News & Analysis

Top 50 NFL rookies through Week 17

With the 2019 regular season in the books, it's time for us at PFF to give you the list of the NFL's highest-graded rookies. So, using our unique grades and advanced database, here are the 50 best rookies of the 2019 season.

1. EDGE Nick Bosa, San Francisco 49ers

When it comes to Defensive Rookie of the Year talk, Nick Bosa should be the only name that's brought up. Among all rookie edge defenders in the PFF era who played at least 250 regular-season snaps, Bosa’s 86.7 PFF grade ranks fourth behind only Aldon Smith, Von Miller and Khalil Mack, and Bosa's 80 total pressures are 16 more than anyone else in that same group. We expected Bosa to be great coming into the year, and he's been just that so far.

2. WR A.J. Brown, Tennessee Titans

Since Ryan Tannehill took over as the starter for the Titans in Week 7, 51st overall pick A.J. Brown has been one of the best wide receivers in the NFL. Since then, Brown has produced a 90.0 PFF grade that ranks behind only Julio Jones and Michael Thomas at his position, and he's generated a league-leading 2.98 yards per route run over that span, as well. Fifty players were taken ahead of Brown, who is now the best receiver on the Titans' roster, PFF’s Offensive Rookie of the Year and one of the most promising wide receivers in the entire NFL — he’s one of the biggest steals of 2019.

3. WR Terry McLaurin, Washington Redskins

Seventy-sixth overall pick Terry McLaurin joins A.J. Brown as one of the biggest steals from the 2019 draft, and he just missed out on PFF's Offensive Rookie of the Year honors. Washington had lacked a reliable wide receiver and a top-notch deep threat for numerous years until they selected McLaurin. His 86.5 receiving grade is the best we have ever seen from a Washington wide receiver (since 2006), and his 12 deep receptions are tied for the second-most among the same group.

Terry McLaurin and A.J. Brown are two of the best wide receivers against press coverage.
Rank Player

Raw PFF grade per target

vs. press coverage

1 Chris Godwin 0.38
2 Terry McLaurin 0.32
3 Tyreek Hill 0.3
4 A.J. Brown 0.28
5 DeVante Parker 0.27
League average 0.19

4. RB Josh Jacobs, Oakland Raiders

While the data shows that the running back position is easily replaceable, Josh Jacobs was one of the best in 2019, finishing the season with the second-highest overall grade among his position group. The young running back was hands down the league's most elusive runner this season, and he led the league in broken tackles per attempt (0.29). Jacobs was also a key reason why the Raiders ranked fifth as a team in the percentage of carries that generated positive expected points added (43.0%).

5. CB Jamel Dean, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Cornerback Jamel Dean has come a long way since his abysmal outing against the Seahawks in Week 9 when he earned a 38.4 PFF grade and allowed 155 yards and three touchdowns into his coverage. Since then, Dean ranks second to only Stephon Gilmore in PFF coverage grade; he also ranks first in forced incompletion rate at 30.3% and first in passer rating allowed at 29.1. Tampa Bay desperately needed help in the secondary entering the year, and by the looks of it, they may have found a solution in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft.

6. WR Hunter Renfrow, Oakland Raiders

Fifth-round pick Hunter Renfrow is the second Raider to crack the top-10 rookies of 2019, and he stepped up as a legitimate weapon within a depleted receiving corps. Renfrow was a vital piece to Jon Gruden’s West Coast Offense and has fit right in. He earned the NFL's sixth-best receiving grade on quick passes of 2.0 seconds or less, and he generated the league's second-best passer rating (136.4) on those same throws. While the Raiders failed to make the postseason this year, it’s clear they have one of the NFL's rising slot receivers in Hunter Renfrow.

7. C Erik McCoy, New Orleans Saints

Erik McCoy has far exceeded expectations in his first season as the New Orleans Saints' starting center. In addition to being the fourth-highest graded center overall in 2019, McCoy is the sixth-highest graded rookie center we have seen in the PFF era. Whether Drew Brees dropped back to pass or Alvin Kamara was handed the ball, McCoy did his job exceptionally well by being the only center in the NFL to produce a PFF pass-block and run-block grade above 75.0.

8. LB Bobby Okereke, Indianapolis Colts

Linebacker Bobby Okereke is the first Colt to land on this list. Okereke’s coverage skills have been everything Indianapolis had hoped for — he allowed less than 20 yards in coverage in 12 of his 16 game appearances and earned a coverage grade of 79.2 that ranked 10th among all players at his position.

9. DI Dexter Lawrence, New York Giants

Lawrence slowed down the stretch, but his hot start lands him at No. 9 in PFF’s rookie rankings, as he still ranks 20th in PFF overall grade among all at his position. His pass-rushing could still use some work — he managed just 30 total pressures on 412 pass-rushing snaps and finished the year tied for 43rd among interior defenders in pass-rush win rate (9.6%) — but the return on investment has still been higher than anticipated for the 17th overall pick.

10. WR Deebo Samuel, San Francisco 49ers

Few receivers in the league are better than Deebo Samuel after the catch. Since Week 9, Samuel's 16 forced missed tackles after the catch are two more than anyone else at the position, and his 8.7 yards after the catch per reception ranks second to only A.J. Brown over that span. His 10 drops have been an issue — he ranks 93rd of 96 qualifying wide receivers in drop rate as a result — but his work with the ball in his hands makes the young rookie one of the rising stars at the position.

11. DI Shy Tuttle, New Orleans Saints

The top undrafted free-agent signing of 2019 goes to the New Orleans Saints for bringing in Shy Tuttle from Tennessee. Tuttle earned a role on the Saints' defensive line prior the season and played 340 snaps through 17 weeks, producing the 29th-best grade at his position along the way.

12. S/CB Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, New Orleans Saints

A third New Orleans Saint cracks the top 12, and this one was another steal at one of the most valuable positions on the defense. His best play has come in the slot this year, where he's earned top-20 marks in passer rating allowed (85.1, 19th) and yards allowed per slot coverage snap (0.79, 13th), while his 80.5 PFF grade is the fifth-best among all players at that alignment. Adding to his value, he’s also been a solid blitzer and picked up 11 pressures on his 43 pass-rushing snaps.

13. S Julian Love, New York Giants

After playing mostly out wide at Notre Dame, the Giants had Love move into the box and in the slot, and over the last six weeks, Love earned the ninth-best PFF grade in the box and allowed just 19 yards on his 80 coverage snaps at that alignment.

14. EDGE Chase Winovich, New England Patriots

Nick Bosa has been in a league of his own compared to other rookie edge defenders, but the runner-up at the position goes to Chase Winovich. Winovich didn’t record a start in 2019, but he was a key role-player in Bill Belichick’s defense, producing 23 pressures from 214 pass-rush snaps and a 38th-ranked pass-rush win rate (14.5%). Winovich ended the season 32nd among 110 qualifying edge defenders in PFF overall grade.

15. QB Gardner Minshew, Jacksonville Jaguars

Minshew Mania wasn’t quite the same after his benching and subsequent reinsertion into the Jacksonville lineup, but he still was hands down the top rookie quarterback of the 2019 season. On a throw-for-throw basis, Minshew looked more like a first-rounder as opposed to a sixth-round pick — he earned the third-best passing grade behind only Russell Wilson and Deshaun Watson on throws that were targeted 20 or more yards downfield.

16. S Juan Thornhill, Kansas City Chiefs

The coverage ability of Chiefs safety Juan Thornhill was apparent throughout 2019. He allowed just 0.22 yards per coverage snap — the sixth-fewest in the NFL — and he yielded just one play of 20 or more yards all season long. Sadly, he tore his ACL in the season finale, but he still has a bright future at the safety position.

17. WR Marquise Brown, Baltimore Ravens

Hollywood Brown was less impactful over the last few weeks of 2019, but his Week 1 and Week 10 games — which earned a single-game PFF grade of 94.0 and 92.0, respectively — were easily two of the best performances we saw from a rookie this season. Brown was an explosive play waiting to happen when on the field, ranking behind only Terry McLaurin and A.J. Brown among rookies in deep receiving grade.

18. CB Blessuan Austin, New York Jets

The 196th overall pick made his NFL debut in Week 10 and played like he was well worth the risk in his first three games, producing an 87.5 grade and allowing just seven catches on 16 targets over that span. He gave up a few more catches in the following weeks, but Austin’s short time on the field was good enough to secure the 18th spot on PFF's rookie rankings.

19. DI Jeffery Simmons, Tennessee Titans

Most expected Jeffery Simmons to redshirt his rookie year after tearing his ACL prior to the 2019 NFL Draft, but he defied the odds and made his debut in Week 7. Simmons’ run defense was his strong suit in 2019, as he ended the season ranked 23rd at his position in PFF run-defense grade. With a healthy offseason ahead, Simmons is a prime breakout candidate in 2020 considering he was the eighth-best prospect in last year’s draft class.

20. C Patrick Mekari, Baltimore Ravens

Undrafted rookie Patrick Mekari was handed the center duties once starter Matt Skura was placed on the Injured Reserve back in Week 12. Since then, Mekari is the 11th-highest graded center in the NFL, and he has yet to allow a single sack.

21. WR D.K. Metcalf, Seattle Seahawks

No other rookie receiver has more contested catches (17) or explosive plays (24) than D.K. Metcalf. However, the sheer number of drops and fumbles offset a lot of that good. Metcalf ended the year with the 12th-worst drop rate in the NFL, and his three fumbles lost tied for the league lead.

22. WR Darius Slayton, New York Giants

Former Auburn Tiger Darius Slayton produced numerous highlight-reel plays in 2019 and picked up seven receptions that resulted in a gain of at least 30 yards — tied for the 16th-most in the league. Slayton ended the year with a 70.5 receiving grade that currently ranks sixth among rookie players at the position.

23. G Elgton Jenkins, Green Bay Packers

Elgton Jenkins finished regular-season play ranked among the 10 best left guards in the NFL. Jenkins hasn't allowed a single sack in pass protection all season long; he and Richie Incognito are the only two left guards in NFL who allowed just one quarterback knockdown all year long.

24. DI Dre’Mont Jones, Denver Broncos

Jones played limited snaps in 2019 but managed to finish the season with the highest pass-rush grade of any rookie player at his position. Jones' 12.9% pass-rush win rate was over 2.5 percentage points more than any other rookie at his position, and he was the only first-year interior defensive lineman to generate a double-digit pressure rate.

© Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

25. WR Mecole Hardman, Kansas City Chiefs

After dropping his first career target, 5-foot-10 speedster Mecole Hardman didn’t drop any more of his catchable targets for the remainder of the season. Hardman was especially lethal after the catch, as he averaged 11.5 yards after catch per reception and broke eight tackles on his 26 catches, all en route to a 153.9 passer rating when targeted.

26. S Khari Willis, Indianapolis Colts

Indianapolis took a versatile player 109th overall in Khari Willis. He played 620 snaps in total this season and played more than 75 snaps on the defensive line, in the box, in the slot and at free safety. Willis was especially effective against the run, where he accumulated the second-most run stops (14) among first-year safeties while finishing third among the same group in run-stop percentage.

27. EDGE Josh Allen, Jacksonville Jaguars

The seventh overall pick’s pass-rushing was as good as expected in 2019, as he finished second in both pass-rush win rate and pressure rate among rookies at the position. However, his run defense is what prevented him from being higher on this list, as he earned just the 10th-best run-defense grade among rookies this year.

28. EDGE Malik Reed, Denver Broncos

Undrafted free agent Malik Reed had a tall order ahead of him once Bradley Chubb went down for the season with a torn ACL. He was given that starting role in Week 5 and impressed early on by being the 17th-highest graded player at his position over his first four starts. Reed’s play ultimately went back to the average after this great stretch, but if he can improve his pass-rushing moves and win on a more consistent basis, he can be a top-notch role-player behind Von Miller and Chubb.

29. WR Diontae Johnson, Pittsburgh Steelers

Pittsburgh’s Diontae Johnson climbed up the ranks over the last four weeks of the season. From Week 14-17, Johnson’s 82.3 PFF grade ranked sixth among wideouts, and his 11 broken tackles were four more than any other receiver. As a result, he’s made a strong case to be the Steelers’ No. 2 option behind JuJu Smith-Schuster.

30. S Darnell Savage, Green Bay Packers

Just from a pure coverage standpoint, Savage showed why he was well worth a first-round pick in 2019. In eight of his 14 games played, Savage didn’t allow a single yard in coverage. Over the course of the season, Savage allowed 15 catches on 25 targets in coverage, but 10 of those catches came from the slot. Don’t be surprised if you see Savage become one of the league’s best free safeties within the next few years.

31. CB Marvell Tell III, Indianapolis Colts

There has to be a lot of optimism in Indy surrounding the play of their fifth-round cornerback, Marvell Tell III. While he gave up six plays of 20-plus yards — with two of those plays resulting in a touchdown — he still managed to make plays on the ball, with five forced incompletions on the year. Tell also didn’t miss a single tackle all season long.

32. QB Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals

If it weren’t for back-to-back games (Weeks 13 and 14) that resulted in PFF overall grades in the 20.0s, the first overall pick would be far higher on this list. In fact, those two games were among the 10 worst by a quarterback in the entire 2019 season. That being said, we saw a lot of positives in Murray’s play: he ranked eighth among the 32 starting quarterbacks in negatively graded play rate, and he dropped the fourth-most big-time throws on over-the-shoulder passes.

33. QB Dwayne Haskins, Washington Redskins

From Week 11 on, Haskins ranked ninth in PFF grade and produced the second-lowest rate of turnover-worthy plays. The big concern with Haskins’ NFL future, though, is accuracy. His accuracy rate when throwing at or beyond the sticks ranked second to last among his peers, according to PFF’s quarterback charting system.

© Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

34. QB Daniel Jones, New York Giants

Daniel Jones has pretty much been as expected at the NFL level — he produced an average rate of positive plays but put the ball in harm’s way at an alarming rate. The sixth overall pick’s turnover worthy-play rate on the year ranks second to last among all quarterbacks, one spot worse than the perenially turnover-prone Jameis Winston. Most of those turnover-worthy plays stemmed from his recurring fumbling issue, though, as he fumbled in 10 of his 13 game appearances this season. His 17 fumbles on the year is the most in the NFL.

35. WR Preston Williams, Miami Dolphins

Preston Williams was a low risk, high reward undrafted free-agent signing. After suffering through a torn ACL and off-field issues in college, Williams saw his draft stock plummet. He ultimately proved he was worth a roster spot, though, and shined when matched up against tight coverage where he recorded the third-highest PFF receiving grade among rookie receivers.

36. DI Quinnen Williams, New York Jets

There probably isn’t a more disappointing rookie season of 2019 than that of Quinnen Williams. After shattering PFF College records at Alabama in 2018, the third overall pick was expected to make an immediate pass-rushing impact in New York. While his run defense was better than most — he ranked 33rd at his position in run-defense grade — his pass-rushing was a bitter disappointment, as his lowly 5.7% pressure rate ranked 77th among 112 qualifying interior defenders by season's end.

37. RB David Montgomery, Chicago Bears

The former Iowa State Cyclone broke 47 tackles on rushing attempts this year, the eighth-most among running backs. Despite this, it really wasn’t the best decision to trade up for him in the NFL draft considering the positional value and lack of breakaway runs (only 15.0% of his carries went for 15 or more yards in 2019, 45th among 50 qualifying backs).

38. CB Sean Murphy-Bunting, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Jamel Dean may be the top pick of the Bucs’ 2019 draft class, but there’s still hope for 39th overall pick Sean Murphy-Bunting, who had his fair share of highs and lows in 2019. He is one of few rookie corners who recorded an elite-graded game this season (he did so in Week 13 against Jacksonville when he didn’t allow a catch and intercepted one pass and broke up another) but had multiple games where he gave up 50 or more yards in coverage.

39. LB Drue Tranquill, Los Angeles Chargers

Drue Tranquill has been a special teams ace for the Chargers and took on a bigger role within the defense as the season progressed. His coverage skills have been impressive, as he allowed just four first downs on his 32 targets that were short of the sticks. There’s room to progress across the board, but Tranquill has shown a lot of promise for a fourth-round pick.

40. WR Olabisi Johnson, Minnesota Vikings

It was hard to imagine Olabisi Johnson ever seeing significant reps for the Vikings, but he quickly showed why he was worthy of being named the third wide receiver on a roster that also houses Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs. Johnson saw 41 targets throughout the 2019 regular season and had some of the best hands in the class, producing the second-lowest drop rate among 15 qualifying rookie wide receivers. He wasn’t a deep threat by any means, but Johnson was the third-highest graded rookie on non-deep targets out wide.

41. S Jalen Thompson, Arizona Cardinals

Thompson impressed on the back end of the Cardinals' defense, earning a 70.3 coverage grade across his 372 coverage snaps, fourth among all first-year players at the position. He was targeted 26 times on the year, but he only allowed one touchdown while intercepting one pass and breaking up two more.

42. S Taylor Rapp, Los Angeles Rams

Rapp recorded the NFL's 10th-best coverage grade when lined up in the slot and missed a tackle on just 5.8% of his attempts, the ninth-lowest among all players at his position.

43. S Amani Hooker, Tennessee Titans

Hooker looked like a seasoned veteran at times this season. He allowed just 53.8% of his targets to be caught and yielded just 0.28 yards per coverage snap, first and second, respectively, among qualifying rookie safeties.

44. EDGE Kyle Phillips, New York Jets

Yes, that’s right — undrafted free agent Kyle Phillips was better than the fourth overall pick of the 2019 NFL Draft. His pass-rushing wasn’t up to speed compared to others at his position, but Phillips’ 76.6 run-defense grade ranked 17th among all edge defenders.

© Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

45. RB Devin Singletary, Buffalo Bills

Devin Singletary’s poor receiving prevented him from climbing any higher than 45th on this list, but his production as a rusher is exactly what you want to see. Singletary produced 0.24 missed tackles per rush attempt, the third-best mark among all qualifying running backs in the NFL, and he had the second-highest rate of carries that went for 10 or more yards (16.4%).

46. CB Rock Ya-Sin, Indianapolis Colts

The Colts likely hoped for a bigger return on investment from the 34th overall pick, but considering Rock Ya-Sin stepped into a starting role pretty much instantly, it certainly could have been much worse. At the outside corner spot, Ya-Sin earned the fourth-best coverage grade among rookies and produced the third-most defensive stops in the NFL (14).

47. EDGE Maxx Crosby, Oakland Raiders

It looks like the Raiders got a steal in their fourth-round selection of Maxx Crosby, who produced 45 total pressures on the year, third behind only Nick Bosa and Josh Allen.

48. WR Jakobi Meyers, New England Patriots

New England’s receiving unit is hurting badly, but luckily, they might have found a future weapon in Jakobi Meyers. Meyers has been one of the top rookies in contested situations this year, hauling in seven of 10 such targets so far.

49. DI Christian Wilkins, Miami Dolphins

Christian Wilkins has played primarily 3-tech in Miami, but his 141 snaps at 4/5-tech have been impressive. At that alignment, Wilkins’ 77.4 PFF grade ranks eighth in the NFL.

50. CB Trayvon Mullen, Oakland Raiders

Once Oakland traded cornerback Gareon Conley to Houston, Trayvon Mullen was thrown in as starter where he had mixed results. Since Week 8, Mullen had two games that earned a PFF grade above 80.0, but he also three game grades below 50.0.

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