PFF 2021 Midseason NFL All-Rookie Team: Patriots' Mac Jones starts at QB, Micah Parsons headlines on defense

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase (1) breaks tackles as he takes a reception 82 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter of the NFL Week 7 game between the Baltimore Ravens and the Cincinnati Bengals at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore on Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021. The Bengals moved into the top of the AFC North with a 41-17 win over the Ravens. Cincinnati Bengals At Baltimore Ravens Week 7

We are now into Week 9 of the new 17-game schedule, which means it’s time for the PFF midseason awards. We've already named the PFF 2021 Midseason NFL All-Pro Team, so now it's time to look at the rookies who deserve to be named to PFF's Midseason All-Rookie Team.

While we used the grades to assemble this roster, we gave deference to those who had played the most snaps when it became too close to call.

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QB: Mac Jones, New England Patriots

Jones has been far and away the most consistent rookie quarterback this season, and his 81.6 passing grade laps the next closest rookie quarterback by 22.2 grading points. While he may get the same criticism Tom Brady did for being a “check-down artist,” Jones’ 8.0-yard average depth of target (aDOT) is actually the same as Patrick Mahomes‘ and Justin Herbert‘s this season. 

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RB: Khalil Herbert, Chicago Bears

The Bears' rushing attack hasn’t missed a beat since Herbert took over from the injured David Montgomery. He’s averaged just under 20 carries and 86 yards per game in that four-week span. On those 81 carries, Herbert has broken 16 tackles and averaged nearly 3.0 yards after contact per attempt.

WR: Ja’Marr Chase, Cincinnati Bengals

This one wasn’t particularly close: Chase leads the entire NFL with nine catches, four scores and 375 receiving yards from passes thrown 20 or more yards downfield. While the drops haven’t quite subsided after the preseason, with five on 43 catchable targets, they’ve been a footnote in his dominance. He’s especially shined after the catch, with 11 broken tackles on 38 receptions to lead the NFL. 

WR: Jaylen Waddle, Miami Dolphins

Waddle’s first-half tape makes me think of a powder keg about to explode. He’s been electric with the ball in his hands and as a route-runner, but the Miami offensive line simply cannot hold up long enough for its quarterback to utilize him as a deep threat. Despite possessing 4.3 speed, Waddle has managed only one deep reception all season and boasts a measly 6.0-yard aDOT.

Slot: Rondale Moore, Arizona Cardinals

While Chase leads the NFL in broken tackles, Moore isn’t too far behind with 10 on only 29 receptions. He’s been mainly a gadget player — 19 of his catches have been screens — but compared to who the Cardinals were throwing screens to last season, it’s been a night and day difference with Moore.

TE: Kyle Pitts, Atlanta Falcons

While this past weekend against the Panthers was a bit of a dud for Pitts, the two weeks prior showed the special skill set that made him the first non-quarterback off the board in April. He went over 100 yards in each game while lining up mostly split wide. For the season, nearly 75% of his snaps have come from the slot or out wide.

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LT: Rashawn Slater, Los Angeles Chargers

Even though Penei Sewell has come on strong of late, Slater has been the best rookie tackle from Week 1. He’s currently the sixth-highest-graded tackle in the entire NFL, and he has allowed only 12 pressures on 328 pass-blocking snaps this year. For context, Chargers right tackle Storm Norton has allowed 33.

 LG: Alijah Vera-Tucker, New York Jets

Vera-Tucker got off to a bit of a slow start, but he has looked like a Pro Bowl-caliber guard of late. After allowing 12 pressures in his first three games, the former USC star has allowed only seven in his last four. He’s earned a 76.0 overall grade for the season.

C: Creed Humphrey, Kansas City Chiefs

Humphrey is one of only two offensive rookies who also made PFF’s midseason All-Pro team, but he is the only first-team selection. The 2021 second-round pick is the highest-graded center in the NFL and has been utterly dominant on the ground, earning a 93.8 run-blocking grade for his efforts.

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RG: Trey Smith, Kansas City Chiefs

Smith didn’t fall to the sixth round because of talent. I’m sure many wish they would have weighed the risk of his blood-clot issues a little less on their draft boards in retrospect, as he’s the highest-graded rookie guard and the sixth-highest-graded player at the position in the NFL.

RT: Sam Cosmi, Washington Football Team

It’s a shame Cosmi went down with an ankle injury against the Saints in Week 5 because he was in the midst of his most impressive game of the season. Cosmi was a physical freak for the position coming out of Texas, and for him to already have a 77.0 overall grade is incredible news for Washington. He has everything necessary to be a Pro Bowl tackle.

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DI: Roy Lopez, Houston Texans

The 2021 class was known for its lack of depth at defensive tackle, and not a single one heard their name called in the first round. Not much has changed through eight weeks, as Lopez is the highest-graded player of the bunch — and he only holds a 63.5 overall grade. The sixth-rounder out of Arizona has done his work in the run game, though, tallying seven run stops on the year.

DI: Christian Barmore, New England Patriots

While he’s still earned just a 52.0 overall grade, no defensive tackle in the class has come close to flashing as much as Barmore. His 46 positively graded plays are eight more than any other defensive tackle in the class, and they rank 30th at the position in the NFL.

EDGE: Kwity Paye, Indianapolis Colts

While Paye is still trying to figure out a pass-rush plan, he’s translated immediately in the run game for the Colts. He has 10 run stops on only 94 snaps against the run compared to eight hurries on 133 pass-rushing snaps.

EDGE: Gregory Rousseau, Buffalo Bills

If only Rousseau could play the Dolphins' offensive line every week. He’s racked up 13 pressures in two games against Miami, compared to only three pressures in his other five outings. Rousseau has the length and get-off to be a genuine pocket-collapser at the NFL level.

LB: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Cleveland Browns

Owusu-Koramoah was quite easily the league's best all-around rookie linebacker when healthy. He earned an 81.1 overall grade in only six games, putting up 14 stops and four pass-breakups over that span. Here’s hoping he comes back from his high-ankle sprain soon.

LB: Micah Parsons, Dallas Cowboys

Parsons is an animal coming downhill but can still get lost in the sauce in coverage. Nothing indicates that better than his pass-rush and coverage grade splits: This season he’s earned an 89.9 pass-rushing grade on 125 such snaps compared to a 50.5 coverage grade on 139 snaps. Still, he’s been massively important in Dallas’ defensive turnaround.

CB: Greg Newsome II, Cleveland Browns

The big games against rookie corners that are often commonplace have not befallen Newsome so far. In his five starts, he’s allowed a grand total of 173 yards — 34.6 yards allowed per game. He’s notched four pass breakups over that span, as well.

CB: Asante Samuel Jr., Los Angeles Chargers

Samuel may be giving up catches, but they aren’t often going far. He’s allowed 22 catches from 30 targets but for only 243 yards on the year. That’s just a shade over 1.00 yards per coverage snap. He’s also added two picks and two pass breakups.

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Nickel: Nate Hobbs, Las Vegas Raiders

The highest-graded rookie secondary player, Hobbs has outplayed his fifth-round draft status by leaps and bounds. His 25 targets have resulted in only 10 first downs and no scores this year. He’s also missed only one tackle on 22 attempts in coverage.

S: Trevon Moehrig, Las Vegas Raiders

More Raiders? Las Vegas has been in desperate need of help on the back end for years and finally looks to have found it. Moehrig has yielded all of three catches on seven targets for 21 yards this season.

S: Jevon Holland, Miami Dolphins

For only being a rookie, Holland has been an incredibly steady player for the Dolphins. That’s been especially true as a tackler — he’s missed only three of his 35 attempts this year.


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