The Best Rookie From Every NFL Team's 2022 Draft Class
With only seven weeks left in the 2022 NFL regular season, now is a great time to take stock of how the league's top rookies have fared thus far.
While some teams didn't have first- or even second-round picks in April's draft, every team has had at least one first-year player make a significant contribution this season. Some were highly selected prospects, but many were not—and one wasn't drafted at all.
Below, you'll find our picks for each team's best rookie through Week 11. While factors like draft status, player health and roster makeup were considered, the primary emphasis was on 2022 production.
Who has been your favorite team's best rookie so far? Let's take a look.
Teams are listed in alphabetical order.
Arizona Cardinals: LB Cameron Thomas
This was tricky, as the Arizona Cardinals haven't utilized their rookies much to this point.
Tight end Trey McBride had four catches on Monday night against the San Francisco 49ers and could see an expanded role with Zach Ertz out for the year with a knee injury. Running back Keaontay Ingram could see an expanded workload following the release of Eno Benjamin as well.
However, Arizona hasn't had a consistent contributor from its rookie class yet. Ingram has only 19 carries and two catches, while McBride has eight total receptions.
Edge-rusher Cameron Thomas is the closest we've seen to a difference-making rookie in Arizona this season. The third-round pick out of San Diego State has logged 10 tackles, a sack and two quarterback hits while playing only 17 percent of the defensive snaps.
Thomas hasn't seen a ton of playing time, but he's shown enough in limited action to suggest that he can be a regular contributor to the Arizona defense moving forward.
Atlanta Falcons: WR Drake London
There's no surprise here, as the Atlanta Falcons made USC's Drake London the first wide receiver off the draft board back in April.
The eighth overall pick in the draft has been as advertised and has quickly become Atlanta's top target. London leads Atlanta in targets (65), receptions (39), receiving yards (409) and receiving touchdowns (four).
London's numbers aren't overly impressive, but Atlanta runs a run-heavy offense and ranks 31st in passing attempts. However, London has been a major factor when the Falcons look to pass, and he's shown a great grasp of both Atlanta's passing and running concepts.
"What we ask guys on offense to do, they're part of not just the pass game at wideout but the run game as well," offensive coordinator Dave Ragone said, per Scott Bair of the team's official website. "You can see Drake taking that professionalism into the meeting rooms and trying to bring that to practice and carry it forward to the game."
First-round picks aren't always home runs, but the Falcons appear to have hit it out of the park with London.
Baltimore Ravens: C Tyler Linderbaum
Center Tyler Linderbaum was the second of the Baltimore Ravens' two first-round selections. While 14th overall pick Kyle Hamilton has started to make an impact at the safety spot. Linderbaum has been a difference-maker since day one.
The 25th overall pick dealt with a foot injury in training camp but returned to start the regular-season opener. He has played 100 percent of the Ravens 'offensive snaps since then and has carried himself well in both the run and the passing games.
According to Pro Football Focus, Linderbaum has allowed only two sacks and been called for three penalties through 11 weeks.
The Ravens needed a new starting center after losing Bradley Bozeman in free agency. Not only did they find a suitable replacement in Linderbaum, but they have likely locked up their center position for the next decade-plus.
Buffalo Bills: CB Kaiir Elam
Buffalo Bills rookie cornerback Kaiir Elam got off to a somewhat slow start to his inaugural campaign.
The No. 23 overall pick initially split time with sixth-round pick Christian Benford. However, Benford suffered a hand injury in Week 3, and Elam started that game and every one since until Week 9. He suffered an ankle injury in Week 9 and has been inactive in each of the past two games, though.
While the results have been mixed for Elam—he's allowed a 71.8 percent completion rate but has two interceptions and three passes defended—he's still been Buffalo's biggest rookie contributor. That could be on the verge of changing, as rookie second-round running back James Cook is starting to get going.
Cook had a season-high 86 rushing yards against the Cleveland Browns in Week 11. He's operating as part of a committee, though, while Elam has shown that he can be a respectable starting option in the secondary when healthy.
Carolina Panthers: OT Ikem Ekwonu
The 3-8 Carolina Panthers aren't having a great season, but they should be happy with the early returns from first-round pick Ikem Ekwonu.
The former NC State offensive tackle, whom the Panthers took sixth overall, has started every game this season while playing 100 percent of the offensive snaps. He had a rough go in his NFL debut against Cleveland Browns edge-rushers Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney, but he's settled in nicely since then.
Ekwonu allowed three sacks over the first three weeks of the season but hasn't allowed a sack since. However, he has been responsible for 11 penalties, according to Pro Football Focus.
While the Panthers might prefer to see fewer mistakes from Ekwonu, he has done a solid job of keeping his quarterbacks clean. The 22-year-old should be a long-term fixture of Carolina's offensive line.
Chicago Bears: S Jaquan Brisker
The Chicago Bears didn't have a first-round pick due to their trade to acquire quarterback Justin Fields in 2021. However, the Bears might have landed a first-round talent in safety Jaquan Brisker.
The second-round pick out of Penn State has been an absolute force in Chicago's secondary. A true do-it-all defender, Brisker has made plays in both the run and pass games and should be viewed as a legit Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate.
In all, Brisker has tallied three sacks, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, one interception and a whopping 73 tackles. He has allowed an opposing passer rating of just 84.8 in coverage.
Chicago is also getting solid results from fellow second-round cornerback Kyler Gordon (11 starts, 1 INT), but Brisker has been playing like a perennial Pro Bowler.
Cincinnati Bengals: G Cordell Volson
Last season, the Cincinnati Bengals got huge contributions from then-rookie wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase and kicker Evan McPherson. Chase was a Pro Bowler as a rookie, while McPherson helped kick Cincinnati into the Super Bowl.
The Bengals haven't had a top-tier performer from this year's rookie class, but fourth-round pick Cordell Volson has at least contributed consistently. The North Dakota State product beat out 2021 second-round pick Jackson Carman for the starting left guard job.
Volson has been inconsistent in run blocking and has been called for four penalties and allowed four sacks, according to Pro Football Focus. However, undrafted rookie long snapper Cal Adomitis has been the Bengals' only other regular (and also positive) contributor.
First-round defensive back Daxton Hill has played only 48 defensive snaps. Second-round cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt has started each of the last three games but has allowed an opposing passer rating of 137.3 in coverage.
Volson gets the nod here by default.
Cleveland Browns: CB Martin Emerson Jr.
The 3-7 Cleveland Browns are in the midst of a disappointing season, but they should be pleased with the play of third-round cornerback Martin Emerson Jr.
Cleveland selected the Mississippi State product despite having several highly drafted cornerbacks on its roster, including Denzel Ward, Greedy Williams and Greg Newsome II. The rookie has seen a lot of game action due to injuries and has carried himself well.
Emerson has appeared in all 10 games (including four starts) and has played 73 percent of the Browns' defensive snaps. He hasn't been a complete liability in coverage either, allowing an opposing passer rating of 90.7 despite being targeted 58 times.
While Emerson is still looking for his first career interception, he has an impressive seven passes defended to go with 45 tackles and a sack.
The 22-year-old is proving to be a reliable contributor and a starting-caliber pass-defender. Considering Emerson wasn't even an early Day 2 pick, Cleveland appears to have gotten itself a steal.
Dallas Cowboys: OT Tyler Smith
When the Dallas Cowboys used the 24th overall pick on Tulsa's Tyler Smith, he was expected to start at guard. However, when left tackle Tyron Smith suffered an avulsion fracture in his knee before the start of the regular season, the younger Smith was thrust into a vital role.
The 21-year-old has been tasked with protecting Dak Prescott's blind side, and he's done a respectable job of it. Smith has played 100 percent of the Cowboys' offensive snaps and has been a powerhouse in the ground game.
Smith has been less consistent as a pass-blocker and has had a propensity for mistakes. According to Pro Football Focus, he's been responsible for eight penalties and four sacks.
Still, Smith's mostly solid play has allowed Dallas to overcome a massive injury, and the Cowboys are 7-3 thanks in part to the rookie's commendable efforts.
Denver Broncos: TE Greg Dulcich
The Denver Broncos haven't gotten much from their rookie class, although they sent their first- and second-round picks to the Seattle Seahawks in the Russell Wilson trade.
Denver did have a second-round pick thanks to the Von Miller deal. However, the player whom they selected with that pick, linebacker Nik Bonitto (nine tackles, 1.5 sacks) has only flashed on occasion.
Tight end Greg Dulcich, whom they selected in the third round out of UCLA, has shown a little more in less time.
Dulcich suffered a hamstring injury in training camp and didn't make his NFL debut until Week 6. Since then, he has caught 17 passes for 223 yards and a touchdown. He has started each of the past three games, and he had a huge performance (four catches, 87 yards) in the Week 8 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Despite appearing in only five games, Dulcich already ranks fourth on the team in receptions.
Detroit Lions: DE Aidan Hutchinson
The Detroit Lions appear to be close to seeing the debut of rookie first-round receiver Jameson Williams. The Alabama product suffered a torn ACL in the national title game but returned to practice this week and could make his debut soon.
If Williams is as impressive as No. 2 overall pick Aidan Hutchinson, Detroit should be thrilled with its draft class.
Hutchinson has been as advertised, a disruptive defensive playmaker who brings an edge to the Lions' front seven. The Michigan product has already racked up 5.5 sacks to go with 16 quarterback pressures, 31 tackles, one fumble recovery and two interceptions.
Over the past three weeks, Hutchinson has been a terror for opposing teams. He has logged two interceptions, two pass deflections, a sack and 13 tackles in that span. Perhaps not so coincidentally, the Lions have won three in a row.
While Hutchinson might not be the clear-cut favorite for Defensive Rookie of the Year, he's certainly trending in that direction.
Green Bay Packers: LB Quay Walker
This would have been a much easier decision a few weeks ago. Over the past two games, though, Green Bay Packers rookie wideout Christian Watson has exploded for eight receptions, 155 yards and five touchdowns.
However, reliability and availability are important. Watson has missed time with hamstring and knee issues as well as a concussion, and he's been far from consistent. He didn't tally more than 34 receiving yards in any of his first six games.
Meanwhile, linebacker Quay Walker has stood out all season. The 22nd overall pick has started 10 of 11 contests and has not missed a game. He's played 78 percent of the defensive snaps this season and has been terrific against both the run and the pass.
Walker has logged 82 tackles, 52 solo stops, two forced fumbles, three passes defended and a half-sack. He's allowed an opposing passer rating of only 62.5 in coverage.
Green Bay may eventually have a legitimate star in Watson, but it already has one in the 22-year-old linebacker out of Georgia.
Houston Texans: RB Dameon Pierce
Houston Texans running back Dameon Pierce has been one of the league's most impressive players at any position this season. The fourth-round pick out of Florida has emerged as the centerpiece of the Texans offense and has a physical running style that is tough to contain.
The one knock on Pierce is that he's struggled with ball security (three fumbles, one lost), but he's been so good that the Texans are willing to take his fumbles in stride.
"I’m definitely not going to criticize Dameon Pierce knowing what he’s been doing for our team, but you’ve got to protect that football, yes. He knew it, we know it, can’t do that," head coach Lovie Smith said after the Texans' loss to the New York Giants in Week 10, per Texans Wire's John Dillon.
Pierce has rushed for 780 yards and is averaging 4.5 yards per carry. He's also caught 24 passes for 135 yards and found the end zone four times. He ranks sixth in the NFL in yards after contact per attempt, ahead of notable names like Dalvin Cook, Aaron Jones and Saquon Barkley.
The Texans appear to have found their franchise running back in Pierce.
Indianapolis Colts: WR Alec Pierce
A year ago, the Indianapolis Colts had little reliable receiver depth behind No. 1 target Michael Pittman Jr. Things have changed in 2022, as Parris Campbell has emerged as a solid second option, and the Colts appear to have found a future star in rookie Alec Pierce.
The former Cincinnati wideout was the 12th receiver taken in April's draft. However, the late-second-round pick has played like he should have had his name called on opening night.
Despite splitting targets with Pittman and Campbell and playing only 62 percent of the Colts' offensive snaps, Pierce has caught 28 passes for 424 yards and a touchdown. Averaging a team-high 15.1 yards per reception, the 22-year-old is more than capable of making big plays down the field for the Colts.
While he's had a feast-or-famine rookie campaign—he's had two games without a catch and two with at least 80 receiving yards—Pierce has shown incredible upside and should be a long-term piece of Indy's receiving puzzle.
Jacksonville Jaguars: LB Devin Lloyd
Ideally, the Jacksonville Jaguars would be getting the most out of rookie pass-rusher Travon Walker. They selected the Georgia product with the first overall pick in the draft, ahead of players like Aidan Hutchinson, Drake London and Sauce Gardner.
Walker has flashed in spurts, logging 36 tackles, 2.5 sacks, an interception and 14 quarterback pressures in 10 games. However, Jacksonville's other first-round pick, linebacker Devin Lloyd, has flashed more frequently.
Lloyd, whom the Jaguars selected 27th overall out of Utah, has been every bit the do-it-all defender they hoped they were getting. The 24-year-old battled a hamstring injury in camp but was ready for Week 1 and has played 94 percent of the defensive snaps. He has already registered 72 tackles, seven passes defended, two interceptions and two quarterback hits.
If there's a weakness in Lloyd's game, it's in pass coverage, as he has allowed an opposing passer rating of 96.5. However, he's been a reliable every-down linebacker for the Jaguars.
This was a tough choice, and it largely came down to draft status. Walker hasn't shined as brightly as a No. 1 overall pick should, while Lloy has been as advertised.
Kansas City Chiefs: CB Trent McDuffie
The Kansas City Chiefs have two first-round rookies who have performed well this season.
Pass-rusher George Karlaftis has started every game, and while he's logged only a half-sack, he's also notched 12 quarterback pressures to go with his 18 tackles. Cornerback Trent McDuffie spent a large chunk of the season on injured reserve, but he has played extremely well when healthy.
McDuffie was a Week 1 starter for Kansas City and returned to the lineup in Week 9. He's started every game in which he has appeared and has played 84 percent of the defensive snaps in those games. He's been fantastic in pass coverage, allowing an opposing passer rating of just 72.9.
Despite appearing in only four games, the Washington product has already logged 16 tackles, one tackle for loss and three passes defended.
If Karlaftis can start turning pressures into sacks, he could quickly emerge as a Pro Bowl-caliber pass-rusher. Though McDuffie's resume is limited, he already looks like a future Pro Bowler in the Chiefs secondary.
Las Vegas Raiders: G Dylan Parham
Dylan Parham has been the only consistent contributor among Las Vegas Raiders rookies this season.
A third-round pick out of Memphis, Parham earned the starting left guard job out of training camp and has rarely exited the lineup since. The 23-year-old has started all 10 games for Las Vegas and has played 96 percent of the offensive snaps.
Parham has done a respectable job, too, especially considering how bad the Raiders line was a year ago—it allowed 40 sacks, while Las Vegas averaged just 3.9 yards per carry. The rookie has helped to steady a line that has surrendered 22 sacks but is paving the way for a ground game averaging 4.8 yards per carry, the seventh-best mark leaguewide.
According to Pro Football Focus, Parham has allowed three sacks and been called for three penalties. The fact that Las Vegas was able to find a starting-caliber guard in April is a huge win considering it didn't have first- or second-round picks due to the Davante Adams trade.
Los Angeles Chargers: OT Jamaree Salyer
It was difficult to choose between Zion Johnson and Jamaree Salyer for the Los Angeles Chargers' top rookie, but we gave Salyer a slight edge for one big reason.
Salyer, a sixth-round pick out of Georgia, wasn't supposed to be a starter this season. However, when Pro Bowl left tackle Rashawn Slater suffered a torn bicep, Salyer took over and has been fantastic.
The 22-year-old has played 100 percent of the Chargers' offensive snaps since Week 4 and has done a wonderful job of protecting quarterback Justin Herbert. According to Pro Football Focus, Salyer has called for only two penalties and has allowed only one sack.
Johnson, a first-round pick out of Boston College, has been solid at guard and hasn't come off the field since his Week 1 debut. However, Salyer has been holding down the line's most important position and doing it at a high level.
Slater isn't in danger of losing his job permanently, and the Chargers will be thrilled to have him once he's healthy again. However, they appear to have gotten one of the steals of the 2022 draft in Salyer.
Los Angeles Rams: CB Derion Kendrick
The Los Angeles Rams didn't have first- or second-round draft picks thanks to their trades for Matthew Stafford and Von Miller, respectively. However, L.A. did find a gem in sixth-round selection Derion Kendrick.
The former Clemson and Georgia cornerback has been a valuable role player this season. It hasn't always been pretty—Kendrick gave up the game-winning touchdown against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 9—but the 22-year-old has continued to battle.
"I give him nothing but credit, how he handled himself, his composure, his mental toughness, his ability to stay connected with his team and his guys having his back," Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris said of Kendrick, per Stu Jackson of the team's official website.
Kendrick started the first five games of the season. While he's played less since being the scapegoat in Tampa, he's remained in and out of the lineup. In all, Kendrick has logged 30 tackles and four passes defended with just one missed tackle on the season.
Miami Dolphins: CB Kader Kohou
Miami Dolphins cornerback Kader Kohou has been arguably the biggest rookie surprise of the 2022 season.
The Dolphins didn't have a first- or second-round draft pick due to the Tyreek Hill trade. However, they found a reliable starter in the undrafted free-agent ranks in Kohou.
The Texas A&M product has out-shined every prospect Miami took over draft weekend and has established himself as a reliable starter in the secondary. Kohou didn't start over the first two weeks and missed two games with an oblique injury.
However, Kohou has started six contests and played 78 percent of the defensive snaps. He has logged 39 tackles, a forced fumble and five passes defended.
For comparison, Miami has seen very little of its four draft selections—Channing Tindall (only two tackles), Erik Ezukanma (zero games), Cameron Goode (zero games) and Skylar Thompson (47 pass attempts).
Minnesota Vikings: CB Andrew Booth Jr.
The Minnesota Vikings didn't see much of rookie first-round safety Lewis Cine (two defensive snaps) before he suffered an unfortunate and severe knee injury in Week 4. Rookie second-round pick Andrew Booth Jr. has experienced his own injury woes as well.
Booth missed four games with a quad injury but has rebounded nicely over the past four games. Like Cine, the 22-year-old cornerback played primarily on special teams early in the season. However, that is starting to change.
In Week 10, Booth played 49 percent of the defensive snaps. In Week 11, he started and played 94 percent of the snaps. While he hasn't been superb in coverage (108.0 opposing passer rating), Booth has seen the field more than Cine and performed better than third-round pick and interior offensive lineman Ed Ingram.
According to Pro Football Focus, Ingram has been responsible for three penalties and eight sacks allowed.
Hopefully, the Vikings will see more out of Booth now that he's healthy and has done enough to earn a starting opportunity.
New England Patriots: CB Jack Jones
The New England Patriots lost star cornerback J.C. Jackson in free agency this offseason. While he hasn't fared well with the Chargers—and is out for the year with a ruptured patella tendon—Jackson was a difference-maker in New England that wouldn't be easy to replace.
Surprisingly, New England may have found its next great cover corner when it used a fourth-round pick on Arizona State's Jack Jones.
While Jones has made only one start for the Patriots, he has played 59 percent of the defensive snaps and has shown a penchant for making plays. The 24-year-old has logged 25 tackles, five passes defended, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, two interceptions and one defensive touchdown.
In coverage, Jones has allowed an opposing passer rating of just 59.2. Presumably, he'll earn a full-time starting role in the not-too-distant future. Even as a key rotational player, Jones is a star, and the Patriots got themselves a steal.
New Orleans Saints: WR Chris Olave
It was an easy call for the New Orleans Saints, who have a budding superstar in rookie wideout Chris Olave.
The Saints traded up to snag the Ohio State product 11th overall, and they're probably very glad they did. The 22-year-old has already emerged as New Orleans' top pass-catcher. He leads the Saints with 51 receptions and 760 receiving yards. He ranks second on the team (tied) with three touchdown catches.
Olave has already logged three 100-yard games this season and is averaging an impressive 76 yards per contest. This puts him on pace for 1,292 yards this season. There's a legitimate chance that Olave breaks Michael Thomas' Saints rookie receiving record (1,137 yards in 2016).
There's also a very real chance that Olave will win Offensive Rookie of the Year. He leads all first-year players in receptions, receiving yards and receiving yards per game.
New York Giants: Edge Kayvon Thibodeaux
The New York Giants had two first-round selections and used them on former Alabama tackle Evan Neal and former Oregon pass-rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux. Both have dealt with injuries, and both have been up-and-down in their rookie campaigns.
Thibodeaux has been just a bit better.
Neal has been out since Week 7 with an MCL injury, and he was responsible for two penalties and five sacks allowed, according to Pro Football Focus. Thibodeaux suffered an MCL sprain in the preseason and didn't make his debut until Week 3.
However, Thibodeaux has started to emerge as a difference-maker since entering the lineup. He has only one sack on the season, but he has logged seven quarterback pressures, three quarterback hits, 20 tackles, three batted passes, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.
Thibodeaux has started all eight games in which he has appeared and has played 77 percent of the defensive snaps. Would New York like to see a little more out of the fifth overall pick? Sure, but Thibodeaux has emerged as a reliable starter who can make the occasional big play.
New York Jets: CB Sauce Gardner
Pass-rushers Travon Walker and Aidan Hutchinson went No. 1 and No. 2 in the draft. The New York Jets continued the defensive trend by selecting former Cincinnati cornerback Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner at No. 3.
Along with Hutchinson, Gardner is an early favorite for Defensive Rookie of the Year. The 22-year-old has been simply splendid as a cover man, allowing an opposing passer rating of only 55.5. He has started all 10 games for New York and played 98 percent of the defensive snaps.
In all, Gardner has logged 45 tackles, two interceptions and a league-leading 14 passes defended.
Picking Gardner was a relatively easy choice, even though the Jets have gotten great results from 10th overall pick Garrett Wilson. The rookie wide receiver out of Ohio State has caught 44 passes for 533 yards and two touchdowns.
Wilson is a star and would headline the rookie class of most other teams. However, Gardner is truly special.
Philadelphia Eagles: DT Jordan Davis
It was a little bittersweet picking a rookie for the Philadelphia Eagles. Their top performer, defensive tackle Jordan Davis, has been on injured reserve since suffering an ankle injury in Week 8.
The Eagles traded up to grab the former Georgia defensive tackle, and while Davis hasn't produced eye-popping statistics, he's been a solid rotational piece when healthy.
While Davis has only played a third of the defensive snaps, he got his first start in Week 3 and made five consecutive starts. He did a tremendous job of filling the gaps and making plays on a part-time basis, logging 14 tackles, one quarterback pressure and one pass defended with zero missed tackles.
Philadelphia recently added five-time Pro Bowler Ndamukong Suh to help fill the void during Davis' absence, but the Eagles will welcome the 22-year-old back to the rotation once he's recovered.
Pittsburgh Steelers: WR George Pickens
Quarterback Kenny Pickett has been the Pittsburgh Steelers' most impactful rookie this season, as he has taken over as the starter and is projected to be the future under center. However, Pickett hasn't played particularly well.
The Pittsburgh Product has shown flashes but has thrown just three touchdown passes with eight interceptions and a 71.8 quarterback rating. Pittsburgh's best rookie has been wideout George Pickens.
A second-round selection out of Georgia, Pickens is already shaping up to be the latest Day 2 gem of a pass-catcher for Pittsburgh—following in the footsteps of players like Diontae Johnson and JuJu Smith-Schuster.
"Pickens has proven to me that he can make plays down the field," former Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said on his Footbahlin podcast (h/t Alex Kozora of Steelers Depot).
Despite having shaky quarterback play, Pickens has already amassed 33 receptions for 453 yards and two touchdowns.
San Francisco 49ers: LB Drake Jackson
The San Francisco 49ers didn't have a first-round selection due to last year's trade-up for Trey Lance. However, San Francisco used a second-round pick on former USC pass-rusher Drake Jackson and is getting results that rival those of some first-rounders.
Jackson has served as a rotational pass-rusher, playing just 37 percent of the defensive snaps. He's shined in that role, though, and has regularly found ways to impact plays—even when he doesn't reach the quarterback.
Despite being only a part-time player, Jackson has already logged three sacks, five quarterback pressures and four passes defended to go with 11 tackles and two tackles for loss.
To put that into perspective, Jackson has two more sacks and just two fewer pressures than Thibodeaux, who has played 159 more snaps with the Giants this season.
Seattle Seahawks: CB Tariq Woolen
Here's how good the Seattle Seahawks draft class has been. Rookie linemen Charles Cross and Abraham Lucas, along with running back Ken Walker III, might each be the top rookie on a different team.
Cross and Lucas are now entrenched as starters, while Walker has amassed 587 rushing yards, 103 receiving yards and seven touchdowns already this season.
Yet, Tariq Woolen, a fifth-round draft pick out of Texas-San Antonio, has managed to outshine them all.
The 23-year-old cornerback has simply been phenomenal this season. Woolen has started every game, played 97 percent of the defensive snaps and probably should be in the running for Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Woolen has logged 34 tackles, nine passes defended, five interceptions, a forced fumble, two fumble recoveries and a defensive touchdown. He's also allowed an opposing passer rating of only 59.7 in coverage.
The 6-4 Seahawks have surprised a lot of folks this season, and a lot of (well-deserved) credit has gone to quarterback Geno Smith. However, Seattle's stellar draft class has played a huge role as well—and Woolen might just be the draft's biggest steal.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: TE Cade Otton
A case could be made for Buccaneers rookie guard Luke Goedeke, who started the first seven games of the season before suffering a foot injury. The Central Michigan product has been solid, responsible for just four penalties and two sacks allowed, according to Pro Football Focus.
However, we're giving the nod to tight end and fourth-round pick Cade Otton here.
The Washington product stepped into a prominent role early, as former starting tight end Rob Gronkowski retired in the offseason. Otton has split time with Cameron Brate, when Brate has been healthy, and become one of Tom Brady's more reliable targets.
Brate has missed four games with a concussion and a neck injury.
Otton has started six games, played 71 percent of the offensive snaps and caught 26 passes for 281 yards and a touchdown. He has provided a quarterback rating of 107.0 when targeted and has been credited with only one drop.
While Otton certainly isn't the mismatch that Gronkowski once was, he's helped to give Brady a viable outlet at the tight end position.
Tennessee Titans: CB Roger McCreary
The Tennessee Titans traded star wideout A.J. Brown during the draft and used the 18th overall pick acquired in the deal on former Arkansas receiver Treylon Burks. While Burks got off to a very slow start, he finally had a breakout game in Week 11.
Against the Packers, Burks caught seven passes for 111 yards. By season's end, the 22-year-old might be viewed as Tennessee's top rookie.
So far, though, second-round pick Roger McCreary has been the much more consistent contributor. The former Auburn cornerback has started all 10 games for the Titans and played a shocking 100 percent of the defensive snaps.
While McCreary has been far from perfect in coverage (103.0 opposing passer rating), he's shown himself to be a reliable defender who just doesn't come off the field. Burks, on the other hand, had just 153 receiving yards before Thursday's emergence.
McCreary has made 61 tackles to go with three passes defended and an interception.
Washington Commanders: RB Brian Robinson
Rookie wideout Jahan Dotson did get some consideration here, as the Washington Commanders' first-round pick leads the team in touchdown receptions with four. However, third-round running back Brian Robinson has been the bigger contributor as of late.
Robinson, who was shot twice in the leg during an attempted robbery in August, didn't make his debut until Week 5. Since then, he's amassed 362 rushing yards and two touchdowns. While he's averaged a modest 3.4 yards per carry, he's been a strong complement to Antonio Gibson and has helped to spark the offense.
Washington has gone 5-2 since Robinson entered the lineup.
By having both Robinson and Gibson in the rotation, the Commanders have been able to lean heavily on their ground game and improving sixth-ranked defense.
"The yards per carry wasn’t great," offensive coordinator Scott Turner said after Week 10's upset of the Eagles, per The Athletic's Ben Standig. “But as far as the run game, it was effective [because] we had a lot of 'em, and we were able to stay on the field.”
Thanks in part to Robinson's emergence, the Commanders are back in the thick of the NFC playoff race.
*Advanced statistics from Pro Football Reference unless otherwise noted.