We have not one, not two, but three rookies making their debut on this list after Week 14, and the gap between the second- and third-ranked rookies is getting smaller and smaller.
With the help of Premium Stats 2.0, we present to you the 10 highest-graded rookies in the NFL through Week 14 of the 2020 NFL season.
[Editor's Note: PFF's advanced statistics and player grades are powered by AWS machine learning capabilities.]
Jefferson posted one of the least productive games of his NFL career last week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The first-round receiver averaged just 0.91 yards per route run in Week 14, the second-lowest single-game mark of his rookie campaign. But even with that included, Jefferson still comes in at No. 3 for the season in yards per route run (2.66), ranking behind only Davante Adams and Corey Davis and just ahead of Julio Jones and A.J. Brown.
Jefferson is also No. 3 in receiving grade this season and is on pace to finish as the second-highest-graded rookie wide receiver of the PFF era, behind only Odell Beckham Jr. (89.6).
Onwenu has now produced back-to-back rough outings in pass protection. After struggling to contain Joey Bosa in Week 13 and recording a 45.2 pass-blocking grade in the process, the sixth-round rookie did not fare much better in Week 14, earning a 52.2 pass-block grade against the Los Angeles Rams.
No, it wasn’t because of Aaron Donald. In fact, Onwenu was tasked with nine pass-blocking matchups against Donald, and he didn’t lose a single one. He struggled most against Leonard Floyd, of all people.
The root of his issues in Week 14 mirrored our concerns with him as a prospect. While at Michigan, it was quite clear that Onwenu was one of the best offensive guards in college football when it came to working in a phone booth. However, his ability to handle NFL-caliber quicks was suspect. That’s what routinely popped up against Floyd and the Rams in Week 14 when he tied his career-high total of lost reps in a single game with five.
With Onwenu struggling in pass protection as of late, Wirfs is threatening him for the No. 2 spot on this ranking. He is fresh off a career-best performance against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 14, with his 86.1 PFF grade leading all right tackles for the week and bringing his season-long PFF grade to 81.4 — the fourth-best we have ever given to a rookie right tackle.
The 13th overall pick has been on fire over his last five games, as his PFF grade has spiked to 87.7 over that span, first among all right tackles. Wirfs handled the Vikings’ underwhelming pass-rush with ease this past weekend and will face another middling unit in Week 15 in the form of the Atlanta Falcons. Atlanta's set of edge rushers has been among the least productive in the NFL, ranking fifth-to-last in total pressures generated this season (77).
4. WR BRANDON AIYUK, SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
Aiyuk was targeted at the highest rate of his NFL career on Sunday against the Football Team, and he was able to average 2.53 yards per route run to go along with a 74.5 receiving grade.
This continues an impressive stretch of play from the first-year receiver. Over the first five games of his rookie campaign, Aiyuk recorded a mediocre 68.7 receiving grade. He has raised that mark to 85.7 in the five games since, the fourth-best at the position over that span.
He has a great chance of continuing that streak next week as he faces a Dallas Cowboys coverage unit that ranks 27th in the league in PFF coverage grade.
5. EDGE CHASE YOUNG, WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM
Young is looking more and more like the dominant player we were all expecting as the season goes on.
The second overall pick has been one of the five highest-graded edge rushers in the NFL over the last three games, and his 79.8 PFF grade on the year ranks fifth among all rookie edge defenders since 2012, trailing the likes of Khalil Mack, Joey Bosa, Nick Bosa and Myles Garrett.
He was a non-stop playmaker this past week against the San Francisco 49ers, notching a sack, three pass-rush wins, a forced fumble and two tackles for loss against the run. That performance skyrocketed him from a 10th-place finish on last week's list to a fifth-place finish this week.
Gibson played only a few snaps in Washington’s upset win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 13 before suffering a toe injury that knocked him out of the game. The injury caused him to miss Week 14.
Gibson currently owns the fourth-highest rushing grade among all running backs this year, at 83.4. He has broken tackles at an impressive rate (0.22 per attempt, seventh-best) and is taking advantage of the sixth-highest-graded run-blocking line ahead of him. The rookie is a big reason why the Football Team ranks second to only the Tennessee Titans in rushing efficiency on running back carries.
Taylor has been a different breed over his last three games. Over his first nine contests, Taylor ranked 43rd among 52 qualifying running backs in rushing grade at 62.4. Over the course of his last three contests, he has earned a 90.0 rushing grade that ranks first among all players at the position.
The second-round rookie also leads the NFL in explosive run rate, as 12 of his 55 carries since Week 11 have gained 10 or more yards. Taylor is also second in broken tackles per attempt at 0.33. The Colts rookie recorded just 10 of those explosive runs on 113 carries over his first nine games, and he generated only 0.07 broken tackles per attempt.
Taylor's improvement is truly uncanny, and he will look to continue this trend in Week 15 against the Houston Texans, who have the second-lowest-graded run defense in the NFL.
8. WR DENZEL MIMS, NEW YORK JETS
There are only three rookie wide receivers who rank in the top 30 at the position in yards per route run this season: Jefferson, Chase Claypool and… Denzel Mims — not Jerry Jeudy, CeeDee Lamb or Henry Ruggs III, just as we all expected.
Mims made his NFL debut back in Week 7 and since then has recorded a 76.2 PFF grade that ranks 29th among qualifying wide receivers. He has also reeled in 14 receptions of 15-plus yards, tying for the ninth-most at the position over that stretch. Considering the fact that Mims has the third-lowest rate of catchable targets seen this season (57.1%), that is quite impressive.
9. DI DOUG COSTIN, JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS
After making a name for himself as one of the most productive interior defensive linemen in the Group of 5 at Miami (OH), Costin was snatched up by the Jags as a UDFA and has quietly been on a tear recently. Costin struggled in his first two games as a rotational player in Weeks 4 and 5, earning sub-50.0 PFF grades, but he's come on leaps and bounds ever since.
Dating back to Week 6, Costin is tied for 10th at his position in PFF grade and has been a constant disrupter against the run. He hasn’t been nearly as dominant as a pass-rusher, with just seven total pressures on 155 pass rushes this season, but it has still been an impressive campaign for the undrafted rookie.
10. T MEKHI BECTON, NEW YORK JETS
Becton has far exceeded expectations throughout his rookie campaign. Despite having a bit of a midseason lull, with a couple of injuries hindering his play to a certain extent, the 11th overall pick has still earned grades above 75.0 this season as both a pass- and run-blocker. That’s something only two other starting rookie left tackles have done over the last 15 years.
It won’t be easy to sustain that through next week, as he and the winless Jets challenge the Rams and the fourth-highest-graded pass-rush unit in the NFL. Needless to say, Becton will have his work cut out against Aaron Donald, but a solid performance in that matchup will go along way toward catapulting him up this list.