With seemingly half the NFL out with COVID-19 this past week, the rookie class was hit hard, as well. In all, four of the 15 players on this list were forced to miss this past weekend's games while on the COVID-19 reserve list.
Here are PFF's highest-graded rookies through NFL Week 15.
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PFF overall grade: 90.4
Outside of an ugly holding call, Humphrey had a solid outing against a crafty veteran nose tackle in Linval Joseph. The Chiefs center continues to be nothing short of an elite run-blocker and may finish with the highest run-blocking grade we’ve ever given to a rookie lineman. Humphrey currently owns a 92.5 run-blocking grade.
2. LB Micah Parsons, Dallas Cowboys
PFF overall grade: 83.3
We know about how good Parsons is as a pass-rusher, but now he’s starting to look like a playmaker in coverage, as well. While playing off-ball the past three games, Parsons hasn’t allowed a single catch on five targets. His ability in coverage was highlighted with a pass breakup against Kenny Golladay this past week.
Not only is Micah Parsons one of the best pass rushers in the league already, the man can hang in coverage. Stops an easy TD to Kenny Golladay on the wheel after the DB is picked by the back out wide. pic.twitter.com/Uvhl9YdEf1
— Bobby Football (@Rob__Paul) December 20, 2021
3. S Jevon Holland, Miami Dolphins
PFF overall grade: 81.6
Holland was placed on the COVID-19 list last week, and despite coming off in time to play, he was still not feeling well enough to make his 11th start of the season. That’s unfortunate, considering the elite football he’s been playing of late. Since week 9, he’s been the second-highest-graded safety in the NFL.
4. QB Mac Jones, New England Patriots
PFF overall grade: 81.5
Jones had very little help from his running game and was forced to play from way behind for the first time since Week 3. The results weren’t what we’ve become accustomed to — he threw two ugly interceptions to Colts linebackers and looked definitively like a rookie.
PFF overall grade: 78.9
Slater missed Week 15 on the COVID-19 list, and the Chargers could have used his steadying presence in their loss to the division-rival Chiefs. His replacement, Trey Pipkins, allowed three pressures against the limited Chiefs defensive line.
6. WR Jaylen Waddle, Miami Dolphins
PFF overall grade: 78.7
Waddle was also on the COVID-19 list for the Dolphins, and the offense noticeably missed his ability to generate separation. Tua Tagovailoa had his lowest-graded game of the season, and the Dolphins were barely able to skate by the Jets. With 86 receptions, he’s still very likely to break the rookie receptions record (Anquan Boldin's 101).
7. CB Nate Hobbs, Las Vegas Raiders
PFF overall grade: 78.6
Hobbs was one of many out this past week on the COVID-19 list. Thankfully, it came in a game against the Browns, where everyone he would have had to guard was out with COVID, as well. Hobbs has been one of the best slot corners in the NFL, and it remains to be seen if the Raiders will ever expand his role from that.
8. T Penei Sewell, Detroit Lions
PFF overall grade: 78.0
The climb up the rankings continues. Sewell now ranks sixth among all tackles in the NFL in terms of run-blocking grade at 85.8. It is a far cry from the player we saw struggling out of the gate early in the season.
9. TE Kyle Pitts, Atlanta Falcons
PFF overall grade: 77.9
Pitts had himself a nice four-catch, 77-yard performance against the 49ers, but he’s likely still kicking himself about not being able to haul in a fourth-down flat route on the goal line on the Falcons' first drive of the game. With three games remaining, Pitts only needs 153 yards to crack 1,000.
PFF overall grade: 76.5
Owusu-Koramoah is fresh off his lowest-graded game of the season. And even then, he still made his presence felt. His sack-fumble on Derek Carr almost shifted the final result in the Browns' favor. However, he did miss three tackles on eight attempts, which torpedoed his overall grade.
11. RB Javonte Williams, Denver Broncos
PFF overall grade: 76.4
After breaking four more tackles on 15 carries against the Bengals on Sunday, Williams now has seven straight games with at least three forced missed tackles. While he’s struggled to create big plays — his longest run on 67 carries the past four weeks is only 14 yards — Williams is still effective down-to-down.
12. WR Ja’Marr Chase, Cincinnati Bengals
PFF overall grade: 76.1
While he’s been up and down all season, we’ve never quite seen Chase as down as he was this past week. The vaunted Broncos secondary held him to a grand total of three yards on one catch this past Sunday. While he looked like a lock to break the rookie receiving record early on, Chase needs 362 yards the next three weeks to break Justin Jefferson’s record of 1,400 yards.
13. Edge Kwity Paye, Indianapolis Colts
PFF overall grade: 73.9
Paye had yet another quiet game against the Patriots on Thursday night, with only three pressures and no run stops. That’s not too surprising, considering he was going up against one of the best tackle duos in the NFL. He’s feasted on the weaker tackles he’s faced this season but not been particularly consistent.
14. WR DeVonta Smith, Philadelphia Eagles
PFF overall grade: 73.7
Smith made one of the highlights of the game Tuesday with his toe-tapping grab that was so impressive the ref didn’t even think he got his feet in bounds. That was pretty much all there was to write home about, though, in a three-catch, 40-yard performance. Smith still has an outside shot at 1,000 yards but needs 259 yards in his final three games.
OH MY GOODNESS, @DeVontaSmith_6
— NFL (@NFL) December 22, 2021
15. S Trevon Moehrig, Las Vegas Raiders
PFF overall grade: 72.7
Moehrig was one of the few bright spots in an ugly Raiders win on Monday against the Browns. He didn’t allow a catch on his one target and made four tackles without a miss.