First-Class Showing from the 2023 NFL Rookie Class

The 2023 rookie class made quite the first impression on the NFL. Many players made it clear that not only had they arrived on the professional level but that they had come to dominate.

Game-changers and record-breakers arrived from everywhere, whether from the top of the draft board or as undrafted free agents. Some started for their teams out of the gate and others waited in the wings before getting their chance to shine. The 2023 rookies left their mark on the league.

Their collective efforts produced five Pro Bowl talents:

  • WR Puka Nacua (Rams): 105 receptions (rookie record), 1,486 yards (rookie record), six touchdowns. Nacua stepped right in as the No.1 wideout on the depth chart due to the absence of All-Pro Cooper Kupp, and it was clear he was on his way to a special season after. He kept up the pace after Kupp returned, and defenses had to game-plan for two elite pass-catchers.
  • TE Sam LaPorta (Lions): 86 receptions (rookie tight-end record), 889 yards, 10 touchdowns. The new-look Lions had a fresh face at tight end who didn’t flinch. The Iowa product filled the shoes of T.J. Hockenson and became a go-to target for Jared Goff, shredding defenses all season long.
  • K Brandon Aubrey (Cowboys): 35-37 FGs (made a record 35 straight attempts to begin his career), 49-52 XPs. Mike McCarthy didn’t have to think twice about sending Aubrey out on the field when it came time for Dallas to kick. Distance didn’t bother the former soccer player as he went a perfect 10-for-10 on kicks of at least 50 yards.
  • WR Marvin Mims (Broncos): Nine punt returns, 312 yards 15 kick returns, 397 yards, one touchdown. If he didn’t do anything else, the Broncos believed that Mims would at least be a special-teams star as a rookie. The Oklahoma product made the return game look like a breeze. In Week 3 against the Dolphins, he took a kick 99 yards to the crib.
  • CB Devon Witherspoon (Seahawks): 16 pass deflections, one INT, one return touchdown, three sacks, eight TFLs, one forced fumble. The Seahawks raved about Witherspoon’s determination and instincts throughout camp. As the season wore on, it became more apparent why he was the first cornerback taken. In Week 12 against the 49ers, he made arguably the stop of the season.

https://x.com/PFF/status/1727875798625841456?s=20

The Pro Bowlers weren’t the only first-year stars. There’s an assortment of more newcomers who stepped right in and made big-time contributions:

  • DE Will Anderson Jr. (Texans): 29 tackles and seven sacks. The Texans looked like geniuses for trading up to take Anderson with the third overall pick in the draft. He let everyone know what type of year he would have when he notched six tackles and a sack in Week 1 against Baltimore.
  • RB Jahmyr Gibbs (Lions): 945 rushing yards, 10 touchdowns, 316 receiving yards, one receiving touchdown. Unlocking Gibbs’ potential didn’t take much. Detroit figured out that the No. 12 overall pick was capable of being much more than a gadget back when he picked up 152 yards on 26 carries in a 26-14 win over the Raiders in Week 8.
  • RB De’Von Achane (Dolphins): 800 rushing yards, 7.77 yards per carry (second highest average in league history.), eight touchdowns, 197 receiving yards, three receiving touchdowns. Every time Achane got a touch, it looked like he was fresh out of the starting blocks. The third-round pick was simply a blur and tough to contain. He went bonkers in his second career game, gaining 223 total yards and scoring four touchdowns in a 70-20 rout over Denver in Week 3.
  • WR Rashee Rice (Chiefs): 79 rec, 938 yards, seven touchdowns. Getting the ball in Rice’s hands alleviated a lot of the offensive troubles the Chiefs encountered. The SMU product had no trouble becoming a No.1 wideout, showing up when KC needed it most. He had his first 100-yard game when he caught eight passes for 107 yards in a 31-17 win over the Raiders in Week 12.

 

  • WR Tank Dell (Texans): 47 receptions, 709 Yards, seven touchdowns. Dell made sure to put on a show for his team every time he touched the field. His first big moment came in Week 3 against Jacksonville when he demoralized the secondary with 145 yards and a score on five grabs in a 37-17 victory.
  • DT Jalen Carter (Eagles): 20 tackles, six sacks, two forced fumbles. The youngster simply dominated in the trenches. It didn’t matter who they put in front of him, the No. 9 overall pick had his way and made life tough for quarterbacks. In Week 5 against the Rams, he got his first multi-sack game, finishing with two.
  • LB Byron Young (Rams): 42 tackles, eight sacks, two forced fumbles. Young just tried to do his job every rep, and the results were tremendous. He made offenses worry about more than just Aaron Donald in the pass rush. His big breakout came when he notched 10 tackles and two sacks in Week 9 against Green Bay.
  • CB Joey Porter Jr. (Steelers): 10 pass deflections, one interception, 43 tackles, 47.6 completion percentage against. Quarterbacks quickly learned not to throw the lockdown corner’s way as he made big plays, much like his father did for the franchise. In Week 5 against Baltimore, his late interception in the red zone helped the Steelers come back for a 17-10 victory.
  • WR Zay Flowers (Ravens): 77 receptions, 858 yards, five touchdowns, one rushing touchdown. Everyone expected Flowers to be the X-Factor in the Baltimore offense, and he became exactly that. It was a beautiful thing to see him bloom in Week 6 against the Titans, when he caught six passes for 50 yards and the team’s only touchdown in a 24-16 win over the Titans.

 

  • TE Dalton Kincaid (Bills): 73 receptions, 673 yards, two touchdowns. Buffalo knew it had a special player on its hands from the moment Kincaid lined up alongside Dawson Knox in training camp. The second half of the season is when he finally came around and established a connection with Josh Allen. He led the team in catches for the first time with 10 in Week 9 against the Bengals.

 

  • S Brian Branch (Lions): 74 tackles, seven TFLs, three INTs, one return touchdown. one sack, one forced fumble. Branch brought the smarts and the boom to the Lions secondary, making instinctive hits and plays. His year was destined to be special after creating a long-lasting memory during the season opener at Kansas City, notching a 50-yard pick-six against the defending champs in a 21-20 victory.

Other notable studs:

  • RB Bijan Robinson (Falcons): 976 rushing yards, four touchdowns, 487 Receiving yards, four receiving touchdowns. The first running back off the board treated NFL defenders much like he did the ones in college, leaving them in the dust with absurd elusiveness. He burst on the scene in Week 2 against Green Bay, running for 124 yards and adding 29 receiving yards.
  • WR Jordan Addison (Vikings): 70 receptions, 911 yards, 10 touchdowns. Addison gave the Vikings a double dose of pass-snagging delight when he proved he could manage being a No. 1 in the absence of superstar Justin Jefferson. The Monday matchup in Week 7 against the 49ers is when he broke free, catching seven passes for 123 yards and two first-half touchdowns. The second was just a grown-man play, a 60-yard highlight that featured him ripping the ball away from a defender. https://x.com/NFL/status/1716627863196270616?s=20
  • WR Jayden Reed (Packers): 64 receptions, 793 yards, eight touchdowns, 119 rushing yards, two rushing touchdowns. The Packers love the fact that Reed can make plays from anywhere. They also trust him to put points on the board. He instantly became Jordan Love’s favorite target in the red zone. His first big moment came in Week 2 against Atlanta, when he brought in four passes for 37 yards and two touchdowns.
Share

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *