PFF preaches the importance of sample sizes in player evaluation. Sure, you can find out about someone’s athletic traits fairly quickly on tape, but a few plays or even a few games aren’t nearly enough to definitively know how good those athletes are at the game of football.
With Week 8 in the books, we’re approaching sample sizes that we can feel confident about. If a rookie has made this list, the chances are their team got it right on draft day.
Here are PFF's highest-graded rookies through NFL Week 8.
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PFF overall grade: 90.7
While he doesn’t play a sexy position or put up the eye-popping stats that will garner Rookie of the Year consideration, it would be Humphrey’s award to lose if all positions got their equal due. He’s been the highest-graded center in the entire NFL through the first eight weeks of the season, and he's the only one over 90.0.
— Gabe Ikard (@GabeIkard) November 2, 2021
2. QB Mac Jones, New England Patriots
PFF overall grade: 84.0
Jones continues to play the kind of efficient football that’s well beyond his years. It’s been three straight games now where Jones hasn’t thrown a single turnover-worthy play. The Alabama product may have also just made his best throw as a pro this past weekend.
The 44-yarder to Agholor was a great QB play by Mac and a great route by Agholor.
Looks off the deep safety by opening/eying the left sideline. Gets Derwin to open in that direction, eludes the rush by stepping up in the pocket, drops a dime. Nice late break by Nelly. #Patriots pic.twitter.com/HSNaUgjvWU
— Evan Lazar (@ezlazar) November 1, 2021
3. RB Khalil Herbert, Chicago Bears
PFF overall grade: 83.4
Herbert continues to go above and beyond what’s expected of him in this Bears offense, averaging nearly 3.0 yards after contact per attempt. He’s been the bell cow with David Montgomery out, handling just under 20 carries a game since taking over in Week 5, and he has 344 rushing yards over that span.
4. WR Ja’Marr Chase, Cincinnati Bengals
PFF overall grade: 81.3
Chase has quite obviously been an ultra-dynamic big-play weapon for the Bengals — he’s single-handedly transformed the offense. However, the drops we saw in the preseason haven’t gone away. Chase has five drops on 43 catchable passes this season, with two over the weekend.
PFF overall grade: 81.1
JOK is still out with an ankle injury, and his presence has been missed in the middle of the Browns' defense. Yet, amazingly, the Browns linebacker still ranks second among all rookie defenders this season with four pass breakups. Yes, that includes cornerbacks, as well.
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6. TE Kyle Pitts, Atlanta Falcons
PFF overall grade: 80.8
After back-to-back 100-yard games, Pitts was thoroughly shut down this past weekend. The Panthers game planned to get physical with him, and the rookie only caught 2-of-6 passes for 13 yards. He’s still on pace to eclipse 1,000 yards on the season, with 484 so far.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is why Kyle Pitts is a unicorn ????
— Atlanta Falcons (@AtlantaFalcons) October 24, 2021
7. G Trey Smith, Kansas City Chiefs
PFF overall grade: 80.1
Smith put on an absolute show on Monday Night Football in Week 8. He showed the full skill set that had many so high on him before he fell to the sixth round for medical issues. Smith is a mauler in the run game who is already moving grown men in the trenches.
Good lord Trey Smith. He’s got a family. pic.twitter.com/My6agAARSj
— Geoff Schwartz (@geoffschwartz) November 2, 2021
PFF overall grade: 78.7
Slater is not only good for a rookie left tackle; he’s good for a left tackle, period. He’s earned the sixth-highest grade of any tackle in the NFL so far, allowing only 12 pressures on 328 pass-blocking snaps this season.
9. CB Nate Hobbs, Las Vegas Raiders
PFF overall grade: 78.6
Hobbs has been as reliable a slot corner as you’ll see in the NFL this season. In seven games, he’s had only one game earn a below-average coverage grade, which came back in Week 1.
PFF overall grade: 77.0
Cosmi was a grown man in the run game before the injury that has forced him to miss the past three weeks. He earned an 89.0 run-blocking grade in Washington’s first five games with only one below-average game grade.
11. WR Rondale Moore, Arizona Cardinals
PFF overall grade: 76.6
Moore has already broken 10 tackles on only 29 receptions so far. He’s still more of a gadget player in the Cardinals offense, with 19 of those catches coming on screens. Still, he’s been excellent in that regard.
12. TE Pat Freiermuth, Pittsburgh Steelers
PFF overall grade: 76.4
Freiermuth has taken over a full-time role with Eric Ebron is sidelined through injury. He’s coming off arguably his best two games as a pro and came down with the game-winning touchdown score against the Browns this past weekend.
Overlooked play of the day yesterday. Kudos to Ben Roethlisberger for flipping Harris from right to left side. But Harris' pickup here prevents Myles Garrett from getting to Ben.
— Alex Kozora (@Alex_Kozora) November 1, 2021
13. G Alijah Vera-Tucker, New York Jets
PFF overall grade: 76.0
After a bit of a slow start, Vera-Tucker has looked well worth the 14th overall pick the past three games. Since Week 5, Vera-Tucker has been the fourth-highest-graded guard in the NFL, with an 86.4 overall grade.
14. CB Michael Carter II, New York Jets
PFF overall grade: 73.1
It’s great to see multiple Jets on this list, given the state of the franchise. They’ve had more rookie snaps than any other team in the NFL this season. Carter is coming off his best game as a pro, where he allowed only one catch for 21 yards.
PFF overall grade: 71.8
After some early-season injuries, Newsome has come on strong after his return. He’s recorded a pass breakup in each of his past two games to give him four on the season. Newsome has allowed only 14 catches from 22 targets for 206 yards on the season.