NFL Rookies: Top 15 highest-graded players after Week 8

2T21JN5 Inglewood, United States Of America. 15th Oct, 2023. October 15, 2023 Inglewood, CA.Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Puka Nacua (17) is unable to make the catch in the endzone in action in the first quarter during the NFL football game against the Arizona Cardinals.Mandatory Photo Credit: Louis Lopez/Cal Sport Media/Sipa USA (Credit Image: © Louis Lopez/Cal Sport Media/Sipa USA) Credit: Sipa US/Alamy Live News

Jalen Carter remains on top: Carter again finds himself atop the rookie rankings, standing as the only qualifying first-year player to surpass a 90.0 overall grade on the season.

Puka Nacua at No. 2: Nacua's top-10 receiving grade (83.7) has been earned in large part due to his ability to produce explosive plays: Of his 61 catches on the year, 21 have gone for 15 or more yards.

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Estimated reading time: 6 minutes


Members of the 2023 draft class are primed and ready to face down the bright lights of the NFL stage. Whether they were drafted first or 259th, the best will rise to the top when the games are played.

These are the 15 highest-graded rookies after NFL Week 8.

1. DI Jalen Carter, Philadelphia Eagles: 91.6

Carter finds himself atop the rookie rankings, standing as the only qualifying first-year player to surpass a 90.0 overall grade on the season.

Despite his limited workload following his return from injury in Week 6, Carter retains his place among the best pass rushers in the game. His 21.1% pass-rush win rate and 28 total pressures have helped facilitate an outstanding 90.1 grade, a top-eight mark among all defenders.


2. WR Puka Nacua, Los Angeles Rams: 84.6

After eight games, Nacua heads into the second half of the season as the league’s highest-graded first-year offensive player. His top-10 receiving grade (83.7) has been earned in large part due to his ability to produce explosive plays: Of his 61 catches on the year, 21 have gone for 15 or more yards.


3. CB Devon Witherspoon, Seattle Seahawks: 84.4

In just his first year, Witherspoon ranks as a top-10 corner in a variety of coverage metrics, including completion percentage allowed (42.9%), forced incompletions (7) and passer rating allowed (53.2). The Seahawks rookie has also posted 80.0-plus grades against the run (84.2) and as a pass-rusher (91.9), setting himself apart as one of the league’s premier all-around corners.


4. CB Joey Porter Jr., Pittsburgh Steelers: 81.9

Porter has been erasing every receiver he has matched up with this season, and he’s quickly putting together an impressive resume. This season, Porter leads all qualifying corners in yards allowed per coverage snap (0.25) and open target percentage (14.3%), both of which are key indicators in projecting future success at the position.


5. WR Jake Bobo, Seattle Seahawks: 81.0

Bobo’s role was reduced in Week 8, but he still found the end zone once on just three touches. Even though the Seattle receiving corps is returning to full health, the 2023 undrafted free agent will find his way into the lineup sooner or later. His 86.3 receiving grade over the last three games not only leads the class but also ranks in the top five among all receivers.

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6. CB Christian Gonzalez, New England Patriots: 80.8

Despite missing the last four games due to injury, Gonzalez (shoulder) is again featured on this list. In just four games, Gonzalez managed to force three incompletions, grab an interception and allow just a 67.5 passer rating on throws into his coverage.


7. WR Rashee Rice, Kansas City Chiefs: 79.7

Rice has been excelling in his expanded role. His efficiency through the first two months of the season has been outstanding, having accumulated 2.47 yards per route run and a 121.6 passer rating when targeted, both top-20 marks at the position.


7. EDGE Will Anderson Jr., Houston Texans: 79.7

Evaluators coveted Anderson’s ability to rush the passer, but his run-stuffing ability may be the most consistent facet of his game this season. The third overall pick earned a positive grade on 21.2% of his 122 run-defense snaps and accumulated 14 run-stops, the latter of which leads the class.


7. LB Ivan Pace Jr., Minnesota Vikings: 79.7

Pace saw his workload increase this past week due to Brian Asamoah's injury setback, and he picked up where he left off. He earned his fifth single-game grade over 72.0, producing a run stop and a pass-rush win. Pace’s ability as a pass-rusher is undeniable, with his 88.6 grade ranking 12th among all defenders.


10. DI Keeanu Benton, Pittsburgh Steelers: 78.8

Benton continues to make strides as a pass-rusher heading into the back half of the season — over the last three games, he has accumulated six of his 10 pressures on the season. That pushed his pass-rush grade to an impressive 81.5, the 10th-highest grade at the position.

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11. CB Brian Branch, Detroit Lions: 77.5

Branch is a vital piece to this Lions' defense. His coverage ability is quickly proving to be as advertised, having allowed just 0.68 yards per coverage snap. His 77.8 coverage grade ranks top-20 among corners.


12. WR Demario Douglas, New England Patriots: 76.3

Since Week 4, the former Liberty standout has produced three single-game grades over 71.0, good for an 80.1 grade over that span. That places him in the top 15 at the position, listed among household names like Garrett Wilson and Stefon Diggs.


13. WR Tank Dell, Houston Texans: 75.1

Dell is making waves as a versatile weapon in this Texans offense and has earned a 75.5 receiving grade through seven weeks of play. In Week 8, he managed to flash a bit in the run game, taking just three carries but racking up over 6.3 yards after contact per rush.


14. RB Tyjae Spears, Tennessee Titans: 74.9

While he has just 34 carries on the year, Spears ranks second among his peers in missed tackles forced per attempt (0.38) and third in yards per carry (5.8).


15. WR Josh Downs, Indianapolis Colts: 74.3

Since Week 5, Downs has earned three single-game grades above 74.0. During that span, he totaled over 23 receptions and 315 yards, both of which rank among the top 12 at the position. That production is largely due to Downs' explosive play ability, as he has accumulated seven receptions of 15 or more yards, tied for second-most in the class.

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