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NFL Rookies: Best and worst performances from the wild-card round

Orchard Park, NY, USA; Buffalo Bills cornerback Kaiir Elam (24) intercepts a pass intended for Miami Dolphins wide receiver Trent Sherfield (14) during the second half in a NFL wild card game at Highmark Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL's Super Wild Card Weekend is now complete, bringing the first round of the NFL playoffs to a close. While the season is over for most rookies, a select few are playing postseason football — albeit to varying degrees of success.

Here are some notable performances — good and bad — from rookies this past week.


CB Kaiir Elam, Buffalo Bills

Round: 1
PFF overall grade in 2022: 56.7
Wild-card game grade: 88.1

It’s been a tumultuous debut season for Buffalo’s first-round draft pick, who began the season behind fellow rookie Christian Benford on the Bills' depth chart and was in and out of the lineup over the regular season.

Across 41 regular-season targets, Elam allowed 31 catches and a passer rating of 98.9. However, in his first playoff game, he allowed one catch for two yards and came down with an interception, as well as coming inches from a second one.

Elam posted an 88.0 PFF coverage grade and was a major difference-maker in the game, allowing Buffalo to emerge victorious in a much closer outcome than many expected.

S Kyle Hamilton, Baltimore Ravens

Round: 1
PFF overall grade in 2022: 86.7
Wild-card game grade: 90.8

Many saw Hamilton as a generational safety talent in the draft, and there was much debate over how early NFL teams could draft a player like that. His preseason and training camp produced a lot of rough plays, particularly when covering the slot, but that’s become an area of strength for him down the stretch for the Ravens.

Against the Cincinnati Bengals this week, he forced a fumble on a big hit that he recovered himself and was the best-graded defender on the Ravens. He tallied seven solo tackles and four defensive stops, both of which led the team.

QB Brock Purdy, San Francisco 49ers

Round: 7
PFF overall grade in 2022: 78.0
Wild-card game grade: 73.6

The Brock Purdy discussion isn’t meant for this black-and-white, no-nuance world.

As this year’s Mr. Irrelevant, being able to steer the ship of a Super Bowl favorite and not look out of his depth makes for an incredible story, but it’s also true to say that Kyle Shanahan’s offense is making his life very easy.

Purdy actually had a rough beginning to his first playoff game, but as it went on, he settled in and added just a smattering of plays on top of the easy scheme wins that were being presented to him on a platter.

His best throw ended up being dropped in the end zone by Brandon Aiyuk, but he finished with 11.1 yards per attempt in another dominant outing by the San Francisco offense.


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