NFL Rookies: Top 15 highest-graded players in Week 1

2RT4NTF New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones, top right, is brought down by Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Haason Reddick (7) and defensive tackle Jalen Carter, center left, in the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 10, 2023, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

Jalen Carter erupts: Carter looked nearly unblockable as a pass-rusher, where he won on over 25% of his rushes and finished with eight total pressures, including a sack.

Will Anderson Jr. makes an impact: Anderson finished the day with four run stops, grading positively on 23.8% of his run-defense snaps. He also tallied five total pressures, including a sack, on a 21.7% pass-rush win rate.

Rashee Rice steps up: Rice may have totaled just 29 yards on three receptions, but he did snag a touchdown and was targeted on 41.7% of his routes.

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.

This is the list of the 15 highest-graded rookies after NFL Week 1.

1. DI Jalen Carter, Philadelphia Eagles: 92.1

The former Georgia Bulldog erupted in his regular-season debut against the Patriots and was the only rookie in Week 1 to earn a 90.0-plus PFF grade. Carter looked nearly unblockable as a pass-rusher, where he won on over 25% of his rushes and finished with eight total pressures, including a sack.

2. DI Keeanu Benton, Pittsburgh Steelers: 86.1

The Wisconsin product showed his run-stuffing ability in Week 1 against the Niners, earning a positive grade on over 11.8% of his run-defense snaps. And perhaps more impressively for a rookie, he earned no negative grades on those snaps.

Not only did Benton earn the second-highest grade among rookies in Week 1, but he was also the Steelers' second-highest-graded player, behind only T.J. Watt (94.4).

3. LB Henry To’oTo’o, Houston Texans: 84.3

Against one of the fastest offenses in the league, To’oTo’o showed poise in his limited workload, earning quality grades in coverage and against the run. While his stat line of three total tackles and a run stop may not look overly impressive on the surface, To’oTo’o wasn't downgraded once on the day.

4. Edge Will Anderson Jr, Houston Texans: 83.1

The former Alabama edge defender produced at a high level as both a run-stuffer and pass-rusher in Week 1. He finished the day with four run stops, grading positively on 23.8% of his run-defense snaps. He also tallied five total pressures, including a sack, on a 21.7% pass-rush win rate.

5. G Peter Skoronski, Tennessee Titans: 81.3

The tackle-turned-guard out of Northwestern produced quality snaps as a run-blocker and a pass-blocker against the Saints. On the ground, Skoronski earned a positive grade once every four snaps, compared to just a 5% negatively graded run-block percentage. On 40 pass-protection snaps, he allowed just one pressure — albeit a sack — to Carl Granderson.

6. WR Puka Nacua, Los Angeles Rams: 81.3

Due to an injury setback for Cooper Kupp, Nacua was thrust into a sizable workload in his first outing as a pro and answered the call tremendously to the tune of 10 receptions for 119 yards. While he did finish with a pair of drops, his 3.40 yards per route run ranked sixth in the NFL this past week.

7. WR Rashee Rice, Kansas City Chiefs: 80.7

With the unfortunate injury to Travis Kelce leading up to Week 1, the Chiefs were forced to lean heavily on some new names in the passing game. As a result, Rice found himself in the mix in some high-leverage spots. He may have totaled 29 yards on three receptions, but he snagged a touchdown and was targeted on 41.7% of his routes.

8. RB Jahmyr Gibbs, Detroit Lions: 78.8

Gibbs joins To’oTo’o and Anderson as the third former Crimson Tide player on this list after Week 1. While Gibbs was limited to just 19 snaps working behind David Montgomery, he made the most of his opportunities. While he was pegged to be the receiving threat out of this backfield, he was most impressive on the ground. On seven carries, he totaled 0.86 forced missed tackles per attempt and 4.9 yards after contact per attempt.

9. WR Zay Flowers, Baltimore Ravens: 78.2

The Ravens filled a void in their offense that has plagued them for years when they selected the electric Flowers out of Boston College in the first round. Flowers was the focal point of the Baltimore passing game in Week 1 and saw 10 targets, seven more than any other Raven. Flowers' ability after the catch was on full display, as he totaled four explosive plays of 15 or more yards and averaged 6.0 yards after the catch per reception.

10. DI Zacch Pickens, Chicago Bears: 75.6

While Pickens played just a limited role during the Bears' Week 1 loss to the Packers, he comes away as one of the highest-graded rookies in the NFL. Pickens may have been a non-factor in the pass rush, but he graded positively on 28.6% of his run-defense snaps without a single negative grade.

11. LB Ivan Pace Jr. Minnesota Vikings: 75.0

The only undrafted player to make this list, Pace may not have popped off the box score, but he found his footing quickly in this Vikings defense. The former Cincinnati Bearcat has some room for improvement in run defense and coverage, but he still managed three total stops. The real draw for Pace had to be his potential as a pass-rushing linebacker — he earned a 40% pass-rush win rate on just five rushes in Week 1.

12. EDGE Keion White, New England Patriots: 74.9

While the Eagles' offensive line proved an overwhelming matchup for the Pats, White held his own as a pass-rusher. On his 13 pass-rushing snaps, he amassed a 30.8% pressure rate that may have amounted to a sack or two had Jalen Hurts not been the one in the pocket.

13. DI Jordon Riley, New York Giants: 74.2

The Cowboys held a commanding lead over the Giants for most of the game, which didn’t lead to many pass-rushing snaps for Riley, but he did show off his ability as a run-stuffer. In his 12 snaps vs. the run, the seventh-round pick managed a perfect 0.0% negatively-graded play percentage and came away with a tackle for loss.

14. LB SirVocea Dennis, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 73.7

Dennis makes this list off the good fortune of having a small sample size. The nature of the grading sometimes lends itself to outliers such as Dennis, as the system can only analyze what happens on the field. While Dennis may have played just two snaps in Week 1, he earned a 100% positively graded run defense percentage, beating a block on his only run defense snap.

15. Darnell Wright, Chicago Bears: 72.1

Wright, the 10th pick in this year’s draft, is the second Bears rookie to make this list. He may not have had the cleanest box score, as he allowed five hurries on 52 pass-blocking snaps and graded negatively on 14.3% of his run-blocking snaps. However, he did show some strength as an inside-zone blocker, earning a positive grade on 37.5% of his plays in these concepts.

Subscriptions

Unlock the 2023 Fantasy Draft Kit, with League Sync, Live Draft Assistant, PFF Grades & Data Platform that powers all 32 Pro Teams

$31 Draft Kit Fee + $8.99/mo
OR
$89.88/yr + FREE Draft Kit