NFL Rookies: Top 15 highest-graded players through Week 3

Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (10) and quarterback Brian Hoyer (5) take the field to warm up before the start of the `New Orleans Saints game against the at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

The “generational” quarterback class of 2021 has come out the gate looking like … well … almost every other quarterback class. Even though five different rookie quarterbacks have started games, only Mac Jones made the top 15 here.

Let’s dive into the top-graded rookies of the 2021 NFL season so far.

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1. LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Cleveland Browns

PFF overall grade: 90.1

JOK was talked up as one of the steals of the draft by just about everyone, and he’s certainly looked like one through three weeks. The 52nd overall pick is still a sub-package player for the Browns but has already racked up four pass breakups on only 40 coverage snaps. His 57.1% forced incompletion percentage ranks first among the 77 linebackers who have played at least 30 coverage snaps this year.

EDGE Micah Parsons, Dallas Cowboys

PFF overall grade: 87.6

Parsons continues to make impact plays after his switch to defensive end before Week 2. He’s already racked up 15 pressures on only 73 pass-rushing snaps, including two sacks and three hits. He’s filled in nearly seamlessly with Demarcus Lawrence out.

EDGE Odafe Oweh, Baltimore Ravens 

PFF overall grade: 79.1

Oweh was always a perfect scheme fit for what the Ravens do defensively. Their stunts and slants have tapped into his elite athleticism, especially in the run game. His 88.8 run-defense grade is the third-highest at the position in the NFL, and he’s registered nine pressures in three games.

CB Nate Hobbs, Las Vegas Raiders

PFF overall grade: 76.8

One of the unsung heroes of the Raiders defense, Hobbs has locked down the slot this season. He’s allowed only 48 yards on 12 targets and has racked up five defensive stops. His emergence is made all the more impressive because he played outside cornerback at Illinois for all four years of his college career.

WR Ja’Marr Chase, Cincinnati Bengals

PFF overall grade: 75.8

Chase has now caught 11-of-16 targets for 220 yards with four scores in only three games. The fifth overall pick has also unlocked Joe Burrow’s deep ball, which was non-existent last season. Burrow has already completed more go-balls to Chase (three) than he did in all of 2020.

EDGE Kwity Paye, Indianapolis Colts

PFF overall grade: 74.2

Paye is already making his presence felt in the run game. He collected four run stops the first two weeks before tweaking his hamstring after seven snaps Sunday. We’ve yet to see much from him as a pass-rusher, as he has managed only two pressures, but he was seen as an athletic project in that regard coming out of Michigan.

CB Patrick Surtain II, Denver Broncos

PFF overall grade: 72.6

Surtain has been given the starting nod the past two weeks and has been as stingy as advertised. He hasn’t allowed more than 37 yards in any of his three games this season and has come away with a pick and a pass breakup.

RT Samuel Cosmi, Washington Football Team

PFF overall grade: 72.3

Cosmi has turned things around in a big way after getting baptized by Joey Bosa in Week 1. Over the last two weeks, he’s allowed only one pressure on 86 pass-blocking snaps. That’s quite the start for the rookie after switching from left tackle to right tackle this year.

TE Pat Freiermuth, Pittsburgh Steelers

PFF overall grade: 72.2

Freiermuth has been a chain-mover for the Steelers over the first three weeks. Five of his eight catches have gone for first downs, with another going for a score. With Eric Ebron’s drop issues, Freiermuth will likely see his playing time grow as the season wears on.

QB Mac Jones, New England Patriots

PFF overall grade: 72.2

It wasn’t a banner week for the Patriots quarterback, but there’s still been far more good than bad on his tape. He’s eighth in the NFL with six big-time throws and is the only rookie with more big-time throws than turnover-worthy plays.

CB Asante Samuel Jr., Los Angeles Chargers

PFF overall grade: 71.9

Samuel made more plays on the ball than any other rookie so far. He’s already registered two picks and two pass breakups through three games. Of his 12 targets, he’s allowed eight catches for 103 yards on the year despite facing some talented passing attacks in Dallas and Kansas City.

WR Rondale Moore, Arizona Cardinals 

PFF overall grade: 71.8

Moore’s tackle-breaking ability has translated seamlessly from Purdue to the NFL. He’s already broken seven tackles on 13 catches for 184 yards this season. Even though he only caught two balls for one yard this past week, he still broke two tackles. Moore has been exactly what that Cardinals offense was missing.

T Rashawn Slater, Los Angeles Chargers

PFF overall grade: 71.3

Slater has been the most consistent pass-protecting rookie through three weeks. He’s allowed only five pressures on 149 pass-blocking snaps so far. That’s a far cry from what Chargers fans have been used to for the last decade.

CB Michael Carter II, New York Jets

PFF overall grade: 71.1

Yet another slot cornerback playing well out the gate. Carter’s 15 targets have turned into only 50 yards so far this season. On his 19 tackle attempts, Carter has missed only one so far, and nine of those have resulted in a defensive stop.

C Creed Humphrey, Kansas City Chiefs

PFF overall grade: 70.4

Humphrey has yet to allow a pressure in the middle of the Chiefs' offensive line. That’s been invaluable for the Chiefs offense after their struggles down the stretch last season.


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