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NFL Rookie Rankings: Ranking the Top 10 Rookies Going Into Week 11

NFL handicapper Jason Yamaguchi discusses his top 10 rookies as we head into Week 11 of the 2022 season. Come find out the top rated NFL rookies.
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NFL Rookie Rankings: Ranking the Top 10 Rookies Going Into Week 11

With 10 weeks of NFL action in the rearview mirror, a few rookies have already established themselves as legitimate difference-makers at the pro level. It often takes time for college prospects to acclimate to the speed and physical demands of the NFL, but some are quicker studies.

Players of certain position groups, such as cornerbacks and quarterbacks, tend to take more time to learn their position than others. As such, it's particularly impressive when a rookie can step into a starting role at a tough position and produce at a high level. Keeping that in mind, here are my top 10 rookies of the season thus far.

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NFL Rookie Rankings

1. Kenneth Walker III (RB - SEA) ROY Odds -150 Click here for the best odds, available at FanDuel

Ever since Kenneth Walker stepped into Seattle's starting role at running back, he has been one of the more effective rushers in the entire league. In five games as a starter, Walker has averaged 88.2 rushing yards per game, racking up six touchdowns over the span. His burst and stop-start ability stands out on a weekly basis, allowing him to evade defenders who otherwise might have blown up plays in the backfield. Walker's current status as the odds-on favorite to take home Offensive Rookie of the Year is well-deserved.

2. Sauce Gardner (CB - NYJ) ROY Odds -170 Click here for the best odds, available at FanDuel

The cornerback position has an exceedingly steep learning curve, meaning that we often see rookie corners fail to stay afloat, let alone excel. Sauce Gardner, who has played essentially 100% of defensive snaps for the Jets, has been the exception that proves the rule. Gardner has logged a PFF grade of 86.1, which ranks third among all cornerbacks (not just rookies). He also leads the league in pass deflections with 13, and he has 2 interceptions. It would not surprise me if he were to be the clear-cut top corner in the league within 2-3 seasons—he has all the requisite tools.

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3. Tariq Woolen (CB - SEA) ROY Odds +275 Click here for the best odds, available at FanDuel

While perhaps not quite as impressive as Gardner's campaign to date, Tariq Woolen has had an exceptional start to his own career. All of the aforementioned challenges about being a rookie cornerback in the NFL apply to Woolen as well; he has overcome them and then some. Indeed, Woolen has the second-most interceptions in the league with 5, and he also has the sixth-most pass deflections at 9. He has proven immensely valuable to a Seahawks defense that came into the season sorely lacking playmakers on every level. While Gardner is currently the favorite for the DROY award, I would not count Woolen out—there are a lot of games left to be played.

4. Dameon Pierce (RB - HOU) ROY Odds +200 Click here for the best odds, available at FanDuel

Whether by virtue of necessity or merit, Dameon Pierce has been the starting running back for the Texans since Week 1. Despite running behind a subpar offensive line in a horrendous offense, Pierce has recorded the fifth-most rushing yards in the league at 772. He has averaged the sixth-most yards after contact with 2.6 per carry, ahead of the likes of Derrick Henry, Dalvin Cook, and Saquon Barkley. While his overall efficiency trails that of Walker, Pierce's production is particularly impressive due to his fourth-round draft status. He comfortably stands as the second-best offensive rookie to date; fourth seems like a fair spot to put him.

5. Chris Olave (WR - NO) ROY Odds +1400 Click here for the best odds, available at FanDuel

With Michael Thomas unable to stay on the field, Chris Olave has been the de facto top receiver for the Saints. Despite facing increasingly tough cornerbacks and suffering from bad quarterback play, Olave has excelled in this role. He has caught 46 passes for 658 receiving yards and 2 touchdowns on the year, averaging 73.1 receiving yards per game. His slick route running has been his greatest asset, allowing him to get separation in an offense that has desperately needed it. He has been the best wide receiver—so far—from a 2022 draft class that was seen by most as strong at the position.

6. Jack Jones (CB - NE) ROY Odds +1800 Click here for the best odds, available at FanDuel

There's a solid argument to be made that Jack Jones should be even higher on these rankings, but I'll stick with sixth for now. Jones has been one of the best cornerbacks in the entire league—his PFF grade of 86.9 ranks second, which passes the smell test by virtue of the fact that he has allowed just 15 receptions all year (despite playing the majority of defensive snaps for New England). It's rare to see day three picks step into starting cornerback roles and hold their own, but Jones has done that and a whole lot more.

7. Aidan Hutchinson (DE - DET) ROY Odds +1000 Click here for the best odds, available at FanDuel

Hutchinson has not had the most consistent season, but his occasional spurts of stellar pass rushing are enough to land him at the seventh spot. The No. 2 overall pick from the 2022 class has 5.5 sacks, 10 QB hits, and 4 tackles for loss on the season, including a key sack to help seal the Lions' win on Sunday against the Bears. He has also been improving against the run, a key development for a pass rusher who plays close to 90% of all defensive snaps. While he may not have fully lived up to his draft status just yet, it's a relatively strong start for a player whom many saw as the best in his class.

8. Garrett Wilson (WR - NYJ) ROY Odds +2000 Click here for the best odds, available at FanDuel

Garrett Wilson has had a season that paints a picture of a receiver who will be a long-time starter in the NFL, perhaps a star. He opened the year with a three-game stretch over which he caught a total of 18 passes for 214 yards and 2 scores. However, he followed that up with a four-game slump that involved just 10 total catches for 100 yards, one that should probably be attributed to the poor play of Zach Wilson. Then, over the next two games, Garrett Wilson resumed his dominance, logging 14 total catches for 207 yards. That brings us to where we are now, with Wilson looking like a potential standout receiver who has suffered from horrendous quarterback play in spots. He has the potential to rise up this list if he continues his recent form.

9. Devin Lloyd (LB - JAX) ROY Odds +6000 Click here for the best odds, available at FanDuel

Lloyd, a first-round rookie, has been an active defender in both phases of defense all season. He has 72 total tackles—partially a result of his near-100% snap share, to be fair—and 2 interceptions. He also has 7 pass deflections, further demonstrating his prowess in pass coverage. Jacksonville's defense has not been one of the league's better units, but Lloyd's play has been good enough to land him on my top 10.

10. Braxton Jones (LT - CHI) Click here for the best odds, available at FanDuel

It's not often that we see a fifth-round pick step into a starting left tackle spot and hold his own, but that is precisely what Braxton Jones has done through 10 weeks of play. He opened the year at left tackle out of necessity—the Bears suffered injury losses in the lead-up to the season that left them shorthanded—but kept the job due to competence. The feat of finding a long-term starting tackle on day three of the draft is something that rarely happens, but it holds tremendous upside for the occasional team that accomplishes it. Jones may or may not be that caliber of tackle, but the fact that that conversation is even happening is impressive.

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Jason Yamaguchi is an avid New York sports fan. He has a proven record of providing +EV bets by combining traditional handicapping tactics with advanced statistics. You can follow him on Twitter @TopMoneyPicks to view all of his bets, including NFL, NHL, and MLB picks.


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