• Brock Purdy gets the nod at QB: The Iowa State product's 76.6 overall grade led the rookie QB class, and his 107.3 passer rating led all quarterbacks with at least 150 dropbacks.
• Sauce Gardner headlines the defense: Gardner finished 2022 as the highest-graded cornerback in the NFL — not just among rookies but the entire NFL. On 642 coverage snaps, he allowed only 344 yards.
• Garrett Wilson among the elites: Wilson hauled in 83 passes for 1,103 yards and four scores, breaking 22 tackles in the process. That last figure trailed only Deebo Samuel among all receivers in the NFL.
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
The 2022 draft class may not have had the star power of 2021, but there were still several Day 1 studs. Let’s dive into the top rookie at every position. We start with San Francisco 49ers quarterback and 2022's Mr. Irrelevant, Brock Purdy.
Steelers QB Kenny Pickett had an encouraging rookie season, but what Purdy has achieved in such a limited time is extremely impressive. The 49ers have not lost any of the six games Purdy has played since Jimmy Garoppolo went down in Week 13 against the Miami Dolphins.
The Iowa State product's 76.6 overall grade led the rookie QB class, and his 107.3 passer rating led all quarterbacks with at least 150 dropbacks.
Kenneth Walker III ran for more yards and Dameon Pierce broke more tackles, but Allgeier ran away with it from a grading perspective. He was efficient when called upon, averaging 4.9 yards per carry, while his 3.58 yards after contact per carry ranked seventh among 60 qualifying running backs over the regular season. He’s a perfect fit for Arthur Smith’s run game.
London looks like another perfect fit for Arthur Smith’s offense. He made a ton of tough catches, going 14-of-26 (53.3%) in contested situations this season. He finished with 72 catches for 866 yards and showed a rapport with QB Desmond Ridder late in the season, posting a career-high 120 yards in Week 18.
Wilson’s dynamism popped every time you turned on the tape this fall. He moves the same way the elites at the position do. He hauled in 83 passes for 1,103 yards and four scores, breaking 22 tackles in the process. That last figure trailed only Deebo Samuel among all receivers in the NFL. The first-rounder dropped only two passes in a season Jets fans should be thrilled about.
Olave was as advertised in his rookies season. He was as pro-ready a route-runner as you’ll ever see in the draft, which bore out from Day 1. His 2.42 yards per route run led the rookie class and ranked seventh in the entire NFL — an elite number from a first-year player.
Okonkwo led all first-year tight ends in yards (449), scores (3) and broken tackles (7), even though he didn't start for most of the season.
Better yet, Okonkwo’s 2.61 yards per route run actually led all tight ends in the NFL; it’s just that he saw the field for only 378 snaps.
One of the steals of the draft class so far. The Bears' fifth-rounder did enough to put himself as their undisputed long-term starter at left tackle. He finished with a 79.4 run-blocking grade and a 70.5 pass-blocking grade on the season.
Did I cheat a little to include Smith here when he only played 121 snaps at guard all season? Sure. But Smith and Jones both deserved the love, so an executive decision was made.
Billed as a project coming out of Tulsa, Smith was much better than that as a rookie. He finished with a 71.4 overall grade on the season.
Linderbaum is already nothing short of an elite run-blocking center. While his 26 pressures allowed in pass protection is a bit high, what Linderbaum can do at the second level in the run game is special. The Ravens got a future Pro Bowler, if not All-Pro.
Johnson didn’t quite live up to his NFL-ready billing as much as the Chargers would have hoped, but he was still easily the NFL's best rookie starter at guard. He finished with a 64.8 overall grade, although that was mainly down to his performance as a run-blocker, as he allowed 40 pressures on the year.
The Seahawks' 2022 draft class was so loaded that it’s easy to forget about the stellar job Lucas did as a Day 1 starter at tackle. The third-rounder finished the regular season with a 68.5 overall grade and allowed only 28 pressures.
It’s a shame Davis has been hobbled by a high-ankle sprain over the back half of the season because he put up some jaw-dropping tape at times early in the campaign. We saw only 225 snaps from Davis during the regular season, as he put up a 71.4 overall grade.
It was a very slow start for Wyatt, who barely got on the field early on for the Packers. That changed in a big way midway through the season, and he looked like a real playmaker down the stretch as Wyatt finished with a 70.5 overall grade.
Hutchinson was the top player on PFF’s draft board in large part because of the certainty with which we felt he’d be an impact NFL defensive lineman. That proved to be the case quickly, as Hutchinson finished with an 80.7 overall grade. He led all rookies with 53 pressures on the season.
Thibodeaux’s flashes were arguably the most impressive of any rookie defensive lineman. His blend of explosiveness, strength and length was too much for a lot of opposing blockers. He finished with a 71.9 overall grade and 40 pressures on the season.
A lot of rookies took their lumps at linebacker this season, Rodriguez included. Still, the good outweighed the bad for the sixth-rounder, who finished with a 63.9 overall grade on 611 snaps. His range and instinctive playstyle were all over his tape.
Sanborn was a revelation in his albeit brief stint as the starting linebacker for the Bears. In six games as a starter, he racked up 24 defensive stops. Extrapolate that to a full 17-game season, and it would have ranked second in the league. That’s quite the start of a career.
Garder is your No. 1 overall pick in a redraft, and quite frankly, it’s not even close. He finished 2022 as the highest-graded cornerback in the NFL. Not just among rookies but the entire NFL. On 642 coverage snaps, Gardner allowed only 344 yards. That’s a Hall of Fame trajectory to start a career.
A fifth-round former receiver-turned-corner playing at a high level as a rookie? Where have we seen that before? Woolen picked off six passes and broke up nine more in quite the playmaking rookie season. While he still needs to clean up some penalties (8) and tackling issues (18.7% missed rate), Woolen looks like a defensive cornerstone.
Slot CB Kyle Hamilton, Baltimore Ravens
Hamilton found his home in the slot for the Ravens around midseason and was a big reason for their defensive turnaround. He finished the season with an 82.3 overall grade, as he was active against both the run and pass. His 10 coverage stops from the slot were the sixth-most in the NFL.
Brisker always seemed to be around the ball for Chicago as a rookie. He finished his first season with 28 defensive stops, the 10th-most of any safety in the league. And he did it all from a number of alignments, with 371 snaps coming from the slot, 150 along the line of scrimmage, 289 deep and 100 from the slot.
Pitre made more plays than any other rookie safety in the NFL. He led all rookies with five picks and 31 total defensive stops. Unfortunately, his 36 missed tackles (20.3% miss rate) also led all players in the entire NFL by a massive margin. If he cleans that up, he’ll be a perennial Pro Bowler in the coming years.