PFF Rookie Record Book: Looking back at the best four-game starts

2RXJ861 Tampa, United States. 25th Sep, 2023. Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle Jalen Carter (98) pressures Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) during the first half at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida on Monday, September 25, 2023. Photo by Steve Nesius/UPI Credit: UPI/Alamy Live News

Philadelphia Eagles hit a home run: Jalen Carter has posted the highest grade of any defensive lineman through the first four games of a rookie year.

• Miami Dolphins found a star: No rookie in the PFF era can best the grade running back De’Von Achane has earned over the first four weeks.

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Estimated reading time: 5 minutes


Earlier this season, we looked at which rookies had earned the best Week 1 grades of the PFF era, and now we’re going to follow that up by looking at which rookies have had the best starts.

We’ve gone back through all our years of data and grades to look at the highest marks through the first four weeks of the season. And yes, the list does feature some names from the 2023 class.

WR:CB Matchup Chart

QUARTERBACK

Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles, 2016: 90.7

It’s going to take something special to beat the start Wentz made. No doubt C.J. Stroud has made an excellent start, but Stroud's 73.2 grade is almost 20 points off Wentz's, showing just how good the former Eagles signal-caller was at the beginning of his NFL journey.

RUNNING BACK

De’Von Achane, Miami Dolphins, 2023: 93.5

There is a disclaimer here: Nick Chubb graded higher but only managed 10 carries in his first four games, therefore missing the threshold to qualify. Instead, Achane has set the new benchmark, and it’s easy to see why, as he averages 11.4 yards per carry and already has 203 yards from rushes of 15-plus yards.

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WIDE RECEIVER

Justin Jefferson, Minnesota Vikings, 2020: 90.6

Jefferson's 90.6 grade will likely stand the test of time, but give credit where it’s due to Puka Nacua (89.5), as he has come a lot closer than anyone expected. Through four weeks, the Rams' fifth-round rookie ranks top-10 at the position in yards per route run and combined first downs and touchdowns.

There have been some explosive starts by certain wide receivers, but Nacua ranking ahead of guys like Calvin Johnson (87.6) is mightily impressive.

TIGHT END (OVERALL)

Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota Vikings, 2011: 88.1

We created two categories for tight end because setting thresholds felt unfair, given how differently players at the position can be used. That means Rudolph, who immediately established himself as a do-it-all tight end, narrowly edged out another do-it-all tight end in Rob Gronkowski (84.0).

TIGHT END (RECEIVING)

John Carlson, Seattle Seahawks, 2008: 81.2

The Lions are getting everything they had hoped out of Sam LaPorta, with the rookie already racking up a 78.1 receiving grade after four games. That’s better than Kyle Pitts (67.4), T.J. Hockenson (64.9) and even the Patriots duo from 2010. But it doesn’t quite match John Carlson.

LEFT TACKLE

Jake Long, Miami Dolphins, 2008: 87.8

It is tight at the top, with Long just edging out Hall of Famer Joe Thomas (86.9) at a position where only five players have graded above 80.0 in their first four games. No player from the 2023 class has played enough snaps to qualify.

LEFT GUARD

Carl Nicks, New Orleans Saints, 2008: 88.0

Nicks was on his way to a Hall of Fame career before health issues forced an early retirement, and he started his career like he would continue it — with sheer dominance. Peter Skoronski feels like someone who could have had a crack at the score but for missing time, with the best grade among rookie left guards falling to Steve Avila at 60.6.

CENTER

Nick Mangold, New York Jets, 2006: 88.7

We’ve seen some come close to Mangold, notably Mike Pouncey in 2011 and Creed Humphrey in 2021, but the longtime Jets center's record still holds. Nobody got close this year, but Jarrett Patterson has held his own, earning a 62.5 grade.

RIGHT GUARD

Jahri Evans, New Orleans Saints, 2006: 84.3

We’ve been impressed by Joe Tippmann through two games (76.6), but he is still a ways away from Evans. The one-time Saint set a mark that is proving quite difficult to overcome.

RIGHT TACKLE

Michael Oher, Baltimore Ravens, 2009: 84.1

Oher spent time at both tackle spots in his rookie season but started the year (and spent the majority of it) looking like a stud at the right tackle spot. Despite plenty of efforts this year, nobody is in the same ballpark, with Darnell Wright earning the highest mark this year at 65.9.

EDGE DEFENDER

Von Miller, Denver Broncos, 2011: 91.2

We’ve seen pass-rushers make an immediate impression, but we’ve never seen anything quite like what Miller was able to do. Will Anderson Jr. (76.7) has been good and might be great, but Miller remains the standard bearer.

DEFENSIVE INTERIOR

Jalen Carter, Philadelphia Eagles, 2023: 92.2

There is almost a disclaimer here, as Aaron Donald didn’t play enough snaps to qualify. That said, the generational Donald graded at “only” 90.1. Carter is setting records and making every team that didn’t draft him look like they missed a trick.

LINEBACKER

Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Cleveland Browns, 2021: 90:0

There was some discussion about whether Owusu-Koramoah qualified, given his more situational role, but he ultimately made the list because of his impressive start. This year's standout, Ivan Pace Jr., was on pace to beat JOK until a disappointing Week 4 effort.

CORNERBACK

Marshon Lattimore, New Orleans Saints, 2017: 90.0

Cornerback is maybe one position where the first four games can be slightly deceiving when you look at some of the top grades. Lattimore is the exception, as he's been a consistently excellent cornerback who took the league by storm. This year, we’ve seen Christian Gonzalez (80.8) provide the biggest challenge.

SAFETY

Jerron McMillian, Green Bay Packers, 2012: 89.9

The 2012 class of safeties started really well, with the second-highest mark belonging to Harrison Smith (88.2). Nobody from the 2023 class stands out right now, with the highest grade belonging to Jordan Howden (60.8).

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