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2022 NFL Season: Grading all 32 first-round picks after Week 9

East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New York Jets cornerback Sauce Gardner (1) celebrates his interception with defensive end Micheal Clemons (72) during the second half against the Buffalo Bills at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Sauce Gardner can't be stopped: The New York Jets cornerback has locked down his opposition all season, and Week 9 was no exception.

Ikem Ekwonu‘s stays hot: The Carolina Panthers tackle has settled in, allowing just five pressures in his past six games.

Trent McDuffie returns: The Kansas City Chiefs cornerback made his way back from injury and faced two targets in Week 9.

Estimated Reading Time: 11 mins

We will be checking in on the first-round rookies throughout the 2022 NFL season, grading their performances and highlighting who their principal individual opponent was in each game.

Here’s how the group fared in Week 9, as well as their overall PFF grade for the season.

1. Jacksonville Jaguars: EDGE Travon Walker, Georgia

Overall Rookie Grade: 59.9 (Rank: 12/31)
Principal Opponent: T Kolton Miller
Week 9 Snaps: 46

Walker drew a tough assignment this week despite the Raiders' overall lack of an elite offensive line. Kolton Miller is a good left tackle, and that’s whom Walker spent the majority of his time against. He finished the game with four hurries from 28 pass-rushing snaps and was moved in the run game. Walker has flashed elite athleticism this season but has been an inconsistent force on the edge.

2. Detroit Lions: EDGE Aidan Hutchinson, Michigan

Overall Rookie Grade: 66.9 (Rank: 6/31)
Principal Opponent: T David Bakhtiari
Week 9 Snaps: 65

Hutchinson may be Detroit’s best pass-rusher, but his most impactful play in this game was an interception of Aaron Rodgers in the end zone to kill a trick play on fourth down. Hutchinson recorded two pressures against one of the best in the game in David Bakhtiari. Overall this season, Hutchinson has 24 pressures — 13 more than any other Lion.

3. Houston Texans: CB Derek Stingley Jr. LSU

Overall Rookie Grade: 49.0 (Rank: 24/35)
Principal Opponent: WR A.J. Brown
Week 9 Snaps: 65

Stingley actually tracked A.J. Brown for the Texans back on Thursday night, putting him in the firing line against one of the game’s best receivers. There was a lot of soft zone from the Texans — and even when he was playing press at the line, it was often a zone defense once the play began — so we saw relatively little of a true one-on-one battle. Stingley has been inconsistent this season, but his upside is obvious.

4. New York Jets: CB Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, Cincinnati

Overall Rookie Grade: 86.1 (Rank: 2/35)
Principal Opponent: WR Gabriel Davis
Week 9 Snaps: 62

Gardner was once again excellent this week. Stefon Diggs beat him on the first play of the game for a 42-yard catch, but that was the only reception he gave up against one of the league’s most explosive offenses. His interception was more a bad play from Josh Allen than a great play by Gardner, but he also eliminated Gabriel Davis deep late in the game with the Bills chasing a comeback. Gardner now has the second-best PFF coverage grade in the league after nine weeks.

5. New York Giants: EDGE Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon

Overall Rookie Grade: 63.3 (Rank: 9/31)
Principal Opponent: BYE
Week 9 Snaps: BYE

Thibodeaux and the Giants were on a bye. He has 17 pressures over the season and has shown some excellent hustle to his play — something some draft analysts questioned about his game as a prospect.

6. Carolina Panthers: OT Ikem Ekwonu, North Carolina State

Overall Rookie Grade: 69.2 (Rank: 3/14)
Principal Opponent: EDGE Trey Hendrickson
Week 9 Snaps: 49

Ekwonu has been one of the best tackles in the league since a rocky first few weeks. Going up against Trey Hendrickson in Week 9, Ekwonu allowed just two pressures across 33 pass-blocking snaps and was excellent in the run game. Since Week 4, he has allowed just five pressures in six games.


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