NFL News & Analysis

Top 15 NFL rookies: Week 5

Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Bailey Zappe (4) makes a pass against the Detroit Lions during the second half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

Ikem Ekwonu excels in run game: The Carolina Panthers tackle earned an absurd 98.0 run-blocking grade against the 49ers over the weekend.

Bailey Zappe‘s first start makes the cut: The New England Patriots' third-string quarterback finished 17-of-21 for 188 yards with a score — and his interception came on a drop.

Aidan Hutchinson enjoys best game yet: The No. 2 pick was consistently winning blocks in the run game and finished with two defensive stops on the day.

Estimated Reading Time: 5 mins

The 15 highest-graded rookies list from Week 5 of the NFL season features an appearance from a quarterback and also multiple players with 90.0-plus overall game grades.

It’s a jam-packed top 15 from the 2022 class, so let’s get into it.

15. EDGE Kayvon Thibodeaux, New York Giants (75.0)

Thibodeaux has been a sight for sore eyes, considering the Giants' lack of edge pressure the past year and a half. He racked up four pressures for the second straight game against the Green Bay Packers in London. Early returns have been impressive for the No. 5 overall pick.

14. S Rodney Thomas II, Indianapolis Colts (75.4)

The seventh-rounder has been forced into starting action the past two weeks due to injuries in the Colts' secondary. This past week was a breakout performance for the former Yale Bulldog, who tallied his first career pick and first career pass breakup. 

13. WR Khalil Shakir, Buffalo Bills (75.9)

Filling in for Isaiah McKenzie in the slot, Shakir looked like he’d been starting all year. He hauled in three of five targets for 75 yards and his first career score. Two of those catches came in contested fashion, with Shakir flashing his ball skills in his first career start.

12. WR George Pickens, Pittsburgh Steelers (76.9)

Pickens has arrived. After 102 yards last week, he racked up 83 yards on six catches against the Bills in Week 5. All six of those receptions resulted in first downs. The rapport he already has built with quarterback Kenny Pickett is evident.

11. WR Drake London, Atlanta Falcons (77.2)

London’s stat line may not be otherworldly, with four catches for 35 yards, but he was only on the field for 24 pass plays and had three of those receptions result in first downs. His 2.22 yards per route ranks second among rookie receivers.

10. DI Jordan Davis, Philadelphia Eagles (77.5)

Davis has been a mainstay on this list for his work in the run game. He managed two run stops on only 12 such snaps against the Arizona Cardinals. He now has a 77.2 grade in run defense on the season. 

9. QB Bailey Zappe, New England Patriots (77.6)

In his first career start, Zappe looked like a veteran. Obviously, it helped that he was under pressure on only two of his dropbacks, but Zappe still finished 17-of-21 for 188 yards with a score and a pick on the day. The pick came on a perfectly placed pass off Nelson Agholor’s hands, meaning Zappe still doesn’t have a turnover-worthy play this year.

8. EDGE Aidan Hutchinson, Detroit Lions (80.1)

This was comfortably Hutchinson’s best all-around performance as a pro, even if it didn’t show on the stat sheet. He was consistently winning blocks in the run game and finished with two defensive stops on the day.

7. EDGE Nik Bonitto, Denver Broncos (80.3)

Bonitto — and the rest of the Broncos' defensive line — got after the Colts on Thursday night. His 29 snaps were the most he’s played in a single game all season, and he rewarded the Denver faithful with four pressures on the day. He’s going to give less-athletic tackles nightmares with his speed off the edge.

6. CB Jack Jones, New England Patriots (80.9)

Jones has been a man possessed ever since getting his first career start last week. After a pick-six of Aaron Rodgers last week, Jones secured a toe-tapping, sideline interception early on against the Lions this week. He finished with four catches allowed on seven targets for 60 yards allowed with that pick and another pass breakup.

5. CB Tariq Woolen, Seattle Seahawks (81.0)

Has there been a bigger Day 3 steal than Woolen this season? After another pick of Andy Dalton on Sunday, Woolen now has three straight games with an interception. He was supposed to be a project coming out of UTSA after starting his career at wide receiver, but he’s already making a massive impact for the Seahawks.

4. OT Braxton Jones, Chicago Bears (83.8)

What an encouraging sign for Bears fans desperate for any silver lining this season. The fifth-rounder earned a career-high 90.5 run-blocking grade against the Vikings. While he still struggled a touch in pass protection, with three pressures allowed, that’s still not too bad considering he was facing FCS competition at this time last year.

3. WR Chris Olave, New Orleans Saints (85.4)

Olave continues to be the most NFL-ready receiver in the 2022 class. He caught four of six targets for 54 yards and a score. Unfortunately, that score would be his last play of the game, as he was spun into the turf in a gruesome manner and knocked out of the game with a concussion. The hope is that he’s back soon, as he’s been tremendous. Olave’s 2.56 yards per route run leads the draft class.

2. EDGE Sam Williams, Dallas Cowboys (91.6)

As if the Cowboys' defensive line needed any more juice, Williams with his sub-4.5 speed has been emerging of late on the edge. On only 26 snaps, he racked up three pressures and two run stops for an all-around impactful day. It was the most snaps he’s played in a game all season.

1. LT Ikem Ekwonu, Carolina Panthers (92.1)

We finally got to see the Ikem Ekwonu who dominated last year at N.C. State, and it was glorious. Ekwonu earned an absurd 98.0 run-blocking grade against the 49ers over the weekend. And for the second straight week, he allowed only one pressure. After a slow start to the season, Ekwonu has rebounded nicely.

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