NFL Rookies

NFL All-Rookie Team 2022/23:

Since I managed to predict five or six Wildcard games correctly and therefore already broke down all but one of the Divisional Round matchups in my preview of the full 2023 playoffs, I decided to once again put together my all-rookie team at this point, where I fill out a full starting lineup of 11 offensive and defensive players each, along with a group of four specialists. I listed seven key backups on each side of the ball, plus three more honorable mentions, who largely didn’t get a chance to put together a full body of work, along with a couple of names who I thought deserved to be mentioned.

For the purposes of this list, I only considered regular season performance. If I felt compelled to do so, I may have mentioned what a couple of these players did in the Wildcard Round, but it’s not taken into account in terms of the players I chose.

Here’s my squad:





QB Brock Purdy, 49ers

HB Kenneth Walker, Seahawks

X Drake London, Falcons

Z Chris Olave, Saints

F Garrett Wilson, Jets

Y Chig Okonkwo, Titans

LT Ikem Ekwonu, Panthers

LG Dylan Parham, Raiders

C Tyler Linderbaum, Ravens

RG Zion Johnson, Chargers

RT Abraham Lucas, Seahawks


There were really just two options at quarterback, with Brock Purdy and Pittsburgh’s Kenny Pickett, who we have a much larger sample size with 12-and-a-half games. However, what Purdy has been able to do since taking over from the second drive on against Miami in week 13, has simply been tremendous. Other than passing yards per game, literally every metric you look at has him a tier of his own. This isn’t counting the Dolphins game – where he did make some key plays and really impressed me – but since officially taking over as the starter the following week, he led the NFL in passer rating (119.0), passing yards and touchdown rate per attempt. If you include the Wildcard Round, the Niners have yet to lose in any of the seven games he’s been the main guy under center, and their offense is number one in EPA per play over that stretch.

Running back was never that much in question for me either, but that doesn’t mean we didn’t see great stretches of rookie play at the position – Breece Hall was tremendous for the Jets until tearing his ACL in week seven, Dameon Pierce was a one-man wrecking crew for the Texans until they decided to store him on the shelf and the RB2 I chose here really took command of his backfield. Still, Kenny Walker had the brightest flashes of the group and when just given some space to operate, he consistently picked up yardage. Not only did he lead all rookies with 1215 scrimmage yards and nine touchdowns, but he also had most explosive plays (29) of any rookie back and evaded 79 tackles on the year (10th-best among all NFL RBs). And what’s great to see for a young player – Walker has zero fumbles and just two drops.

Reuniting this duo of Ohio State receiver was an easy call. Garrett Wilson ended up leading all rookies in receiving yards (1,103), targets (139), catches (83) and broken tackles after the catch (22), as well as 15+ yard receptions (26). He gives me that explosiveness to threaten guys off the line, the twitchy movement with the ball in his hands, but then he can also make some spectacular grabs at the sideline or in contested situations. Meanwhile, Chris Olave gives me a much smoother route-runner at that Z spot, who did prove he can beat press with how elusive he is off the line, but it’s the way he stems vertically and then how easy he gets out of his transitions, which really make him hard to leave singled up, while showing great football IQ to find space and adjust the way he attacks the ball against zone shells. He was the only other rookie to gain over 1000 yards through the air despite missing a couple of games and impressively managed to convert exactly two thirds of his catches (48 of 72) into first downs. Also, his 2.42 yards per route run led all rookies and ranked seventh in the entire NFL.

For the other two spots of my receiving corp, I was looking to find the best constellation, but I ended up getting the top three names overall at WR plus the best guy labelled as a tight-end. Since Garrett Wilson had the highest slot rate (27.2%) among the group, I ended up labelling him as the “F” and put Drake London at X. I thought he had the skill-set to go back to the role of a big slot, which he handled at USC before his junior year, but he quietly also had a very good season as a true boundary guy for the Falcons, beating guys across their face on slant routes and providing several back-shoulder fades when isolated on the backside. He hauled in 72 passes for 866 yards and a four TDs despite inconsistent quarterback play, while converting the exactly two thirds of those into first downs himself (48) and only having three drops. In the tight-end slot, I have Chig Okonkwo, who did plenty of damage from the traditional Y spot, but his YAC skills and ability to block out in space allow me to craft a very diverse role for him. On just 46 targets, he put up 36 grabs for 450 yards and three TDs, whilst breaking seven tackles and picking up 22 first downs. He also led all rookie TEs with 2.61 yards per route run, and I expect him to be more heavily featured going forward.

As for the offensive line, I thought the two tackles and my center were pretty easy to get to. I did consider just putting down both Seahawks rookie OTs, but ultimately went with Ikem Ekwonu over Charles Cross on the left side, because of some of the late-season struggles for the latter and how overpowering Ickey has been as a run-blocker, blowing the front-side open or taking linebackers for a ride. Even if some false-steps and/or weight distribution issues hurt him early on in protection. Abe Lucas did take that spot on the right edge, because while he got charged with 8.5 sacks, he allowed only 28 pressures total and finished with the second-highest PFF grade among rookie OTs. He was a steady presence for the Hawks all year, playing 100 percent of offensive snaps in all but one of the 17 regular season contests.

Tyler Linderbaum was a lock all along to spear-head my O-line. His PFF grade (74.7) was the second-highest among rookie linemen, and he kind of transformed what the Ravens can do in the run game. His ability to reach-block A-gap defenders or cut off linebackers with a heavier focus on outside zone schemes was key, and his mobility out in space is certainly an asset, but he also proved his value at sorting out games and picking up pressures. Finally, I went with two AFC West guys for my guard spots. Parham played over 1000 snaps, but was only penalized four times, leading the way for the league’s leading rusher, where he has frequently utilized as a puller. And while Johnson certainly had his struggles in protection, surrendering 40 total pressures – largely thanks to Chris Jones handing his ass to him in both matchups – he still ended up as the highest-graded rookie guard, thanks to his ability to create movement and sustain blocks in the Chargers zone run game.

Key subs:

QB Kenny Pickett (Steelers)

HB Tyler Allgeier (Falcons)

WRs George Pickens (Steelers) & Christian Watson (Packers)

TE Isaiah Likely (Ravens)

OL Tyler Smith (Cowboys)


Honorable mentions: HB Dameon Pierce (Texans), TE Greg Dulcich (Broncos) & OT Braxton Jones (Bears)








EDGE Aidan Hutchinson, Lions

3T Travon Walker, Jaguars

1T Jordan Davis, Eagles

EDGE Kayvon Thibodeaux, Giants

MIKE Malcolm Rodriguez, Lions

WILL Devin Lloyd, Jaguars

CB Sauce Gardner, Jets

CB Tariq Woolen, Seahakws

FLEX Jalen Pitre, Texans

SAF Kerby Joseph, Lions

SAF Jaquan Brisker, Bears


One of the choices for edge defenders with Aidan Hutchinson was a complete lay-up. He stands above the rest with his play and in terms of statistics. Other than his teammate James Houston IV, who was extremely productive as a situational pass-rusher in the seven weeks he was active for (eight sacks), no other rookie has more than six sacks – Hutch finished a half short of double-digits. He has eight more pressures than the next-closest guy, he’s one off the lead among the class in tackles for loss (nine), and he has three(!) interceptions. The other name was much tougher to settle on, but I ultimately went with my top prospect coming into that draft class. Thibodeaux missed the first three weeks, but has still filled the stat sheet fairly well (four sacks, 18 pressures, six TFLs, five passes batted down, two fumbles forced and recovered each), whilst playing extremely hard and having completely taken over the second game against Washington, which pretty much secured the Giants a Wildcard berth.

On the interior, the choices unfortunately were a lot more underwhelming. That’s a little disappointing considering how much I liked the top seven or eight prospects from this group – and they could still turn things around. I ultimately did go with Jordan Davis, who has clearly been the most impactful when on the field, but he missed four games and has averaged just 17.2 snaps per contest, with a steep decline in playing time since his injury. Still, while his role isn’t conducive to putting up any significant numbers, he has been a dominant force in the run game, as the Eagles allowed 21 fewer yards on the ground in contests he was available for. And then I felt the need to cheat and re-unite two Georgia Bulldogs here, sliding first overall pick Travon Walker inside for an upfield three-tech role. He lined up all across the front in college and did some of that in sub for the Jags as a rookie. He hasn’t yet lived up to the hype based on where he was picked, but the flashes are very bright and even though I probably wouldn’t play him at D-tackle on early downs as much, he’s so strong that I trust him to stand up guards versus the run.

Linebacker is another position that left some things to be desired. Early on it looked like Devin Lloyd – the consensus LB1 among draft media – would be a star, earning Defensive Rookie of the Month in September. The way we’ve seen teams have manipulated him with misdirection and attacked that area behind him in coverage made Jacksonville take him off the field more and has changed my view a little bit. However, he did collect the most takeaways among that group with five (three INTs and two fumble recoveries), and his speed is certainly an asset. One of my draft crushes and a Hard Knocks star in Malcolm Rodriguez was actually the easier choice here. He led all rookie backers with eight tackles for loss, missed just 5.4% of his tackling attempts and allowed a solid 7.3 yards per target (with just one TD). His ability to anticipate and read out plays was a big key to their defense holding opponents to 4.07 yards per rush from week nine on, after surrendering 5.14 yards per before that.

This entire rookie secondary is actually nuts. I had to leave a couple of corners off, which would have both made the list in most years respectively. I really tried to find two outside guys and a true slot, but I simply couldn’t justify leaving any of my three choices here off the list. Sauce Gardner was immediately one of the best corners overall in football. The Jets ran a lot of match-zone coverages, where his intelligence and communication was on full display, but he really frustrated receivers when given a chance to blanket them one-on-one. Sauce led the league with 20 PBUs (along with two INTs), despite only seeing the 30th-most targets. Meanwhile, Tariq Woolen may not quite have been as much of a lockdown guy, partly because of Seattle’s coverage scheme, but he’s been the biggest play-maker among rookies at that position. Despite his skill-set being tailor-made for more of a press-heavy role, his anticipation and closing burst were major assets in more of a quarters-heavy Seattle scheme. Woolen was tied for the league-lead with six interceptions (one returned for a TD) and he broke up another nine passes. Thanks to that, he had the lowest passer rating responsible for among all NFL defenders when targeted at just 48.7, along with three fumble recoveries.

Unlike 2021, we didn’t have many standout rookies primarily deployed in the slot other than maybe Baltimore’s Kyle Hamilton over the second half of the season and my choice Jalen Pitre, who got to move down into that spot at a similar timeline. Because he wasn’t asked to do it in college, he didn’t look comfortable as a deep safety, but he had some great moments when being pulled on the edge of the box, and then once Houston moved him into the slot, he really started to shine – knifing into the backfield as an aggressive run defender, picking up guys approaching his area late in zone-coverage and blitzing off the edge. He finished the season with 99 solo tackles, five of those for loss, five picks and eight more PBUs.

Finally, since I ended up putting Pitre into the slot/flex spot, it allowed me to put two more very deserving safeties from the NFC North on. Kerby Joseph put his name on the map nationally, when he became the first player ever to intercept Aaron Rodgers three times in a season (four total). While his height is an advantage when ending up matched up with bigger bodies down the field, his range and feel to undercut routes, allowed him collect eight more PBUs, plus he forced a couple of fumbles. On the other hand, Brisker may not quite have the same ball-production, but I thought he handled himself like a pro day one, which I thought would be the case when I made him my number two safety prospect. He played a pretty multi-faceted role in Chicago’s defense, which saw him fill the alley against the run, drive on routes in two-high shells, match up with tight-ends in press-man, but also rotate into the deep post a few times. While he only picked off one and broke up another two passes, he did put up five TFLs and four sacks (on just 15 blitzes) respectively. Plus, his 28 defensive stops (a PFF metric which measures tackles that qualify offensive plays as unsuccessful based on down and distance) trailed only Pitre among rookies, and was tenth league-wide, while only missing 6.3% of his tackling attempts.

Keys subs:

EDGE George Karlaftis (Chiefs)

IDL Travis Jones (Ravens)

LB Jack Sanborn (Bears)

CBs Jack Jones (Patriots) & Alontae Taylor (Saints)

SAF Kyle Hamilton (Ravens)


Honorable mentions: James Houston IV (Lions), Bian Asomoah (Vikings) & Kader Kohou (Dolphins)




Special Teams


Special teams:


K Cameron Dicker, Chargers

P Ryan Stonehouse, Titans

RS Marcus Jones, Patriots

ST Brenden Schooler, Patriots


I don’t really see how you can go with anybody for this first category than “Dicker the Kicker”. Cameron was only active for one game with the Eagles and then the final ten with the Chargers. He only missed one of his 22 combined field goal attempts, and he was also perfect on his 24 extra points. That puts him first in percentage for both those categories, and he’s also fourth in touchback rate (83.6%).

There was more competition at punter, and thinking back to the video of filling out my Pro Bowl ballot (LINK!!), I did choose three rookies for those six slots (including Minnesota’s Ryan Wright and Tampa Bay’s Jake Camarda). However, Ryan Stonehouse to me put himself a little bit above the other two names. Not only did his monster leg allow him to lead all NFL punters in gross punting average by 2.7 yards (53.1) and was first among rookies, as well as sixth overall in net average (43.4), but that was whilst ranking 7th each in punts inside the 20- (30) and the 10-yard line (11). The AP actually voted him second-team All-Pro already.

Similar to the punters, I thought we had the most impressive collection of rookie returners in a while. Dallas’ KaVontae Turpin would’ve been on one of the All-Pro teams in most years, while Denver’s Montrell Washington and Chicago’s Velus Jones Jr. flashed in the punt and kick return game respectively. Still, Marcus Jones was the most dangerous guy with the ball in his hands and 11 guys running down the field to get him. He averaged almost a full yard more than anybody else on punts (12.7), including a walk-off touchdown against the Jets, and he also ranked seventh in average per kick return (23.9).

As for special teamers, my analysis is not as well thought out, because I don’t specifically study these guys, but I do watch teams whenever I watch All-22 tape and one guy that stood out to me on several occasions is Jones’ teammate Brenden Schooler. This guy is a maniac out there, sprinting down the field with that long hair flowing and vicious collisions when he arrives there. He led all rookies with 14 special teams tackles and recovered a couple of loose balls, whilst not playing a single snap on defense.


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