• Jalen Carter with one for the ages: Carter produced the highest debut grade ever recorded by an interior defensive lineman, and it even edged out Aaron Donald (89.7). And he turned out to be pretty good, right?
• Jahmyr Gibbs comes close: A fumble from Bijan Robinson opened the door for Jahmyr Gibbs to earn the highest Week 1 grade among the rookie running backs, and he did so with a more than respectable 78.8.
• Dig into the numbers for yourself: PFF's Premium Stats is the most in-depth collection of NFL and NCAA player performance data. Subscribe today to get full access!
Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
Several NFL rookies took the league by storm in Week 1, but where do their performances rank compared to their peers of yesteryear? We’ve used the filtering mechanisms on PFF Premium Stats to go through each year of the PFF era (2006-present) to see which players produced the best PFF grades at each position.
QB: Gardner Minshew — 87.8, 2019
Three quarterbacks debuted in Week 1 this year, with first-rounders C.J. Stroud, Anthony Richardson and Bryce Young getting the nod. But none wowed, and the best grade was the 55.2 Stroud put up against Baltimore. That’s a long way from the magic number Minshew put up for the Jaguars in 2019.
RB: Kareem Hunt — 81.9, 2017
A fumble from Bijan Robinson opened the door for Jahmyr Gibbs to earn the highest Week 1 grade among the rookie running backs, and he did so with a more than respectable 78.8. But that wasn’t quite high enough to best the mark Hunt sent when he opened up the 2017 season by going for 246 yards from scrimmage.
WR: Marquise Brown — 94.4, 2019
That was some effort from Puka Nacua, who went off for a remarkable 119 yards on 10 catches in his NFL debut, helping him net an 81.3 grade. However, he still falls some way short of Brown, who announced himself to the NFL in style, racking up 147 yards and two touchdowns back in 2019.
TE: Will Dissly — 92.1, 2018
It wasn’t the biggest Week 1 for tight ends, but Detroit's Sam LaPorta earned a position-high 67.8 grade after catching all five passes thrown his way. The highest mark remains with Dissly, the college blocking tight end, who came flying out of the gates with 105 yards and a touchdown against the Broncos in 2018.
LT: Jake Long — 83.8, 2008
Incredibly, no rookie left tackles got significant action, with the lion's share of the tackles selected pushed either to the right side or moved inside to guard. You have to go back all the way to 2008 for our highest grade here, with Long narrowly edging out the 83.7 mark Joe Thomas set the year prior.
LG: Andy Levitre — 84.4, 2009
The Titans offensive line looks much improved already, and the strong start by Peter Skoronski definitely played a part. But his grade of 81.3 isn’t the best, as former Bills guard Levitre set a mark that appears almost untouchable.
C: Corey Linsley — 75.5, 2014
There wasn’t a lot to get excited about with the play of the rookie centers. Sixth-rounder Jarrett Patterson just about squeaked the top grade at the spot, but his 55.9 grade indicates a default victory. That grade is a far cry from the one Linsley achieved in 2014.
RG: Eric Wood — 87.2, 2009
Second-round pick O’Cyrus Torrence had a decent enough debut, posting a 69.7 grade, but decent only gets you so far. The Bills interior started two rookies in 2009 and both had the kind of debuts that boded well for their future.
RT: Justin Britt — 81.4, 2014
It was a nightmare Week 1 for the Bears, but they can take some solace in encouraging rookie effort from Darnell Wright (72.1). That’s a little short of Britt, who was flawless in pass protection on his way to setting this mark.
EDGE: Jeremiah Attaochu — 91.2, 2014
Houston invested a lot in Will Anderson Jr., and he duly delivered the best rookie edge grade of the opening weekend (83.1). Preston Smith has the highest grade here (93.6) but 11 snaps just isn’t a sample size to qualify, so Attaochu takes it with his strong pass-rushing effort.
DI: Jalen Carter — 92.1, 2023
It was some effort from Jalen Carter — the inspiration for this piece — who had a debut for the ages. It was the highest debut grade ever recorded by an interior defensive lineman, and it even edged out Aaron Donald (89.7). And he turned out to be pretty good, right?
LB: Dont’a Hightower — 90.2, 2012
A fifth-round pick out of Alabama, Henry To'oTo'o managed only 22 snaps but made enough plays to score the highest mark of his peers (84.3). As good as he was, though, it’s not a patch on Hightower, who immediately showed the NFL what he was about — coming downhill and destroying running backs and quarterbacks.
CB: Kader Kohou — 91.9, 2022
Some highly touted cornerbacks missed Week 1, so it’s fair to say nobody really stood out. Instead, it was left to Carrington Valentine (68.8) to score the highest mark on his 20 snaps. It was nowhere near what we saw last year when Kohou turned 18 snaps into a monster grade after three stops, a pass breakup and a forced fumble, all while allowing only 5 yards on three targets. Not bad for an undrafted free agent.
S: Reggie Nelson — 87.8, 2007
It was not the kind of opening weekend to remember for the safeties, as most struggled to get on the field with it as their primary role. It was a long way removed from the kind of debut Nelson had for the Jaguars.