Ranking the Top Ten Offensive Rookies from a Fascinating 2023 NFL Season

By Frank W. Gillespie | Posted 28 days ago

The NFL’s 2023 rookie class came out swinging, and set several records by the time the regular season was over. Great players, who performed extremely well in their inaugural campaign, had to be left off of this list due to the depth of talent that emerged. When all was said and done, four wide receivers, three running backs, one tight end, one quarterback, and one kicker made the final cut. The Cream of the Crop, ranked from tenth to first, are as follows:  

10. Brandon Aubrey; K Dallas Cowboys

The Dallas Cowboys snagged kicker Brandon Aubrey from the USFL in the offseason. Aubrey missed his first-ever NFL kick (a PAT in Week 1), but followed that up by hitting an NFL-rookie-record 35 consecutive field goal attempts. Over the course of 17 games, Aubrey connected on 36 of 38 FG attempts and made 49 of 52 XP attempts in 2023. The former soccer player led the league in scoring (157 points), and should see a great deal of action with the Cowboys high-powered offense in 2024.

9. De’Von Achane; RB Miami Dolphins

Had Miami Dolphins’ rookie De’Von Achane not been injured-riddled, he might have been the top RB on this list. Achane only played in 11 regular season games, but he averaged 7.8 YPC and scored eight rushing touchdowns, making use of limited opportunities. In those 11 games, Achane accumulated 800 rushing yards on 103 carries, secured 27 passes for 197 yards, and scored 11 total touchdowns. Look for Achane to shoulder a heftier workload in 2024 if he can remain on the field. 

8. Rashee Rice; WR Kansas City Chiefs

The next three wide receivers were challenging to rank, but ultimately Chiefs’ WR Rashee Rice ranks last of the four that made the list. Rice set franchise records for receptions and touchdowns by a rookie in Kansas City by catching 79 passes for 938 yards and seven touchdowns. The Southern Methodist University speedster surpassed WRs Dwayne Bowe (70 receptions, 2007) and Tyreek Hill (6 receiving TDs, 2016) along the way. Rice is capable of great things, particularly with Patrick Mahomes throwing him the ball. Mahomes being under center, and the fact that Rice only scored seven total touchdowns, were major contributing factors in Rice’s eighth-place positioning here. 

7. Jayden Reed; WR Green Bay Packers

The Green Bay Packers weren’t expected to do too much the first few seasons with QB Jordan Love learning on the job. However, in part due to the immediate success of WR Jayden Reed, Love and the Packers fought their way into the playoffs. Reed secured 64 passes for 793 yards and eight receiving TDs, while also rushing for 119 yards and two more scores. Reed’s total package impact was more powerful than Rice’s, if only by degrees. It goes to show how overflowing with talent this rookie class is. Reed is projecting to have a bright future catching balls from Love in Green Bay.

6. Jordan Addison; WR Minnesota Vikings

What Vikings’ WR Jordan Addison accomplished, despite playing with backup quarterbacks for more than half of the season, was truly awe-inspiring. Addison caught 70 balls for 911 yards and 10 touchdowns, from four different Minnesota QBs (Kirk CousinsJaren HallJoshua Dobbs, and Nick Mullens). The Vikings drafted Addison with the 23rd overall pick in 2023, and three receivers were chosen before him. Addison tallied more yards and TDs than any of those three wideouts, none of whom are on this list (Jaxon Smith-NjigbaQuentin Johnston, and Zay Flowers). Addison excelled under extremely challenging circumstances, and is someone to look out for going forward. 

5. Bijan Robinson; RB Atlanta Falcons

The Atlanta Falcons selected Bijan Robinson with the eighth overall pick in 2023, and he was the first running back off the board. Robinson amassed 976 rushing yards and 1,455 scrimmage yards (both tops among rookie RBs), while scoring eight total TDs. Showcasing tremendous versatility, Robinson was equally deadly on the ground and as a receiver, scoring four times rushing and four times through the air. Had it not been for fellow RB Tyler Allgeier’s extensive usage, Robinson’s stats would be even more impressive. Robinson is a dynamic force and Atlanta has reason to rejoice. 

4. Jahmyr Gibbs; RB Detroit Lions

You may be wondering why Lions’ RB Jahmyr Gibbs is ranked ahead of Robinson. Gibbs split time in the Detroit backfield with David Montgomery, who posted 1,015 rushing yards and 13 TDs. Montgomery (219) had many more carries than Gibbs (182), so the latter was making the best of a lopsided timeshare. Despite splitting opportunities with Montgomery, Gibbs piled up 945 rushing yards and 10 ground scores of his own. Additionally, Gibbs caught 52 passes (just six less than Robinson) for 316 yards and another TD. Gibbs did all of this in a tough timeshare, and in two less games than Bijan. Among RBs with a minimum of 150 attempts, only 49ers superstar Christian McCaffrey (5.4) averaged more YPC than Gibbs (5.2). Gibbs’ stock is on the rise. 

3. Sam LaPorta; TE Detroit Lions

Gibbs’ teammate Sam LaPorta set the NFL rookie record for most receptions in a season by a tight end. LaPorta gobbled up 86 receptions for 889 yards and 10 touchdowns, becoming just the third rookie tight end in history to score 10 TDs (Mike Ditka, Rob Gronkowski). The Lions are no doubt overjoyed with the production that their 34th-overall pick in the Draft has provided. LaPorta is trending towards long-term greatness in Detroit, having already earned Pro-Bowl and second-team All-Pro status. 

2. Puka Nacua; WR Los Angeles Rams

Puka Nacua is a freak of nature, and if not for our top-ranked rookie, this wide receiver would be a lock for Rookie of the Year honors. Nacua stepped up when former Super Bowl MVP Cooper Kupp went down, and remained relevant after Kupp returned. The fifth-round draft pick (No. 177, overall) reeled in a mind-blowing 105 receptions for 1,486 yards and six scores, setting the new standard for rookie receptions and yardage. Nacua hit warp speed and never really slowed down. Kupp and Nacua make a deadly duo, giving both QB Matthew Stafford and head coach Sean McVay good reason to stick around in Los Angeles. 

1. C.J. Stroud; QB Houston Texans

With each passing day it becomes clearer that the Houston Texans made the correct choice in parting ways with Deshaun Watson in favor of a new franchise quarterback. The Carolina Panthers selected QB Bryce Young with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, and C.J. Stroud fell into Houston’s lap at No. 2. Stroud rewarded the Texans for their belief in him by throwing for 4,109 yards (third-most by a rookie QB; behind only Andrew Luck & Justin Herbert) with 23 touchdowns and five measly interceptions. Furthermore, Stroud helped to flip a 3-13 Texans squad into an AFC South champion, also contributing in great part to Houston’s first playoff win since 2017. Stroud is the OROY, and can count himself among the respected AFC gunslingers going forward.  

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