Each week we rank the top rookies in the NFL. Heading into a critical Week 14, we have a new No. 1, and while it may come as a surprise to many, he’s been ballin’ all season.
1. Tariq Woolen — CB, Seahawks
The rangy corner has been quite a find for head coach Pete Carroll and the Seahawks. Woolen possesses great instincts and technique on the corner, his skill set is reminiscent of former Seahawks great Richard Sherman. While Sherman may have been a bit more prepared as far as understanding schemes at this point, Woolen has rawer athleticism.
Woolen draws the top coverage assignment weekly, and he’s displayed a great capacity to man the position at an elite level.
This season he has 45 tackles, six interceptions and 12 passes defensed. He’s also returned a pick for a touchdown and recovered two fumbles.
Tariq Woolen got emotional while talking about his long wait to be drafted and how far he’s come since then. The fifth-round now has an NFL-high six interceptions, which is a Seahawks rookie record. pic.twitter.com/RxsfeCBfNX
— Brady Henderson (@BradyHenderson) December 5, 2022
2. Sauce Gardner — Jets, CB
Sauce brings a swagger and confidence to the Jets defense that seems infectious throughout the entire unit. Another long, rangy cover guy with excellent instinct and ball skills, like the aforementioned Woolen. His play has been reminiscent of former Jets great and future Hall of Famer Darrelle Revis.
Gardner routinely follows the top guy for the opposing team, pretty much limiting their impact in the game. He’s the front-runner for DROY, and he should be.
This season he’s accrued 50 tackles, two interceptions and a league-high 15 passes defended.
Pro Bowl vote leaders at the CB position:
AFC: Sauce Gardner (68,435)
NFC: Tariq Woolen (89,085)
These rookie CB’s are something ELSE 😳 pic.twitter.com/X7q6K30iCN
— NFL Rookie Watch (@NFLRookieWatxh) December 7, 2022
3. Garrett Wilson — Jets, WR
The former Ohio State Buckeyes star has been as good as advertised. The rookie sensation has quickly become the Jets’ top receiver. With his combination of excellent hands, elite route-running and home run ability, he’s been a real problem for defensive backs.
This season Wilson has 57 receptions for 790 yards and four touchdowns. Wilson has been named AFC Rookie of the Week the last two weeks.
Jet nation, y’all wild!! These belts will be with me forever. Appreciate y’all! https://t.co/MGkAgimRIt
— Garrett Wilson (@GarrettWilson_V) December 8, 2022
4. Chris Olave — Saints, WR
Wilson’s college teammate Olave has been the best wideout in this rookie class. In an otherwise down season for the Saints, Olave has been a real bright spot. With the ability to line up at any of the three wide receiver positions effectively, Olave has been downright filthy in his approach. His route-running rivals those the league’s best receivers and his top-end speed is underrated.
He has become the team’s No. 1 wideout and that’s led to 60 receptions for 887 yards and three touchdowns.
Saints head coach Dennis Allen has raved about newbie pass-catcher.
“Obviously, we have been able to hit him on some explosive plays down the field. I think that is a good thing. Certainly, we are gonna continue to utilize him in that regard.”
5. Christian Watson — Packers, WR
When you watch Watson play the first thing you notice is his elite game-changing speed that led to the Packers drafting him No. 34 overall, despite how raw he was as a prospect. It took him a few games to get locked in, but now that he has that speed has been terrorizing opponents. Since Week 10 Watson has scored all seven of his touchdowns. He’s done it receiving and rushing.
He has 25 catches for 401 yards but leads all rookies with a 16.0 yards-per-catch average.