The 2023 rookie class has produced many stars and impact players in the first half of the year. We’ve seen magnificent performances across the league from these young players, and it’s hard not to get excited about what this group will do over the final nine weeks of the regular season.
But which rookies have been the most impressive so far this year? Here are the top 10 rookies of the 2023 season heading into Week 10.
Top 10 Rookies at Midseason
10. Jordan Addison, WR, Minnesota Vikings
When the Minnesota Vikings drafted Jordan Addison in Round 1, the hope was that he could fill in as the No. 2 receiver and be the No. 3 target in the passing game behind Justin Jefferson and T.J. Hockenson. But with Jefferson missing most of the year due to a hamstring injury, Addison has been forced into a more prominent role than initially expected. The good news for the Vikings is that he’s been up to the challenge and has been everything they had hoped for — and so much more.
Addison has played in all nine games as a rookie, tallying 534 yards and seven touchdowns. He leads all rookies in receiving touchdowns (no one else has more than four), and he’s drawn the most defensive pass interference calls (three), according to TruMedia. He has yet to drop a pass, which is exceptionally encouraging, considering how often the Vikings have targeted him this season.
Jordan Addison is UNBELIEVABLE! pic.twitter.com/kg43v8TKAJ
— vikesinsider (@vikesinsider) November 5, 2023
Addison has been a big-play machine for Minnesota, racking up eight receptions of 20 or more yards. Only Tyreek Hill and Rashid Shaheed have had more 50-yard receptions than Addison (two). His production might take a hit with Kirk Cousins out for the year, but Addison has been a star for the Vikings in the first half of the season.
9. Brandon Aubrey, PK, Dallas Cowboys
It might seem strange for a kicker to show up on this list, but Brandon Aubrey deserves to be mentioned. The Dallas Cowboys were desperate to find a reliable kicker after the Brett Maher disaster last year, and they stumbled into one of the best rookie kickers of the last decade.
Aubrey missed the first kick of his NFL career (an extra point against the New York Giants) but hasn’t missed since. He has made all 19 of his field goals for the Cowboys, including four kicks beyond 50 yards. Against the Los Angeles Rams, he made a 58-yard field goal with plenty of leg to spare.
After making all eight kicks in October, Aubrey was named the NFC Special Teams Player of the Month. He’s been a weapon for Dallas this year and someone worth mentioning.
8. Bijan Robinson, RB, Atlanta Falcons
We must include Bijan Robinson on this list despite Arthur Smith doing his best not to use his best player. Robinson has been incredible this season, averaging 5.0 yards per carry and 7.0 yards per reception. He averages 14.5 touches per game, but his usage has dropped over the past three weeks. There is really no explanation why, but Robinson is one of the most dynamic running backs in the league today.
Robinson is averaging a whopping 3.29 yards after contact per rush (according to TruMedia), the third-highest in the NFL among players with 100-plus carries. It’s a shame the Atlanta Falcons haven’t used him more because Robinson has a chance to be one of the best rookie running backs we’ve seen enter the NFL since Adrian Peterson.
7. Dawand Jones, RT, Cleveland Browns
After falling to the fourth round, Dawand Jones was put in a nearly impossible position as a rookie: He was forced to replace All-Pro RT Jack Conklin, who had a season-ending injury in Week 1. Jones has held down the fort, playing 511 snaps at right tackle.
While he still needs a lot of work as a run blocker, Jones has allowed just two sacks and 14 pressures all season, per TruMedia. Compare that with first-round picks Paris Johnson (24) and Darnell Wright (18), and you can see why Jones has been one of the draft’s biggest steals. He looks like a future Pro Bowl right tackle for the Cleveland Browns and a key piece of their offense moving forward.
6. Sam LaPorta, TE, Detroit Lions
For decades, there was a general belief that rookie tight ends can’t produce right away in the NFL. That is still the case to a degree, but not for Sam LaPorta. He’s already one of the league’s top tight ends and has been incredibly productive right away. LaPorta has already recorded 434 receiving yards through eight games, tied for the fifth-most among all tight ends.
— Russell Brown (@RussNFLDraft) November 3, 2023
Earlier in the year, the Detroit Lions primarily used him at or near the line of scrimmage. But over the past few weeks, we’ve seen Jared Goff start to target LaPorta a little further down the field. His role in the offense will only grow as he develops into the No. 2 passing option behind Amon-Ra St. Brown. Look for LaPorta to average 60-plus receiving yards per game in the second half of the 2023 season.
5. Will Anderson Jr., Edge, Houston Texans
The Houston Texans gave up a lot to acquire Will Anderson Jr. with the No. 3 pick, and it’s not hard to see why. While he hasn’t posted gaudy sack totals this season (2.0), he’s recorded 19 hurries and 28 pressures. Among all the rookies in this class, he has the second-most quarterback hits (nine) and fourth-most pressures, according to TruMedia.
His athleticism and bend jumps off the screen, which is exactly what the Texans needed on that side of the ball. The sacks will come for Anderson, but he’s been an incredibly consistent player who is a building block for Houston moving forward.
4. Devon Witherspoon, CB, Seattle Seahawks
One of the most controversial picks in the top 10 in the 2023 NFL Draft was the selection of Devon Witherspoon over Christian Gonzalez at No. 5 by the Seattle Seahawks. Early in the season, it appeared the Seahawks made a big mistake with Gonzalez playing at an elite level. But Witherspoon has been exactly what the Seahawks have been missing on defense.
He’s brought physicality to the defense and has been a playmaker, recording a pick-six, two sacks and three tackles for a loss. He also hasn’t allowed a reception over 25 yards since Week 3 and has made several huge plays in the run game. Witherspoon is a perfect fit in Pete Carroll’s defense and is already one of the top cornerbacks in the league.
3. Puka Nacua, WR, Los Angeles Rams
Puka Nacua has cooled off over the last few weeks, but that has more to do with Matthew Stafford‘s health (hand). Nacua has already racked up 827 yards and two touchdowns through nine games. He’s averaging nearly 92 receiving yards per game and has out-produced Cooper Kupp when both players have been on the field.
Puka Nacua just broke the @RamsNFL rookie record for receptions in… <<checks notes>> Week 9.
63 and counting for @AsapPuka.
Previous mark was held by his teammate Cooper Kupp in 2017 (62).
— J.B. Long (@JB_Long) November 5, 2023
Nacua has thrived after the catch, totaling 319 yards in that area this season (third-best in the NFL). He’s averaging nearly five yards per reception after the catch (4.91), which is near the top of the league for players with 40 or more receptions. Nacua perfectly fits Sean McVay’s offense and complements Kupp well for the Rams.
2. Jalen Carter, DT, Philadelphia Eagles
Jalen Carter was widely viewed as the top prospect in the 2023 NFL Draft but slipped to No. 9 due to several off-the-field concerns. But there was no doubting his talent, and he has been even better in the NFL. Carter has recorded 29 pressures on just 194 pass-rush snaps, according to TruMedia. He’s already the best defensive tackle on the roster for the Philadelphia Eagles, and teams are starting to send double-teams his way because of how disruptive he can be in big moments.
Game on the line, final drive, and this is just the stuff you want to see from Jalen Carter and Josh Sweat. Terrific pass rush rep from both.
— Thomas R. Petersen (@thomasrp93) November 7, 2023
Carter has the seventh-most pressures among interior defensive linemen in the NFL despite playing a low number of snaps (239). Among rookie defensive tackles, he is No. 1 in sacks, pressures, quarterback hits and hurries. His pressure rate of 14.9 percent is well above league average for his position (10.6 percent) and four points higher than any other rookie defensive tackle in this class.
Carter is already an elite defensive tackle — it’s only a matter of time before he’s at the top of his position. You can easily argue he should be No. 1 on this list after how well he’s played this season.
1. C.J. Stroud, QB, Houston Texans
Not only is C.J. Stroud having a fantastic start to his NFL career, he is already one of the league’s top passers. He has the fourth-highest passer rating in the NFL (102.9) and is averaging a whopping 8.1 yards per attempt (third-best). More importantly, he has the Texans competitive again with a record of 4-4.
Stroud is doing everything you would want from a young quarterback. He’s not turning the ball over (he has one interception). He’s making his teammates better and leading the Texans to impressive victories in games they probably shouldn’t win. He’s also creating plays with his legs, which he didn’t do much at Ohio State.
The Texans hit the jackpot with Stroud, and he is only getting better by the week. It won’t be long before he is widely regarded as one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL.
Marcus Mosher is an NFL writer with a decade of experience in podcasting and writing for various NFL websites, including Bleacher Report, Pro Football Focus and The Athletic. He is currently a managing editor at USA Today Sports Media Group and the host of the Locked On Cowboys Podcast. Marcus has been working full-time covering the NFL since 2015 and works as a betting expert for Gambling.com. You can follow him at @Marcus_Mosher.