Ranking rookie classes from the 2021 NFL draft: Best and worst teams based on first-year production

East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New England Patriots running back Rhamondre Stevenson (38) celebrates his touchdown with quarterback Mac Jones (10) during the second half against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

As a part of our partnership with ESPN, this is a part of a story that was originally published on ESPN+ and can be viewed in its entirety here with your ESPN+ subscription Ranking rookie classes from the 2021 NFL draft: Best and worst teams based on first-year production

Whether it's in the first round or the sixth round, finding value above expectation in the NFL draft can significantly alter the landscape of a franchise. It is easier to do that with a wealth of draft capital, of course, but how much a team can get from its draft picks relative to where they were taken is important.

If Player X and Player Y have similar seasons, the production from Player Y, taken in the sixth round, is much more valuable than the production a team gets from Player X if he's a first-rounder.

With the help of PFF's Wins Above Replacement (WAR) metric, we ranked all 32 teams on the value of their rookie class over expectation given where each player was selected in the 2021 NFL draft.

Listed with each ranking is an explanation of why they landed where they did, analysis over how their top pick fared and — in some cases — a look at the team's best value pick. Some teams might not have a value pick listed, whether it be because few rookies saw significant time on the field for the franchise or that most rookies performed at or below expectations. Value picks can emerge from each team's class over the next couple of years, but for this exercise, we are looking solely at 2021 rookie production.


ARZ | ATL | BLT | BUF | CAR | CIN | CHI | CLE | DEN | DAL | DET | GB | HOU | IND | JAX | KC | LVR | LAC | LAR | MIA | MIN | NE | NO | NYG | NYJ | PHI | PIT | SF | SEA | TB | TEN | WFT


Why they're ranked here: Mac Jones was the most impressive rookie quarterback this season, earning an 80.4 PFF grade that ranked 11th overall. Christian Barmore became an impact player on the defensive line with 48 pressures that lead all interior rookie linemen. And Rhamondre Stevenson was a big part of the team's backfield all season.

How their top pick fared: Jones exceeded many expectations, looking assured at quarterback for the Patriots from Day 1. He was accurate with the football and didn't miss many throws, but he did not finish the season strong, with just one good game in his final six performances. Overall, Jones looked like he can be a solid starter moving forward, but questions remain about where exactly his ceiling is.

Best value pick: Stevenson finished the season with the best PFF grade among rookie rushers (79.2). He rushed for over 600 yards, with 433 of those yards coming after contact. Stevenson was able to break 31 tackles and average 3.26 yards after contact. He picked up the slack when starter Damien Harris was hurt. Stevenson had seven games with double-digit carries, topping out at 24.

New England's Full 2021 Draft Class
1/15 Mac Jones QB Alabama
2/38 Christian Barmore DT Alabama
3/96 Ronnie Perkins DE Oklahoma
4/120 Rhamondre Stevenson RB Oklahoma
5/177 Cameron McGrone ILB Michigan
6/188 Joshuah Bledsoe S Missouri
6/197 William Sherman OT Colorado
7/242 Tré Nixon WR UCF


Why they're ranked here: The Texans benefit from the fact there weren't really any expectations for their class because of how little draft capital they had at their disposal last offseason. Davis Mills finished the season ranked 30th among quarterbacks in PFF grade, but he still finished with roughly 0.7 wins above a replacement-level quarterback, which is a strong outcome for a third-round selection. Houston also got contributions from several later picks, such as Brevin JordanNico Collins and Roy Lopez.

How their top pick fared: Mills, like all of the rookie quarterbacks except Mac Jones, graded among the bottom-half of starting quarterbacks this season. The rookie out of Stanford finished the season with more turnover-worthy plays (20) than big-time throws (16), but he did have flashes of strong play and areas where he outperformed expectations. Deep passing was one of them: Mills' 123.5 passer rating on throws 20-plus yards downfield led all quarterbacks this season. Houston just needs those flashes to appear more regularly if Mills is given another chance to start in 2022.

Best value pick: Getting a starting quarterback like Mills, who wasn't a complete disaster, in the third round is the primary reason that the Texans earned the second-highest PFF Wins Above Replacement (WAR) for their 2021 draft class. That's how valuable the position is.


Why they're ranked here: Kansas City found two above-average starters on the interior offensive line, including PFF's highest-graded center in 2021, without the luxury of a first-round pick. Hitting big on Creed Humphrey and Trey Smith is a big driver in their third overall spot on this list, but they also got strong play out of rookie linebacker Nick Bolton.

How their top pick fared: The Chiefs traded their first-round pick to the Ravens in the Orlando Brown Jr. deal last offseason, meaning their first selection didn't come until the back end of the second round (58th overall). Bolton earned a top-20 PFF grade among qualifying linebackers during the regular season and has delivered some of his strongest performances late in the season. Bolton's 19 tackles for loss or no gain against the run led all linebackers in 2021.

Best value pick: This could go to either Humphrey or Smith, each of whom drastically outperformed expectations at their position given where they were drafted. Smith gets the slight nod as a late Day 3 selection who slid to the sixth round due in part to medical concerns coming out of Tennessee. The rest of the NFL's loss was Kansas City's gain. Smith's 74.9 run-blocking grade ranked sixth among qualifying right guards this season.


Why they're ranked here: After years of poor drafts that contributed to Las Vegas' parting of ways with general manager Mike Mayock this offseason, Las Vegas hit on several defensive players. Trevon Moehrig and Nate Hobbs both landed on PFF's All-Rookie Team this season. Divine Deablo stepped in as a starter from Week 14 through the end of the season as well.

How their top pick fared: The Raiders' first selection produced the most disappointing results from their rookie class. Alex Leatherwood started the season at right tackle before kicking inside to right guard, but neither spot yielded much success. Leatherwood led all NFL offensive linemen with 65 quarterback pressures allowed over the course of the 2021 regular season. Las Vegas will be hoping another offseason brings improvement, especially given his shifting role and responsibilities as a rookie.

Best value pick: Hobbs has been in the news for the wrong reasons in recent weeks for off-the-field decisions. However, his play on the field was a bright spot for Gus Bradley's defense in 2021. Hobbs doesn't have gaudy interception or pass breakup numbers because much of his job in the slot was coming up and limiting damage on plays in front of him. He did that well, allowing just 0.7 yards per coverage snap, seventh among cornerbacks with at least 250 snaps.


Why they're ranked here: Cleveland's first two selections in the 2021 NFL Draft stepped in and immediately contributed positively to their defense. Greg Newsome and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah both landed on PFF's 2021 All-Rookie Team, and the Browns got small contributions from later selections such as Anthony Schwartz and Demetric Felton on offense.

How their top pick fared: Newsome's 70.6 PFF coverage grade ranked first among rookie cornerbacks who spent the majority of their snaps lined up on the outside this season. He was comfortable in one-on-one situations and made plays regularly on the ball with a 15.5% forced incompletion rate that ranked second among rookie cornerbacks. The Browns have a nice young cornerback tandem to build around with him and Denzel Ward.

Best value pick: Owusu-Koramoah is a first-round talent whom the Browns were able to “steal” in the second half of the second round. The speed JOK plays with, and his ability to handle a wider variety of coverage assignments than your average linebacker, made an immediate positive impact on Cleveland's defense. PFF charted Owusu-Koramoah with just 168 passing yards allowed into his coverage on 300 coverage snaps this season. That rate of 0.56 yards allowed per snap ranked third among off-ball linebackers with at least 250 coverage snaps during the regular season.


Why they're ranked here: Detroit owned two of the 12 most valuable non-quarterback rookies in the 2021 draft class with first-round offensive tackle Penei Sewell and Day 3 wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown. Undrafted free agent cornerback Jerry Jacobs also ranked inside the top 25 among that group. Sewell's success was to be expected, but St. Brown and Jacobs surpassed expectations with flying colors.

How their top pick fared: Sewell had a rough first five weeks in the NFL ranks, but he quickly rallied and became one of the top players at the position in the NFL. His grade from Week 6 on was the ninth-best among all tackles. Overall, Sewell finished as one of the 10 most valuable tackles in the NFL. And the seventh overall pick did that while flipping from left tackle to right tackle midway through the season. Sewell was the best tackle prospect PFF has ever evaluated, and he is living up to the hype.

Best value pick: St. Brown went from fourth-round pick to top-20-graded wide receiver in one year. He even ranked third in PFF grade behind only Cooper Kupp and Davante Adams over the last six weeks of the regular season. While he might not be beating press-man on the outside, St. Brown did an excellent job finding soft spots in zone from the slot. He also didn't drop a pass after Week 3 and caught half of his contested opportunities.


Why they're ranked here: Miami got impressive play from multiple rookies, with Jaylen Waddle and Jevon Holland both impressing in their first campaigns. They had underperforming rookies such as Jaelan Phillips and offensive lineman Liam Eichenberg, but even those players were significant starters or contributors all season. Phillips stayed healthy all season — a question mark heading into the draft — but had a PFF grade of 53.7 on 603 snaps. He managed 39 pressures from over 400 pass-rushing snaps. Eichenberg surrendered nine sacks and over 60 pressures as part of a struggling offensive line.

How their top pick fared: Waddle broke the all-time rookie record for receptions, snagging 104 of the 138 targets sent his way. His average depth of target was just 7.0 yards downfield, as the team fed him the football as an easy way of moving the chains and getting the ball out of the hands of quarterback Tua Tagovailoa as fast as possible. Waddle showed dynamic speed and playmaking ability but needs a better offense around him to prove whether he can be a complete all-around elite receiver.

Best value pick: Holland wasn't a diamond in the rough by any stretch as an early second-round pick for Miami, but he still massively outperformed expectations by entering the league as one of the NFL's best safeties. Holland was a second-team All-Pro for PFF in 2021. He proved to be one of the more well-rounded safeties in the NFL with PFF grades above 75.0 as a run defender, coverage defender and tackler. Holland even added 16 quarterback pressures — second among safeties — including six in the Dolphins' memorable win over the Ravens in Week 10.


Why they're ranked here: The Chargers couldn't have hoped for much more out of Rashawn Slater, who stepped into the NFL and finished the season as a second-team All-Pro left tackle behind Trent Williams. The rest of their draft is the reason that they're toward the middle of the pack. Joshua Palmer didn't earn any kind of significant role until late in the season, and Asante Samuel Jr. allowed a first down or touchdown on over 50% of his targets (15th among 18 cornerbacks with 25-plus targets).

How their top pick fared: Slater was at the center of Los Angeles' major improvements on the offensive line in 2021. Tristan Wirfs is the only tackle drafted since 2010 to allow pressure at a lower rate than Slater (27 pass-block snaps per pressure allowed) on at least 500 pass-blocking snaps. Slater has been impressive in the run game, as well. His 80.8 PFF run-blocking grade ranked fifth among qualifying left tackles this season.

Best value pick: It's difficult for a top-15 selection to stand out as a “best value”, but that's how good Slater's rookie season was in Los Angeles. He gives Justin Herbert an All-Pro caliber left tackle to protect his blindside moving forward.


Why they're ranked here: DeVonta Smith showed that the ability to run routes and generate separation translates to the NFL level seamlessly, but his production was capped by the overall potency of the Eagles passing offense. Landon Dickerson ended up starting 13 games at guard once injuries struck the line, and Milton Williams played almost 500 snaps for the team on the defensive line. Kenneth Gainwell was also a contributor on offense but had just 107 total touches over the season including the wild-card loss.

How their top pick fared: Smith's route running was as sharp and effective as ever, and he seems to generate quick separation at will, but he was featured less than fellow top receiver draft picks Ja'Marr Chase and Jaylen Waddle. He showed the ability to make impressive sideline catches, but there were times where the greater physicality of the NFL caused some problems. Only Chase and Kadarius Toney had more yards per route run than Smith's 1.77 among rookie receivers.

Best value pick: Gainwell might not have had a massive role as part of a timeshare in Philadelphia's backfield, but the fifth-round pick did make positive contributions to the Eagles' offense as a runner and receiver. 28% of Gainwell's carries went for first downs or touchdowns (sixth among running backs with at least 50 carries), and he was targeted on a quarter of his 182 receiving routes.


Why they're ranked here: The Broncos found starting-caliber players in Pat Surtain II and Javonte Williams, along with several potential future starters. Day 3 selections Caden Sterns and Jonathon Cooper delivered solid performances on 300-plus defensive snaps. The clearest path to the Broncos finishing higher here would have been if they targeted a quarterback with their first-round pick rather than Surtain. A cornerback, even one with as promising a rookie season as Surtain, can only do so much to push a team forward.

How their top pick fared: The elephant in the room remains that Denver is no closer to finding their next quarterback after deciding to pass on Justin Fields and Mac Jones in the 2021 NFL Draft, and not much matters until that happens. But there are plenty of positives to take away from the player whom the Broncos decided to select in the first round. Surtain performed like a veteran in Year 1, particularly when it came to limiting big plays downfield. The former Alabama cornerback allowed just one of the 14 passes targeting him 20-plus yards downfield to be completed.

Best value pick: Cooper was fighting several factors to contribute the way he did for Denver's defense in 2021. There's typically a steeper development curve for edge defenders than most positions upon entering the NFL, and that's even more true for seventh-round selections like Cooper. Despite that, Cooper played more non-special-teams snaps than any other seventh-round pick in the 2021 NFL draft (457) and delivered a strong performance against the run (74.9 PFF run-defense grade).


Why they're ranked here: Chicago went all-in by trading up for quarterback Justin Fields in the draft. While the former Ohio State Buckeye didn't have a banner season, it was slightly above expectation. Running back Khalil Herbert and cornerback Thomas Graham Jr. also helped the Bears' ranking, as both Day 3 picks were thrust into the starting lineup for a game or two and performed better than anyone could expect a sixth-round rookie to perform.

How their top pick fared: Fields lived in a bad situation in Year 1. He did, however, still manage to make plenty of high-level plays and showed the traits are there for him to eventually become a star. Fields recorded a 6.1% big-time throw rate and 14 explosive runs of 10 or more yards, both of which were fifth among quarterbacks in 2021. He rarely put the ball in harm's way from a clean pocket, as evidenced by his fifth-ranked 1.4% turnover-worthy play rate on clean-pocket dropbacks.

Best value pick: Chicago landed Herbert in the sixth round, and the rookie managed to produce the sixth-best rushing grade and kick return grade in his debut season. Herbert wasn't near the top of the class in WAR generated despite that, given the lack of positional value, but for the 217th overall pick, he exceeded what was expected. This is another example of why picking a running back any earlier than Day 3 tends to come out as a negative ROI.


Why they're ranked here: Micah Parsons had a Defensive Player of the Year kind of season. He's the type of hybrid player capable of moving between the defensive line as an elite pass-rusher or dropping into coverage as an off-ball linebacker at a high level. Osa Odighizuwa had 37 pressures on the defensive line, the second-most among rookies on the interior.

How their top pick fared: Parsons made one of the biggest impacts of any rookie in years. An injury crisis along the defensive line forced Dallas to ask him to rush the passer for a few games, and he turned out to be devastating in that capacity, finishing the season with the best pressure rate (22.6%) of any pass-rusher at any position. Parsons was then given a hybrid role within the defense, deployed rushing the passer from the defensive line or playing man coverage against backs and tight ends downfield in coverage. He finished the season with an 89.3 PFF grade overall and 93.0 as a pass-rusher.

Best value pick: It's crazy to say given how high he was drafted, but Parsons was still an absolute steal as the 12th overall pick in the draft, providing the kind of value that only the best defensive players in the game — at any position — provide.


Why they're ranked here: Arizona had only three of their draft picks play more than 50 snaps on either side of the ball. Two of the three — off-ball linebacker Zaven Collins and wide receiver Rondale Moore — generated more than a 1/10th of a WAR, something only 49 total first-year players accomplished.

How their top pick fared: Collins' role on defense diminished as the season progressed, due in part to a shoulder issue. The 16th overall pick was volatile across his 220 snaps. Collins played over 15 snaps in eight games. Six of those ended in a single game PFF grade above 70.0, but two ended in sub-35.0 grades. This all led to a 69.3 PFF grade for the season.


Why they're ranked here: Green Bay took Georgia cornerback Eric Stokes with their first-round pick, and he ended up being one of the only rookies the team put in a substantial role. Stokes still managed to outproduce his draft slot as a Round 1 pick by ranking in the top-15 among rookies in WAR generated.

How their top pick fared: Green Bay desperately needed its corner room to step up this past season when All-Pro Jaire Alexander went down with an injury. Stokes undoubtedly seized the opportunity. He posted a respectable 67.1 coverage grade and cranked it up down the stretch. From Week 12 on, Stokes was one one of the 10 highest-graded cornerbacks in the NFL. He allowed a mere 0.46 yards per coverage snap and 3.1 yards per target in that span, both of which were second among cornerbacks.


Why they're ranked here: New Orleans didn't have many rookies contributing in major roles. Just two first-year players — off-ball linebacker Pete Werner and cornerback Paulson Adebo — played more than 200 snaps in 2021. And those two ranked inside the top 25 among rookies in WAR generated. With no rookies performing negatively, Werner and Adebo earn the Saints this spot.

How their top pick fared: Payton Turner had very little opportunity to generate any substantial value out of the gate, as he was limited to only 144 snaps. The 28th overall pick produced 10 pressures, 10 defensive stops and only one missed tackle on 13 attempts en route to a 64.6 PFF grade, but the lack of sustained quality play held to 0.02 WAR for the season — well below his draft slot's value.

Best value pick: Werner was forced into the starting lineup for just over a month earlier this season due to an injury to Kwon Alexander. Once the veteran returned, the 60th overall pick went back to the bench but still saw valuable reps in that role, in addition to a couple of starts. The Ohio State product earned a 79.6 PFF grade over his 394 snaps in that span. He earned a 90.9 run-defense grade for the season, ranking top-five at the position in both positively and negatively graded run play rate. He also missed only three tackles on 62 attempts — the second-lowest rate among linebackers with at least 50 tackle attempts.


Why they're ranked here: The Steelers got contributions from their first two selections in Najee Harris and Pat Freiermuth, but their offense was still limited by Ben Roethlisberger in the twilight of his career and a struggling offensive line. Rookie offensive linemen Dan Moore Jr. and Kendrick Green earned negative PFF Wins Above Replacement (WAR), which hurt Pittsburgh offensively. The early hits at the skill positions and struggles along the offensive line yielded a middle-of-the-pack result.

How their top pick fared: No running back was asked to do more for their offense than Harris this season. His 978 offensive snaps were 170 more than any other player at the position, and his 381 total touches also led all running backs. Harris' efficiency numbers in the run game (3.9 yards per carry) weren't great, but he wasn't given much of a chance behind Pittsburgh's young offensive line in the midst of a rebuild. His 0.9 rushing yards before contact tied for third-fewest among running backs with at least 100 carries.

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Best value pick: Freiermuth entered the season in a timeshare with Eric Ebron, but it didn't take long to see that Freiermuth was the team's best option at tight end. The second-round pick immediately became one of the better red-zone threats at the position. Freiermuth finished the 2021 regular season ranked fourth among all tight ends in red-zone receptions (13) and third in red-zone touchdowns (seven) behind only Hunter Henry and Mark Andrews.


Why they're ranked here: Seattle selected only three players in the 2021 NFL draft due to various trades. And their top pick — wide receiver Dee Eskridge — was an afterthought in the Seahawks' offense. Needless to say, it would have been difficult for Seattle to perform significantly above or below expectations.

How their top pick fared: An offseason injury and concussion suffered in the season-opener derailed Eskridge's rookie campaign. He missed seven of the first eight games but made a comeback to appear in each of the final nine. Still, Eskridge's role was minimal, and he struggled to make any impact plays on the routes and targets he did receive. The 56th overall pick finished with a 58.3 PFF grade while generating only 0.59 yards per route run.


Why they're ranked here: Carolina's rookie class produced at a middling level in 2021. No rookie stood out, while few performed well below expectation, and first-round pick Jaycee Horn missing most of the season didn't help. Wide receiver Terrace Marshall Jr. actually ended up as their least-valuable rookie for the season, per PFF WAR, which would have been a surprise to some in the offseason.

How their top pick fared: Horn was only able to play 95 coverage snaps before getting shut down due to injury in his rookie campaign. The top-10 pick was targeted five times in that span and allowed one catch for an 8-yard touchdown. He also recorded an interception.


Why they're ranked here: If it weren't for Kyle Pitts, the Falcons would be a lot lower on this ranking. Outside of Pitts, the rest of the rookie class combined for negative WAR — guard Jalen Mayfield and his 27.6 pass-block grade anchored that group.

How their top pick fared: Pitts may have fallen short of Bears legend Mike Ditka's rookie receiving yards record, but his rookie campaign was one for the PFF record books. Pitts' 81.6 receiving grade was the sixth-best from a tight end this season and tied Rob Gronkowski for fourth-best by a rookie since 2006. The fact that the 6-foot-6 and 240-pound tight end did this with 187 snaps lined up out wide — over 100 more than the next rookie since 2006 — is even more impressive. Pitts generated 10 more 15-plus-yard receptions on the outside than any other rookie since 2006 (14).


Why they're ranked here: Quarterback Zach Wilson started but missed some time due to injury before struggling for the rest of the season, averaging more than three seconds to throw and just 6.1 yards per attempt. Injury also cost their most encouraging rookie — Elijah Moore — playing time. The Jets' rookie class played a lot of snaps, but it didn't play at an above-average level. Alijah Vera-Tucker flashed elite traits on the offensive line, but he couldn't put together full games with elite pass protection and run blocking.

How their top pick fared: Wilson struggled when he was healthy and was outperformed by multiple backup Jets quarterbacks when injury opened up opportunities for other players to start. Wilson showed little of the outside-of-structure playmaking ability that was so prevalent in his BYU tape in addition to struggling with the routine and in-rhythm plays. Wilson recorded just 10 “big-time throws” all season, which ranked at the bottom of the league.

Best value pick: Despite the quarterback situation, Moore still impressed when he was on the field, recording over 500 receiving yards and scoring five times. Moore operated outside far more than he did in the slot — something that was a real question coming into the league — and looks like he will be a valuable piece of this receiving corps going forward.


Why they're ranked here: Tennessee got a combined 363 offensive and defensive snaps out of their first three draft picks, which doesn't include fourth-round selection at wide receiver — Dez Fitzpatrick — who was released prior to the start of the season before later being re-signed to the practice squad. The Titans just didn't ask much of their rookie class in a season where they earned the No. 1 seed in the AFC.

How their top pick fared: Injuries were the biggest concern for Caleb Farley coming out of Virginia Tech, and ended up limiting him to just 60 defensive snaps after the rookie tore his ACL early in the 2021 season. He allowed seven receptions from nine targets for 75 yards in his limited action.

Best value pick: Defenders who get tagged with the “slot-only” label are often going to be overlooked, which was the case with Elijah Molden coming out of Washington. Molden will need to clean things up as a tackler (15% missed tackle rate in 2021), but he delivered a solid overall performance in his 671 defensive snaps. He ranked third in PFF's WAR metric among defenders drafted in the third round or later.


Why they're ranked here: First-round pick Jamin Davis discovered how difficult it is to play linebacker in today's NFL, struggling his way to a 44.5 PFF grade on the season. Davis improved as the Football Team reduced his responsibilities and playing time late in the season, but he accrued some disastrous games. Benjamin St-Juste flashed talent at corner but surrendered a 114.5 passer rating when targeted. Sam Cosmi was on his way to an excellent rookie season along the offensive line, but an injury took him out for a big chunk of the season and limited him to fewer than 500 snaps played.

How their top pick fared: Davis couldn't find any consistency within his rookie year — either in terms of playing time, role within the defense, or his play in any facet. He posted good games against the run and in coverage, but he also had poor performances in each area and couldn't string together a run of good games in any aspect. Davis showed the speed and athleticism that made him such an enticing prospect, but he struggled to get off blocks, which is not going to cut it at this level.

Best value pick: Second-round pick Cosmi was one of the best run-blocking tackles in the NFL during his rookie season, and he was solid in pass protection, allowing 16 pressures from 282 pass-blocking snaps. He was on his way to chase down a spot as the best-graded rookie right tackle until an injury derailed his season.


Why they're ranked here: After months of debate, you're not going to find many who will argue against Cincinnati's decision to draft Ja'Marr Chase. However, Chase's preseason expectation was relatively high as the fifth overall pick, and the rest of the Bengals' draft class didn't live up to expectation. Fifth-round kicker selection Evan McPherson was their next most valuable player, per PFF WAR.

How their top pick fared: Joe Burrow and Chase picked right up where they left off at LSU. Chase's combination of speed, physicality and after-the-catch ability make it difficult for any defense to match up with him one-on-one, as his league-high 868 receiving yards against single coverage this year reflect. Chase also unlocked the deep passing element that was missing from Cincinnati's offense in 2020. Burrow completed eight touchdown passes on throws to Chase 20-plus yards downfield after recording one such touchdown to any receiver in 2020.


Why they're ranked here: No Rams rookie played poorly enough to tank the rookie classes' production rank, but none played well enough to elevate it from the bottom-tier. That's to be expected with only one top-100 selection.

How their top pick fared: Tutu Atwell played only 10 snaps on offense and was mostly used in the return game before suffering a season-ending injury midway through the season. Even when he was healthy, his impact as a returner wasn't significant, as the 57th overall pick earned a 52.1 return grade. Atwell was viewed as a risky pick at the time, and that appears to still be true after Year 1.


Why they're ranked here: The Ravens' draft class was supposed to be impactful with two first-round selections, two third-round selections and four more picks in the fourth and fifth rounds. Given that, the results from players such as Rashod BatemanOdafe OwehBrandon Stephens and Ben Cleveland were somewhat underwhelming. None of those four players cleared 0.1 wins above a replacement-level player at their position.

How their top pick fared: Things weren't ideal for Bateman to begin his NFL career, as he missed the first five weeks with a groin injury, which prevented him from building chemistry with Lamar Jackson. Bateman didn't get the remainder of the season to work on that chemistry with Jackson, either, as Jackson missed time with injury and illness, which resulted in 1.3 yards per route run and an 80.0 passer rating when targeted for the rookie out of Minnesota.


Why they're ranked here: Kadarius Toney looked like a potentially lethal playmaker — only Ja'Marr Chase averaged more yards per route run among rookies — but he could stay on the field for just over 300 snaps because injuries kept taking him off the field. Four rookies played at least 100 snaps along the defensive line for the Giants, but not one earned a PFF pass-rushing grade above 60, as the quartet combined for 66 pressures across 783 pass-rushing snaps.

How their top pick fared: Toney gained 420 receiving yards over the season and recorded one of the highest yards per route run figures (2.14) of all rookies; however, 189 of those yards came in one breakout game against Dallas in Week 5. The Giants never seemed entirely sure what to do with him, and a run of injuries kept him out of the lineup. The offensive line's collapse in addition to the quarterback change caused the passing game to be completely non-functional by the end of the season, eliminating any chance Toney had to impress even when he was on the field.


Why they're ranked here: The Bills draft class' biggest contributions came from their top three picks, as Greg Rousseau and Boogie Basham were each part of a strong defensive line rotation while Spencer Brown played 726 snaps on the offensive line. Rousseau recorded 30 pressures and 38 defensive stops, but injuries limited Basham to just 200 snaps in total. Brown played over 600 snaps at right tackle, and although he allowed just one sack, he gave up 30 pressures and accrued a 51 PFF pass-blocking grade.

How their top pick fared: Rousseau flashed the kind of athleticism and size that makes him a problem for offenses to deal with, as he was a useful part of Buffalo's defensive front. He was particularly impactful in the run game, but his pass rush was more inconsistent. He posted an eight-pressure game but also has five games in which he failed to record any pressure at all.

Best value pick: Brown became a starter on the Bills offensive line, spending most of his time at right tackle but even filling in at left tackle when needed. He recorded two elite run-blocking performances, which was his stronger area of play, and was rarely a liability in pass protection.


Why they're ranked here: The Colts were behind the 8-ball when it came to getting production over expectation from their draft class given that second-round pick Dayo Odeyingbo wasn't available until Week 8 due to an Achilles injury. The only Colts rookie to play more than 250 offensive or defensive snaps was first-round selection Kwity Paye.

How their top pick fared: Paye missed some time with injury, but he flashed the kind of pass-rushing upside that Indianapolis was looking for when it selected him in the first round. The sack numbers (4.0 sacks) weren't quite there, but those should come if he continues to win his pass-rushing reps at the same rate he did in 2021. There is room for Paye to improve as a run defender after posting a 55.4 run-defense grade this season.


Why they're ranked here: Trading up to the No. 3 overall pick for a quarterback who played only a few games in addition to lackluster production from San Francisco's Day 2 picks brought the 49ers down to this point. The 49ers' Day 2 selections — guard Aaron Banks, running back Trey Sermon and cornerback Ambry Thomas — combined for only 0.05 WAR.

How their top pick fared: San Francisco offered up a load of draft capital to trade up to the No. 3 overall pick to take quarterback Trey Lance, but the North Dakota State product did little to contribute to the Niners' run to the NFC Championship Game. The 6-foot-4, 226-pound quarterback played substantial snaps in three games while Jimmy Garoppolo was hurt in the regular season, and the results left a lot to be desired. Lance earned a 59.9 PFF grade with more turnover-worthy plays (four) than big-time throws (three) across 86 dropbacks.

Best value pick: Talanoa Hufanga has been limited to 397 total snaps this season in his first season with the 49ers. In that small sample, the fifth-round pick has played admirably. He has earned a respectable 63.7 PFF grade, including 10 defensive stops, two pass breakups, three pressures and only three missed tackles on 33 attempts. Hufanga may not be the fastest guy on the field and played closer to the line of scrimmage in college, but he has held up strong playing most of his snaps at free safety in the NFL ranks.


Why they're ranked here: This Jaguars rookie class was always going to live and die with Trevor Lawrence‘s performance. There are plenty of excuses to be made for Lawrence, but the results were far from impressive. Lawrence finished the season ranked 27th among 32 qualifying quarterbacks in PFF grade, and Jacksonville didn't get any production from their other first-round pick Travis Etienne following his preseason injury.

How their top pick fared: Lawrence had perhaps the best moments and throws of any rookie quarterback this season, and he already operates like a veteran in the pocket. Lawrence took sacks on pressured dropbacks at one of the lowest rates in the NFL this season, but the first overall pick just made too many mistakes, as he often forced the ball downfield and into non-existent windows. His 26 turnover-worthy plays were tied for third-most in the league.

Best value pick: Andre Cisco played 25 defensive snaps for the first time in Week 15, and he would go on to start each of the team's final three games. It's a small sample, but Cisco produced two PFF grades above 75.0 in those three starts. His playmaking ability at safety should earn him a starting role in the defense next season.


Why they're ranked here: Tampa Bay's rookie class came into the season with little expectations considering the team's veteran depth. The only rookie who played more than 100 snaps was first-round pick Joe Tryon-Shoyinka, and he generated negative WAR.

How their top pick fared: Tryon-Shoyinka wasn't able to live up to the preseason hype that everyone — including coach Bruce Arians — placed on him, finishing with a poor 52.0 PFF grade in his rookie campaign. The 32nd overall pick has the size, length and explosiveness to potentially break out in the future, but he has a long way to go to reach refinement.


Why they're ranked here: While Minnesota offensive tackle Christian Darrisaw did play well as a rookie, he still ranked only 41st in the class in WAR generated. The rest of the rookie class generated no cumulative WAR outside of Darrisaw, as quarterback Kellen Mond (minus-0.13 WAR) was a big reason why the Vikings' slipped to last in rookie production.

How their top pick fared: Darrisaw got off to a late start to his rookie season due to a preseason injury, but he ended up playing in 11 games and posted a 71.8 PFF grade over that span, ranking 20th of 39 qualifying left tackles. The first-round pick's run-blocking, in particular, stood out, recording a 77.2 grade in that facet. Not only is that the sixth-best among left tackles for the 2021 season, but it's also the fourth-best by a rookie at the position in the last decade. Needless to say, the future looks promising for the Virginia Tech product.


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