overall grade at the center position as a rookie. He was particularly dominant as a run-blocker, earning a 93.1 run-blocking grade.

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Las Vegas Raiders: EDGE Khalil Mack, 2014 (86.9)

When the Raiders drafted Mack fifth overall in the 2014 NFL Draft, it marked the first time a player from the Buffalo Bulls had been selected in the first two rounds of a draft. Mack made an immediate impact, his 86.9 PFF grade ranking third among 99 qualifying edge defenders. He was especially dominant in run defense, where his run-defense grade of 90.3 was tops at his position.

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Los Angeles Rams: DI Aaron Donald, 2014 (90.2)

How good was Aaron Donald? Well, his 90.2 overall grade in his rookie season of 2014 was the lowest of his decade-long career. He led all interior defenders in overall grade seven straight years from 2015 to 2021. With three Defensive Player of the Year awards and eight first-team All-Pro selections, there’s a very strong argument that Donald is the greatest defensive player to ever play in the NFL.

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Los Angeles Chargers: EDGE Joey Bosa, 2016 (86.6)

Bosa was the first of five Ohio State players drafted in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft. He racked up 59 total pressures despite missing the first four weeks with a hamstring injury. His 86.6 overall grade was good for eighth among 111 qualifying edge defenders that season.

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Miami Dolphins: T Jake Long, 2008 (88.4)

The 2008 Dolphins joined the 1999 Colts as the only two teams in NFL history to have a 10-win improvement from the previous season. No. 1 overall pick Jake Long was a big reason: he did not allow a sack over the final 13 weeks of the season and was dominant blocking in the run game for running backs Ronnie Brown, Ricky Williams and the wild-cat offense.

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Minnesota Vikings: WR Justin Jefferson, 2020 (90.4)

The Vikings selected Jefferson with the 22nd overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft as part of a trade that sent Pro Bowl wide receiver Stefon Diggs to the Buffalo Bills. Both Jefferson (90.4 overall, 2nd) and Diggs (90.2 overall, 4th) ranked top-five at the position in PFF grade that year, so it was a deal that many considered to be a win-win.

Jefferson ranked third in the league with 36 explosive plays of 15-plus yards and established himself as one of the premier deep threats in the NFL, scoring four touchdowns on targets thrown 20-plus yards down the field.

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New England Patriots: T Sebastian Vollmer, 2009 (91.0)

Vollmer joined an already formidable offensive line in New England as a second-round pick in the 2009 NFL Draft. He made starts at both left and right tackle as a rookie, and his 92.6 run-blocking grade was the highest among all tackles that season.

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New Orleans Saints: RB Alvin Kamara, 2017 (90.4)

Kamara joined quarterback Drew Brees and a stacked Saints offense as a third-round pick in 2017. His 90.4 overall grade was first among 58 qualifying running backs that season. He was a game-changer both on the ground and through the air, leading the league in the percentage of carries that went for a first down or touchdown (28.9%) and missed tackles forced per attempt (0.23). Kamara also led all running backs in various receiving categories, including explosive plays (23), missed tackles forced (30) and yards per route run (2.76).

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New York Giants: WR Odell Beckham Jr., 2014 (90.8)

Beckham’s 2014 season was one of the best in NFL history for a rookie wide receiver. Despite missing the first four games of the year with a hamstring injury, Beckham caught 91 passes for 1,305 yards and 12 touchdowns. From Weeks 9-17, the LSU product recorded at least 90 yards in every game, passing the 100-yard mark seven times. His 3.14 yards per route run and 14 forced missed tackles in the second half of the season led all wide receivers.

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New York Jets: CB Sauce Gardner, 2022 (87.9)

The Jets earned a 37.9 team coverage grade in 2021, 30th in the NFL. One year later, they drafted Sauce Gardner fourth overall, and he helped turn them into an elite coverage unit, one that finished the 2022 season with the third-best team coverage grade in the league (89.6). Gardner allowed just 45.2% of the targets thrown his way to be caught and a 53.5 passer rating when targeted in coverage on his way to a position-best 87.9 overall grade.

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Philadelphia Eagles: DI Jalen Carter, 2023 (87.4)

The Eagles traded up one spot to select Carter — PFF’s No. 2 overall player on their NFL Draft Big Board — ninth overall in last year’s draft. Carter’s 87.4 overall grade ranked sixth among 130 qualifying interior defenders. He was most effective as a pass-rusher, where he ranked fifth at his position in win rate (17.2%).

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Pittsburgh Steelers: WR Santonio Holmes, 2006 (80.1)

Holmes did not see the field much early on in his rookie season (he played just 94 snaps through the first five games) but earned an every-down role as the season progressed. That season, 41 of his 49 receptions (83.6%) resulted in a first down.

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San Francisco 49ers: EDGE Aldon Smith, 2011 (90.5)

Smith displayed elite pass-rushing traits as a rookie, proving that he was worthy of a top-10 selection in the 2011 NFL Draft. He led all edge defenders in pass-rush win rate (18.6%) and pressure percentage (20.3%). He was no slouch against the run, either, as he ranked among the top 20 edge defenders in run-defense grade.

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Seattle Seahawks: QB Russell Wilson, 2012 (90.6)

In terms of rookie quarterbacks in the PFF era, Russell Wilson is in a tier of his own. The 2012 third-round pick finished his first season in Seattle with an overall grade of 90.6, second-best among 37 qualifying quarterbacks. Wilson made incredible throws without putting the ball in danger, as evidenced by his 36 big-time throws and just 10 turnover-worthy plays for the season.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers: T Tristan Wirfs, 2020 (84.1)

Tampa Bay opted to bulk up its offensive line with Tom Brady entering his first season with the team in 2020. Wirfs started every game at right tackle as a rookie for the Super Bowl champion Buccaneers, grading out as a top-10 tackle for the season. He allowed just one sack over 851 pass-blocking snaps and had his game of the season (91.7 overall, one pressure allowed) in the Super Bowl victory over Kansas City.

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Tennessee Titans: WR A.J. Brown, 2019 (81.8)

Brown quickly established himself as the go-to option in the Titans’ passing game as a rookie as a big play waiting to happen. He led all receivers with 20.5 yards per reception and 9.4 yards after catch per reception in 2019.

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Washington Commanders: RB Alfred Morris, 2012 (91.0)

Washington drafted Morris in the sixth round of the 2012 NFL Draft and wasn’t named as the starting running back by coach Mike Shanahan until the day before their season opener. He went on to have an incredible rookie season, finishing second in rushing yards (1,613) and rushing touchdowns (13). His 57 explosive runs (15-plus yards) ranked second behind Adrian Peterson, the league’s MVP that season.

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