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NFL rookie rankings at Q1 of 2023 season: Multiple representatives for Texans, Lions, Patriots

With the 2023 NFL regular season at the quarter mark, former NFL executive and scout Marc Ross reviews the first four weeks to rank the top 25 rookies in the league today.

C.J. Stroud
Houston Texans · QB

DRAFTED: Round 1, No. 2 overall

C.J. Stroud entered his rookie year faced with an uphill battle, having joined a Texans offense that lacked obvious big-time talent. Now we’re four weeks into the season, and all Stroud has done is raise the level of everyone around him. He’s shown great poise and that he’s in command of this offense. Heading into Week 5, the Ohio State product ranked fourth in the NFL in passing yards. But the more impressive fact is that he has yet to throw an interception. He hasn’t been without mistakes, but the kid looks unfazed.

Jalen Carter
Philadelphia Eagles · DT

DRAFTED: Round 1, No. 9 overall

Jalen Carter has shown why he could’ve been the No. 1 overall pick in April’s draft, regularly producing as a rotational player in the Eagles’ defensive front behind starters Jordan Davis and Fletcher Cox. Playing 48 percent of the team’s defensive snaps through four weeks, Carter has compiled 20 pressures and a 23.2 percent pass-rush win rate, ranking behind only Aaron Donald, per Pro Football Focus. He’ll eventually take on a larger role. 

Puka Nacua
Los Angeles Rams · WR

DRAFTED: Round 5, No. 177 overall

Puka Nacua has been the biggest surprise in the league so far this season. He’s Cooper Kupp 2.0 as a smart receiver with an unbelievable feel for the game. Through the first four weeks, the fifth-round pick led the league in targets (52) and receptions (39) and ranked second in receiving yards (501), behind Justin Jefferson. The trust Sean McVay and Matthew Stafford have in Nacua further cements his place as the top wideout in this talented class right now, as does his early production -- including the walk-off touchdown against the Colts.

Christian Gonzalez
New England Patriots · CB

DRAFTED: Round 1, No. 17 overall

The Defensive Rookie of the Month for September, Christian Gonzalez was off to an incredible start to his NFL career before sustaining a torn labrum in the Patriots’ Week 4 loss to Dallas. Prior to his injury, the physically gifted cornerback shut down some of the league’s elite wideouts, limiting Tyreek Hill to one catch for 8 yards in Week 2 and Garrett Wilson to three receptions for 18 yards in Week 3 as the nearest defender, per Next Gen Stats. It’s unfortunate Gonzalez’s season is likely over after such a promising start.

Devon Witherspoon
Seattle Seahawks · CB

DRAFTED: Round 1, No. 5 overall

Devon Witherspoon missed the first game of the season, but all he's done is make plays since then. His prime-time performance against the Giants alone would probably slot him in this list, as he posted a pair of sacks and a 97-yard pick-six late in the third quarter. He is physical, crafty, versatile and has great ball skills and toughness. What more could you want in a cornerback?

Sam LaPorta
Detroit Lions · TE

DRAFTED: Round 2, No. 34 overall

Sam LaPorta is the latest stud in a line of Iowa tight ends. He has recorded the most receptions (22) by a tight end in his first four career games in NFL history while also leading all rookies at the position this season in targets (27) and receiving yards (242). LaPorta is a reliable target for Jared Goff as an athletic player with tremendous ball skills. 

Bijan Robinson
Atlanta Falcons · RB

DRAFTED: Round 1, No. 8 overall

Bijan Robinson has been everything the Falcons envisioned when drafting him eighth overall. A playmaker in the run and pass games, the rookie running back leads the team in carries (53) and receptions (19) through four games while accounting for 36 percent of his team's scrimmage yards, the fourth-highest percentage by a rookie since 1970, according to NFL Research. He should only build off this strong start.

Brian Branch
Detroit Lions · DB

DRAFTED: Round 2, No. 45 overall

Versatility is Brian Branch’s calling card, and we’ve seen the impact he’s had on the Lions’ defense. On top of his pick-six of Patrick Mahomes in the NFL Kickoff Game, Branch has recorded four passes defensed and 25 tackles, the most among rookie defensive backs going into Week 5. Branch’s instinctive play has him among the early favorites for Defensive Rookie of the Year. 

Anthony Richardson
Indianapolis Colts · QB

DRAFTED: Round 1, No. 4 overall

Anthony Richardson has been the electric playmaker in Indy that he was in The Swamp, generating seven total touchdowns (three pass, four rush) against just one interception in his first three games. The dual-threat quarterback still has a long way to go in his development. One of my major concerns is that he prioritizes protecting himself -- he’s already missed one game with an injury (concussion). 

De'Von Achane
Miami Dolphins · RB

DRAFTED: Round 3, No. 84 overall

De’Von Achane is a perfect fit in a Miami offense based on speed, speed and more speed. He’s a one-cut runner with explosiveness and long speed -- all on display in his impressive four-touchdown game in Week 2. In three games played, Achane has 309 rush yards (second among rookies entering Week 5) on 27 carries for an eye-popping 11.4 yards per attempt. With so many playmakers in this offense, the first-year RB has played just 29 percent of Miami’s offensive snaps. There are only so many touches to go around, yet Achane looks comfortable and is quite productive in this relief pitcher-type role.

Will Anderson Jr.
Houston Texans · DE

DRAFTED: Round 1, No. 3 overall

Will Anderson Jr.’s stats might not be off the charts, but the energy and presence he supplies in the Texans’ defensive front is unmatched. He is the exact type of player -- tough and physical -- who’ll thrive under DeMeco Ryans, and he’s posted one sack and 15 tackles (most among rookie D-linemen heading into Week 5) this season. He's only going to get better.

Zay Flowers
Baltimore Ravens · WR

DRAFTED: Round 1, No. 22 overall

With so many players in and out of the Ravens’ lineup, Zay Flowers has handled being the go-to receiver in Baltimore like a pro. He leads the Ravens in receiving yards (244) and receptions (24) -- a franchise record through a player’s first four career games. The early rapport he’s built with Lamar Jackson is promising.

Tank Dell
Houston Texans · WR

DRAFTED: Round 3, No. 69 overall

Tank Dell has been part of the Texans’ resurgence at the wide receiver position. Alongside Nico Collins and Robert Woods, the 5-foot-10, 165-pounder has been a major playmaker for C.J. Stroud with his explosiveness and long speed. He had the fourth-most receptions (16) among rookie receivers heading into Week 5 but sat second in receiving yards (267), and he’s added a pair of touchdowns. He showed exceptional focus and body awareness on the first score in Week 2 and demonstrated his downfield ability on a 68-yard TD in Week 3, part of a five-catch, 145-yard outing in Houston’s first win of the season.

Brandon Aubrey
Dallas Cowboys · K

DRAFTED: Undrafted

After last postseason’s kicker debacle, the Cowboys signed 28-year-old former soccer and USFL player Brandon Aubrey, and it’s paid off. Through four weeks, Aubrey has converted all 13 of his field-goal tries, including a 55-yarder in Week 2, while going 9-of-10 in PATs. He has done his part in a high-pressure environment.

Keeanu Benton
Pittsburgh Steelers · DT

DRAFTED: Round 2, No. 49 overall

Every season, the Steelers seem to have a young defender break out. This year, it’s Keeanu Benton, who took on a bigger role after Cam Heyward’s injury. The rookie has only played 36 percent of the team’s defensive snaps this season but has accumulated 10 tackles and one sack, and he's excelled as a run stopper. 

Ivan Pace Jr.
Minnesota Vikings · LB

DRAFTED: Undrafted

A lesser-known player on this list, Ivan Pace Jr. has been a tackling machine in Brian Flores’ defense, logging 25 tackles, second among rookie LBs this season entering Week 5. The undrafted rookie out of Cincinnati has a nose for the football and gets there quickly. He’s an excellent addition to this unit.

Dawand Jones
Cleveland Browns · OT

DRAFTED: Round 4, No. 111 overall

Dawand Jones was thrust into a starting role at right tackle after the Browns lost Jack Conklin to a season-ending injury in Week 1. The 6-8, 375-pounder has not only stepped up to the challenge but thrived. He hasn't allowed a sack on 144 pass-blocking snaps, according to PFF. There’s still room to improve, especially as a run blocker, but I like what I’ve seen early on from the big man. 

Bryce Young
Carolina Panthers · QB

DRAFTED: Round 1, No. 1 overall

The Panthers’ offense is all on Bryce Young’s shoulders, and Frank Reich has asked him to do a lot early on. I expect Young to improve as the year progresses; despite the poor results so far, he has still shown good poise, vision and accuracy. He just needs more help. He has yet to win his first NFL game, but Young has improved in key areas in each of his three starts: 

Table inside Article
Week 1 vs. ATL Week 2 vs. NO Week 4 vs. MIN
Completion percentage 52.6 66.7 78.1
Pass yards per attempt 3.8 4.6 6.4
Passer rating 48.8 87.1 93.2
Time to throw (NGS) 3.16 seconds 3.12 seconds 2.46 seconds
Jake Moody
San Francisco 49ers · K

DRAFTED: Round 3, No. 99 overall

The 49ers received some criticism for taking a kicker in the third round, but Jake Moody has backed up his draft standing early in his career, making all 14 of his PATs and converting all nine of his field-goal attempts, including one from 57 yards in a tight contest against the Rams. This guy is money. 

Tuli Tuipulotu
Los Angeles Chargers · LB

DRAFTED: Round 2, No. 54 overall

Tuli Tuipulotu isn’t the flashiest player on the field, but he has great technique and is a sound tackler. The second-round pick is one of the many versatile players in Brandon Staley’s defense and has already racked up two sacks, 17 tackles and a 13.1 percent pressure rate through four games.

Henry To'oTo'o
Houston Texans · LB

DRAFTED: Round 5, No. 167 overall

Similar to Pace, Henry To’oTo’o has stepped right into a big spot for his defense and hasn’t skipped a beat. He’s a smart and crafty linebacker who’s made numerous plays in the pass game for the Texans. Always around the ball, he leads all rookie linebackers with 27 tackles.

Jahmyr Gibbs
Detroit Lions · RB

DRAFTED: Round 1, No. 12 overall

Jahmyr Gibbs flashed his big-play ability in the Lions’ upset win over the Chiefs in Week 1, but he hasn’t been given the ball on a consistent basis. He has played in more than 50 percent of the Lions’ offensive snaps in only one game: Week 3, when he logged 59 percent after starting in place of an injured David Montgomery. The talent is obvious; whenever he touches the ball, he shows off his explosiveness, body control and reliable catch ability. With 249 scrimmage yards through four games, Gibbs likely moves up in this list if he’s incorporated more into the offense.

Bryce Baringer
New England Patriots · P

DRAFTED: Round 6, No. 192 overall

Yes, a punter! Bryce Baringer has routinely delivered for the Patriots. This season, he's logged 22 punts, tied for second-most in the NFL, and 11 of those punts have been downed inside the opposing 20-yard line, most in the league. His contributions continue to give the Patriots’ defense a chance by pinning the opponent deep in its own territory. 

Marvin Mims Jr.
Denver Broncos · WR

DRAFTED: Round 2, No. 63 overall

Marvin Mims Jr. doesn’t have the overall touches others in this list do, but when the play goes his way, he’s proven to be one of the more explosive wide receivers in the NFL. He only has nine receptions yet ranks fourth among rookies in receiving yards entering Week 5, with 242. The highlights so far? His 99-yard kick return for a touchdown in Week 3 and a 60-yard connection with Russell Wilson for a score in Week 2. His knack for making big plays downfield should help him get more opportunities moving forward.

Jordan Addison
Minnesota Vikings · WR

DRAFTED: Round 1, No. 23 overall

Jordan Addison has shown flashes of his big-time talent in Minnesota, but he’s had limited opportunities playing opposite Justin Jefferson. Still, the USC product has 185 receiving yards and hit pay dirt twice, tied for most among rookies going into Week 5. He has outstanding quickness, hands and route-running ability.

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