NFL News & Analysis

Ranking the NFL’s most productive 2023 rookie draft classes from 1 to 32

2PW45P0 Houston Texans first round draft picks quarterback C.J. Stroud, left, and linebacker Will Anderson Jr. hold up jerseys during an introductory NFL football press conference, Friday, April 28, 2023, in Houston.. (AP Photo/Kevin M. Cox)

• The Houston Texans won the lottery: Had the Texans drafted only C.J. Stroud, they would still probably lead this list. With Tank Dell and Will Anderson Jr. also enjoying good seasons, there is no doubt that they have to be put first — and in their own tier — on this ranking.

• The Packers got a lot of playmakers: The Packers' rookie receivers and tight ends combined for 2,420 receiving yards and 20 receiving touchdowns, league-leading marks by wide margins.

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There remains some level of uncertainty about the 2023 NFL Draft class, as the players have completed just one year in the league so far, but some made enough of a statement for us to be confident about their future success. And even though some players struggled, there are still discernible tendencies that enable us to rank or tier the 32 rookie classes.

The rankings are driven mostly by volume (how many snaps rookies have played) and performance. We will not list all rookies of each team. For a more in-depth analysis, rookies must have met certain criteria: either they played a substantial number of snaps or performed exceptionally well within a smaller sample size.

These rankings are driven more by rookies who performed well (or at least at a league-average level) than by those who performed badly. With the exception of C.J. Stroud, positional value doesn’t influence the rankings more than breaking an occasional tie.

Tier 1: Teams that won the lottery

1. Houston Texans

Total rookie snaps: 4,208

Notable rookies

QB C.J. Stroud (80.2 passing grade, 4,770 yards, 26 big-time throws, 26 touchdowns, 8.1 yards per attempt)

Edge Will Anderson Jr. (76.6 pass-rush grade, 17.0% pressure rate)

WR Tank Dell (2.32 yards per route run, 83.3 receiving grade)

 C Jarrett Patterson (53.7 pass-block grade, 62.9 run-block grade)

G Juice Scruggs (48.9 pass-block grade, 50.8 run-block grade)

Had the Texans drafted only C.J. Stroud, they would still probably lead this list. With Tank Dell and Will Anderson Jr. also enjoying good seasons, there is no doubt that they must be put first — and in their own tier — on this ranking.

Tier 2: Multiple impact players and a chance at an elite player

2. Green Bay Packers

Total rookie snaps: 5,316

Notable rookies:

WR Dontayvion Wicks (77.0 receiving grade, 1.85 yards per route run)

WR Jayden Reed (74.4 receiving grade, 1.87 yards per route run)

TE Luke Musgrave (69.6 receiving grade, 1.35 yards per route run)

TE Tucker Kraft (65.1 receiving grade, 1.08 yards per route run)

CB Carrington Valentine (59.1 coverage grade, 0.98 yards per coverage snap)

DI Karl Brooks (70.0 pass-rush grade, 10.0% pressure rate)

Edge Lukas Van Ness (58.5 pass-rush grade, 10.5% pressure rate)

The Packers' rookie receivers and tight ends combined for 2,420 receiving yards and 20 receiving touchdowns, league-leading marks by wide margins.

Even though the Packers didn’t field a Rookie of the Year candidate like the Rams, the sheer volume and production are enough to secure second place here.

3. Los Angeles Rams

Total rookie snaps: 4,646

Notable rookies:

WR Puka Nacua (2.67 yards per route run, 89.3 receiving grade)

DI Kobie Turner (81.2 pass-rush grade, 11.0% pressure rate, 12 sacks)

G Steve Avila (65.0 pass-block grade, 56.0 run-block grade)

Edge Byron Young (59.7 pass-rush grade, 10.2% pressure rate)

4. Detroit Lions

Total rookie snaps: 3,859

Notable rookies:

CB Brian Branch (79.0 coverage grade, 0.84 yards per coverage snap)

TE Sam LaPorta (81.8 receiving grade, 1.75 yards per route run, 11 rec. TDs)

RB Jahmyr Gibbs (80.8 rushing grade, 0.21 forced missed tackles per run, 1126 yards)

LB Jack Campbell (35.3 coverage grade, 75.8 run-defense grade)

It was a close race between the Lions and the Rams for third place, but the Rams got a historic rookie season from Puka Nacua, who averaged almost one yard more per route run than Sam LaPorta. Los Angeles also fielded the only rookie who tallied double-digit sacks.

5. Seattle Seahawks

Total rookie snaps: 3,719

Notable rookies:

CB Devon Witherspoon (79.7 coverage grade, 0.71 yards per coverage snap)

WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba (63.9 receiving grade, 1.24 yards per route run)

WR Jake Bobo (70.7 receiving grade, 1.30 yards per route run)

RB Zach Charbonnet (74.4 rushing grade, 0.17 missed tackles forced per attempt, 494 yards)

G Anthony Bradford (38.9 pass-block grade, 58.5 run-block grade)

Devon Witherspoon finished the regular season with the fourth-best overall grade among qualified cornerbacks. He and Antoine Winfield Jr. were the only defensive backs to finish the regular season with a grade of at least 79.0 in run defense, coverage and pass rush.

6. Minnesota Vikings

Total rookie snaps: 2,335

Notable rookies:

CB Mekhi Blackmon (71.8 coverage grade, 0.94 yards per coverage snap)

WR Jordan Addison (1.42 yards per route run, 69.7 receiving grade, 10 rec TDs)

LB Ivan Pace Jr. (77.1 coverage grade, 78.0 pass-rush grade, 22.9% pass-rush win rate)

Jordan Addison wasn’t super efficient on a per-route basis, but he stepped up in Justin Jefferson’s absence and was one of two rookies to catch double-digit touchdown passes.

Ivan Pace Jr. turned out to be the perfect linebacker for Brian Flores, and Mekhi Blackmon had a solid rookie season.

Tier 3: One impact player and some potential

7. Kansas City Chiefs

Total rookie snaps: 2,093

Notable rookies:

WR Rashee Rice (86.1 receiving grade, 2.17 yards per route run)

S Chamarri Conner (78.2 coverage grade, 79.6 run-defense grade)

The Chiefs edge out the Ravens because Rashee Rice was ultimately more productive than Zay Flowers. Chamarri Conner also enjoyed a solid rookie campaign in a typically versatile role in Steve Spagnuolo’s scheme and played a lot more than Keaton Mitchell.

8. Baltimore Ravens

Total rookie snaps: 1,538

Notable rookies:

WR Zay Flowers (75.2 receiving grade, 1.63 yards per route run)

RB Keaton Mitchell (92.5 rushing grade, 0.31 missed tackles forced per attempt)

9. Tennessee Titans

Total rookie snaps: 3,239

Notable rookies:

QB Will Levis (61.6 passing grade, 5.9% big-time throw rate)

RB Tyjae Spears (74.6 receiving grade, 1.20 yards per route run, 77.3 rushing grade, 0.26 missed tackles forced per attempt)

G Peter Skoronski (63.5 pass-block grade, 58.6 run-block grade)

Peter Skoronski’s grades don’t look very impressive, but compared to most of his struggling classmates, he was actually one of the better performers.

Tyjae Spears proved to be a competent dual threat out of the backfield, and Will Levis looked more pro-ready than many would have thought. The Titans quarterback showed his potential with a 5.9% big-time throw rate, which not only led all rookie quarterbacks but also trailed only Matthew Stafford, Josh Allen and Geno Smith.

10. Pittsburgh Steelers

Total rookie snaps: 2,986

Notable rookies:

CB Joey Porter Jr. (66.6 coverage grade, 0.72 yards per coverage snap)

DI Keanu Benton (82.6 pass-rush grade, 10.3% pressure rate)

T Broderick Jones (47.6 pass-block grade, 61.2 run-block grade)

TE Darnell Washington (43.8 receiving grade, 0.4 yards per route run)

Joey Porter Jr. was thrown into the fire, immediately asked to cover the best receivers in the league. Overall, he held his own and has a bright future. Keeanu Benton didn’t produce high sack numbers, so his good rookie season is flying under the radar a bit.

11. Philadelphia Eagles

Total rookie snaps: 1,903

Notable rookies:

DI Jalen Carter (84.6 pass-rush grade, 12.4% pressure rate)

Jalen Carter looked set to run away with the Defensive Rookie of the Year award, as he posted a 90.0 pass-rush grade, a 22% win rate and a 19% pressure rate through seven weeks. However, his stats were slightly more pedestrian from Week 8, as he managed a 74.1 pass-rush grade, a 14% win rate and a 9% pressure rate. That ultimately cost him the award and the chance to get the Eagles into the top five of this list by himself. Nevertheless, he still single-handedly carries the Eagles above a lot of other rookie classes.

12. Indianapolis Colts

Total rookie snaps: 3,280

Notable rookies:

WR Josh Downs (71.0 receiving grade, 1.58 yards per route run)

CB Juju Brents (64.5 coverage grade, 1.54 yards per coverage snap)

T Blake Freeland (42.6 pass-block, 47.6 run-block grade)

CB Jaylon Jones (55.8 coverage grade, 0.72 yards per coverage snap)

QB Anthony Richardson (injured early in the season)

Josh Downs’ production and Anthony Richardson’s potential are enough to elevate the Colts to this spot in our rankings.

Tier 4: A lot of volume and potential — it can go either direction next year

The rookies of the Buccaneers, Bears and Cardinals produced a lot of snaps, but the classes were mediocre in terms of performance. That puts them ahead of the following tiers but below the classes we already discussed.

13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Total rookie snaps: 4,708

Notable rookies:

WR Trey Palmer (54.8 receiving grade, 0.91 yards per route run, 4 rec. TDs)

DI Calijah Kancey (68.9 pass-rush grade, 10.6% pressure rate)

EdgeYaya Diaby (56.0 pass-rush grade, 8.8% pressure rate)

G Cody Mauch (52.1 pass-block grade, 37.6 run-block grade)

CB Christian Izien (67.6 coverage grade, 1.04 yards per coverage snap)

14. Chicago Bears

Total rookie snaps: 4,227

Notable rookies:

T Darnell Wright (61.4 pass-block grade, 66.0 run-block grade)

CB Tyrique Stevenson (59.1 coverage grade, 1.52 yards per coverage snap)

CB Terell Smith (65.4 coverage grade, 0.91 yards per coverage snap)

RB Roschon Johnson (67.9 rushing grade, 0.15 missed tackles forced per attempt)

DI Gervon Dexter Sr. (65.9 pass-rush grade, 10.8% pressure rate)

15. Arizona Cardinals

Total rookie snaps: 4,878

Notable rookies:

WR Michael Wilson (68.7 receiving grade, 1.28 yards per route run)

T Paris Johnson Jr. (64.2 pass-block grade, 55.1 run-block grade)

DI Dante Stills (53.8 pass-rush grade, 7.6% pressure rate)

CB Garrett Williams (57.2 coverage, 0.81 yards per coverage snap)

Tier 5: Running backs matter

It’s not ideal when the only notable player from a class is a running back, but the Dolphins and Falcons at least drafted a player who might turn out to be elite at their position.

16. Miami Dolphins

Total rookie snaps: 793

Notable rookies:

RB Devon Achane (93.1 rushing grade, 0.26 missed tackles forced per attempt, 854 yards)

17. Atlanta Falcons

Total rookie snaps: 3,054

Notable rookies:

RB Bijan Robinson (75.1 rushing grade, 0.25 missed tackles forced per attempt, 989 yards)

G Matthew Bergeron (57.1 pass-block grade, 60.2 run-block grade)

Tier 6: Maybe?

When it’s all said and done, there will certainly be some impact players among the following draft classes. But as of now, all of the following classes lack the volume or the obvious impact player (or both) compared to the classes above.

18. Buffalo Bills

Total rookie snaps: 2,330

Notable rookies:

TE Dalton Kincaid (70.5 receiving grade, 1.45 yards per route run)

G O’Cyrus Torrence (48.2 pass-block grade, 58.1 run block grade)

19. New England Patriots

Total rookie snaps: 3,062

Notable rookies:

WR Demario Douglas (75.6 receiving grade, 1.72 yards per route run)

G Sidy Sow (46.3 pass-block grade, 71.3 run-block grade)

Edge Keion White (52.3 pass-rush grade, 7.0% pressure rate)

20. New Orleans Saints

Total rookie snaps: 1,710

Notable rookies:

DI Bryan Bresee (67.6 pass-rush grade, 9.1% pressure rate)

S Jordan Howden (65.2 coverage grade,  62.3 run-defense grade)

21. Cleveland Browns

Total rookie snaps: 2,542

Notable rookies:

T Dawand Jones (73.0 pass-block grade, 53.5 run-block grade)

WR Cedric Tillman (0.6 yards per route run)

S Ronnie Hickman Jr. (73.9 coverage grade, 61.2 run-defense grade)

22. Cincinnati Bengals

Total rookie snaps: 2,084

Notable rookies:

S Jordan Battle (76.3 coverage grade, 81.3 run-defense grade)

CB DJ Turner II (48.4 coverage grade, 1.33 yards per coverage snap)

Edge Myles Murphy (64.3 pass-rush grade, 9.7% pressure rate)

23. Los Angeles Chargers

Total rookie snaps: 2,349

Notable rookies:

EdgeTuli Tuipulotu (61.1 pass-rush grade, 11.9% pressure rate)

WR Quentin Johnston (58.7 receiving grade, 0.84 yards per route run)

24. Dallas Cowboys

Total rookie snaps: 1,407

Notable rookies:

TE Luke Schoonmaker (43.6 receiving grade, 0.58 yards per route run)

DI Mazi Smith (70.0 pass-rush grade, 5.8% pressure rate)

25. Denver Broncos

Total rookie snaps: 946

Notable rookies:

WR Marvin Mims Jr. (64.6 receiving grade, 1.47 yards per route run)

26. New York Giants

Total rookie snaps: 3,109

Notable rookies:

QB Tommy DeVito (64.4 passing grade)

CB Deonte Banks (48.6 coverage grade, 1.30 yards per coverage snap)

C John Michael Schmitz Jr. (26.9 pass-block grade, 51.3 run-block grade)

WR Jalin Hyatt (58.5 receiving grade, 1.16 yards per route run)

27. Carolina Panthers

Total rookie snaps: 3,293

Notable rookies:

QB Bryce Young (52.6 passing grade with very little help)

WR Jonathan Mingo (52.6 receiving grade, 0.74 yards per route run)

28. Las Vegas Raiders

Total rookie snaps: 2,664

Notable rookies:

TE Michael Mayer (66.1 receiving grade, 1.08 yards per route run)

QB Aidan O'Connell (64.6 passing grade)

EdgeTyree Wilson (50.4 pass-rush grade, 7.8% pressure rate)

WR Tre Tucker (64.3 receiving grade, 1.40 yards per route run)

29. San Francisco 49ers

Total rookie snaps: 969

Notable rookies:

S Ji’Ayir Brown (71.5 coverage grade, 72.7 run-defense grade)

Tier 7: The draft is a crapshoot, so better luck next year

Here is the good news: A large amount of evidence suggests a team’s former draft success is not indicative of success in the following year's draft, so the 2024 draft will most likely be better.

30. New York Jets

Total rookie snaps: 2,322

Notable rookies:

WR Xavier Gipson (56.5 receiving grade, 0.68 yards per route run)

C Joe Tippmann (52.7 pass-block grade, 67.4 run-block grade)

31 Jacksonville Jaguars

Total rookie snaps: 2,271

Notable rookies:

OT Anton Harrison (60.7 pass-block grade, 45.8 run-block grade)

32. Washington Commanders

Total rookie snaps: 1,547

Notable rookies:

CB Emmanuel Forbes (57.6 coverage grade, 2.0 yards per coverage snap)


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