With two weeks remaining in the 2021 regular season, I’m taking a look at the NFL newbies who have made the biggest mark on offense this year. Here is my Offensive All-Rookie Team.
Be sure to check out Hall of Famer Gil Brandt’s Defensive All-Rookie Team on Wednesday, Dec. 29.
- NFL Power Rankings, Week 17: Bengals back in top 10; Chargers take a tumble
- The First Read, Week 17: Five decisions that most impacted 2021; will Seahawks trade Russell Wilson?
- 2022 NFL Draft order: Broncos, Browns inch closer to top 10
While Jones showed that he still is indeed a rookie in the Patriots’ last two games — throwing two TDs to four INTs in losses to the Colts and Bills — he’s still been the most consistent quarterback in his draft class. He’s displayed poise in the pocket and in critical situations more often than not. Jones has elevated the Patriots’ offense, specifically on play-action, where he ranks second in the league in completion percentage (74.8) among QBs with at least 100 pass attempts on such plays, per Next Gen Stats. Jones claims the All-Rookie quarterback spot after going 9-6 as a starter while all other rookies are a combined 9-38.
Williams has been the perfect complement to Melvin Gordon in the Broncos’ backfield, with the rookie pacing the pair with 4.7 yards per carry. The 5-foot-10, 220-pound Williams has made defenders pay with his strong, physical running style, as evidenced by his 59 missed tackles forced on runs (tied for the league lead with Jonathan Taylor), per Pro Football Focus. With Gordon set to become a free agent this offseason, Williams has proven he can be Denver’s RB1 for years to come and ranks 10th in the league in rushing yards (827).
While Eli Mitchell, Michael Carter and Rhamondre Stevenson have all flashed as rookies, Harris has consistently produced as a versatile weapon in the Steelers’ offense. He has been a bright spot all season for a unit that’s stuck between a rock and a hard place with the aging Ben Roethlisberger under center. Harris ranks third among running backs with 1,406 scrimmage yards and leads all rookie RBs in rush yards, receiving yards, scrimmage yards and scrimmage TDs.
Chase was on fire to start the season, averaging 107.7 receiving yards per game through the Bengals’ first seven contests. He’s since cooled off, posting 51.1 receiving yards per game over the last eight games. Still, Chase’s immediate impact on the unit as a big, physical receiver who can stretch the field has helped Joe Burrow as a passer and Joe Mixon in the run game. Chase is on pace to be the first rookie in the Next Gen Stats era (since 2016) to lead the NFL in deep receiving touchdowns with six TDs on passes of 20-plus air yards — already a single-season record for a rookie. Chase, who was named to the Pro Bowl last week, has even left a few opportunities out on the field.
Waddle leads all rookies with 96 receptions despite missing Week 15 (COVID-19). He returned to lead the Dolphins with 10 catches for 92 yards and a touchdown in their win over the Saints on Monday night. With two games to play, he’s just six catches away from breaking Anquan Boldin’s all-time rookie receptions record (101 in 2003). He has that built-in chemistry with Tua Tagovailoa, who’s enjoying success of his own in his second pro season, that has helped the Dolphins reel off seven straight wins and get them in the postseason mix.
It’s been a roller coaster of a season for Atlanta — which has won consecutive games only once in 2021 — but Pitts has been a constant in an offense that’s been, as you might expect, very inconsistent. The No. 4 overall pick only needs 128 yards over the last two games to break Mike Ditka’s record (1,076) for most receiving yards by a tight end in his rookie season. With guys like Travis Kelce and Rob Gronkowski on the back nine of their careers, Pitts has cemented himself as the future at the position.
Two weeks ago, Humphrey was the top center on my offensive Pro Bowlers list. Last week, he was selected to the Pro Bowl. The rookie has impressed everyone who’s watched or played against the anchor of the Chiefs’ O-line. Through 16 weeks, Humphrey holds the highest PFF grade (92.2) among centers, with the next-closest grade being Jason Kelce’s 84.6. That should put Humphrey’s season into perspective.
This rookie guard class has gone through some growing pains, but Smith has been the best of the bunch. He was stronger in the first half of the season than he’s been in the second half, but the sixth-round pick hasn’t missed a snap across 15 starts and has helped the Chiefs rank seventh in the NFL in pass protection, per PFF. Having two Chiefs — two offensive linemen, no less — on this list bodes very well for the rebuilt Kansas City O-line.
The rookie has already established himself as a cornerstone on the Jets’ offensive line after coming into the league as an elite run-blocker and steadily improving as a pass rusher. While Vera-Tucker has allowed a healthy amount of pressures, he’s given up only one sack on 626 pass-blocking snaps. Unfortunately, Vera-Tucker missed his first NFL game in Week 16 after being placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list.
Slater, who missed one game (Week 15) due to COVID-19, has been a huge asset for the Chargers’ new-look offensive line in 2021. He has steadily improved in pass pro as the year has progressed. Slater has allowed one or fewer pressures in eight games this season — a big reason he was named a Pro Bowl starter.
After a bit of a slow start playing on the left side, the No. 7 overall pick has settled in at right tackle in the second half of the season and become a formidable player on the Lions’ O-line. Sewell’s improvement has undoubtedly helped quarterback Jared Goff and the team as a whole has played better, going 2-4-1 since its bye week after starting off 0-8. The 6-foot-5, 331-pounder is living up to the hype, holding his own against premier pass rushers and ranking eighth among tackles with an 87.1 run-blocking grade. Detroit has a major cornerstone to build around.
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