NFL News & Analysis

NFL Rookies: Top 15 highest-graded players through Week 9

Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Kansas City Chiefs center Creed Humphrey (52) on the line of scrimmage against the Buffalo Bills during the game at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

We’re at the point in the season where the names on this list are barely changing from week to week. That doesn’t mean the order is static, however, as monster games over the weekend from Kwity Paye and Pat Freiermuth vaulted them up the list.

Here are PFF's highest-graded rookies through NFL Week 9.

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1. C Creed Humphrey, Kansas City Chiefs

PFF overall grade: 90.4

Humphrey is the highest-graded center in the NFL and hasn’t had a below-average graded game since Week 2. He’s allowed only one sack, one hit, and five hurries on the season — not a bad start for the 63rd overall pick.

2. QB Mac Jones, New England Patriots

PFF overall grade: 83.0

Jones maintains his spot in the upper echelon of this list, even though his Week 9 performance was arguably the ugliest of his season. As has been the theme for most of the year, though, the Patriots didn’t ask much of their rookie quarterback to still get a win. He only dropped back to pass 20 times and earned a 61.9 overall grade in the Pats' win over the Panthers.

3. RB Khalil Herbert, Chicago Bears

PFF overall grade: 83.4

With David Montgomery back healthy, Herbert was officially usurped for the lead role in Chicago. He totaled just four carries for 13 yards on 10 snaps Monday night. Still, Herbert is a nice backup option for Chicago to have.

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4. G Trey Smith, Kansas City Chiefs

PFF overall grade: 82.2

Smith seemingly makes one highlight-reel block every single week. He is not the guy defenders want to see leading through a hole. While he’s struggled at times in pass protection, his 89.7 run-blocking grade ranks fifth among guards.

5. T Rashawn Slater, Los Angeles Chargers

PFF overall grade: 81.9

Slater's lights-out play is almost expected at this point, as he’s quickly become a top-10 NFL tackle. He didn’t allow a single pressure on 43 pass-blocking snaps over the weekend against Philadelphia, keeping his pressure total at only 12 for the season.

6. LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Cleveland Browns

PFF overall grade: 81.1

Even though JOK hasn’t played a game since Week 6, the second-rounder still has three more pass breakups than any other rookie linebacker this season. With the Browns secondary finding its groove, his return could take the defense to another level.

7. TE Pat Freiermuth, Pittsburgh Steelers

PFF overall grade: 80.6

It’s safe to say that Eric Ebron isn’t getting his job back anytime soon when he returns from injury. Freiermuth has hauled in 18 catches from 21 targets for 152 yards and three scores since Ebron went down. He’s been exceptional at the catch point, with massively impressive scores last week and this week.

8. Edge Kwity Paye, Indianapolis Colts

PFF overall grade: 79.0

Thursday night was quite easily the best we’ve seen Paye look as a pro. He was a problem down the stretch when he got to pin his ears back and attack. The 21st overall pick racked up nine pressures on 44 pass-rushing snaps. That was more than he had in his career before Thursday.

9. CB Nate Hobbs, Las Vegas Raiders

PFF overall grade: 78.5

The Raiders added a little wrinkle to Hobbs' usage against the Giants over the weekend, utilizing him as a blitzer. He racked up a sack, two hits and a hurry on four pass-rushing snaps Sunday while only allowing nine yards in coverage. He already looks like one of the best slot corners in the league.

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10. TE Kyle Pitts, Atlanta Falcons

PFF overall grade: 78.2

After an electric two-game stretch, we’ve seen Pitts come back down to earth a bit the past two weeks. After getting beat up against Carolina, Pitts dropped his second target of the season on a wide-open ball up the left sideline against New Orleans.

11. T Samuel Cosmi, Washington Football Team

PFF overall grade: 77.0

With the Bucs coming up after Washington’s bye week, Cosmi is expected to return just in time. He was playing lights-out football against New Orleans in Week 5 before leaving with an ankle injury. Now, he’ll get Shaq Barrett and JPP on the docket.

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12. WR Ja’Marr Chase, Cincinnati Bengals

PFF overall grade: 76.6

Chase's performance against Cleveland on Sunday was arguably the worst game of his young career. After his electric 201-yard game against the Jets, Chase has had back-to-back head-scratchers. Against the Browns, he went 0-for-6 in contested situations and added his sixth drop of the season.

13. WR DeVonta Smith, Philadelphia Eagles

PFF overall grade: 75.4

In a relatively quiet rookie season, Smith easily had his best performance against the Chargers on Sunday. He caught 5-of-6 targets for 116 yards and a score on only 22 routes. That’s made all the more impressive by the fact that Jalen Hurts only had 162 passing yards — meaning Smith accounted for 71.6% of them.

14. WR Rondale Moore, Arizona Cardinals 

PFF overall grade: 74.9

Moore continues to be more gadget than true receiver, but he’s one heck of a gadget. His five catches on five targets over the weekend went for an uninspiring 25 yards. Even if he’s just a glorified extension of the run game, the Cardinals want the ball in Moore’s hands.

15. Elijah Mitchell, San Francisco 49ers

PFF overall grade: 74.3

A newcomer on the list, Mitchell has been the lead dog for the 49ers when healthy. This week he saw more work in the passing game than ever before, hauling in all five of his targets for 43 yards with three broken tackles. He has three 100-plus-yard rushing games this season in only six appearances.

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